Skaters or Flaneurs? How Savannah’s Underground Metal Scene Reflects a Modernist City


shouts the Official Savannah Website in proper serif letters, backed by a charming crisp photo of morning glories. “Savannah, Georgia is a charming Southern escape where art, period architecture, trendy boutiques and ghost stories are all set under a veil of Spanish moss.” The website then assures its adventurous audience, who hasn’t yet been swayed by the perky graphics, that there are “over 15 Can’t Miss” things to do in savannah. There’s a stroll on the waterfront, a shopping spree on Broughton street downtown and even a ghost tour, “if that’s your idea of a good time.” 

Surprisingly none of the local metal shows made the list. 

Not even when “Vacant Flesh” is playing with “Overdose” for only 5 bucks!” 

Although this isn’t surprising seeing as Savannah loves to keep up appearances as a quaint, historic posh little southern experience, it does oversimplify the “mood” of the city. What appears at first glance to be touristy and unassuming, is actually a hotbed for angry youth driven Southern metal. With the presence of SCAD, the alternative and dark history and the layout of the city, Savannah allows the local metalhead skaters to act as modern day flaneurs, reflecting, for better or for worse, a kind of modernism thriving in the squares. 

Left: A poster for an old show at local Café “the Sentient Bean” which hosts many events and gigs for young people in Savannah. Right: A modernist collage by Hannah Hoche displaying what it is to be a woman in the 1910s. The above is a poster for such a metal show next to a modernist collage, there is a visual similarity between the two as collage is integral to both movements. The right reminds me of being a woman and that strangeness almost feels like it was meant to pop out at you, similar to the poster to the left.


Savannah’s metal scene is a reflection of modernist ideas in that the city can be viewed through the skateboarding metalhead eyes of a teenager, but metal in general has its own modernist strings.

With early rumblings in the 1950s, heavy metal really began with the British band Black Sabbath’s first album in 1968. Immediately the band was steeped in socially taboo subjects such as “political corruption”, “recreational drug use” and “social ostracization.” The genre soon grew more popular with bands like “Deep Purple” and “Iron Maiden” screaming away about modernistic themes, although in a different time, these lyrics and topics are reflective of unrest and reactions to industrialization.

Left: guitarist at Death Eagles Show. Right: Pitcher with Violin by Georges Braque. Although the two are superficially similar in that they contain instruments, the real feeling I get from the right piece is similar to the eagerness expressed by the photo to the left. The cubism aims to express something more than a portrait, something moving or past or different, and that is what I understand the guitarist to the left to be eager for, though a different medium.

After a slight downturn in popularity, with grunge and alternative rock seeing more attention, metal has had recent resurges with youth, “Symphonic” and “In Flames” are some of many popular bands in the scene trying new “avant-garde” styles that resonate with die hard fans.  These “new” ideas also reflect the modernist aspects of metal as they can be compared to the desire for new literary styles and pieces.

There is then the specifics of Southern Metal, a synthesis of different genres, as Michael Mcdowell puts it in his dissertation regarding the southern metal scene, “Southern Metal music is an outgrowth of Black Sabbath-influenced metal, Black Flag influenced hardcore punk, Lynyrd Skynyrd-influenced Southern rock, and Melvins-influenced “sludge.” This blend of “traditional” and “new” is also a comparison to the modernist era, with different “isms” and ideals spread out, in fierce opposition at times, within the whole of the movement. This is especially reflective in Savannah. Savannah’s mood is a dichotomy, — seen most clearly in its metal scene– a constant struggle between the youth crying for “new” and the defiant foot of tradition.

To the left is a classic mosh pit at a metal show, consisting of flailing hands and limbs. To the right is the modernist piece titled, “Funeral of Anarchist Galli” I felt the extreme emotion in these images was similar. Of course the right is more serious and dark, yet they both convey movement and a sense of defiance so well.


Metal is inherently connected with the “fringe” of society that often picks up a skateboard. The two seem to coalesce is Savannah with the true flaneur of the city being not the fancily clad horse carriage riding tourist, but the band t-shirt wearing skater kid.

When Savannah was laid out by Oglethorpe in 1733, it was constructed with the intention of walking. The squares are set up parallel to large main streets in rows that allow pedestrians to wind around the historic buildings and green patches. This aspect also allows skateboarders to roam with the fear of cars being lessened. This leads to a sort of meandering about the city on four wheeled pieces of wood, for no particular purpose but to be moving with the group, and of course to be seen.

This is flaneur behavior.

A comparative diagram of the modernist flaneur and the Savannah Skater.

In the same way that London lent to the strolling fashionable man about town, Savannah’s metal scene, its winding squares and its populous of “onlookers” lends itself to the teenage skater.

In my created image above I point out some less positive aspects of the flaneur and how these are also reflected in the “modern skater” I reference the “probably misogynistic” qualities and the male privilege they represent as they can walk around the city with little to no worry. The irony of the Savannah skater is that they may listen to Black Sabbath scream about social unrest with teary eyes, yet perpetuate the social chains of their own city by remaining ignorant or participating in sexism, homophobia, racism and xenophobia.

This begins to tap into another aspect that is so central to the “mood” or “core” of Savannah and the Savannah metal scene, the balance of tradition and progress, politically and socially.


Southern metal consists mostly of white, working class musicians. Savannah is no exception, yet certain aspects of Savannah’s culture and mood allow it to extend past this one dimension and diversify and grapple with this aspect of the scene in many ways.

Savannah has its pearly exterior, from the park benches to Spanish moss in the trees, Savannah reeks of kitschy southern performance. But Savannah also has rich history in alternative forms of expressions, from housing some of the first successful drag queens to jazz musicians, filmmakers and now artists from all over the world.  Savannah has a long history of being much more akin to New Orleans when the sun goes down than those coaxing families toward their waterfront hotels would like you to believe.

The above is my second created image, representing in a sort of constructivist style what I understand about Savannah, more of an attempt to express the feeling of Savannah’s metal scene. The movement not only of something physical like moshing, but the feeling of the drums in Savannah’s tight brick buildings and the adrenaline of someone screaming about injustice.

Savannah is home of course to SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, which adds to this tension as it brings students from all over the world eager to see live music and bring their own unique perspectives to the scene. SCAD, being an art school also naturally fuels the anti-establishment feelings with its students, who tend to lean toward fringe activities such as skateboarding and metal. But, this is where Savannah is truly found, there is a creation of something new (how modernist) in Savannah’s scene specifically. The diversity of the SCAD students mixed with the traditional ideals of both what is southern and what is metal meld into a fierce amalgamation of youth.

Savannah’s unique local businesses also lend to this synthesis, as cafes and boutique stores open their doors after hours to house gigs and all types of performances. These places seem to understand the line they walk, holding poetry readings and metal shows within the same day.

This allows for the true growth of Savannah, real southern charm to shine through. When old white men who have listened to metal for decades begrudgingly nod to the screaming “newness” of young college students from quite literally all over the world, something signifigant occurs. There is an evolution from the old metal that concerns industrialization and new metal that concerns gender non comformace and racial injustice.

This is not to say Savannah nor its metal scene is without prejudice, in fact as mentioned before “the Flanuers” still can promote ignorance and the ugly horns of deep seeded racism still protrude with the influence of “Lynryd Skynrd” and southern tradition. But the majority of youth in the scene are actively fighting against this, far more than those who wish to keep Savannah’s image fountains and feathers.

A new band called “Pig Teeth” and “Basically Nancy” have become more popular in the metal scene both consisting of all female musicians. Recent protests were supported and even organized and spread by bands in the Savannah scene, and those that have not shown support have been shunned and boycotted by local business.

A better more accurate front page for Savannah’s website would be my third created peice, where the banner is layered with metal band T-Shirts, posters and time posts.

Savannahs metal scene colors the mood of Savannah for me, it demonstrates clearly the strange line Savannah walks between quaint Southern town and screaming hotbed of avant-garde art and music.


Danae. “Digital Montage: On Collage and the Legacy of Modernism.” Medium, DIGITAL ART WEEKLY, 13 Jan. 2020,

McDowell, Micheal. Southern Performance and the Southern Metal Scene.

Carrà, Carlo. “Carlo Carrà. Funeral of the Anarchist Galli. 1910-11: MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art,

“Heavy Metal 101 @ MIT.” A Brief History of Metal | Heavy Metal 101 @ MIT,

28 Feb, 2021, and 2021 27 Feb. “The Origins of Metal and How It Found Its Place in the Music Industry.” Young Post,

“Eagles of Death Metal.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Mar. 2021,

Beirut: A Modernist Poem

my government did this sign ap beirut - CityNews Edmonton
View of the Beirut Port after the blast of August 4th 2020. 2750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate explode after catching fire, destroying the capital. The highly explosive chemical, also used as fertilizer, had been in the port warehouse for 6 years.

As the shockwave evolves, I watch destruction reign over the city. Instantaneous chaos. Hundreds of deaths, thousands of injured and three hundred thousand homeless. The city that raised me, I now watch it burn through millions of OLED pixels on a flatscreen TV in the heart of Atlanta. Paralyzed, helpless, desperate, I read it burn through the uncontrollable flow of messages on my phone. Destruction… Always precedes creation. For the fallen martyrs, we need to rebuild Beirut, the Switzerland of the Middle East. Beirut, a capital of art, innovation, culture and history. In this article, I will take you on a journey to discover the capital of Lebanon under a new perspective; that of a modernist poem.

We can define modernism as the transformation or metamorphosis associated with the creation of new forms of art, philosophy and social organization from the 1890s until the 1930s. Particularly, a modernist poem should embody this revolution while also taking the past into consideration. In fact, according to T.S. Eliot in Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919), “not only the best, but the most individual parts of [a poet’s work] may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.“ Through our three stops in our journey: history, demographics and revolution, we will be discovering the modernist poem that is Beirut.

First and foremost, the Lebanese capital bears witness to a dual modernist imprint engraved in each street, alley and wall. This dual imprint, as its name suggests, can be broken down to two main components:  the history of the city and its cultural modernist heritage.

Mamluk building in Beirut Souks, downtown Beirut

During its five-thousand-year history, Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt a total of seven times – neither counting the August 2020 blast nor the 1975-1990 civil war! From the Phoenician, Hellenistic and Roman periods, to the Middle Ages, Ottoman Rule and French Mandate, if Beirut has been able to survive, it is by adapting to each period and preserving important aspects of the past.

Roman Baths in downtown Beirut

As the pictures above show it, a casual walk at downtown Beirut can turn into an archaeological expedition if you do not pay attention to where you are going! In fact, you could come across the Canaanite city wall, Crusader fortress walls, Iron Age shaft tombs, a Roman law school (oldest in the world!), Roman baths and many more archaeological sites. Each time Beirut was rebuilt, it was by using its past foundations.

This story alone is the epitome of what modernism represents: creating by using what has already been built in the past, always remembering our predecessors, but also always innovating. An osmosis between the past and the present can similarly be identified in both modernist poems and the city of Beirut. In art – and especially poetry –, the coexistence and synergy of different times was first introduced by T.S. Eliot in Tradition and the Individual Talent (1919) as a necessary element for innovation and creativity. Similarly, wouldn’t a city where skyscrapers and modern buildings rise over vestiges appeal to you?

At least it attracted models, billionaires and politicians from all around the world and served as a source of inspiration for many artists.

Mediterranean Landscape, Pablo Picasso (1953)

If in his painting Mediterranean Landscape (1953), Pablo Picasso did not specifically paint the shores of Beirut and Lebanon, this typical Mediterranean littoral, as much as any other Mediterranean city, depicts Beirut in all its diversity. At a first glance, the density of colors in the painting is striking, reminding us of the exotic, diverse, sometimes overwhelming Mediterranean lifestyle. We are also impressed, almost scared by the brutality of strokes, sharpness of angles and vibrance of colors characteristic of cubism, reminding us of the fierce History of this sea and Beirut. If international artists contribute to the cultural modernist heritage of Beirut, a blooming generation of local artists establish it. From Cesar Gemayel, Omar Onsi and Saloua Choucair, to Gibran Khalil Gibran, Fairuz and Mustafa Farroukh. Out of all the paintings by Lebanese modernists that I found, Daoud Corm’s Melons (1899) is the only one that truly affected me.

Melons, Daoud Corm (1899)

If you’ve never been to Lebanon, you need to know that we end every meal with a table of fruits. On the face of it, the painting appears relatively simple. However, the choice of colors alone triggered in me a complex mix of melancholy and peace: I could almost smell the usual Sunday lunch, feel the humidity of the atmosphere… And the knives! The cold silver knives typical of a Lebanese family, those centenary knives we still use and that those after us will also use, a symbol of how life is ephemeral. Maybe a symbol of how deep Lebanese are attached to their roots.

Demonstrating that Beirut is a capital of art during the modernist period is not sufficient to prove that this city is in itself a modernist piece of art. In order to do so, we need to dive deeper into the Lebanese demographics and lifestyle to verify if those factors truly embody modernism.

Detail of ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’, Georges Seurat (1884-1886). The difference in style is striking between post-impressionism and cubism, however those are both modernist movements.

As we defined it earlier, modernism is the collection of artistic currents that saw the light from the 1890s until the 1930s. No matter how different those currents might be, like cubism that we saw earlier and post-impressionism that focuses on extending the limitations of impressionism by using new stroke techniques, all those movements belong to one family: modernism.

The Divine World, Gibran Khalil Gibran (1923)

In parallel, Beirut is the collection of all different religions living in one city, a melting pot asserting the spirituality of the Lebanese. In the Divine World, what strikes us first is the Hamza at the center of the painting: an ancient Middle Eastern talisman, protective symbol in all religions. This symbol carries a powerful message of unity, setting all religions on an equal footing. If in Western modernism we witness a loss of God established by the rise of philosophical movements, notably the nihilism of Nietzsche: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”, Lebanese modernism distinguishes itself in its embrace and continued valuation of religion. Today, because religion brings back memories from the civil war, a horrendous period of Lebanese history, the unity of the people is stronger than ever regarding this matter.

St George Maronite Cathedral and Mohammed Al Amin Mosque in Beirut, collage by me

The spirituality of the Lebanese is also particularly reflected in their approach towards life in general: a lack of material concern when it comes to education, helping others or living and enjoying life. Incorporated in the doctrine of many modernist poets – as Francis Ponge in Le Parti Pris des Choses the Carpe Diem upon which the Lebanese live exhibits this deep spirituality they have. If the Carpe Diem urges us to make the most of the present time and give little thought to the future, enjoy life as we can, it is because memento mori, remember that you have to die. As the “collage” below manifests it, the Lebanese people do not fail at this task. The contrast in the variety of activities we can do in 24 hours may shock you, but as you can see, we do ski, waterski and party in the same day.

A typical March Saturday in Lebanon, photos by my friends.

I have introduced you to a utopic city and country. I wish this is how Beirut was. You have probably seen her real face on the news. Oppressed, perverted, abused by a mafia of corrupt politicians, the fetid Beirut. However, similarly to the diamond that only forms under pressure, it wasn’t until the Lebanese were truly pushed to their limits that their philosophy really crystallized.

Tired of following the same leaders who get richer by stealing from them, Thursday October 17th, 2019, the people decide that things need to change. Not only is this a political or economic revolution, but a total revolution, a revolution of culture and society, a revolution of thought that unveils a new modernist face of Beirut. If modernism witnesses the questioning of higher authorities and the power associated with them, as in the character of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses, Beirut can be considered part of this movement insofar as the revolution of thought it lives is in itself modernist. The unity of the people against power and corruption on one hand manifests their spiritual unity – Beirut is a melting pot, a collection of different religions coexisting – and on the other attests the revolution of thought they have initiated, characteristic of modernism.

My friends and I protesting at the “Students’ Revolution”. Photos by my friends.

In parallel to the revolution, the financial crisis that hit the country finished of poleaxing the people, and of course, the poorest were hit the hardest. Try to predict what happened next. If you base your reasoning on Hobbes’ theory on social contract, the Lebanese people, deprived of their most basic rights, therefore considered in their “natural state”, with no social contract (or society) to guarantee them safety and benefit, are fundamentally “bad”, and we should observe a chaotic deterioration of the situation. In fact, according to Hobbes, “L’Homme est un loup pour l’Homme” or Man is a wolf to Man, and society tames us. However, what we observe is completely different: as the people suffered on the streets, more and more Lebanese NGOs and initiatives rose to help those in need, which is closer to Rousseau’s view on the matter: “L’homme naît bon, c’est la société qui le corrompt” or Man is born good, society corrupts him. Shedding light on the true state of nature of Man, the Lebanese revolution is truly a total revolution embodying modernist concepts.

All in all, from its violent history as the command post of many civilizations, to its diverse demographics and the Revolution it is going through, we can say Beirut is built similarly to a modernist poem. However, on some aspects the city is still anchored in the past and it is clear that its roots are strangling it. Some people still believe in the politicians that have the power since the civil war (1975-1990) while others are starving on the streets. Will Beirut rise from the ashes an eighth time?

The Rise of The Phoenix, Ivan Debs (2019)


The Nature of Things, Francis Ponge (1942)

Ulysses, James Joyce (1922)

Tradition and the Individual Talent, T.S. Eliot (1919)

Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (1651)

The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762)