Down at Marquee Theater, 9/11/11

Down Marquee Theatre Sunday, September 11

You have to feel bad for opening acts. Upon arriving at the Down concert last night, Ponykiller had just ended its set and In Solitude was in full force, playing their hearts out on the stage for a half-full Marquee Theater.

A handful of energetic metalheads bobbed and weaved up front, but other than that the crowd was standing still and somewhat quiet. There was little doubt that the crowd was here because of a fanatical devotion to Down -- or at least singer Phil Anselmo.

As the lights dimmed in preparation for Down to come on, the atmosphere shifted. Fans the band has garnered over the past 20 years of existence packed into the pit.

For the uninitiated, Down is made up of Phil Anselmo (Pantera) on vocals, Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity) on guitar, Kirk Windstein (Crowbar) on guitar, Patrick Bruders (Goatwhore) on bass and Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod, Crowbar, Down, and Superjoint Ritual) on drums, making it an official heavy super-group.

Fans tossed plastic cups almost empty of beer, cheering and chanting "Down! Down! Down!" (which happened several times throughout the bands' set). The second the band walked on stage with Anselmo leading the way, the entire venue erupted in applause. While I know Down is a popular band, I can't help but wonder if most people are attracted to the music because of Phil's affiliation with Pantera. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't one of those people.

Upon surveying the crowd and pumping his tatted arms into the air, Phil honored the troops and fallen soldiers and the fact that it was September 11 in gravelly voice, swigging from a beer. Then he shouted "This one goes out to all the smokers in Arizona! And if you don't smoke...well, you should," before launching into the grueling, shredding opening number, "Hail."

On the opening note, the crowd simultaneously began head-banging and moshing in a large oval pit that lasted for the entire show, and was surprisingly friendly. When it comes to metal show moshpits, you never know what type of people may be taking out their aggression, from shank-holding skinheads at Slayer to punks stomping around at Pepper.

At Down, tall dudes with dreads skulked around in between smaller guys doing roundhouse kicks and a handful of older girls trying to prove they were badass by swinging at anything that went by them. However, anytime a person went down, three others were there to boost them back up.

The set lasted almost an hour and a half, and covered a nice range of Down's hits from their three studio albums. Phil liked to converse with the crowd in between the songs, all the while with the CFH tattoo on his skull glistening with thrown water, beer and sweat, explaining if there was a significance ("The song is for Dimebag!" before "Lifer," which was met with a tidal wave of devil horns and screams); or thanking the crowd ("It's awesome you guys came out on a Saturday night! Let's party! Oh...wait it's Sunday").

The difference in the crowd's aura was like night and day compared to the opening bands, where that usual metal show scent of stale beer and sweat was nowhere to be found. Phil shouted "good night" to the crowd the after "Eyes of South," swigging bottled water and spraying it all over the front couple rows. And to the constant chanting of the crowd, the band came back on stage and closed out with "Stone Crow" and "Bury Me In Smoke."

Down's Setlist: Hail The Path Lifer Lysergik Pillars N.O. Dying Losing All Ghosts Along Underneath Temptations Something on My Eyes of South Stone Crow Bury Me In Smoke

Critics Notebook:

Last Night: Down, Ponykiller, and In Solitude at the Marquee Theater.

The Crowd: A mix of heavy metal fans ranging from teens to mid-30s donning black T-shirts, a majority of which displayed Pantera and CFH tattoos and logos.

Overhead in the Crowd: "Look at his legs. They are the size of my arm! Those are the most ridiculous pants I've ever seen," pertaining to the skintight black pants worn by In Solitude's lead singer. On a creepy note: Pantera pretty much disbanded after 9/11 because they canceled their European tour due to the situation, and just never got back together. There was more than one time I heard a fan mention that in the crowd.

Personal Bias: It was great to see Phil stomping around the stage in his usual form. But if I was to choose between my favorite band with ex-Pantera members, I would stick with HELLYEAH.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise