Imagine sitting at the symphony and suddenly a mosh pit breaks out in the balcony. The scene during Harptallica’s set at the FM99 Lunatic Luau festival this Saturday was nearly as bizarre. There were no guitars on stage, no drums, no bass – just harps. “You are the first audience ever to crowd surf at a harp show,” announced Ashley Toman, founding member of the Metallica tribute band.
This was all she needed to say. Once she and bandmate Patricia Kline struck the opening notes of “Unforgiven”, the onslaught of crowd surfing was relentless. The girls were visibly distracted by the feet hurtling towards them and their costly instruments, but they recovered quickly and barely missed a beat. Ashley, clad in jeans and a Misfits t-shirt, got her whole body into the act, plucking the strings vigorously and shaking her head with eyes shut. Patricia’s method was more reserved but equally as skillful. When feedback reared its ugly head, the ladies pressed on unflinchingly.
In an arena filled with hard-rock fans, most likely there to see headliners Buckcherry, Papa Roach, and Hinder, it was admittedly surprising to witness the audience soaking in Harptallica’s approach to these familiar songs. As the only female performers at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater that day, they were in a presumably intimidating position. They took the challenge admirably, and the cry for “Encore! Encore!” after the finish of “Enter Sandman” was evidence that the festival-goers hadn’t yet had enough Harptallica. Unfortunately, due to the time restraints when several bands are sharing a stage, the girls were unable to give their admirers another sample.
While their live performance was impressive, the adaptations of these songs were the strongest evidence of artistry. Ashley has arranged hard-hitting anthems like “Battery” and “Master of Puppets” in a way that manages to capture that intensity on a harp, an instrument that is far from being considered “bad-ass.” It’s Metallica gone through anger management, and oddly enough, it works.