Classic documentary about the crowd at a 1986 Judas Priest/Dokken concert in suburban Washington D.C. never gets old

For much of the 1980s, I freelanced for a chain of weekly newspapers in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. One of the few reliable perks of the job was being placed on the press list for the rock concerts at Capital Centre, an ugly but capacious sports arena where the pro basketball Bullets (now Wizards) and pro hockey Capitals (now Stanley Cup champions) once played. Cap Centre’s most notable feature was the airport-runway-sized parking areas—asphalt as far as the eye could see, speckled with the toxic engine drippings from millions of previous visitors.

Because the arena had been built too far out to be reachable by bus or subway, every ticket holder was required to arrive by wheeled vehicle. Consequently, arrival and departure at Cap Centre was a horror show of idling vehicles spewing toxins into an already dead zone. Adding to the misery and gridlock was the fact that the arena contained only one Entrance and one Exit. The only signs of life in this asphalt parking expanse were the gaggles of rock fans gathered around caravans of cars, friends and kindred spirits arriving hours before the event (partly to avoid the gridlock at the entrance but mostly to get as wasted as possible before going to the show). People hunkered down beside their vehicles and partied as hard as they wanted with relatively little hassle from The Man.

Thus, by curtain time of any rock concert it was not unusual to find ticket holders passed out in the parking lot or on top of and inside their cars.

Filmmaker Jeff Krulik grew up in the DC area and has a fondness for the fringe subcultures that flourished under the radar there, including the local punk and harDCore scenes. He chronicled these scenes in a number of quirky, often short documentary films.

Here’s the trailer to one of Krulik’s more recent offerings, Led Zeppelin Played Here, which premiered at the CBGB Festival in 2013:

Arguably, the best known of these short films is Heavy Metal Parking Lot, which Krulik made with John Heyn in 1986. The footage for it was filmed in the parking lot of Capital Centre just hours before the start of a Judas Priest/Dokken concert on May 31, 1986. In less than 17 minutes, Krulik captures the chaos and lunacy of a heavy metal mob scene. Shirtless guys with mullets, soon after learning how to shave, sunglasses draped everywhere, more an accessory than an actual item for the eyes. Women with big teased hair in flimsy Stevie Nicks dresses or jeans so tight they must have cut off circulation to the legs. And every single T-shirt with its sleeves cut off.

The level of discourse runs from “Judas Fuckin’ Priest, man!” to “Party…hell yeah…I’d jump his bones.” The highlight, though, comes from a guy wearing a jumpsuit made from what looks like a hair salon sofa, “Heavy metal rules…all that punk shit sucks…it doesn’t belong in this world…it belongs on fucking Mars, man…and Madonna can go to hell as far as I’m concerned.”

It’s Wayne’s World on Quaaludes. A good time was had by all, at least all who can remember it the next day.

Just holding a camcorder steady in such a mob was a major achievement but a stationery camera was all that was needed to capture the spectacle. To their eternal credit—and likely the reason Heavy Metal Parking Lot became an Internet sensation—Krulik and Heyn are not mocking or judging heavy metal kids. And they are not making grand statements. More than anything else, they are bemused but fascinated, like an anthropologist who has stumbled upon the last remaining vestiges of a Stone Age tribe.

A much longer piece on Jeff Krulik’s film legacy is in the works for PKM, as well a sneak peak at his most recent film, about Razz, the DC area’s finest pop/punk band, which is still in the works.

For now, you can find a number of Krulik’s short films at his website:

And you can enjoy Heavy Metal Parking Lot, the original release, below. (An expanded edition was released on DVD in 2006.)