Down and Warbeast @ Marquee Theatre|1/14/13
So, it turns out there's a reason it's called "stoner metal."
I've been to several Down shows before, but two things stuck out to me during Monday night's Down/Warbeast concert at Marquee Theatre. My friend (who goes by "Iron Maiden," thank you very much) and I were the youngest people in the crowd -- practically jail bait. Secondly, the energy level of the crowd stayed consistently mellow until about halfway through Down's set.
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It hasn't been long since Down was at the Marquee, but that didn't stop the venue from filling up early. In fact, despite the abnormally chilly Valley temperatures, there was a line at the venue before doors opened at 6 p.m.
The show kicked off with Austin trio Honky, whose high-octane rock 'n' roll ruckus was one of the more unique acts of the evening, with hill-country harmonizing and thunderous tunes, like their cover of the Pat Travers Band classic "Snortin' Whiskey (And Drinking Cocaine)." While the majority of the crowd was there for Warbeast and Down, it seemed like Honky garnered quite a few new fans at the show -- their merch booth was constantly swarmed throughout the night.
By the time Warbeast came on stage, the venue was packed. The band made for a perfect supporting act for Down. Between Bruce Corbitt's powerful vocals and the ear-shattering guitar shredding, the crowd went nuts. Guitarists Scott Shelby and Bobby Tillotson Jr. and bassist Dre Karst went to head-to-head all over the stage, rocking out to the point where one couldn't help imagining those dudes as teenagers, jumping off beds to their knees at home while jamming out. The energy was palpable, even if the mosh pit was barely stirring.
It didn't hurt that Down's Phil Anselmo was creeping around behind the band's amps, air-guitaring alongside Shelby on such tunes as "Egotistical Bastard." Unfortunately, he wasn't dragged out for a duet with the band, as he was Sunday night in Houston. But I'm guessing it's because the word on the street is that he was preserving his voice from a strain of laryngitis that's roaming around the Down camp.
Anselmo has always been a huge Warbeast fan, not only signing the band to his Housecore Records label, but taking them out on tour a couple of times with Down and even mixing their forthcoming sophomore album, Destroy. My favorite Warbeast songs on Monday included some tunes from the band's new collaboration with Anselmo, War of the Gargantuas. "It" and "Birth of a Psycho" churned the pit [finally] onto a black-T-shirt-filled frenzy.
Monday night marked the third stop on the Weed and Speed tour -- and clearly things are working out so far.
By the time Down came on stage, the crowd was fully pumped up. Fans chanted slowly: "Down. Down. Down. Down!" and fist-pumped in the air. The band is stacked with New Orleans' top hard rock talents, including Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Confomity and Kirk Windstein of Crowbar. But Phil Anselmo always garners the biggest cheers. A smoky intensity just seems to resonate from him -- although that could've been the smoldering joints burning throughout the crowd. But there's not doubt about it: Down defines the "stoner" rock genre.
Anselmo shouted out a greeting to the crowd ("It's great to be here tonight, Temmmpeee!"), and the band kicked off its set with "Eyes South" before rolling into crowd favorites "Witchtripper" and "Open Coffin," from the newest album, Down IV Part I: The Purple EP. The mosh pit continued to be sluggish as hell, to the point that guys roaming around the circle were able to carry their own beers without spilling a drop. (Marquee's credit card machines were down, rendering the bar cash-only, which might account for the tame nature of the crowd.)
Right before catapulting into a personal favorite of mine, "Lifer," Anselmo did his usual dedication of the number to the late Dimebag Darrell, and included recently deceased Mike Scaccia as well. The two Texas metalheads were represented boldly in the song, and the crowd went crazy, screaming out everything from "I miss you Dimebag!" to "You're awesome, Phil!"
As he launched into "Losing All," Anselmo surveyed the crowd with a foot upon an amp, leaning over the edge of the stage as Jimmy Bower rumbled the bass drum in the background.
"Does anyone know the first song that Down wrote? Damn, man, 10 years of friendship. 20 years on stage of commitment . . . I'll take that! I don't give two fucks, just show me something!" His invocation finally prompted some action in the mosh pit.
By the time Down got to "Temptation's Wings," Anselmo seemed like he was having a blast. Here and there throughout the songs, you could hear his voice wavering a bit, so let's hope that it has nothing to do with the illness going around the tour.
"Tempe, Arizona," he preached. "Don't grow up to be a suit and a guy that just watches the evening news. The world is wide open! Do something good, you stupid bastards! Do something great!" The crowd welcomed his words, arms stretched toward the stage to slap high-fives with the singer.
"Now, this song is called Tempe . . . tations," he added before bursting into giggles, along with Kennan and Windstein who nodded and smiled the crowd. It was the only attempt at a joke during the evening.
As Down wrapped up its set with favorites "Hail the Leaf" and "Stone the Crow," it was the most intense I'd seen the mosh pit all night long. Either the alcohol kicked in, the weed wore off, or fans finally figured what did they have to lose getting into the non-threatening pit. (Overheard outside the pit: "What, man? No, I'm not getting in there! I'm a doctor; I can't go to work tomorrow with a black eye!")
At the very end, Anselmo sucked on a cigarette and eyeballed the crowd. "Let's make this obvious as a motherfucker," he wheezed. "What do you guys wanna hear?"
The crowd poll worked. Fans all seemed to scream out simultaneously "Bury Me in Smoke!" the classic cut from Down's 1996 debut.
As the audience sang and danced along to the song, the stage began to fill up with an array of Texas metallers from Honky and Warbeast. Everyone took turns singing the lyrics into the mic, and there were a lot of hugs and back-slaps happening on stage.
If the size of the crowd on a Monday night indicated anything, it's that every time Down comes through town the venue is going to be packed, and that the metal vets are going to give it their all.
Eyes South Witchtripper Open Coffin Lifer Pillars of Eternity Losing All Ghosts No Dying Whore Temptation Wings Misfortune Teller Hail the Leaf Stone the Crow Bury Smoke
Last Night: Warbeast and Down at the Marquee Theatre, 1/14/13.
The Crowd: Middle-aged couples, stoners in their 50s, and the occasional pair of young gangly dudes who looked like they thought that the Marquee had booked an indie rock show that night. Oh, yeah, and black T-shirts everywhere, more XXL than not.
Personal Bias: I probably wouldn't care so much about Down if I wasn't a Pantera fan, and the more shows I go to, the more they seem like a support group for frustrated Pantera fans. I think I'm a member.
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