By April 5, 2011 Read More →

11 Years of Being Metal

By Mike Vanek & Isaac Ames w/ Photos By Ida Millsaps

Being a promoter in this town is not easy when you put on Metal shows. This month marks 11 years that 209Productions has been around. What started as promoting bands like Immortality, Infestation, Carcinogen, & Bind in high school evolved into 209Productions. In December 2000 just after the birth of my son & death of my dear friend Kane Marin, started with 209 MetalNews with no money in the Turlock Library covering bands like Thr3efold, Differential, Built & Makeshift Grey. Soon I was promoting these bands along with Rubberfinger, Stigmurder and eventually Better Left Unsaid & Nothing But Losers in any space that had an outlet. Soon I began booking at The Fat Cat where I have booked some of the biggest & best bands in the world. I’ve had one friend that has never ever stopped coming around for the last 11+ years and that is my friend Isaac Ames, a local comic that served our country in Iraq and when he came home one of best & most trusted friends he wrote the following about me and I feel compelled to share it with you my readers.

Why Mike Vanek is the reason there’s Metal in Modesto
By: Isaac Ames

Mike Vanek

Mike Vanek

I first met Mike Vanek when I was homeless in the spring/summer of 2000. It was a different time back then. In 2000 we didn’t have 2 wars, the TSA, Patriot Act, or a half dozen other problems we have today. We had freedom. We were free to pursue life and follow wherever the road may take us; it was while the road was leading me that my path crossed Mike’s on during that fateful time. Mike was working at Chevron at the time, but I remember a personalitythat was dedicated to one thing and one thing only: metal.

I’d like to tell you about how much of a fan of metal I am, but that would be a lie. I’ve almost always seen metal and the fans that follow it as those in need; those in need of direction, those in need of humanity, those in need of a shower and deodorant. Yet at the same time as I spent my days working as a sound engineer at The Fat Cat and just going to shows to spend time with people I knew I found one thing about metal that I never noticed before: the community.

Here was a community that existed and thrived on nothing but the stale sweat and dedication of its fans. It harvested and garnered support in unlikely places, often remaining a part of the undercurrent that flows not only through this city and state, but throughout the nation. And at the center of it all I find Mike Vanek.

Very few things are openly known about Mike Vanek, but they’re there if you look. In between band’s sets he’ll grab the mic, announce the artists, and say, “Call your friends, call your neighbor, call the people you owe money and tell them to get to this show!” His signature speech at his shows is distinct and defines his view of what the metal community should be doing when it comes to the scene. No excuses, no hesitation, no shame: metal.

And yet when you look into the scene you’ll find only a small amount of people booking and promoting metal shows in Modesto. Of those, none have the consistent frequency that Mike Vanek does, often practically supporting themetal scene alone. This is a man that isn’t openly approachable and let’s you know from the moment you meet him what defines him when you hear his standard motto: “Keep one foot in the gutter…one fist in the gold.”

His upbringing has been plagued with stop-motion scenes of horror. On June 18, 2004 a house fire took his mother from him. This particular aspect of his life has always had a profound resonance within me as my own mother passed away in August a few months later. He endured and continued on his course. In Modesto there’s tribute show after tribute show to icons in music; he’s had a concert on her birthday annually as tribute to his mother.

And it was at this tribute that I first stepped onstage as a comedian. I’d never been to an open mic, never written a joke; it was an idea that I’d voiced to him in passing. But in 2008 as I was standing in the back supporting my friend and remembering my mother as well he came to me and asked, “Do you want to get up and tell some jokes?”

I said, “Sure.” The next thing I knew I was finding that the journey I was beginning was going to be a long one since I bombed horribly that night, luckily there was metal to pick up where I left off. And so it’s been for Mike Vanek; taking it all in one day/show/band at a time.

I’ve learned a lot about Mike Vanek and in the past 10+ years as his friend, but even more about metal. Metal isn’t just the unwashed masses pointlessly raging against the machine; it’s more than a simple stand against the status quo and everything superficially mainstream.

So what is Metal? Metal is staying true to your roots and defining who you are as a person. Metal is developing your character and committing who you are to yourself. Metal is standing against a rising tide and never giving ground. Metal is knowing that you’re a cog in the machine but you get to pick your place of operation. Metal is love for a good mother. Metal is someone to take home at the end of the night. Metal is community and camaraderie. Metal is knowing that you’re always from the street and that if you want anything in this world you’ve got to go get it yourself. Metal is one of the last real things in our society. Metal is Mike Vanek.

Without Metal, Mike might be another guy working in a packing plant.
But I know, without Mike Vanek, there’d be no Metal in Modesto.

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