The thankless task of opening a four band bill, especially one with recognizable characters like Phil Anselmo and Pepper Keenan, of DOWN, fell to HAARP (actually an acronym for secretive government project), the New Orleans based outfit signed to Anselmo's Housecore Records. The band were onstage early (standing drinking a few beers) waiting to play to the 100 or so people who had showed, to that point. Frontman Shaun Emmons measured the microphone chord, to see how far into the audience he would later travel. When they began, with a disturbing rumble, the foursome saw Emmons bellowing from behind the guitar and bass, the bald singer now resplendent in a Flyers jersey. Much like this hockey season, there was basically no one there. As the band oozed their EYEHATEGOD school of exaggerated sludge, Anselmo perched himself behind the drummer, getting off on the bludgeoning as he sang along to Haarp, while they ran through their Husk album. It wasn't until they were completely done that Emmons spoke to the crowd: no introductions, no song titles, no banter, nothing. The entire band has something of an anti-stage presence, virtually motionless, hiding in shadows and at one point (apart from the drummer) everyone had their backs to the crowd). During lengthy instrumental sections (like when the singer returned to the stage, from singing in the crowd), the lights were an opaque green. Before the final wall of feedback had dissipated, guitarist Grant Tom already had his instrument back in its traveling case.
WARBEAST had a little trouble getting the stoners into a circle pit. Undaunted, after their signature tune kicked things off, it was 'Krush The Enemy'. Bruce Corbitt (RIGOR MORTIS) had a chrome, chain link half-mic stand and wore a demonic Reagan t-shirt (not the president, the Exorcist protagonist). Nuclear neon green lit 'Egotistical Bastard' was followed by 'Scorched Earth Policy', Anselmo making another appearance, this time onstage, adding vocals. 'Nightmares In The Sky' was announced as being about gargoyles and they offered a pair from the forthcoming album: 'It' and 'Birth Of A Psycho'. Guitarist Scott Shelby was all metalled out, leather & studs!
Older than most in the audience, the gray-haired, bulging Marty Feldman eyed bobby Liebling could actually be retired to Florida, playing shuffleboard instead of (still) fronting PENTAGRAM, but after three decades his band has never been more widely known. Hats off to Down for taking out an older band (who most don't know), yet truly deserve the shot. Barely able to walk, he looked like he might fall over at any moment, yet he managed to shimmy, crawl on his knees and lay across the monitors at the front of the stage. Musically somewhere between BLACK SABBATH and DANZIG (especially 'Wolf's Blood'), the riffs are courtesy of Victor Griffin, as Liebling plays a left-handed air guitar, in sympatico. The night began with a pair off their eponymous debut (back in '85), 'Death Row' and 'All Your Sins'. 'Review Your Choices' and 'Forever My Queen' followed. Yellow and orange lights greeted 'Dying World', which was quickly backed up by 'Relentless'. Glad to have finally had to see Griffin and Liebling, the later having a history of tough times and chemical demons, as depicted in the prize winning documentary Last Days Here.
DOWN had sold out the Trocadero (1200 seater) across town, about a year ago, but this Wednesday evening, there were probably less than half that amount in the cavernous Electric Factory (3000 capacity). Despite that, there was a long absent "odor" permeating the club on this night, as Jimmy Bower sat behind his one kick drum, minimalist kit. Guitarists Pepper Keenan (COC) and Kirk Windstein (CROWBAR/KINGDOM OF SORROW) looked healthy, if not for a little beer gut and screamer Anselmo, in below-the-knee shorts was his boisterous self, jumping, karate chopping and headbanging like the early days in PANTERA. He even gave high 5s to all the fans who crowd-surfed over the barricade. Newly released 'Witchburner' proved a fan favorite, singing along throughout. The early portion of the set was almost exclusively newer material, the stellar NOLA debut songs generally left to a killer concluding sequence, including (in succession): 'Temptation Wings', 'Hail The Leaf', 'Stone The Crow' and 'Bury Me In Smoke'! Great songs, somehow "forgotten" album from so-called "death of metal 90s era. 'Lifer' and 'Losing All' were also aired from said platter, following 'Lysergik Funeral Procession'. If you haven't seen Down in a while, this "clean" version is clicking on all cylinders, no drunken/drugged out ramblings.