Who would have thought three dudes from Jersey would be hosting VH1 Classic’s longest-running and highest-rated show? Never mind the fact that this show focuses on a genre of music that had once fallen so out of vogue that its practitioners wanted Kurt Cobain’s head on a stake.
Hosted by a 30-year radio veteran and a couple of comedians, That Metal Show is entering its fourth year, a show that champions—you guessed it—all things metallic. I guess the appeal stems mostly from the fact that hosts Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson are fanboys—three men-children in their 40s who listen to metal… and not much else. Although Jamieson does listen to Johnny Cash (“He’s heavy as any metal band”), and even Trunk says he has a soft spot for Soul Asylum. But who doesn’t?
Talking to them Saturday before their live version of the show at the Hawthorne Theater (inside a literal green room), I couldn’t help but be endeared by how much they love their metal. And how much this whole thing blows their minds. “It’s weird when Bill Ward says, ‘Hey Don, nice to meet you,’” Jamieson says with a wide grin. “I’m like, ‘How does Bill Ward know my name?’” They’ve interviewed Lemmy, Lars Ulrich, Ace Frehley, Rob Halford and even enigmatic egomaniac Axl Rose. That Metal Show is essentially a reflection of the genre itself—its followers as faithful and anti-fashion as a 50-year-old Vince Neil is to a tight pair of leathür pants. Metal—even more so than punk rock—is a club with lifetime members. You’re either in, or you’re out.
This mobile version of the TV show (which debuted the night before in Seattle), was a much more simple setup. Missing was the “Throwdown,” in which the three hosts wax metaphysical on which is the best Metallica album, and the Top 5, where they toss out their choices for best thrash bands of all-time (to include Pantera, or not to include Pantera). What we got was a short set from each, followed by a Q&A. It was heavy metal standup that covered blowjobs, colonoscopies (as in the doctor tried to stump the Trunk prior to the procedure), marijuana, balls, anal sex with Robin Quivers, and avoiding DUIs—all of which basically covers the entire concept for the Dr. Feelgood album.
The show ended on what has become the TV version’s bread and butter, a segment called “Stump the Trunk,” in which audience members toss out questions (some reasonable, others so obscure I’m sure even Slash doesn’t remember which brand of underwear he was wearing when he recorded the solo for “My Michelle”) that Trunk ably fields, and answers correctly more often than not. One audience member asked Trunk—an outspoken UFO fan—to name every guitarist that has played in the band. I think there were six in all. Trunk reeled off five in quick succession, and cursed under his breath until he blurted out the final name. He only got stumped a few times, one of which I’ll take credit for.
Before the show I asked Trunk which well-known musician played on the record by Peter Criss’ pre-KISS band Chelsea. He paused. “Tell me,” he said, between bites of a chimichanga. “John Cale from the Velvet Underground,” I told him, feeling good, raising my fist in the air. Of course, prior to that Trunk had nailed a couple of pretty difficult ones. At the time I felt a little awkward trying to stump him while he was eating his dinner. But at least the poor guy wasn’t on a doctor’s table about to get a long metal snake inserted into his large bowel (which gives a whole new meaning to Metal Up Your Ass). Although that would have been so metal.