How Metallica secretly filmed a concert at a Sonoma winery
Walkers along Sonoma’s Denmark Road at sunset on Aug. 10 wouldn’t have believed what they were seeing had they even known to look.
A smattering of cars were parked on the crest of the Gundlach Bundschu winery driveway, but no more than usual. There was a kaleidoscope of lights throbbing, but no music. The 320-acre property’s gates were firmly locked -- so why were there burly security guards at every entrance?
Less than a half dozen locals knew that one of the biggest bands in America was set up overlooking the vineyard of the Sonoma winery secretly performing “Enter Sandman,” “Fade to Black” and “One,” without an audience.
For two weeks in early August, the iconic heavy metal band Metallica quarantined in the North Bay while their crew hid out in a small, modest Sonoma hotel. After repeated COVID testing, the band played a secret concert in Sonoma without anyone in town getting wind of the unlikely event.
The resulting feature-length film of the band’s first show of 2020, and their first concert in nearly a year, will be screened at more than 300 outdoor venues across the country, including at the winery where the concert was filmed, on Saturday, Aug. 29.
Over the past decade, Bundschu Company CEO Jeff Bundschu has been producing small music shows at his family winery on the east side of Sonoma. Especially in the early days of hosting these indie concerts, he grabbed any chance he got to meet people in the music business — he plays a little guitar and bass, and is a music super-fan.
“If anyone in the music industry visits the winery, I always lead the tour,” he says. A few years back, a fast Google search confirmed that one VIP scheduled to visit was involved in managing some very big bands, including Metallica.
The two hit it off and kept in touch. Meanwhile, the sixth generation of Bundschus built some buzz for the winery as a hot micro-venue. An eclectic group of indie musicians were scheduling gigs there and praising the excellent acoustics of the winery’s old redwood barn and its picturesque hillside stage.
The fateful text
Jeff Bundschu describes himself as a dreamer and an optimist. But 2020 has been challenging. So he says he was too tired to be surprised when he received a text on July 24 that Metallica was looking for a compelling spot to film a concert movie. Well, he thought, this year is “already chock full of otherworldly scenarios coming true.”
Might the winery be interested? There would be no fans, and filming would take only two days.
While Bundschu himself is more likely to attend SXSW than Saints and Sinners, he’s no fool, and he instantly agreed -- provided it could be done safely and discreetly, given the COVID situation.
Less than a week later, Metallica’s crew arrived.
While band members Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo stayed in Bay Area homes, their crew quietly checked into Sonoma’s El Pueblo Inn on July 31 for what all concerned described as “serious quarantining.” Meals were delivered and housekeeping was canceled.
The band’s team had asked for a hotel recommendation earlier on, said Bundschu. “But it was still a holy sh#* moment when I heard they had arrived in Sonoma and had checked in.”
El Pueblo front desk manager Aranda Tynes was pleased that her team managed to keep the secret for weeks. “We are all huge fans,” she told the Index-Tribune.
Some last details were ironed out. Bundschu would close the winery to visitors and release the staff on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 9 and 10. He sent a courtesy note to neighbors that there would be a small commercial filming on the property. And he finally told his family and inner circle that it was happening.
“I don’t know if it’s fair to say they’re used to me dropping things like this on them, but they were not shocked,” he said. “Nor too wowed to not ask me all the usual questions — ‘What’s our liability? How will we keep this a secret? What are they paying? What’s the upside to us?’”
Bundschu’s retort? “Come on! It’s Metallica!”
Maybe, maybe not
But on July 31, Bundschu woke up to a personal email from Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, which cc’d Sonoma County Health officer Sundari Mase. They asked him to reconsider holding a small, outdoor, socially distanced wine and music experience featuring Chris Robinson that he had planned for late August.