NORTH PORT — For local fans of Megadeth, Tuesday will be a night to feel alive.
Megadeth co-founder David Ellefson will bring a portion of his Basstory to The Rock Box Music School off Biscayne Boulevard in North Port. It will be part music lesson/part story telling.
The event sold out Thursday.
“It’s basically going to be him hanging out with everyone,” Rock Box owner Angel Bartolotta said.
It’s not the only time Bartolotta has brought larger names to the smaller school. He brought in AC Slade, guitarist for The Misfits and Joan Jett along with Michael Angelo, named “Fastest Guitarist of All Time” by Guitar World Magazine.
“This is more a special one-off,” Bartolotta said. “We’re the only ones in Florida that are doing this. It’s really exciting for our students.”
In a phone interview with the Sun, Ellefson said the band will be touring with Ozzy Osbourne next year but Basstory is a chance for him to get to know fans and discuss music on a different level.
The Tuesday night event follows weekend Basstory concerts in Tampa for Ellefson.
“Basstory formed out of a combination out of spoken-word meets master-class bass clinic,” he said.
“It just feels like a night out with David Ellefson rock concert,” he said. “What we’re doing in North Port is more a master class ... The attention is on music and more musician and fan-musician-class interest.”
Ellefson said Megadeth, which has been recording and touring for 35 years now, has thrived through its fans — and the band knows that.
“Our fans are as much of the Megadeth story as our four musicians are. We’re one of the bands where the fans are very much a part of the fabric.”
The music of Megadeth, call it thrash, heavy or speed metal, has always been a combination of fast beats and a message about politics or culture. Not too many love songs have come from the group that formed with Ellefson met Dave Mustaine in the early 1980s in Los Angeles.
The band said it has sold more than 30 million albums. It was nominated for a dozen Grammy awards before winning the “elusive” award this year for “Dystopia,” Ellefson said.
He enjoys concerts and events when it gets to see families — literally — rocking out to songs like “Peace Sells (But Who’s Buying?),” “Symphony of Destruction” or “Hook in Mouth.”
“I get to see multi-generational fans, musicians. I see dads bringing their sons, moms bringing their daughters,” he said.
He compared Megadeth fans to the devoted fans of jam bands like The Grateful Dead. If Megadeth has a show, the fans arrive. Because of that, the band has become close to its crowd.
“When I do these events, it becomes very VIP, very one-on-one personal experience, the fans really feel they’re really getting their experience,” he said.
It’s because of them that the band was able to survive and even thrive when music genres blended and changed during the last 35 years.
“We stayed the course. But our fans made us. MTV was great but it didn’t make us. Mainstream media was great, but they didn’t make us. Our fans made us. They’re very into the culture.”
Metal fans know of the early rivalry between Megadeth and Metallica — Mustaine had famously been an early member of Metallica and wrote several of its early songs — but any bad blood healed decades ago. The bands, along with the other two of the “Big Four,” Anthrax and Slayer, toured in 2004.
Megadeth itself, with its concentration on social troubles, has found its anger music and rebellious lyrics are embraced in regions of the world embroiled by chaos — where young people are seeking freedom. He said the band has become a bit like “the U.N. of rock and roll.”
“Rock and roll has always been standing up against the man. Whether it’s politics, religion, just culture. We’ve gotten to see newly liberated nations rise up through the voice of rock and roll. We’ve flown on some pretty dodgey airplanes into some very sketchy areas,” he said with a laugh.
He will tell a variety of stories Tuesday, he said there are many of them. Some are of tours, incidents and songs.
He said along with Megadeth, he has also started a band with Frank Bello of Anthrax. That band that originally formed in 2013, named Altitudes and Attitude, releases its album “Get It Out” on Jan. 18.
He has also created a charity to bring music lessons to public schools in rural areas of the country, noting it was early lessons that helped him find his passion.
That music education — which is now threatened for kids because of funding cuts — gave him the foundation to turn the bass and his love of rock and roll into something.
“In heavy metal, for sure, we see fans, students, teenagers who are trying to find their way in life ... they are looking for some place to plug in — they are looking for a tribe.”
He grew up in a great family on a farm in rural Minnesota, he said. While his early 20s found him fighting some “problems befell from my own hand,” he said it’s important for everyone to find their gifts.
“For me, I found the extracurricular activities got in the way of the gifts that I had,” he said “Getting out of that is the best thing that is out of my way. A big part of my story is: Whether you like music, accounting, sports — we’ve all got a gift that’s been put upon us and our greatest gift is to honor that and pursue that — because that is the purpose we’ve been put on the planet.”
He said Megadeth itself has struggled through the years, but they are still around — still writing, still touring, still seeing and meeting its fans. Sure, the Grammy is a nice award and the band is now widely recognized for its own impact on heavy metal.
“For some reason, you need to lose a few times to appreciate winning. That’s largely the story of Megadeth. It’s no different than what you see ... sometimes it’s not so much as how you start the game as how you finish.”