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by Ernie Williams
It was a Friday night ahead of a long weekend. I left work at the magic hour of 5 o’clock and headed south for Providence R.I. I was going to a club called Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel so see Satan’s favorite band, Slayer.
Providence was a good hour and a half away and as I drove down I listened to the classic Slayer albums, ‘Seasons In the Abyss’ and ‘Reign In Blood’. This would be my first time seeing Slayer live and I was wondering what to expect at the show tonight and what the crowd would be like. Would it be a bunch of guys standing there banging their heads, or a mosh pit frenzy?
The drive down to Providence was relatively easy. It’s pretty much a straight shot southbound and down. Rt 495, down past Foxboro Stadium, home of The New England Patriots, and on to Rt 95 into Providence.
As I drove down I noted that the traffic on the other side of the highway, heading Northbound, was backed up for several miles, undoubtedly due to the fantastic driving skills of one of my fellow Massholeachusetts drivers.
Once I reached Providence, the traffic got thick. Time to start paying attention and take a glance at the directions. I came to the exit and merged over. There was a stop light at the end of the ramp, so it was backed up all the way onto the highway. Brilliant.
The directions called for me to exit the highway, take a left and then take my next left. Ok, no problem. I followed the directions and found myself, much to my surprise, back on the highway, heading in the opposite direction of where I wanted to be.
What the?? DAMMIT!
I got off the highway at the next exit and back-tracked my way back to where I was supposed to be, passing several fabulous Providence night-spots along the way, such as The Foxy Lady and various other Gentleman’s Clubs, of which there are a great many in Providence…
Mental note for the next time I come here: ignore the directions. Take the SECOND left.
After this slight detour and two full hours after leaving work, I had reached my destination. There is a parking garage conveniently located one street down from the club, so I drove down a side street, ignoring various suggestions from various traffic signals, as all of my fellow drivers were doing, and pulled into the garage.
In the alleyway next to the club, there is a fantastic little place called Murphy’s Deli and Bar. This is my kind of place and I was looking forward to hitting this spot for a little refreshment before heading into the show.
Murphy’s is not to big, not super crowded, is dimly lit and has lots of Patriots, Red Sox and Bruins paraphernalia on the walls. Oh yea and there is a great beer selection and an awesome bowl of chili too.
I settled in on a barstool and ordered a shot of Jack and a Smithwick’s. I quickly downed both and ordered another round of the same, along with a bowl of chili. Cheese and onions on top? Definitely.
I downed the second shot of Jack and then took my time with the beer and chili, relaxing and watching some kooky celebrity basketball tournament on the TV that hung over the bar.
After finishing up and settling my tab, I walked over to Lupo’s. It was a cold night and I had left my jacket in the car. Expecting to be jammed, pushed and packed in with hundreds of other people, I wanted to be wearing the minimal amount of apparel, without having to freeze my ass off at the same time. The club was only a short walk up the street so I was not exposed to the freezing temperatures for very long.
As I entered the club I took everything out of my pockets, keys and a wallet. The less stuff you’ve got, the easier it is for everybody. I got my wristband and headed inside.
As I entered, the second band of the night, Unearth, was already playing, but they had just recently started, so I did not miss too much. I have never heard Unearth before and did not realize they were from Boston until I walked over to check out the merch and saw a shirt that said ‘BOSTON FUCKIN METAL’ written in big white letters.
While I was over there I checked out the Slayer merch. I thought about maybe buying a shirt, but starting at $35 bucks, that was too rich for my blood. I don’t need a $35 dollar t-shirt.
Lupo’s is set up in kind of a tiered arrangement, with each level heading down till you are eventually at the floor. I stood on the top tier and watched Unearth play. I thought they were a pretty good band. Even though I did not know any of their tunes, I thought several of them were pretty good and the band played with a lot of energy.
The singer seemed to have the ability to actually sing a bit and did not just sound like cookie monster with guitars, which seems to be the big thing these days (Heh. I just said ‘these days’. Yeah I’m old. Get off my lawn).
The guitar players would occasionally do a few antics like spin their guitar around their back, and every so often, some guy would appear out of nowhere out on the stage holding a beer funnel for one of them to chug. Kinda goofy but whatever. The lead guitar player seemed to have quite a lot of technical ability and the whole band seemed to be having a good time, which was infectious to the crowd.
I decided Unearth was a pretty good band, worthy of checking out after the show… And they were local, from Boston, and touring with Slayer, so that was cool.
After Unearth’s set, it was time to wait around for Slayer. I headed over to the bar, got a Sam Adams and started to make my way to the tier just above the floor to watch the crew set up for Slayer. It did not take very long and I had just reached the bottom of my plastic beer cup when the lights came down and Slayer walked out onto the stage.
The stage setup for Slayer was minimal. There was a backdrop with a picture of their latest album, ‘Christ Illusion’ and a few red and green lights that would swivel around go give things that Slaytanic look, and that was it. The rest was all Slayer and that was all that was necessary.
The band mixed in a good number of the new songs as well as the older ones that I am familiar with such as War Ensemble, Dead Skin Mask and Raining Blood (from a lacerated sky, bleeding it’s horror… fuck yeah).
Slayer was relentless and the intensity of their playing seemed to ratchet up a notch every time they started in on a new tune. It was like a ball rolling down hill that just kept gaining momentum. With each song, Tom Araya’s vocals seemed to grow stronger and stronger and guitar players Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman traded off between laying down viciously fast riffs along with ranging, piercing solos, intermixed with powerful, heavy bridges that would momentarily slow the pace before jumping back into the speed,. The whole band played together without missing a trick. Dave Lombardo laid down the foundation with his precise, insanely fast drumming.
Slayer would play each tune at a frenetic pace and hit each of the stops perfectly. I was extremely impressed with how well the band played together…
Of course, I did not just stand there and analyze what was going on up on stage. I was right down near the floor, only one level up, and the pushing and shoving was moving me down to the main floor area. I did not resist it and allowed the flow carry me down.
I was on the right hand side of the floor, right where Kerry King was playing. From where I was, I could see King, Araya and Lombardo. I got occasional glimpses of Hanneman off to the left.
Once I was on the floor I was sucked into the pit and pretty much just went with the flow of it, shoving and getting shoved. Occasionally there would be too many people on top of me so I’d swing my elbows, along with a bit of emphatic shoving, and clear people off.
Although the pit was certainly wild and frantic, people were flying all over the place, it was not completely out of hand. People were surfing the crowd and falling on their asses. I helped a few guys up off the floor, as well as a few others up over peoples heads. The code, as I call it, was being followed for the most part, though I did get a gut punch from one younger guy that showed a look of surprise and pain when I paid it back in return along with a good shove.
Don’t fuck with the old guys.
I did not surf. Ernie don’t surf.
Between songs, Slayer would stop and Tom Araya would look around, smile and banter with the crowd. He seemed to like the response and often had a smile on his face. Other songs the band played included Seasons In the Abyss and Spirit in Black. There were of course, many more that I did not know, not that it mattered. They all fully kicked ass.
At one point Araya asked the crowd, ‘Do you wanna die?’ The loud response of ‘YEAH!’ put a smile on his face and he asked again, ‘DO YOU WANNA DIE?’
During this brief interaction I could not help but think that the people yelling in the affirmative either had no idea what their reply meant, or they were fully and completely aware of the meaning of their reply. I also happened to look around in this moment and take in Lupo’s in general. It’s and old theater, like a lot of places. I looked up and up over the stage, is a painting of an angel, looking down and smiling on the happenings below. I could not help but find it somewhat humorous and a little ironic too.
And with that Slayer launched into, as Araya emphasized with his introduction, Post-MORTEM. This tune fully kicked things into another gear and crowd responded in kind.
Slayer ended the night with everybody’s favorite, Angel of Death. When the show was over, the band lingered on the stage throwing picks and drum-sticks out to the crowd. I was right near Kerry King. He threw a few picks in my vicinity but I did not catch any. Of course, I was not going out of my way to get one either. I did not think it was worth it to climb on top of someone just to get a guitar pick.
Once King had thrown out his last pick, he held out his left arm and pointed emphatically to each word of the tattoo that covered the underside of his forearm, “God Hates Us All”
And with that, the show was over. Time to head back to the car and head home. I had seen an incredible show. In fact, I would tell my Wife the next day that I thought it was the best metal show I had ever seen. It was not the loudest, the pit was not the craziest, but as far as the band and the music and the experience, I felt it was the best. Hail Slayer.