Days of Lore

Phil Anselmo needs a hug.

Phil Anselmo needs a hug.

I’m 23 all over!
A little more than a decade ago, Helmet was being touted as the next big thing, inking a deal with Interscope Records, touring the country relentlessly and getting some heavy rotation on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball and 120 Minutes with a jagged little number called “Unsung.” (It’s on Guitar Hero II, kids!)

I saw Helmet with Sacto’s Far at a small club in 1996. The band was ridiculously tight, and played at volumes that made wearing a diaper seem like a good idea (don’t ask). Well, in 2007, not much has changed in that department. What has changed, however, is Helmet’s lineup, save for Page Hamilton … oh, and the fact that I’m much older and wiser now. But on this most monumental of occasions (last Friday at the Senator), I decided to relive my youth and pretend I was 23 again. Hey, I’ll use any excuse to act a fool. When’re Stone Temple Pilots reuniting, anyway?

One word: testosterone
On this go-round, Hamilton brought a crack team of musicians to back him up on some classics, and a few not-so-classics (post Aftertaste), in not-so-spirited fashion. I just wasn’t feeling it (this coming from someone who loves the band).

Even when they were banging out songs like “I Know” and “Ironhead” (I tore apart a friend’s living room one time listening to that song), it looked as though they were going through the motions—especially guitarist Jimmy Thompson, who stood there stoically like Michelangelo’s David, only with a cool spiky cut and some awesome tribal tattoos. And clothes. You’re playing “Unsung,” dude! Move a little!

I looked back and made eye contact with Synthesis leader Bill Fishkin. I nodded my head toward the seven sweaty gorillas pushing each other around on the floor, inviting him to join me in my quest for eternal youth. He politely declined, nodding his head before returning to his BlackBerry. Probably for the best—I would have pulled a pinky muscle. Sure does suck getting old.

Despite being obviously perturbed by the piss-poor turnout, Hamilton did jump off the stage immediately after the set to shake some hands (but he didn’t kiss any babies, which I thought was quite rude). After the show, a couple of little birdies told me that Helmet was going to be hanging out at Normal St. Bar. I followed. And sure enough, in what was the most surreal experience of my life, Hamilton was there, drink in hand … at Normal St. Bar. Sob …

We need more testosterone, STAT!
The next night, a giant Down logo took up nearly the entire wall behind the stage at the Senator. It was metal in all of its excessive and confident glory. The band was so sure of itself that it didn’t even bother to add an opener to the bill. Didn’t need to. Many a tattooed gent filled the theater—and especially the floor, which would soon become the heavy metal tweaker fun-time war zone.

This was inspired! I was 23 again!

Phil Anselmo is an intense and ominous presence, whose interaction with the audience seemed genuine even when he wandered down the melodramatic path. And the rest of the band followed the singer’s lead by keeping a sort of loose intensity.

The song “Lifer” from 1995’s Nola might boast one of the nastiest riffs ever put to tape, and it incited probably one of the nastiest pits to ever swirl inside the walls of the old theater.

I left with a very different feeling that night. Let’s just say Down provided some sweet relief to the headbanger’s blueballs I experienced the night before.

Adding to Anselmo’s coolness factor was the fact that he hung outside his bus chatting with fans until well after 2 a.m. And I actually did feel 23 at the moment he signed my Olympia can. He muttered something in his very low-pitched voice about how he got the shits once from drinking that stuff, and something about seeking the truth and … pssst … I think he was high. I gave him a hug … and let me tell you this: Philip H. Anselmo is a nice-smelling man.