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Father organises heavy metal festival for his music-loving son Mason, who has cerebral palsy

A father taking his son to a concert is one of the ultimate bonding experiences, creating memories that will last forever. 

Richard McDeid and his son Mason have seen approximately 1,200 bands together, something which gives them both a great deal of enjoyment. It has, in fact, changed the course of their lives together.

Mason has cerebral palsy, but that doesn’t diminish the joy he gets from attending shows with his dad. Their preference is extreme and heavy metal; something which Richard is taking to the next level by organising a mini-festival to raise awareness for people with similar conditions.

When he was born, we did what they called kangaroo care,” explains McDeid, as he highlights the lifelong bond which formed with his son, “Mason would get out of the incubator and lay on my chest for several minutes. I’ll never forget the first time we did this, as I’d waited almost a month to hold him.”

Unfortunately, the hospital has become like a second home for the McDeid’s. “In the past 23 years I have helped him through, and nursed him back from, 132 surgeries and many more near-death illnesses,” says Richard, “It has always (been this way), since he was 4 or 5 years old. I’m a single dad, raising him and his little sister, who is off at college now.”

Mr Mason McDeid My Good Planet
Mason McDeid has attended well over 1,000 shows with his dad, Richard, who discovered that heavy metal relaxed and comforted his son when he was still a baby. (c) Richard McDeid

In the run up to the event, we caught up with Richard McDeid to speak about his journey so far and to get the low down on some of the unforgettable shows which they have both taken in.

MGP: What challenges has Mason’s condition presented along the way, and how have you dealt with them?

RMcD: Mason has several ongoing challenges; he is tube feed and sleeps with a food pump, which nourishes him during the night. Our biggest concern is always pressure sores. A simple road trip could mean a life and death situation for Mason, so we make sure he is continuously repositioned and moved to prevent such sores.

The fact that Mason is wheelchair bound is a challenging at times; it once took us four hours to get into a stadium in Chicago. We ended up finding a back door that lead through the bands’ dressing rooms to the main floor. It always works out okay, and us boys have learned to be patient and let things happen as they do.

MGP: When did you discover that Mason adored heavy metal music?

RMcD: From when Mason was a baby, right up to a toddler, all he did was cry. One day, I arrived in from work and his mom took some time out. He would simply not stop, so I put him in his chair and turned on the Metallica ‘Binge and Purge‘ VHS tape.

A few minutes later I was washing the dishes and noticed he’d stopped crying. I checked on him and he’d fallen asleep. This was the very first time he’d done that without someone holding him. Afterwards, it started happening in the car whenever Metallica was on. He would calm down and relax. At first it was only Metallica and then grew to other bands as he learned to recognize them, he instantly responded and it grew from there.

The McDeid Family My Good Planet
The McDeid family taking in a show. (c) Richard McDeid

MGP: When did you guys start going to shows together? 

RMcD: Sept 8th 2008 – I took Mason to his very first metal show: Rage Against the Machine. They were playing the Target Center during the RNC convention and there were SWAT teams on horses and police outside. When we went inside, everyone opened doors and the fans made a path for us all to get him Mason up front. Following that, we saw Metallica with Lamb of God and then Rammstein. We still haven’t stopped.

MGP: How many shows have you been to so far? Are you still keeping count?

RMcD: We saw 450 bands in a single year, but stopped counting when we reached a total of 1,060. Since that point we’ve probably seen another 200. It has always been more about us boys having fun than anything but, in theory, he has seen over 1,200 bands in his lifetime.

MGP: Which ones have been the highlights?

RMcD: The first shows are some of our best memories, but we’ve had many highlights since. Mason has now seen Metallica eight times from the front row in 6 different states, including the Iowa raceway for his college graduation party. I teased him for years that Metallica would play his graduation and, as impossible as that sounded, in the end it was Mr. Mason sitting next to the stage that day.

Chicago Open Air was special, as I had him front row at Slipknot in front of 86,000 fans. It was another long-time impossible goal. We did a road trip to Auburn Hills to see Iron Maiden and then again the next night in Chicago; that was really special, as it was the first time I had taken him so far from home.

MGP: You launched a mini-festival to raise awareness last year, and you intend to do it again. Tell us a little about the event.

RMcD: Last year Mr Mason had been hospitalized and things were pretty bleak, as his temperature reached 107.9. Mason is a fighter and a true champion and, by definition, a champion is determined not by how many knockouts they have, but on how many times they get up after being knocked down.

Mason is living proof of that.

In 2017 we were going to have the biggest, loudest birthday party in December for him but, even though we were home, he was still too weak. The next available date was in March 2018 and I realized that March was also National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.

Mason was still not 110%, but we had 10 bands playing and so many of Mason’s friends and supporters from the metal scene came out. All those people were nothing but positive, and it was a turning point in his path to recovery.

Turns out he recently won an award for the best show of the year, and it means so much as our music scene is behind us boys; we are very lucky to have met so many loving, caring metalheads.

Mason McDeid My Good Planet
Mason McDeid and his father, Richard, are working to raise awareness for people with cerebral palsy. (c) Richard McDeid

MGP: What do you think people can do to become more aware of cerebral palsy?

RMcD: In general when we go to a large show out of 10,000 people, there may be one person who might give us trouble and harass us. Sometimes they tell us we don’t belong there (with the general audience) and that we should be sitting in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) section.

I can tell u after 1,200 and some bands, the ADA section is the last place us boys want to be. Mason loves to be up front where the action is; it might be hereditary, haha. I’ve also been told, on more that one occasion, that he needs to get a job.

So, that’s what we’ve done.

We are starting a company called The Best Seat in the House as Mason is always up front. A press photographer once told us that we get to go places and get shots that they never could, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Mason now acts as a music correspondent, doing the two things he loves the most; listening to live music and meeting new friends.

The Mason Metal Fest will be taking place on March 23rd, 2019 in Minneapolis, MN. more information is available on the flyer which can be downloaded here.