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Staring into the abyss of millennial discontent at Mac Sabbath's First Avenue show

Mac Sabbath

Mac Sabbath Ryan Warner

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” --Carson McCullers (longing for Mac Sabbath?)

Last Friday First Avenue’s hallowed Mainroom was defiled by a quartet of capital-I Ironic metal bands. Save for Metalachi, each group on the bill dubbed the Mockstrosity Tour was a sort of hybrid tribute act slash sarcastic reference point to the youths of the event’s fleeced patrons. Ironic metal is now a thing, apparently a bona fide subgenre a la black-, speed- or hardcore-. It’s metal in meme form, a thrashing shelter for millennial malaise.

If this information has baffled you to your core, fret not. The confusion is reasonable and you are not alone. I too was absolutely shell-shocked to learn about this bullshit before conducting this anthropological study of a concert review.

We’ll get into the minutia of Mocktrostity and its likely societal consequences with a set-by-set breakdown shortly but first let these word-pictures coalesce in your mind. Here’s the bill:

Mac Sabbath
Metalachi
Okilly Dokilly
Metallagher

This is what packed First Avenue on cold winter’s night.

Now let’s take a closer look at each.

Metallagher: Pre-“Black Album” Metallica/Gallagher tribute

Why you should hate Metallagher: Ostensibly the manifestation of a bong-hit-inspired portmanteau brought to life. Likely formed after its members bonded over a mutual lack of childhood hugs and participation trophies. A void of meaning filled with smashed fruit and Master of Puppets riffs. Birthed way back in the second Bush administration, Metallagher may be responsible for this insidious trend.

Why you should stop being a hater and learn to love Metallagher: Metallagher are Ironic metal OGs who began a riffin’ and a smashin’ in more innocent times, before we collectively surrendered our free will to iPhones. They can’t be blamed for Mac Sabbath. The Sex Pistols of meme metal, Metallagher also gain points for being more self-aware than the show’s other acts. A message from the band’s Facebook: “Here’s the deal, you guy’s stop showing up and we’ll stop doing this shit.” That self-awareness creates a vacuum of humor that shields any sincere criticism, allowing the band’s terse tagline, “The way Metallica is supposed to be,” the air it needs to remain hilarious.

Additionally, like all Metallagher sets, Friday night’s opening slot reimagined early Metallica as a sister to the hardcore punk of its era without James Hetfield’s histrionic vocal scats or Kirk Hammett’s self-satisfied, dumb Kirk-Hammett-ness getting in the way. Metallagher are fun, funny, and committed enough to the insincere joke at their core to deserve your love.

Okilly Dokilly: Metal tribute to Ned Flanders whose songs are all Flanders-specific and whose band members are all proxies for Simpsons character Ned Flanders

Why you should hate Okilly Dokilly: Defensive millennials will tell you that their generation is simply a product of its era, that the Baby Boomers didn’t have the internet, don’t understand the new world, and didn’t inherit a downwardly mobile economy that will likely leave most millennials unable to retire.

Counterpoint: The Baby Boomers invented punk rock, gave us four Toxic Avenger movies and the Super Nintendo, and didn’t form superfluous cartoon-character-themed metal bands when no one was showing up for their basement shows.

Why you should stop being a hater and learn to love Okilly Dokilly: While Okilly Dokilly’s spot in the Mainroom was entirely predicated upon their (generously) half-baked conceit, the hardcore-lite music was actually way better than it needed to be. When these Flanderses were rocking out, they kept the pace smooth and didn’t overstay their welcome. Bonus: These songs were mostly originals, proving Okilly Dokilly creatively capable beyond the ironic cover circuit.

Metalachi: The marriage of mariachi and metal

Why you should hate Metalachi: Ever wonder what metal mariachi music would sound like? If you answered “yes” you should start taking better care of yourself -- your drug use is spiraling out of control and we’re all worried for you. It’s not too late to turn your life around.

Why you should stop being a hater and learn to love Metalachi: Metalachi were outliers in this hideous spectacle for not being obvious metaphors for the heart-sized holes in the chests of attendees too busy taking insta-pics to realize the sad truth implicit in the postmodern entertainment landfill that was Mockstrosity. They weren’t capitalizing on the cultural detritus of the ’80s or exploiting the emotional vacancy of the audience. So... that’s a plus? Metalachi was, ugh, original in its own special way. The rapid-fire fiddle and trumpet made every song sound sort of like “Flight of the Bumblebee,” which would probably endear them to “Flight of the Bumblebee” superfans. The set closed with a mariachi rendition of Slayer’s “Raining Blood,” which is now something that has happened in real life.

Mac Sabbath: McDonald’s-themed Black Sabbath tribute fronted by Ronald McDonald

Why you should hate Mac Sabbath: When the curtain rose for Mac Sabbath the punchline rose with it. Here is the music of Black Sabbath performed by the metal likenesses of Grimace, Mayor McCheese, Hamburglar, and Ronald McDonald. Familiar images of the fast food conglomerate’s registered trademarks littered the busy stage. There was a beer bong. There were lasers. All of the lyrics to the classic catalogue were replaced with tunes about cheeseburgers or French fries or what have you. The idea is simple enough. You get it.

This joke was fresh for one song. By the time the encore (there was an encore) mercifully brought the night near a close, it was insufferable. The crowd work, which consisted of Mr. McDonald making fast food puns and calling Minneapolis “Large-apolis” and “Giant-apolis,” goes through a similar metamorphosis – somehow became more horrifying between every song. This isn’t just the opinion of a jaded culture critic. About a quarter of the audience was gone halfway through the set, having realized what they’d just encouraged. A little later when Mr. McCheese was tuning his guitar and Mr. McDonald was forced to improvise without the shelter of his terrible script, a heroic audience member interrupted to scream, “Fuck you.”

A Mac Sabbath concert is like eating at McDonald's: It beckons from a void within, satisfies you for about 20 seconds, and leaves you hating yourself for at least another hour. This is the entertainment we millennials deserve.

It probably goes without saying, but take away the bells and whistles, leave the meticulously crafted costumes behind, and this group as a Sabbath cover band couldn’t fill the Hexagon.

Why you should stop hating and learn to love Mac Sabbath: It clearly took some time and effort making all the bells and whistles and meticulously crafted costumes. What have we become? What future are we leaving for our children?