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Headbangers

Slayer in Washington, D.C.

By A Headbanger, Do You Bang Head?
Sunday, May 6, 2007 @ 10:00 AM


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Reviewed by Jeff

The show was two months ago on February 20th, and I’m finally getting around to writing this review. Some of the events and songs may not have happened in the exact order that you see here, but this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

This was Slayer concert #8 for me. With the demise of The Nation this show was at DC’s 9:30 Club – not The Nation, but still a good venue. Then again, from the pit it all looks the same. I arrive a bit late, missing the opening acts completely, but that’s OK. In fact, I’ve barely set foot on the floor before the lights go down and "Darkness of Christ/ Disciple" starts. This seems to have become the new standard opening for Slayer shows, replacing "Hell Awaits". I would just as soon have seen them keep using HA, but I guess that it gets old for them after a decade or two and they need to change things up. In fact, with the exception of their "Divine Intervention" tour, those are the only two openings I’ve heard them use. On the DI tour they opened with "Raining Blood" which was really cool, but on the down side we also had to hear a bunch of songs off of DI. By definition there is no such thing as a weak Slayer album, but if such an album were to exist it would be DI. Slayer plays nothing off of that album on this night, just like they did the last time they came around here. Most excellent.

    "We believe that all of this chaos and atrocity will all trace back to one single event.”
I still find it ironic that the original release date for God Hates Us All was 9/11/2001. It’s somehow fitting in a Slayer sort of way. I use this song as an opportunity to tie up my boots. I’ll be damned if I’m going to jump into the pit with my boots loose and practically twist my ankle like I did last time. "Disciple" ends and the stage lights come up. Tom Araya is now sporting a full beard with a fair amount of gray woven into it. He just looks around the crowd with a shit eating grin on his face along with a few satisfied nods of his head. The band is out in their usual formation – Jeff Hanneman off to the left, Kerry King standing to the right, and praise be, Dave Lombardo is still back on drums on the riser behind Araya. Araya has a few words for the crowd before launching into “War Ensemble”. Now we’re talking!

The final swing is not a drill...

    It's how many people I can kill”

I snake my way through the crowd into the pit. Just like at The Nation, the floor has too many people and not enough pit space. The pit is up and furious, but it’s really tight. I look around the pit and I see who our judicator for the evening is – a shirtless, head shaved, graying goateed, 220 pound, solid muscle Bill Goldberg looking dude. It looks like he has two cohorts serving with him – a husky, curly haired, red headed dude and a taller, leaner guy sporting a well grown out Mohawk. It’s always good when a pit has some guys ready to take care of any assholes, but the 9:30 Club seems to have its act down. Although signs on the walls everywhere say that there is no crowd surfing, I see one or two crowd surfers during this song. I don’t see any crowd surfers again until the very end of the night, and I see Security drag another guy off toward the end of the song. Next up is "Jihad", the first of only three songs off of the new album that we would hear tonight.

    "I will see you burned alive
    Screaming for your God
    I will watch you die"

I’m not a fan of Christ Illusion; to quote Hanneman it sounds like "another damn Slayer album." But I think that "Jihad" is tight, and I stay in the pit. Yes, it gives the terrorist’s point of view, but Slayer has the cred to pull it off. Many years of introducing war songs along with props for our troops who have served overseas prevent this song from becoming a "Dixie Chicks" turning point for the band. In an interview Araya said that other metal bands writing music around the time that Slayer was writing CI were giving the soldier’s point of view, and that they wanted to avoid being cliché and try the opposite perspective. And I think that they pulled it off. And I have to admit, I’m pretty impressed with the pit. I bitch a lot about what a prissy town DC is (shitty radio, shortage of good dive bars, people who think that tofu is real food), the guys in this pit are hitting as hard as in any of the ones I’ve been in Tampa or Philly. The close quarters prevent anyone from using any real technique; just a combination of upper body brute force and mugging the guys around me while throwing my feet ahead of me whenever I take a strong hit are all that keep upright. This is more than I can say for the tall skinny kid with an afro who goes down twice during the song. There is no way he is getting out of here without serious injury tonight.

After "Jihad" Araya stops to survey the crowd again, and introduces the next song. I’m hoping that Slayer doesn’t kill the momentum by staying with something post-"Seasons…", as I don’t want to leave the pit now and start cooling off. Araya tells us that as the saying goes, "If you must LIVVVVE by the SWORRRRD…" The audience starts cheering and about half of the crowd chimes in and completes the rest of the sentence along with him. He finishes the phrase exactly as he did on "Decade of Aggression," in the same manner most of us have heard hundreds of times and worn out at least one set of tapes and/or CD’s. Most of us help him finish… "then you WILLLLL… DIIIIEEEE by the Sworrrrd!"

Of course, I’m back into the pit, still staying where most of the traffic is on the near side (close to the bar).

    "Try to escape the grasp of my hand
    And your life will no longer exist"

I notice that we also have a woman in the pit, a petite brunette cutie. She’s holding her own, but with significant protection. The guy who appears to be her boyfriend is standing in front of her at the back edge of the pit, while Goldberg is standing behind keeping any stray moshers from slamming into Cutie. Normally I like to see cute women at a concert, but in this case it hurts the vibe. No self-respecting guy wants to hurt a woman who ventures into the pit, and inside of a small ring around her, things definitely get taken down a notch.

"Bloodline” is next, and I take a breather. It’s not a bad song, and while I stayed in the pit at their last show to keep from cooling off, this time I’m still going strong. I head over to the far side of the pit to chill for a moment and notice two bizarre things. First I see a guy who at first glance appears to be a former coworker - a 60 year old guy named Lee. He’s a gray haired dude with a bit of a gut, and a full beard. In fact, the only difference I can see is that my coworker has the Abraham Lincoln beard with a shaved upper lip thing going, while the man in the pit has a full beard and mustache. It’s like he’s the Evil Lee from the parallel universe.

    "I am the first not the last
    Condemned by a single kiss"

Halfway through the song a 200 pound Hispanic looking dude in a baseball cap and hooded sweatshirt starts throwing himself into the crowd along the edges of the pit, but he’s not moshing; he just seems to have the slight stagger of someone who’s a bit hopped up on something. He crashes into a few sets of onlookers until he plunges into the backs of the people standing at the edge of the pit closest to the stage. Within a few seconds he gets Irish Whipped out of there back into the pit. What’s amazing is looking at the person doing it. It’s a short, average built librarian-looking brunette. She’s pretty unassuming in her jeans, blouse, and heavy rimmed glasses. In fact, she looks every bit the librarian, save for the tattoos creeping up her neck. And the fact that she just threw a 200 pound guy like a rag doll.

"Eyes of the Insane starts up, and I’m back in the pit.

    "Distorted images
    Flashing rapidly
    Psychotically abusing me
    Devouring my brain"

This is the one song off of the new CD that I really liked, and it has a really cool video to boot. I hope that after this tour EOTI survives and stays in the rotation, but my similar hopes for "Gemini" after "Bitter Peace" were for naught. Then again, who am I to complain – Slayer is eight for eight in delivering good shows, and I have no reason to start doubting them now. After a few passes around the pit, I see that Cutie is still going strong with her escort, I learn that Evil Lee can hit as well as the young guys, Afroman can survive another fall or two, and that we have another woman in the pit, now a cute blonde on the near side, having the same effect on the guys as Cutie is on the dudes in her area. The pit is still strong, and I take a moment to catch my breath as Araya gives the band a rest to announce the next song.

He announces that this song is "going out to all of our friends who are serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan, because it’s all about getting back alive!" At that point I shout in appreciation and yell, "YES!" "Mandatory Suicide!"

    "Ambushed by the spray of lead
    Count the bullet holes in your head."

As Araya finishes announcing the song and launches the opening notes, the guy next to me turns and somewhat awed says, "Wow! Good call, dude!" Seeing as "War Ensemble" had already been played and the fact that "Bitter Peace" seems to be out of the rotation that was an easy call. I could point this out to him, but I decide not to be a dick, smile and nod in appreciation and get back into the pit.

Not to lose momentum, Slayer follows with "Chemical Warfare".

    "Multi death from chemicals
    Arrogance has won"

And I almost wipe out on a pool of sweat/beer/water on the near side of the pit. I make a mental note to avoid this section of the floor for a few passes. I’m a bit annoyed as Cute Blonde and Cutie seem to be sucking some of the fight out of the pit, but I take it in stride and at the end of the song I stop for a moment to rest at the back edge of the pit.

The lights come up again and Araya takes a moment to introduce the next song. "It’s a Slayer love song…one dedicated to some special ladies… six feet under…" Araya goes on to give “Necrophiliac” the same introduction that he has been since "Hell Awaits" was first released, and I turn to the guy next to me and inform him that "He’s been giving that same introduction for twenty four years now. And in no way is that depressing!"

    "Mortuaries, dead of night
    My body starts to rise"
The puzzled look on my neighbor’s face suggests that he hasn’t seen "Ron Burgundy" yet. I make a few passes through the pit. Cutie is still going strong in her protective ring, Afroman wipes out again (and again), and another collision or two with Evil Lee tell me that the old man’s still got it.

I take a moment to rest at the back of the pit as the song is ending and I see Goldberg raise his pointed fingers in triumph toward the stage. He turns around to give a double barreled middle finger to the candy asses on the second floor, and starts turning to high-five every person around him. I can almost hear Martin Sheen narrating as he did in "Apocalypse Now""Well, it may have been my mission, but it sure as Hell was his mosh pit."

I may be missing the song order by now, but I remember the next song being "Seasons in the Abyss.

For me this will always be an awesome moment live. Between listening to DOA a few hundred times and the fact that my first time seeing Slayer was on the "Clash of the Titans" tour during the summer of ’91 the opening notes always bring back the sweet lack of memories of seeing Slayer headline for the first time. And our opening act was a group called Alice In Chains. Anthrax and Megadeth weren’t bad, either. Never before, and never again.

At the start of the song I edge up to the close side of the pit, as I like to watch the band during the intro. While Kerry is hitting those single notes during the intro, smoke is billowing across the stage, the colored backlights are changing, and it is hauntingly beautiful, as I’ve written before, in a twisted, sadistic, Slayer sort of way…

    "Close your eyes
    Look deep in your soul
    Step outside yourself
    And let your mind go"

While I’m standing at the front edge of the pit with my arms raised I notice a set of hands have appeared on either side of mine…and that the person directly is standing a bit too close for comfort. Seeing as my anal virginity has faced greater threats in the sauna at the local Gold’s gym (no, really), I decide to let it go. Still, the whole intro makes for a cool moment. And as I get back into the pit, Tattooed Love Girl has joined the fight, but she has lost the specs and the blouse and now in her t-shirt she is throwing down with the big boys, hitting as hard as any guy in the pit. I also now notice that she has tats that completely cover her arms as well.

Judging from how many songs have been played and noticing that there are a few classics that we haven’t heard yet, we’re probably getting close to the end of the night. This means a five or six song stretch in the pit at its nastiest, so I am actually grateful for the chance to take a breather on the far side when "Cult" starts.

    "Religion is hate
    Religion is fear
    Religion is war"

I’m not a fan of this song, or the album cover. Especially since the album came out not too long after the annual Muslim anti-western riots used the Mohammed cartoon controversy as their pretext. Between the cover art and this song’s lyrics (which sound like recycled Dead Kennedys) they come off more like a band that’s trying to be like Slayer instead of just being Slayer.

They get back on track as Araya introduces the next song…"This is another ballad for everybody. I want to tell you a story about a man named Ehhhhddddd…" A cheer erupts through the crowd as everyone else helps him finish the intro, again, exactly as most of us have heard him announce on DOA. Dead Skin Mask fires up, so does the pit, but I wait a minute to jump back in, and I’m glad that I do.

    "Dance with the dead in my dreams
    Listen to their hallowed screams"

A smaller pit starts up here outside of the main one. And this one is more like a real pit, with a fair amount of space and enough room so that you can actually move around some. I make a few passes and take some pretty wicked hits. I probably make for a pretty good target in a pit…I’m 6'1", 160 pounds, and I always have a bandana tied around my head to keep the sweat out of my eyes. So when people are in the pit and have the choice of knocking heads with a 250 pound skinhead or the Karate Kid you can imagine who gets the shot. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The band rests for a moment and Araya comes back and tells us that he has one question for us. There is some cheering from the crowd as a number of people shout along with him…"DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!?" After a bunch of cheers and shouts answering in the affirmative, Araya smirks and casually asks, "You sure about that? I mean, you’ll miss the rest of the show and all…" They fire up "Postmortem" and everyone is out in the pit.

    "Taste your blood as it trickles through the air
    Another casualty beyond the shadows you fall"

I’ve kept my feet for all of the night, but I trip on Afroman during one of his spills, and it wouldn’t be my last crash of the night. At least I haven’t taken any shots to the face. Yet.

A few more passes through the pit bring another interesting sight – tattooed love girl has stripped down to her bra. And she has a lot to show. After the moment of shock and awe wears off I realize that I better stop gawking and pay attention to everyone else around me lest I get blindsided. I look around and see the rest of the guys are equally distracted, so I guess that it’s a wash in the end.

Another strange sight pops up – a new guy is in the pit, wearing a white dress shirt and tie. He probably had a late session on The Hill (Capitol Hill for you non-DC'ers) and came here straight from work. Like I said earlier, I like to bitch about what a wussy town full of overeducated assholes (and yes, I am one of those assholes) DC is, but I do like it here. And I have to admit, seeing a guy in the pit dressed like this dude is kind of cool. Suit and Tie Guy looks like he is having the time of his life, and as the song fades out I give him props on his moshing gear.

I start feeling some annoyance as the song fades and we’re not hearing the drumbeats to launch us into "Raining Blood." I’m not sure where they’re going with this but I’m not too happy, as there really isn’t any other song that would sound right at this poin- Holy SHIT they are playing "Silent Scream"!

As far as I know this is the first time that they’ve done SS since the "South of Heaven" tour, and the crowd goes insane. I quickly dive into the pit and on my first pass a guy behind me is trying to use me as a lead blocker. He keeps pushing me in the back, not hard enough to knock me over, but enough to keep my momentum moving me forward. Realizing that this would probably end badly I use a spin move to send him past me.

    "Scattered, remnants of life,
    Murder a time to die."

Fun fact here, everybody! National Review wrote an article listing the "Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs of All Time".

After the list came out the readers wrote in and NR published "50 More Conservative Songs", which included "Silent Scream". It made the list for showing abortion as a grisly act, as Slayer does so well. Granted, nothing they say in the song suggests that they are personally anti-abortion, they just tell it like it is. This is the same thing that kept the controversy over “Angel of Death” from blowing up when "Reign in Blood" was released. Yes, it’s a pretty nasty song about the Holocaust, but nothing in the song’s lyrics comes off like an endorsement – Slayer just took an horrific event and described it for what it was. Again, they say nothing directly condemning the Holocaust, but it sure as Hell isn’t an endorsement.

And if you’re wondering what the #1 song was on NR’s list, it was "Won’t Get Fooled Again". Really. Read the lyrics and it makes sense. But I digress.

Now we’re near the end and Araya tells us as much. He also tells us that Slayer will be back again early next year. So will we, Tom. The next song starts up, and the opening notes of South of Heaven are answered with the usual massive cheer from the crowd. And if there is one thing that you can count on like clockwork at Slayer concerts, it’s that Araya will screw up some of the lyrics.

    "Bastard sons begat your c***ing daughters,
    Promiscuous mothers with your incestuous fathers.
    Inbred souls condemned for all eternity,
    Sustained by immoral observance a domineering deity."

Araya likes these lyrics so much that he decides to sing them twice! He completely forgoes the lyrics in the opening verse for these and sings them again at the second verse. The band was not in synch at this point – after the first verse Kerry tries to cut and run by going to the solo, but Jeff, Tom, and Dave stay the course and get the band back on track and successfully go through the rest of the song. This almost sounds like a metaphor for something else going on right now but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

They naturally use the end of SOH to lead into "Raining Blood", and the pit is now one fierce mass.

    "Awaiting the hour of reprisal
    Your time slips away"

Now I’m taking shots left and right. In about ten seconds I have to throw six back to back spin moves to get myself out of trouble. Mohawk gets knocked backward into me and the back of his head nails me in the temple. I hang in there, though, and I notice that Cutie has stripped down to her sports bra. I’m liking this trend! Cute Blonde is also making some jumps in with Evil Lee protecting her, but unfortunately all of her clothes stay on.

And of course, there is only one way to end this, with "Angel of Death". Time for last licks.

    "Just a matter of time
    'Til you rip yourselves apart"

The most notable shot during this song is when Goldberg blasts Tattooed Love Girl and sends her flying. To his credit, he definitely pulls his shot a bit – he just hit her as hard as any guy who he didn’t want to eliminate. She could definitely hit like a guy, and she stays on her feet after the shot. I also look up and see that Suit and Tie Guy is laughing with delight as he gets passed over the crowd. Definitely an "Only in DC" moment.

The song ends, the lights come up, Slayer takes a few bows, and the show is over. A few people start cheering and chanting for one more song, but Slayer doesn’t come back out. They never do. Playing with the audience has never been their shtick. And that’s OK.

On my way out I stop in the bathroom to dry off since it was raining when I arrived and I don’t want to get sick heading to my car. I walk out of the bathroom with my shirt still off – if it’s raining I can run back to my ride and have a dry shirt to put on.

As I’m milling with the crowd toward the doors the ugly lights come up, and a cute woman next to me and I both lament the lights turning on. She points out that "Dude, you need to put your shirt back on. Really." I explain my reason for remaining shirtless. She also mentions that I have a "serial killer pale" going and that my elbow brace gives more of a serial killer vibe, but then has some kind words for me. As a skinny guy I take any props I can get, so when she puts her hand on my chest and tells me that "You’ve got good pecs though, so you’ve got that going for you", I happily reply with, "Gunga lunga lunga fallunga." Her blank stare tells me that she is not a disciple of the teachings of Carl Spackler. I could point out that on her death bed she will receive total consciousness or that my words would have made more sense if I were holding the points of a pitchfork against her throat, but with the serial killer vibe going I decide not to. She makes a few more serial killer references and comments, and I decide that she has an unhealthy interest in the subject. We get to the door, and thankfully there is no rain. I put my shirt back on and mention to Serial Killer that I am doing so now, and she gives more props on my pecs. Serial Killer is really cute, but given my recent luck with a woman who came off as crazy when I first met her I decide that I shouldn’t press my luck with the gods of Seemingly Crazy Women karma.

I smile, raise my hand for a high five, but as our hands meet I do a finger lock, smile, and tell her that, "You’re all right, kid. Have a good life."

And I walk off. I like to use that last line with people who I’m probably never going to see again.

Unless she is at the show the next time Slayer comes to DC.

I’ll be there.



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