Music News & Reviews

Meet Hammerhedd, the local kid metal band that became a sensation playing Metallica on the Plaza

Bridget Ismert was at the grocery store when she got a text message from a friend that changed her family’s life last week.

You might want to check the internet, the friend wrote. I think people are trying to find the boys.

The “boys” are Henry, Eli and Abe, Ismert’s sons who have a heavy metal band called Hammerhedd. A few days before the boys had played Metallica songs on the Country Club Plaza in front of t.Loft health cafe.

Within minutes of that text, Ismert learned that someone had filmed the boys, posted the video to Facebook — and the video had gone viral.

All of a sudden, it seemed like everyone in the world was looking for her sons. “My heart dropped,” said Ismert, who lives in Prairie Village.

She sent a quick Facebook message to the woman who posted the video, identified herself as the boys’ mom and politely told her she didn’t want her son’s names made public. Ismert also set her social media pages to private.

The video took off because Metallica publicly complimented the boys and posted the video to its own Facebook page. The boys were ecstatic, as though they had just gotten the best Christmas present ever.

The attention has staggered their mom. Until she realized that hundreds of public comments being made about her children were mostly positive, “it kind of felt like people were watching our house that first night because we were so out there,” Ismert said.

And then “America’s Got Talent” called. So did Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show.

No thank you, no thank you. Ismert politely declined their requests.

“We kind of turned down everyone national,” said Ismert. “We would like to keep the boys local.”

Metallica fans have been trying to find out if the band contacted the boys.

Nope.

“That would be cool if they did, but we haven’t made it super easy for them to find us,” said Ismert.

The boys have been playing together for about three years. The “flawless” prowess that everyone from Metallica fans to Guitar World magazine has gushed over is mostly self-taught.

They didn’t catch heavy metal fever from their mom, who prefers the more subtle stylings of the Zac Brown Band, blues and folk music.

Her husband, Luke, is the Metallica fan and has several siblings who are musical.

Eli used one of his uncle’s drum sets to teach himself how to play. “He’s never had any lessons whatsoever,” she said. “He is 100 percent self-taught.”

Henry, the lead guitarist, is the only brother who has had lessons, a few months worth at Brothers Music in Mission that his parents gave him as a birthday gift.

The boys, busy with school and soccer and baseball, fit in practices in the family basement when they can. Ismert jokes that practice sessions tend to be a “neighborhood affair” because, well, the basement isn’t soundproof.

“Our neighbors are very nice and patient,” said Ismert.

She’s not sure where her sons’ love of metal will take them. It’s just a hobby now. “But we love that they play together, and they spent a lot of time together as brothers,” she said.

The Plaza performance wasn’t their first public performance. They’ve had more than a dozen gigs around town, playing at private parties and at school. Jill Minton, the owner of t.Loft and a friend of Ismert’s, has had them play at her State Line Road location, too.

The boys had been asking Ismert — mom/agent/roadie — to line up a Plaza gig.

Minton, the one who sent Ismert the text about the boys going viral, invited the boys to play inside her Plaza cafe on the morning of Sept. 11. But Ismert, who had patrons’ ears in mind, asked if they could play outside instead.

PorchFestKC organizers had decibel levels in mind, too, when Ismert approached them earlier this year asking whether Hammerhedd could play at the festival, which features acoustic performers playing on people’s front porches.

“Can they be quieter?” the PorchFestKC people wanted to know.

“Clearly they are too loud for PorchFestKC, but are obviously super-talented,” said organizer Kathryn Golden.

At a meeting a few weeks ago — before the boys went viral — Golden gave Valentine neighborhood residents a heads-up that Hammerhedd would be rockin’ out and that it will be worth it, Golden said.

It turns out that the neighbor who lives in the 3600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue is a big Metallica fan and asked for the boys to perform on her porch. They are scheduled to perform at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 8.

That afternoon just might turn out to be their biggest audience so far. It certainly wasn’t that Sunday on the Plaza when lightning struck. Besides their parents, grandparents, their sister and an aunt, they played for maybe 15 people at the most.

To the boys it felt as if no one was watching.

Lisa Gutierrez: 816-234-4987, @lisaginkc

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