Saturday, December 8, 2012

Ripple Field Trip - Damaura: A Tribute to Dimebag Darrell

It was only during the Metroplex Heavyfest in Dallas last year that I got my first real taste of the legacy left by Dimebag Darrell.  To be honest, I'd never been a fan of Pantera; not because I didn't like their music but because I'd never really heard them. Remember, graduate school kept me busy for most of the late '80's and early '90's, so I simply missed that boat.  I'd heard a few songs here and there, but nothing that I really "listened" to.  I was outraged and saddened by his shooting in 2004 like I would've been for any senseless murder of a member of our rock family.  I knew he was talented and looked upon with respect.  But I never felt that loss.

That all changed in Dallas last year.

Dallas/Fort Worth has a tight metal/rock community and the spectre of Dimebag (and Pantera) hangs thick in the air-- as a funeral shroud but also as a beacon of love and respect. It feels like the essence of Dimebag clings to the very fabric of Dallas metal today, like his DNA has infused the genes of every tattooed rocker who's picked up a guitar since his death. Being there at a heavy rock/metal festival gave me a whole new appreciation for the man and a reason to stock my shelves with Pantera CD's.

So I was ready to go when Mike Davi, the merciless drummer for Damaura (who's debut "Fall Before Me . .  .Leave No One" I reviewed last year) asked me if I wanted to be a fly on the wall at their 4th annual "Tribute to Dimebag Darrell" concert, held each year near the anniversary of his death.  Without hesitation, I trekked the 40 minutes out to Antioch and found myself lost in a sea of bearded humanity, upstairs at the Mutiny MFB Bar Grill and Rock Club.  Antioch is a small town, way on the outskirts of being a suburb of San Francisco; kinda stuck between the big City and the state Capital, Sacramento, to the North.  So I wasn't sure what kind of rock/metal scene I was gonna find there, but let me be the first to say, from what I saw, Antioch has something going on.  Mutiny isn't the biggest place in the world, and the stage set up is a touch non-functional, with the audience area divided by a bar, a wall, a staircase . . . and whatever other obstacle they can come up with; but the crowd that was there squeezed themselves into every nook and cranny of available space, including a decent sized pit in front of the stage.  And the crowd was ready.  They were into metal.  They were into Damaura.  And they were into Dimebag.

I missed the opening band of this four-band bill, and came in at the start of JBD's set.  Featuring two members of Damaura; Bernt Strom on drums (guitar and vocals in Damaura) and Dan Cutt on bass, plus singer/guitarist Jared D.  JBD tore through a set of doom-laden thrash that riled the crowd into a frenzy ending with the show stopper, "Jarhead" (?).  What caught my ear was the way the band mixed it up enough, played with dynamics enough, to always keep things interesting; tearing into a thrash riff one second, then dropping the bottom out to a doomy dirge and back again.  Good stuff and worth checking out here

By the time Damaura took the stage, the place was packed and when the band broke into "Fucking Hostile" the bar went volcanic, hair flying in a sea of male and female headbangers, prostrating themselves in ritualistic adulation for their hero.  With Damaura, Bernt takes his spot on guitar and backing vocals, Dan stays on bass, Mike Davi helms the drum seat, and Chris Black takes the frontman spot on vocals and lead guitar.  Looking a touch like Dimebag himself, Chris proved  himself in an instant, tearing through "Fucking Hostile" with abandon, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and leaving scorch marks on his Dimebag guitar frets.

It's been said that Pantera fashioned the post-thrash era of "groove metal" with their riffing, Texas-influenced groove and hardcore vocal attack.  That came through loud and clear as Damaura smashed through a set that included Pantera staples, "Floods", "Domination" "A New Level" and "Cemetery Gates."  They also tossed in a blitzkrieg version of Damageplan's "Pride" which brought the house down in a sea of sweaty bodies.  Mixed in with the Dimebag love was a handful of Damaura originals from the debut album, "Min Mardrom" "Vendetta" and Catastrophic Ending" which sounded perfectly placed in the set, and underscored the theme here.  Damaura aren't a cover band or a tribute band. They're a metal band paying homage to a fallen hero.  Toasting at midnight on the day of Dimebag's death to a lost brother and a metal innovator.

No metal concert would be complete without something bizarre, so when Jared D, from JBD, came back to the stage to take vocals for the final set, the swirling red lights of cop cars outside seemed a fitting mood setter.  Apparently, some cat out front was videotaping an Antioch police officer making a traffic stop, when the officer objected, the man refused to stop, and the next thing you know we got 11 Antioch Police cars descending onto sleepy 2nd Ave, their lights flashing through the sky like a enemy air raid. "Ignore the cops" Chris screamed out, and tore into "A New Level."   Middle fingers flashed into a police authority salute, Mike smashed his kit, Dan brought on the low end, Bernt went ballistic and the crowd lost themselves in skull crushing metal all the way to the roof blowing closer, "I'm Broken."

I can't say how well the guys played each song compared to the original, but that wasn't the point.  On one foggy Friday night in Antioch, a couple thousand miles from Dimebag's hometown in Dallas, the legacy of a man and his music lived on.   Just as I felt last year in Dallas, the love was there, the respect, the loss.  With the crowd dripping sweat, calling for an encore, and the police lights still knifing through cracks in the curtains, I had a feeling that the metal scene of Antioch was alive and vibrant.  Not yet to the size of a place like Dallas, but pulsing.  Give it time.  Give it time.

Today, December 8th, is the 8 year anniversary of the murder of one of metal's legends.  Based upon what I saw last night, Dimebag would've been proud.


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