We Sent Our Favorite Correspondent to Red Bull Heavy Metal (Again)

Keenan spectates, the Bull plays coy, and Minnesota’s State Capital gets turned into a spot. All in due course at this year’s Red Bull Heavy Metal.

We Sent Our Favorite Correspondent to Red Bull Heavy Metal (Again)

Keenan spectates, the Bull plays coy, and Minnesota’s State Capital gets turned into a spot. All in due course at this year’s Red Bull Heavy Metal.

February 13, 2024
Vizz amidst the Twin Cities’ amped up and relentless youth | Photo: Dean Blotto Gray

Red Bull Heavy Metal 2024

St. Paul, MN

Hard to believe three years have passed. Three long years. Languid years, at times. Jet-setting years at others. A wave capable of routine and simultaneously prone to dilemma pumped and faded throughout every day of those thousand-odd days. Those three years meant something, to say the least. We wouldn’t still be here if that weren’t the case, now would we? And where we are is somewhere on that wave. Still. Back in Minnesota. Back at Heavy Metal.

It was three years ago that I received my first assignment for this very publication. That assignment was to cover the resuscitation of the event I’m currently at. We’re both still operating. Kudos all around.

“Red Bull,” I say. “You and me ain’t so different after all.” I pat Red Bull on the back. Red Bull returns the gesture. “Can’t believe we still get to do this.” 

Red Bull plays coy. I continue showering Red Bull with personal anecdotes of its success. It deflects my compliments back at me. Infuriating. I try a little harder.

Irie Jefferson up and over the State Capital building | Photo: Ashley Rosemeyer

“Red Bull,” I declare, “I’m serious. You altered my path – thousands of paths – not just mine! You changed things; landscapes…” I attempt to grasp thoughts, uncover appropriate words that communicate as closely as possible the feelings I’m feeling from moss-clad and bug-nested rocks. “Opportunities! You opened up doors I didn’t even know existed.”

Red Bull smiles bashfully.

“Or… Doors I thought were out of reach. Doors into rooms on an entire floor I didn’t think I had access to. You gave me a key-card and let me explore.”

Red Bull can’t believe how naïve I’m being.

“I mean, I’ve learned so much from you. Knowledge: applicable and affable knowledge! How to walk and talk how I’ve always wanted to. How I’ve always dreamed of! These experiences…”

The word itself derails Red Bull. When it comes to ‘experience,’ Red Bull’s experienced this conversation many times. It is so good on it. To experience something ironically is still to experience it, but after so long it might as well not be. Not everything is a sign. Some things should be ignored. Not maliciously, obviously. But still, Red Bull understands that what I am is a distraction. Can’t help myself, though. I continue.

I spew my relation. How these events bring me to my friends. How I used to study the clips that came from them before my journalistic-esque pursuits actually put me in attendance. How I used to drink Red Bull because I won one rail jam when I was in high school and Red Bull awarded me with cases of the nectar for months on end. How it was a delicacy. And a currency. And also a poignant figure of my adolescence. Its own topic. I remember my prepubescent self hearing a story of a famous snowboarder almost having a heart attack after drinking like 16 in one night. Red Bull was excellency, bejeweled in fable. And here we are now. I am, at least. Or: one of us is.

How many Red Bull's do you think Grace Warner drank in 2023? | Photo: Ashley Rosemeyer

My childhood was bound by the Bull. And now, as an adult, though I refrain from drinking more than one a year, I look at where I am and see the blatant evidence that there is a part of me that’s still bound. I share that with Red Bull. It receives my comments as mumbo-jumbo. Fair enough; the Bull has enough on its plate. How could it stand to hear incessant yapping from one little dude when it has so much else to tend to? For one, there’s an electric winch to deal with. Me – never used one but I’ve used a gas-fed one enough to know that as long as it’s still a winch there will be issues. Could be Murphy’s Law. I call it Irish faith. 

On top of the electrical hardware Red Bull also had to deal with snow. Import. Import, too, the steel. Easy enough for us spectators to assume. Deck out the capital; sure. Red Bull did the Crashed Ice in this very locale but a few years ago. While today’s extravaganza pales in comparison to the make-shift downhill ice rink they’ve previously constructed, it by no means was a simple feat. Add to that the fact that Heavy Metal was now its own state-recognized holiday, and I had nothing but sympathy for how overwhelmed Red Bull was at that moment.

And that wasn’t even agll of it. How could Red Bull forget the entrée? The riders. Red Bull could never. But just because you ‘didn’t forget’ doesn’t make things any easier. That doesn’t just curb apprehension. That doesn’t stop the riders from pinging or taco-ing rails, nor does it put them in the “sweet spot” every time. Much less does it stop them from disappearing to smoke weed, and only in Red Bull’s imagination would it stop the baked boarders from flipping off the jump, 270ing on and off the rails, and even ending up on the podium. 

All of this is just to say that it was no wonder why Red Bull sees me as a distraction. Not to mention we couldn’t see shit from where we stand. Red Bull keeps it moving. Away from me and into the collective bloodstream of the event. I completely understand. I bop around a little trying to find a good spot until I realize that there are none left. Every terrace, statue, and balcony are precariously packed over capacity with the likes of the Twin Cities’ amped up and relentless youth. Signs ranging from supportive and clever to tasteless and nasty. A chant gets going at one point: “Fuck Vail,” for reasons unbeknownst to me. Many spectators are wearing goggles on the side of their heads. I stand, staring through them at the window, taking in what snowboarding I can.

Overall Champions, Luke Winkelmann and Egan Wint | Photo: Mark Clavin

A lot of girl-and-guy-in-the-sky. Egan laying out backflips, Ben (Bilodeau) laying out frontflips. Pete Croasdale does a switch back 5. That rules. After that the crowd moves to the new rails on the front steps. I guess I move slow; once again, I’m granted a small window for viewing. Spectating is hard. I see people hurling onto the rails. Every iteration of 270. Every iteration of press. I feel like I’m watching people watch television. The crowd loves it. Chris Grenier loves it, and so does Todd Richards. This helps me understand more of what’s going on. 

The temperatures drop by the time the last session on the kink rail gets underway. Lucky me. The cold drives out enough of the crowd to where I can see. And just in time, too. Joey Fava backlips it perfectly. And then he does it again! And nosepresses it to fakie! At the point, Grenier’s head, having turned into a rocket ship, lifted from his body and launched skyward. He was still announcing as he breached the atmosphere and got into orbit. 

“I told you it would happen! I told you that if Joey lands one more trick my head would explode! And now look: he stomps and I’ve got some sort of cranial orbit situation going on! Let’s hear it for Heavy Metal people!” And the crowd goes wild.

Keenan's POV | Photo: Mark Clavin

His head disappears - a shooting star - and I had enough theater training as a kid to recognize my cue. I have a lot to unpack from the day. I get right to work because time is only getting more precious. One day you’re packing, next unpacking, just to have to pack up so you can unpack all over again. The day is one of four blips of the weekend. The weekend is my vacation, despite my superior constantly in my ear about getting to work. That’s why I’ve retreated to my quarters; don’t let these people down. What were the weekend’s four blips, you ask? 

            Blip 1: Don’t miss any flights

            Blip 2: Ride Hyland with my day 1s.

            Blip 3: Experience the Heavy Metal

            Blip 4: Write about it.

Bases covered, loaded. Or whatever Super Bowl metaphor applies. Four downs. Four blips. There it is. Touchdown. 

Field goal? Nope. I shanked that. That’s in reference to the fact that I took dogshit photos of the event, and the only videos I took were of Craig and Tommy at Hyland. Shit man, can’t win ‘em all. But it’s important we try. Effort counts. That’s why I got Zeb’s mailing address, so I can return his hat back to him. 

Remember that from last year? You thought I just come to these things all willy-nilly? Carefree Keenan, always with a +1, trying to get on a sick one? Wrong. There’s a reason I call out of work to come to these. And there’s a reason why you like reading my take on it. And recently I learned that that reason is the same reason why Red Bull puts these events on in the first place. That reason is actually too corny for me to spell out, but I have faith in your comprehension and your capability to connect two dots. A lot of people wouldn’t trust you with that, but I do. Don’t forget it. Just like I won’t forget every Red Bull tidbit I’ve tossed in these Heavy Metal articles for the last three years. Tidbits: memories. And what are memories, if not the swelling and quelling waves of your own existence? Leave you that to chew on while I get back to work. 

Thanks to Luke and Casey and Tommy and Craig and Freddy and Theo for a much needed weekend getaway. 

Grace Warner | Photo: Mark Clavin