By Paul Piazza
I knew something was up when Ace of Spades opened up an extra smoking area on a Sunday. Perhaps, it was because hordes of metal fans had descended upon our fair city Dec. 7 for a great line-up headlined by heavy metal supergroup Down—fronted by former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo—along with the United Kingdom’s Orange Goblin, Santa Cruz punk legends Bl’ast! and King Parrot from Australia.
This 15-date collaboration has been dubbed the “Punk Rock But Kinda Not” tour, reflective of the inclusion of Bl’ast! and King Parrot. I got to the venue too late to see King Parrot play its big hit “Shit On The Liver,” but caught much of the Bl’ast! set. The band, which started in the early ‘80s, played a solid set led by frontman Clifford Dinsmore. Ex-Queens of the Stone Age rhythm section Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo laid down the foundation.
Next up was Orange Goblin, a formidable metal band with a larger than life singer in Ben Ward. The towering, bearded vocalist dominated the stage with his sheer size—he must be close to 6 foot 7—and powerful vocals. The band’s early music had Tolkien influences and one could feel the sense the sheer giant-version Gandolf that Ward represented. Also impressive was guitarist Joe Hoare, who shredded mightily on “Saruman’s Wish” from the band’s first album and the great new tune off their new record Back from the Abyss called “Sabbath Hex.”
Finally, out came Down. The crowd, already engaged in all of the performances, intensified as Anselmo—who had been watching the earlier bands while sipping from a bottle in the wings—guitarist Pepper Keenan (Ex-Corrosion of Conformity), drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod) and the band’s latest additions, bassist Pat Bruders and guitarist Bobby Landgraf hit the stage.
Anselmo wags the finger at his fans.
Anselmo has always had a rep as a front man who knows how to get and keep the crowd’s attention with his macho bravado, quick wit and menacing humor. And he delivered the goods. Even at 46, he was all over the stage and immediately had the crowd in the palm of his hand, cajoling them, exhorting them and all the while tough-loving them, until the very end.
The band, who calls New Orleans home, played songs dating back to its roots in the early ‘90s as well as some cuts from its new EP Down IV, Part II. Considering that its dedicated fans knew all the words to the new songs, it’s safe to say that people will continue to rabidly follow Down and its charismatic, tenacious leader.