1986: Heavy Metal Parking Lot [documentary]

Heavy Metal Parking Lot is the filmed account of the tailgating before a 1986 Judas Priest and Dokken show at the Capital Centre in Largo, Maryland. Traded and bootlegged on VHS in the 1980s and early 90s, the film is infamous in music circles. Nirvana reportedly kept a copy in their tour bus. It even got its own beer late last year. It’s as important a statement on 1980s popular music and the metal music scene as Penelope Spheeris’s seminal The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Having celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is now old enough to drink, smoke, rent a car, and vote Republican. But its youthful exuberance hasn’t faded, and it has carved itself a small spot in the pantheon of heavy metal royalty.

In only 17 minutes, filmmakers Jeff Krulik and John Heyn capture an untold number of magic moments. There is a 20-year-old who makes out with a 13-year-old, There are girls willing to jump Rob Halfords’s bones and fuck Glenn Tipton’s brains out. There are shirtless dudes, worshipping at the altar of cheap beer and heavy riffs. There is the interview with the Capitol Centre employee that ends with a pan to drunk, incoherent metal bros at his side. There is an a cappella cover of “Living After Midnight.” There are the Scorpions fans at a Judas Priest show. And there is Zebraman (“Heavy metal rules; all that punk shit sucks”).

Trying to recreate the film’s underground success, the filmmakers made several sequels, each aimed at a different subset of fan culture, but none that could match the primal energy of the original; the passion, spirit, and endlessly quotable sound bites just weren’t there. But of all the various sequels and companion pieces, the most interesting to me is the Parking Lot Alumni: Where Are They Now? feature. While on the surface it might seem the least compelling, it elevates the original from music nerd trail marker to an examination of time and age (whether intended or not) on the same level as the Up Series or Truffaut’s “Antoine Doinel” films.

As drunken, giddy caricatures of themselves, the subjects of Parking Lot found immortality in the celluloid (although, most of them remain unaware of it). But revisiting them as older adults divorced from the lifestyle, hair, and party of heavy metal is a jarring experience. They work in insurance, in carpentry, in real estate. They are either embarrassed at their actions and uncomfortable with their celebrity, or a bit too focused on embracing it and re-living the mid-80s. Parking Lot Alumni mostly serves to dampen the original’s legacy, but it’s also a reminder of how the heavy metal scene crumbled under the weight of its own excess. Zebraman was just a regular dude all along, and there is no such thing as heavy metal royalty.

If you’re still interested in Krulik and Heyn’s pre-Vice examinations of excess, seek out their shorts King of Porn and Obsessed with Jews. Each is about a man with a fixation that most would consider less than savory (though, honestly not so much re: porn in 2017). The films complement each other well, as they’re both essentially catalogues of their subjects’ collections. They reveal a beauty in the absurd, the same surreal beauty born out of drugs, hormones, and sweaty leather in the 1986 parking lot.


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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