For April Mancuso, community, brotherhood, sisterhood, unity, love, and rocking out are some of the most important things, and in the words of her favorite band, “Nothing else matters.”
Harvesters of Utah is an official fan club chapter for the metal band Metallica, and it is more than what it may look like at first glance. When a group of people with battle vests, long hair, tattoos, and piercings get together, it may look like nothing good. But this group of rockers is about much more than music—they are also hard at work giving back to their local community.
When she was 14 years old, Mancuso had a hard year in her family. After her parents divorced, her mother sent her to live with her extended family in New York. That’s where she became really close with her “hesher” cousins (who are fans of and display the appearance of heavy metal bands). “They were the long-haired, old-school heshers. I started hanging out with them, and they got me really into Metallica,” she explains. She says that her first true love was with the band’s album …And Justice for All. Later on, she would see the band live during their 1992 tour at the Los Angeles Forum. She even still has her ticket stub to that show!
However, when the band cut their hair during the mid-nineties, Mancuso started to back off. She was upset that the band didn’t necessarily stay true to their original look and sound. Around the same time, she got married and had kids. “So, you know, you don’t do much concert-going and head-banging when you’re married,” she chuckles. When the band made a stop on their most recent tour at Vivint Smart Home Arena in 2018, Mancuso attended, and that’s what reignited her passion for the band. She revisited the 20 years of music that she had missed and registered as an official “fifth member” (Metallica’s name for people who join their fan club). That’s when she realized that people could start local fan club chapters. Because there wasn’t one in Utah yet, Mancuso took it upon herself to start one.
So Close, No Matter How Far
“I love bringing people together, and I don’t want to say making people happy, but I’ve always liked any kind of thing I’ve been involved with that has been kind of more group oriented,” she says. After she went to another Metallica concert in San Francisco, she loved seeing all the different chapters around the world meet up and feeling that instantaneous connection with all of them. “It didn’t matter if you had met any of these people before. . . . It was just immediate family.”
Not only did Mancuso want to start a fan club because of her enormous love for Metallica’s music, but, more importantly, she wanted to bring like-minded people together and connect them through the universal language of music. “Metallica fans are just some of the most creative and giving people,” she says.
Mancuso believes that Metallica fans in particular are so generous because “Metallica started out as being just kind of an oddball. Lars (the drummer) was a Danish guy and moved to California. All the other kids thought he was weird and talked weird. James (the singer) lost his mother, and his dad left when he was young. Kirk (the guitar player) came from a very abusive home. From each of their hard situations, they were able to come together and accomplish their goals. With that, everything starts out from the top. Because the band is a group of good, caring people, naturally the fans turn out to be that way as well.”
Many might first think the opposite of fans of such a heavy metal band. With the rebellious style and aggressive lyrics, people seem to stereotype the fans to be more selfish and less loving than they actually are. “I think the music for a lot of the fans is a way to release pent up energy—maybe even some blocked emotions, tough times you’re going through, rough childhoods, or whatever. There’s definitely a stereotype involved with it, but I think with Metallica the music is what brings people together through common struggles,” says Mancuso. “I think that stereotypes are found everywhere every day. But I know for sure, for me, when you educate yourself, you learn a lot more about people who aren’t like you.”
Always Something More to Give
Part of the mission statement for the Utah chapter is to consistently give back to the community. During May, all the chapters around the world participated in a month of giving, where they competed to donate the most amount of money toward Metallica’s foundation, All Within My Hands. The foundation provides resources and donations toward different needs around the world. They donate toward relief from natural disasters such as the California wildfires and the Texas freeze; they donate to local food banks to help feed America; they have donated toward getting masks supplied to India; and they also donate to local community colleges and trade schools.
Harvesters of Utah donates locally as well. During the month of giving, the chapter planned a day of service at the Utah Food Bank. And from July 1 to the end of the year, they are promoting giving blood for the American Red Cross. In December, they will be accepting coat donations, and every Veteran’s Day, Mancuso puts on a tribute for all the servicemen and servicewomen who are a part of the chapter.
The Harvesters of Utah is more of a home outside of home for a lot of the members. Another one of Mancuso’s big goals for the chapter is for it to give back to its members and for them to get what they want out of it. “We love Metallica, and we could talk about it all day, but I want it to be a place where people come together and all the outside world just disappears,” she explains. As the group continues to grow, Mancusco hopes that it never loses its personable touch. She always wants people to feel that what they say matters. However, as long as there is a shared love for Metallica, she really isn’t that worried because she knows that the fan base will always be the same loving and caring community that it always has been. “Our arms will always be open,” she says.
If you are interested in joining the Harvesters of Utah, check them out on Facebook and Instagram @harvesters_of_utah541. You can also donate to Metallica’s foundation All Within My Hands by visiting allwithinmyhands.org.
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