Metallica's Take on the Polar Beach Party-Crashers
Private concert on the Arctic Ocean for winners only... or so they thought!
MY ALASKAN WILDLIFE
Metallica once took a stand against Napster in the late 1990s over copyright infringement. Napster had launched a peer-to-peer sharing platform that allowed users to freely download and share music, causing concerns for artists. Metallica successfully pursued legal action, leading to Napster's shutdown. In 1998, a law was enacted to combat online piracy, allowing bands like Metallica to take legal action against copyright infringers. People who shared unauthorized copies of Metallica's music could receive cease-and-desist letters and potentially face lawsuits.
In 1995, an extraordinary occurrence took place during Labor Day weekend. The Molson Canadian beer company organized a show called The Molson Ice Polar Beach Party at a small village by the Arctic Ocean, Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada. Metallica, along with bands like Hole, Veruca Salt, and Moist, were convinced to perform at this event to promote a new ice-brewed beer. Five hundred lucky contest winners from across North America attended the private rock concert and enjoyed free beer, courtesy of Molson. Despite the logistical challenges of hosting such an event located at the peak of the middle of nowhere, they managed to make it a reality.
Fast forward to 1999, Metallica members and crew were staying at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, before a show at the Sullivan Arena. I happened to be a part-time limousine driver at the time, and my company was chosen to chauffeur Metallica to the venue and later to their chartered flight. Each band member rode separately along with a crew member. I had the privilege of driving Jason Newsted, Metallica's bass player at the time, accompanied by a young woman who seemed to be a publicist. During the ride, I overheard what sounded like Mr. Newsted snorting some substance and several minutes later, I had to abruptly stop the car when he shouted, "Red light, dude!" due to my inattentiveness to the road. I had been looking further ahead as we approached the arena for the closure of lanes before the entrance.
While my partner had already dropped off drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett, I returned to the hotel to pick up lead singer and guitarist, James Hetfield. Unpredictably, Hetfield preferred a plain, white passenger van over a limousine. As Hetfield sat in the middle of the second row, a man with no neck and huge arms (likely a bodyguard), occupied the passenger seat. Despite it being mid-April, there was still snow on the ground in Anchorage. This prompted a conversation about the gig Metallica played several years prior at the edge of the Arctic Ocean in Northern Canada.
Curious to know if he had heard about the concert gate-crashers at the Polar Beach Party, I asked Hetfield. To my surprise, he hadn't heard the story. Rumor had it that a group of passionate Metallica fans who hadn't won tickets attempted to join the party. They traveled as far north as the roads would allow, towing trailers. When the roads ended, they continued their journey on snow machines until they reached the Arctic Ocean. Unfortunately for them, upon arrival at the Metallica concert, they were denied entry by Molson Ice security. Frustrated by the long trek that led to a dead end, the group created cardboard signs expressing their discontent with Molson Ice and showcased them in front of the media cameras present. To avoid negative publicity, Molson officials decided to let the group enter the venue.
As expected, Hetfield's response to the story reflected Metallica's prior reactions to Napster. Regarding the crashers, he dismissively replied, "I give them an A for effort - but fuck 'em, they didn't have tickets!"