Some bands are known by the masses for how many radio singles they can produce in a year, how many awards they can rack up or how many music videos they put out. Other bands are simply known for the kick ass music they continue to release while managing to stay out of the radar just enough to become commercialized. Machine Head is definitely the latter.
Some Machine Head fans drove hundreds of miles on December 7th to Boise, Idaho from as far away as Montana, Wyoming California, and even Alaska to hear songs from the band’s five albums including the most recent, The Blackening. Formed in 1992, they have never been a radio friendly MTV-esque band, that is exactly what their fans love about them. They have not “sold out,” as many bands in their genre do (although many accused them of doing just that with the release of The Burning Red in 1999). The guys in Machine Head somehow seem more real, more like the fans who traveled to see them.
In fact, place any one of them in the crowd and those who did not know would not give them a second glance. Vocalist and founding Machine Head member Robb Flynn came onto the stage sporting a black sleeveless shirt, black jeans, a wallet chain and shoulder length untamed hair, similar to that of his devoted fans. While almost every band’s fans chant the groups name at concerts, Machine Head fans have lovingly adopted the tradition of shouting “Machine fucking Head” in between songs, before and after their set. And singer Robb Flynn has his own tradition; tossing plastic cups of what is most likely an adult beverage into the crowd and shouting, “cheers, motherfuckers, cheers!”
The fan who was lucky enough to catch the cup at the Boise show quickly dropped it, to which Flynn replied, “You fail!” He meant it in the nicest way of course, and fans and band alike had a good laugh before the opening sounds of the next song began. One of the songs played at the December 7th show was “Davidian” from their first album Burn My Eyes. As you can imagine, the song was reportedly written about the Waco incident in 1993 which shocked the nation and spawned countless articles by conspiracy theorists. While many of Machine Head’s lyrics written by Flynn reflect personal struggles and experiences, many others are written from things Flynn feels and observes in the world around him.
Maybe the most notable by fans and critics is “The Aesthetics of Hate,” the only song for which the band has been given a Grammy nod. The song was written by Flynn as a back handed slap, in-the-face response to an article by William Grim entitled “Aesthetics Of Hate: R.I.P. Dimebag Abbott, & Good Riddance.” The article praises the murder of Dimebag Abbott and states that fans who hosted a vigil for Dimebag shortly after his death were “ignorant, semi-human barbarians who were filthy in attire and manner, intellectually incoherent and above all else, hideously ugly to the point of physical deformity.”
Flynn’s lyrics include the lines “Oh long live the memories, live his freedom vicariously, defend tenfold, his honor we’ll always uphold.” It is clear from seeing Machine Head in concert that they are not about the money nor fame, they just want to make good, meaningful music. And based on how far people traveled to see them and the fact that many of the fans sang along to their songs, I would say that they have succeeded.