Back on March 22nd this year – we took you back in time to celebrate the 27th Anniversary of Pantera‘s iconic album Far From Driven and left you with a cliffhanger that could only be spoken about on the day it took place – that great moment in time was the awesome foursome’s debut tour in Australia and the mayhem that followed…
Pantera had built a reputation in the early 90’s as the band you absolutely had to see live. Musically they were tight as a fishes arse. Four of the most professional and capable blokes to ever grace the stage whilst also providing the most abrasive, loud and energetic experience any punter would bare witness to. The pit was the stuff of legends. If you walked away unscathed, were you really even there?
Nov 12, 1994 – at 17 years of age, my best mate Jack and I head to The Sydney Entertainment Centre and right there we knew our lives were about to change. Only two months prior, Sepultura tore Freo’s Passenger Terminal a new one, signaling one of the best, heaviest and most memorable gigs Western Australia ever saw (resist our Gig Rewind here). This was Sydney’s “You Had To Be There” moment…
We made sure to get inside early so as not to miss the opener. We’d missed Kyuss open for Metallica the year before and had kicked ourselves ever since. We didn’t know who were opening tonight but we didn’t want to miss out again. Then Powderfinger came out and I didn’t know you could boo a band off stage. I also didn’t know you could piss in a bottle and launch it at the bastards too. But there we were, the unwashed masses, pissing in any empty container we could find and launching at Bernard and Co. They exited the stage smelling like every urinal in the building but they still didn’t stink half as bad as their music. They had no business being there and everyone there let them fucking know it.
The air was thick with smoke and I’m not talking bout the pungent stench of the stray Winnie Blue. The mood was starting shift and the “PANTERA!” chants were echoing through the stadium, the lights go out and then “SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH! THUD!!!!”
The lads explode onto the stage playing ‘New Level‘ and the place erupts as bodies are thrown around whilst people sing the chugging intro along with Dimebag as he struts across the stage, armed with his new signature Washburn and a big shit eating grin. I know the staff at the Ent Cent weren’t ready. Traditionally used to a John Farnham fanbase, this band of punters were a different breed. One bloke ran down from the nosebleeds, wiped out a few security guards on the way and dived face first into the Pantera pit. To an outsider we would have looked like an angry, anarchistic violent mob that were out to destroy the world. But for us there, the unruly unwanted masses, this was a celebration. An uprising from obscurity to the forefront of music culture. The reemergence of a movement that had long been ignored.
…and we’re only one song in.
Dime rips into ‘Use My third Arm’, and the shitfight on the floor escalates to fever pitch. The pit is a blur as the temperature doubles in the arena. Shirts, shoes and empty beer cups go flying. You can see drummer Vinnie Paul’s cheshire grin from the back of the stage and his performance is on point. The famous Pantera road crews’ set up is meticulous and they have the lads sounding inch perfect. ‘Walk’ comes on and it’s the end of days. Bodies bounce and it’s not looking to let up any time soon.
Pantera then rips into ‘Becoming’, ‘Strength Beyond Strength’ and ‘5 Minutes Alone’ from their new #1 album and they all hit like old favourites. Every word sung at volume, horns raised, bodies bruised. Bassist Rex Brown roams the stage like a man posessed, covering every inch of the arena, throwing down every second he’s on show. ‘Domination’ follows and never a more deserved title to a song there was. This is a victory dance and as if shit wasn’t hectic enough, Phil Anselmo rips into one of his famous rants before screaming at high volume “1,2,3,4”. The Cowboys rip into ‘Fucking Hostile’ and the air is ripe with anguish. Not one person in the stadium is silent or still. It’s absolute fucking Bedlam and I never want it to end.
The shitfight on the dance floor eases up a fraction during the intro to ‘This Love‘, only to be turned upside down once the chorus hits, and to this day I’ve not seen a pit like the one I saw when the boys launch into ‘Primal Concrete Sledge‘. 27 years later and the memory is still vivid. A maelstrom of bodies stormed the barricades and I swear I saw Satan crack a smile. I can still see Phil curled up fetal on the edge of the stage, grinding his way through Black Sabbath classic ‘Planet Caravan’ before Dime, Rex and Vinnie rip into ‘Cowboys From Hell‘ and near destroy The Ent Cent long before the NSW government gets the chance. The lads bid us farewell and no one wants to leave but a shell shocked security point the way and tell us “we don’t care where you go but you can’t stay here”.
As we exit the arena (definitely bruised yet somehow unharmed), we hear chants of “PANTERA, PANTERA…” churning out from the rear entrance. We head over to witness a sea of Pantera fans climbing up on the fence and hanging off the walls of the adjacent car park. This huge ginger fucker has hold of one fence and has shaken it free of the concrete while another skinny surfer looking bloke is hanging off of the third floor car park ledge. It’s complete mayhem and the crowd is getting bigger. Pantera’s Head of Security Big Val Jenkins (RIP) heads out. We recognise him immediately from the Vulgar Videos and ask him to do “the cigarette trick” [He lights a cigarette, smokes it to halfway. Has it in his mouth. Flicks it up into his mouth. It’s gone. Flicks it back out. Keeps smoking it]. He does so to loud applause before turning to head back into the building. He gets to the door and turns back to a mountain of manic Pantera fans and says “wait here”.
Seconds later, support band Powderfinger emerge barefoot and throw peace symbols in the air at us. Someone yells out “FUCK YOU DICKHEAD” and more bottles of piss get launched at them. Good times.
The Pantera chants kick off again and after a bit of a wait, it happens. The exit doors burst open, a bunch of roadies head out with Val and start stacking hundreds of empty Gatorade cups on the ground. Then the boys emerge. Phil, Rex, Dimebag and Vinnie Paul Fucking Abbott, loaded up with longnecks of VB and they start pouring. The roadies take the reins, keep pouring and the boys start handing out beers. “PANTERA” chants are getting louder and the boys are drinking with the fans. Dime has our corner and he’s giving beers out one by one. It’s our turn next and Jack and I are excited as all fuck as Dime starts approaching us, beers in hand. He’s inches away when he looks up at us and says “WOAH, YOU GUYS ARE TOO YOUNG”.
Dime hands the beers to some other blokes, looks back at us, points and gives us a thumbs up. It was HUGE. He SAW us. Understand, at the time we were spewing. We wanted to have that beer with the boys, but we were there. We had that moment with the lads. It was everything.
Three years later, Pantera Home Video Part 3 came out and that moment made the cut. We were in the video. Sure, Jack and I are a blur behind Phil when he says “GOOD GOD” but we were in it.
20 or so years later:
In 2017 I finally got to have that beer with Dimebag, when I visited his gravesite in Arlington, Texas on my 40th birthday. I even visited the boys strip club “The Clubhouse” in Dallas the same day I had that graveside beer with Dime. Prior to that moment, I bumped fists with Vinnie Paul (RIP) at Soundwave 2012 and met Phil at Soundwave 2014. Phil signed my wrist and Pete, my mate at work (Skin Fantasy Tattoo, Bathurst) tattooed it on me the next day.
But today, I’m listening to Far Beyond Driven for the millionth time and remembering the chaos that was Pantera’s first tour of Australia. Jack and I are still the best of mates. We’re both family men now. Only last week we hung out in my shed painting Santa cutouts for his Christmas display (so metal) while emptying the fridge of beers and listening to Pantera’s live opus 101 Proof on vinyl. 27 years after a show that went a little over an hour and we’re still talking about it. Reliving the day we were inches away from having a beer with the band that changed everything for us only moments after they destroyed Sydney.
Cheers Pantera. I’ll be having a few Black Tooth Grins in your honour, on the anniversary of a day I’ll never forget. Get Ya Pull.
Gig Rewind by Duane James @duanejamestattoo
Pantera: Live at Sydney Entertainment Centre, Nov 12, 1994
A New Level
Use My Third Arm
Becoming (with Throes of Rejection outro)
Strength Beyond Strength
5 Minutes Alone
Domination (with Hollow outro)
Primal Concrete Sledge
Planet Caravan (Black Sabbath cover)
Cowboys From Hell
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