The 80s. If you weren’t around, you missed out on an epic decade. If you didn’t live in San Antonio, you also missed the best heavy metal concerts of all time.

Back then, San Antonio was the Heavy Metal Capital of the World.

In 1984, a band called “Metallica” hit the headlines with their “Ride the Lightning” record. Boy, did San Antonio fans, myself included, love them, and sure enough it wasn’t long before it was announced that they were playing a show in town. Because of the buzz around the band, it was a bit of a surprise that they were booked at a scene-favorite, “The Cameo Theater”, which held only about 700 people. We had expected they’d play a larger place. Still, my friends and I weren’t worried and on the day the show went on sale we set out early to scoop up our tickets. But within five minutes all the tickets sold out! Every last one gone, and none in our hands. To say we were crushed was an understatement; we were devastated!

But we got lucky – the promoters negotiated a second night. Yeah! We were going to get tickets after all! Not so fast… five minutes. That’s right, it took roughly another five minutes for the second show to sell out. Man, this was not going our way.

But wait, what’s that? A third show? Yes! And this time we got tickets! We scored tickets for the third night’s head-banging thrash-bash with Metallica! It, too, was a sold-out show.

These three shows are now remembered as some of the best from a long list of incredible heavy metal concerts that took place in San Antonio during the 80s. In the small Cameo Theater, the intimacy between the band and audience was exhilarating. The fact that (at least back then) Metallica played their already fast songs at almost double-time definitely added to the thrill. The album was aptly titled, because the crowd was absolutely electric. As long as I live I will never forget that concert (or the anticipation, let-downs, and finally the high of our quest to get tickets).

I’ve seen the band three times since then, and the last time was at the much larger “Alamodome.” That night, Metallica performed the entire “Ride the Lightning” album, the same one released prior to the classic visit in 1984. Years had gone by and many changes had taken place – in popular musical tastes, in the city, for the band, the audience, and me. But, maybe it was the music, maybe it was nostalgia, maybe it was synchronicity – in the cavernous space of the Alamodome, with a not-so-intimate crowd of 15,000 or so, I found myself momentarily thrown back in time to a little place called The Cameo Theater, and the best time to experience live music in my city and my life: the 80s.

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