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It sort of sneaked up on us, caught us unaware. Who was ready for Fort Lauderdale's beloved Metal Factory to change its attention-grabbing name? Removing the metal -- but maybe not the mettle -- from its sign, stationery, outgoing voice-mail message, matchbooks, and more, The Factory (as it is now called) is decidedly unlike the Warholian studio of the same name. Instead of soup-can pop art, we get photos of Axl Rose and Limp Bizkit. Instead of a dusty freight elevator, we have the same overly pneumatic drink servers. ("I am one of the original big hair-band groupies," informs one lass on the venue's Web page.) And from the sound of it, we can expect much of the same old fare that wouldn't have been out of place when the room was called Rosebud's.

The shiny sentinel on East Oakland Park Boulevard recently added a new smokestack logo that's reminiscent of the old Factory Records insignia, but don't count on hearing anything from short-haired England circa 1982, says general manager Matt Mearian, who explains that we should expect the song to remain pretty much the same.

"It's not really a change," he says. "It's just a shortening of the name. When we were called the Metal Factory, people thought we were just doing heavy metal."

Now, what in the world could have given anyone that crazy idea?

Well aware that Bandwidth has editorially scourged the multimirrored club at nearly every opportunity, Mearian essentially echoes the sentiments of The Factory's owner, Michael Gagliardi, in a letter printed in New Times on August 30. "Words like silly don't apply" to the Factory, Mearian insists. Yet in the very next breath he says, "We've got Skid Row coming up, and the following week we've got Quiet Riot."

Plus ça change...

Looking back over some of the statements I've printed in this column regarding loud, aggressive music and some of the responses my thoughts have elicited, I realize some people probably believe that Stratton can't handle screaming gee-tars or some such nonsense. It's time to set the record straight.

To correct the misperception that I do not like heavy metal, I must take you, dear reader, back along my personal time line to the days when my width was considerably narrower, all the way back to the winter of 1979, when I attended my first rock concert. My mom drove me and my buddy to downtown Chicago's Aragon Ballroom. And there, my special friends, underneath the bright, hot lights, is where I was indoctrinated into a lifetime of self-inflicted hearing damage.

Technically I suppose my first concert was Sammy Hagar, because he was the opening act. But I was actually there to see the Scorpions, the German metal warriors led by handlebar-mustachioed biker types with names like Rudolf and Matthias, as well as a pintsize screamer called Klaus. I loved every minute, especially when Rudolf Schenker hurled his six-string to the rafters and caught it just in time to bang out one more power chord.

And in the high-school years that followed, I saw concerts by the likes of UFO, Rush, and Black Sabbath. Soon I fell in with Mountain, Uriah Heep, and Judas Priest. By the time I moved up to Peter Gabriel a few years later, I was more in line with the former Genesis singer's viewpoint: "I have nothing against exciting music, but it doesn't have to be this mock macho "baby, all night long' posturing that most heavy metal is nowadays."

Too many educated people assume metal is Neanderthal noise for mouth-breathing knuckle draggers. The Metal Factory's use of a thick-craniumed gorilla as its mascot speaks volumes. And while it's true that industrial hybrids of the late '80s and early '90s like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails went a long way in terms of making rowdy rock that intelligent folks could appreciate too, the former Metal Factory has generally stayed clear of anything smelling of smarts. In fact the club has primarily hosted a procession of has-beens, half-wits, and cover bands paying tribute to the likes of Metallica and Guns n' Roses. It's hard to get excited about that. In his letter Gagliardi challenged me to "contact any local band" to see how it liked playing there. This column doesn't provide enough room for the details, but suffice it to say, nearly everyone with whom I've spoken considers the Metal Factory to be a bizarre anachronism at best.

Even at my advanced age, I still like an occasional sonic sledgehammer upside the head. Only last week I felt another surge of pent-up testosterone and angst when I caught a video from the nine-piece Des Moines band Slipknot (scheduled to visit South Florida in mid-October). I realize the group's new song, "Left Behind," is nothing but a malformed mess of rehashed Reznorisms with silly, stuck-in-a-septic-tank singing, but goddamn if it doesn't kick my sorry ass from here to happiness. So there. As Lawrence Welk used to say, "'Swunnerful, wunnerful."