I can’t recall every show I’ve ever been to, but there are certain ones I’d like to think I’ll never forget. Even after decades of smoke, sips, sounds, and spice have made noxious clouds of my short- and long-term memories, I’ll still hold onto these archetypal concert-going experiences.
It was June 21, 2001. I was a 15-year-old virgin who couldn’t drive, didn’t have a cell phone, and spent most of my free time hanging out in my friend Steve’s parents’ basement, writing film parodies with titles like Beyond The Fat: The El Grande Story. That’s where I was when we got word that Pantera and Slayer were playing Nassau Coliseum that night (with opening acts Morbid Angel and Static X) and that our friend Dan had an extra ticket.
I remember hitting a half-crushed joint during Static X’s set, the first time I’d ever smoked at a concert. I remember working up enough courage to join the mob-rush from our seats to general admission, and feeling I’d successfully redeemed myself for not doing the same when I saw Rage Against the Machine play the Coliseum with Gang Starr and At the Drive-In some 18 months prior. I remember darting past security and scrambling to find refuge by blending in with the sea of L.I. metalheads. I remember that sea suddenly turning tempestuous as Slayer took the stage and the pits opened up like portals to hell.
Most of all, I remember how, during the Pantera set, the nearest pit transformed into a human bullfighting arena, containing not dozens of violent slamdancers, but instead just one tanker truck of a man who menacingly challenged nearby concert-goers of similar stature to charge him. I remember these behemoths shoulder-checking one another as hard as they could, bouncing backward, and acknowledging each other with headbanging nods when neither man fell. This routine repeated itself for the duration of the show. It was insane.
Since then, Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrel, Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, and Static X frontman Wayne Static have died, and I’ve fallen out of touch with both Steve and Dan. I don’t really remember anything specific about the music played that night, just that I had a great time, one that most likely on some level has informed the way I’ve listened to music ever since.