Life On The New Jersey Heavy Metal Scene Through The Eyes Of Metal Rose Part 1 Last In Line/Dio Show
I would like to give a little background about how much of an achievement as well as a hardship this was for me.
From the very beginning, trying to open for Last In Line seemed be something Tonybro just didn’t want to do. Why? I could not tell you. Last In Line is the band Dio now that Dio’s gone. Tonybro and I spent so many nights listening to and sharing what Dio meant to the both of us. I remember the first time Tony showed me a then-new song he had written, “Icon”, and explained how he was inspired by Dio with Black Sabbath’s “I.” It was incredible.
Going back two years prior to this performance shared here, we were offered $1,000 to coheadline with Last In Line. Coheadlining with Last In Line! And a paid gig?! As many of us in the metal industry know, our beloved Dingbatz and Debonair Music Hall are facilities that magically continue to exist in spite of the changing landscape in live music and arts. There’s a plague on the arts in this country, and metal and other niche passions have borne the brunt of this continual assault. Our cherished venues many times have to ask their booked acts to guarantee a certain percentage of ticket sales. It’s not at all the payola, pay-to-play bullshit that the record industry is notorious for. It’s not a record label or other interested party unfairly buying an advantage by trying to influence peoples’ musical tastes; it’s the creators themselves and those that love their art trying desperately to deliver the music to the fans. It’s the only financial model that allows these local legends to keep the lights on and keep opening the doors for fans to come out and enjoy their music and make memories to the songs they love.
To do this for you in our local scene, we have to guarantee anywhere from a few hundred bucks to nearly, or just more than, a thousand dollars. We guarantee it because that’s what we have to do to play for you. We don’t always make the money back, but you don’t do the thing you love most to make money. I live to perform for you, and I would live in poverty to make it happen. I have. The last several years—really the last decade, when I think about it—were really rough, honestly scary, but every artist will tell you it’s worth it. It’s always worth it, even when the rush of giving it your all goes away and the sick, familiar feeling of being out another three hundred comes back and you don’t have gas money.
So an actual paid gig was such a win, separate and different from the incredible honor of being asked to work with Last In Line. And a thousand dollars. That thousand dollars would total $250 per band member. At the time, $250 would have made a huge difference in my life, being as I am single Mom and as I just somewhat embarrassingly told you, it was a rough time in general. Instead of celebrating this news, Tony grumbled about it and insisted we take a show that we weren’t going to be paid for and instead had to do the (please understand this is standard practice) guarantor thing. While I was and remain very close with the people for whom we performed that free show, I could not understand why we could not just book both shows. I was told time & time again by Tony that I was making things “very awkward” between him & his friend who asked us to do their show. In the end I found out this friend was fine with us doing both shows... but by then, with only a week until the Last In Line show was scheduled, they had already found someone else to coheadline. This was the nail in the coffin that caused Orbynot to lose some of its original line up. It was beyond disheartening, but you don’t give up on what your heart beats and bleeds for. Heartbreak and setbacks and agony are all part of anything worth doing, right?
Fast forward 2 years later to this performance. My friend who initially offered to pay us to open for Last In Line informed me that he would like to give me an opportunity of my own. He was hurt by Tonybro rejecting his offer years ago, understandably. You make allowances for the different personal peccadillos of people in your life, and with all honesty, Tony frequently had a generally negative attitude, frequently towards inexplicable targets. The slap in the face it was turn down that incredible offer still makes me cringe. But at the time I was so sure I was the picture of equanimity, inwardly smiling while indulging my friend’s little quirks. I was a dedicated friend! I wasn’t an enabler of toxicity, not at all.
To say I see my participation in Tonybro’s behavior and actions differently now is an understatement.
I was never the calming presence, the single female in the room that could offer a more reasonable perspective. I was never a “presence,” I wasn’t even another person. Looking back, that feeling so many of us know? Being the only-woman-in-here? Yes, metal is completely mixed and has fans of each gender and so many different backgrounds, we know this. But in the day-to-day metal life—band practices and recording sessions and producers and meetings with booking agents and meetings with a dozen kinds of agents—it seems so often that you’re the only woman there. It adds up to something. In my case it added up to being a pawn, an object, a possession for Tonybro to do whatever he wanted with. I have paid and paid and paid again for allowing myself to be put in that position.
I still had friends, amazingly. Thank God. My friend in Last In Line felt he should just offer an opportunity to me, as Tony made clear Orbynot would not welcome any (generous) overtures. He offered to purchase almost every single ticket for the show & told me to give them out to friends & family, completely alleviating the performer “guarantor” obligation. He also said I would be singing any Dio or Last In Line song that I would like with the band Last In Line/Dio at their sound check! This was an opportunity that I personally could not, would not, refuse! I was shocked that even this generous arrangement, this opportunity, was not enough to make Tony proud or even happy. However, once I insisted on running down the finances for the show, he agreed to play the show with me.
When November 9th 2019 came around, I was nothing but smiles. That didn’t stop my boyfriend at the time--who was our drummer, and with whom I was obligated to stay, which I am realizing is an entirely different “metal matter”—from picking a fight with me that day. He couldn’t just be proud & happy for me. He had to be mean & jealous. When I sang ‘Rainbow In The Dark’ with Last In Line/Dio, my life was forever changed. How did I achieve this much, how lucky was I?
TonyBro made his displeasure known. I had made a million mistakes, according to Tony. My boyfriend told me that my “mic technique” was “bad,” so at least I had some constructive criticism to take from the experience.
On one hand I feel this spelled the end of my tenure in Orbynot because they simply could not see my true value, yet somehow Last In Line did. On the other hand, I feel I achieved an important goal in my life. Most of all, looking back, I can see the mistakes I, myself, made. This is just one event, but it demonstrates how metal scenes can turn crazy. The thing we love, that brings us together, is also ruled by this toxic administration; you are “making drama” if you disagree with being friendly with colleagues, you are “making drama” if you question why the hell can’t we just play both shows, and you are “making drama” most of all if you achieve any kind of success or accomplishment for yourself. We’re not normal, regular friends happy for each others’ happiness. We’re metal.
Stay tuned for my next big project. I’m on to bigger & better things. And to all of the fans, I promise I will never give up. You are why we do what we do.