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We Hung Out in the Parking Lot of a Maryland ’80s Metal Fest and It Was Insane

We Hung Out in the Parking Lot of a Maryland ’80s Metal Fest and It Was Insane
The hot dog luge.

“Do you want to play some wiener games?” a man wearing pilot goggles asks me.

No, this wasn’t a Saturday night on U Street. It was a Saturday afternoon in the middle of a parking lot outside Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, where the M3 Rock Festival was about to touch down. The annual festival brings together fans of hard rock and metal who wanted to to relive the ’80s (the lineup included Ace Frehley, Kix, Night Ranger, Y&T, Stryper, and Queensrÿche) and partake in some serious tailgating, which today includes lobbing raw hot dogs at one another and drinking whiskey through a syringe.

Many of this festival’s older attendees look like they were once the types of teens who went to concerts like the 1986 Judas Priest show that brackets Heavy Metal Parking Lot. I met one who said he was actually there. Garry, Karyn, Joni, and Terry stand around a car with all the doors open, drinking beers. They’re M3 veterans who drove from their homes in Virginia. The concert is the start of a summer-long metal season for them. They met up through Facebook groups with other fans and look forward to this festival because it gives them a chance to interact with the performers.

“This is a good way for us to release stress from the world,” Karyn said.

“Wiener storm! Drink up!” is the rally cry coming from Lot 3, a well-known party spot to festival attendees. A homemade version of Plinko, renamed Drinko, is laid out in front of a truck bed full of drinks and snacks.

“My favorite band is Queensrÿche, but the chances of us seeing Queensrÿche are slim because we are going to go drink,” says Oscar. Along with his brother Chris, he masterminded the Drinko game where two of the possible outcomes are a “wiener storm” (it’s exactly what you think it is) and a “wiener luge,” in which a hollowed-out uncooked hot dog serves as a sort of sluice for a concoction of hot dog juice and alcohol, which is forced through the channel by a syringe. They’ve partied in this exact parking lot, in this exact spot, for the past eight years. Further away in the parking lot, huddled under a tent, is another group of metalheads who met that day. “Watch, we’re going to be in a story about the degenerates of Maryland,” says Justin.

Jordan and JP.
Jordan and JP.
Provisions for the day.
Provisions for the day.
Jeff Martin was there for the first time with his band, Myst. He was a big hit at the tailgate.
Jeff Martin was there for the first time with his band, Myst. He was a big hit at the tailgate.
Garry Smith was at the Judas Priest concert where "Heavy Metal Parking Lot" was filmed in 1986, but he didn't appear in the movie.
Garry was at the Judas Priest concert where Heavy Metal Parking Lot was filmed in 1986, but he didn’t appear in the movie.
Garry has a lot of tattoos that show off the various metal concerts he's attended.
Garry has a lot of tattoos that show off the various metal concerts he’s attended.
The infamous Drinko board and its creator, Chris (left).
The infamous Drinko board and its creator, Chris (left).
Rick, Michelle, Colleen, and Jeff pump themselves up before the show.
Rick, Michelle, Colleen, and Jeff pump themselves up before the show.
Tina Richardson and Angie Johnston arrive at the festival. They do concert merchandising for Live Nation and were guests of one of the performing bands, Faster Pussycat.
Tina Richardson and Angie Johnston arrive at the festival. They do concert merchandising for Live Nation and were guests of one of the bands, Faster Pussycat.
The weiner storm reigns down on Mike after he loses at Drinko.
A wiener storm rains on Mike after he loses at Drinko.

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Helen joined Washingtonian in January 2018. She studied Journalism and International Relations at the University of Southern California. She recently won an Online News Award for her work on a project about the effects of the Salton Sea, California’s greatest burgeoning environmental disaster, on a Native American tribe whose ancestral lands are on its shores. Before joining the magazine, Helen worked in Memphis covering education for Chalkbeat. Her work has appeared in USA Today, The Desert Sun, Chalkbeat Tennessee, Sunset Magazine, Indiewire, and others.