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Death Eats a Chipwich

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Vulgar Display of Power: Pantera's Phil Anselmo flexes his jaw muscles at Towson Center Arena.

By Joe MacLeod | Posted 3/28/2001

Pantera, Soulfly, Morbid Angel, Nothingface

6:45? Work, school, unemployment, whatever the lifestyle, 6:45 is too fucking early for an evening of arena-style Rock 'n' Roll. Especially when you can't find the venue, so you just follow a bunch of longhairs into some random heavy-metal parking lot on the Towson University campus and it turns out no one knows where the venue is. What is the world coming to when you have to ask The Cops to show you where Pantera is? More importantly, what is the world coming to when The Cops know where Pantera is?

So I missed support act Nothingface. Sorry, Nothingface.

If you think I'm gonna say anything bad about Morbid Angel, you're nuts. I walk in and some guy with a rag on his head is up on the stage deep-throating the mic, like "Roowauwwrrarrhwhoooaaugh, die, die, die, rwaawr," and he finishes with a big "MOTHER-FUCKING MOR-BID AN-GEL!" Turns out it was one of the Panteras doing a little cross-pollinating. Whatever. I start getting sharp pains in my chest. All I could think was Jesus Christ, I'm gonna have a goddamn heart attack. Of all the places to die. Damn you, Morbid Angel, and you too, Pantera. You're the reason I'm going to do a Terminal Dick Cheney in a roomful of jackbooted strangers.

The guitarist for Morbid Angel is unbelievable. He's super busy, hands moving up and down the neck of his git-box, and the whole time he's playing it looks like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family (only with a shiny black dye job) is sitting on his shoulders having a grand mal seizure. Due to the stabbing pain, I can't properly concentrate on the sound, but what this man is doing is exactly what the leathery, black-clothed, sweaty, tattooed, goateed, and tattooed-again throng wants to hear, and they bellow their approval.

All I want is a nice cold drink before Soulfly comes on. The yellow Soulfly T-shirt they're selling in the lobby has what looks like a Haile Selassie/Rastafari-looking lion on it, displayed alongside $45 Pantera shirts with Rebel flags on 'em. For $45, those Pantera shirts better be bulletproof, or soaked in some kind of powerful narcotic or hallucinogen or something.

This is the kind of crap you ponder while you're trying to squeeze down a narrow cinder-block hallway with a hundred other smelly meatheads in search of something cold to drink. There's this immense line in the hallway, but it's for the bathrooms. They've got the refreshment stands and the bathrooms in the same tiny hall, and nothing is moving. To make it even better, there's a guy working a Chipwich freezer-box right at the entrance to the hallway, completely choking any chance for an orderly influx or outflow. The security guards are now yelling at everybody to move away, because across from the Chipwich vendor there's a big, fleshy, baldheaded guy down on the floor gasping like a beached blowfish. Move away to where? Every human need ancillary to this event is being met in this hallway! I look down at the felled music enthusiast and realize that might be me at any moment, so I bull my way through to the refreshment stand. A nice giant pail of Mountain Dew will straighten me right out. It's, like, a homeopathic remedy or something.

Former Sepultura frontman and South American death-metalmeister Max Cavalera is now fronting Soulfly, a rhythm-crazy enterprise that has some kind of problem with Hootie and the Blowfish. "Jumpdafuckup" gets everyone, uh, jumping up, and the entire hall seems to know the important words to "No," specifically, "No muthafucking Hootie and the Blowfish." Pantera comes out and helps perform a disturbingly Stomp-esque rhythm break, with everyone onstage hammering on percussion. A tiny girl standing next to me, an apparent victim of a patchouli bomb, strikes karate poses in time to "Boom," and everyone on the floor is screaming "Boom/ Watchugot?/ Watchuwatchugot?/ Watchugot?/ Boom." I got a headache. Earplugs in for Pantera.

The crowd up front is making with the "PAN-TER-A!" "PAN-TER-A!" An immense black scrim is pulled away to reveal a black-on-black-on-black stage setup in front of a giant matte black PANTERA sign-structure with a black REINVENTING THE STEEL punched out in reverse under it. Then, of course, it bursts into giant flames. Huge searing jets of fire, licking the ceiling of Towson Center. I can feel the heat on my face and I'm as far back as you can get on the floor. We're all gonna die tonight because of Pantera.

I start eyeing the less-crowded exits as I adjust my earplugs during "Goddamn Electric" to better ward off the penetrating high-freq guitar onslaught of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, who has dyed part of his facial hair so that every time you look at him it appears that a bright red flying squirrel is attacking his face. Frontman Phil Anselmo launches into his celebrated stage patter almost immediately, with audience-friendly classics such as "I want you to go fucking apeshit" and "Thank you very fucking much." "Revolution Is My Name" is dedicated to "those who stuck with the heavy-fucking-metal genre when everyone was trying to sound like Nirvana. . . . We stuck with the heavy metal." Yes, Phil employed the word "genre."

They kill the lights, slow it down for a few seconds. The cigarette lighters are up in the air as the pyro display reasserts itself (it's not good for the flames to be touching the ceiling for that long, right?), and my $3 Mountain Dew kicks in. The tightness in my chest is gone, but the pressure from the earplugs is building in my skull, so I yank them.

After the lead-guitar guy does some more monstrous lead guitar, Phil puts the brakes on the show. "I hate all rap metal. . . . Shitty trend, just like all of 'em." The crowd in front starts chanting something to the effect of "Fuck Fred Durst," and the head Pantera comments, "You're the second crowd to say that." Then, derisively quoting Mr. Durst in a high-pitched squeak: "I always wanted to do a shot with you." Shifting back into low: "Hippity-hop down the road, motherfucker." The crowd roars.

Phil: "How many true heavy-metal people here?" Crowd: "Rhaaa!" Phil: "How many true Pantera people here?" Crowd: "RRHGAAAH!" Phil: "Music magazines are boring, TV is boring. I only use my TV for boxing, porno, and horror films. I ain't got no fucking computer--super-boring. Who will come see another Pantera show?" Crowd: "Rhaaa!" Phil: "'Cowboys From Hell,' 12 years, that's longevity, ain't no fucking trend, it's die-hard . . . marijuana smokers of Maryland."

I have no fucking idea what the last song was, but the crowd did: "PAN-TER-A!" "PAN-TER-A!" "PAN-TER-A!" The flame units now look like something conjured by the Wizard of Oz, with big alternating puffs of yellow fire floating up to ceiling. Will the lights in the ceiling explode, showering hot metal and broken glass upon us all? Will anybody notice? Phil's parting words to the assembly: "Eat what you want, smoke what you want, and eat pussy until your jaw breaks."

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