Hipsters Out Of Metal!


  • Anso DF


On December 8, 1996, I ventured out in the freezing Minneapolis night towards downtown music venue First Avenue to see Orange 9mm. Late-era Helmet guitarist Chris Traynor was in that band, as was future Glassjaw/Head Automatica drummer Larry Gorman at some point. I was on the club’s permanent guest list, so it took no doing to pop in for some opener’s thirty-minute set — even one I liked as mildly as I did Orange 9mm. My plan for the night was to hang for a bit, scam on suburban chicks made gooey by a trip into the big city, nod at some jamz, and split before the headliner and in time to watch TV at this girl Brooklyn’s house. I had it all worked out.

Well, my plan went immediately to shit cuz Orange 9mm had cancelled. But I must’ve felt frisky or high or something cuz I stayed for Downset and the show’s headliner, the Deftones, who had just begun their commercial ascent. That was unknown to me at the time, their music too, but my jaw hit the ground by song two. It was one of those holy-shit experiences. I loved them. Awesome.

The show ended, sweaty dudes with wallet chains began to file out, and I silently praised my own spontaneity and good fortune. I’d found a new band to love and that’s what we’re all in this for. To think, I might’ve bailed and missed the whole thing. But I stayed! Success!

Here I’ll stop setting the mood and come to the point: Right as I was feeling awesome, kinda replaying the Deftones’ set in my mind at a downtown bus stop, kinda crumpled over against the arctic wind, kinda dying for the next morning to come so I could get on the phone to Maverick Records for an interview, I got punched in the face. I had no idea what was going on. I went down pretty hard; I remember my sight kinda going blank, rolling and fuzzy for an instant like a black-and-white TV dropped from short height.

Some kids at the bus stop picked me up. I was like, ‘What the fuck was that?’ and was told that they’d watched a twenty-something guy point me out to a friend, then break from their pack to jack me, then rejoin his group as they walked north down Hennepin. From the ground I’d seen them laugh it up and shout something like, ‘Ho! Did that hurt?’ I still hate myself for not giving chase. I remember being super-shocked. Like bewildered. Was it someone I’d known and crossed? Nope. Was I robbed? No. What the fuck? By the time I figured out that I should be angry, it was too late.

And by the time I got home with a sore face, I felt like crying. I really dwelled on it. I’d been completely disregarded, I concluded. Like Charlie Murphy by Rick James in that Chappelle’s Show sketch. But worse. My puncher wasn’t a pal or forgivable rogue; it wouldn’t make for a funny story — not for me anyway. The dude practically knocked me out on a dangerously cold night in front of a foul strip club while his friends and their gfs looked on. Then they walked away. I was a teenager. What was I guilty of? What the motherfuck?

But the good thing is that I got up and continued with my life, only momentarily worse for the wear. (I did get some mileage out of it at Brooklyn’s house the next night.) But this comprises a small part of what makes me endlessly, irrevocably sad for Dimebag Darrell Abbott (RIP). His shooting death and my random face-punching are not comparable in scope. His impact on others, his love given and received, was and continues to be exponentially larger than mine. And I don’t claim to understand his pain or fear.

But on the night of his 2004 murder in Columbus, Ohio — eight years to the day after my silly little mishap — I wonder if Dime’s mind performed the same actions as mine when he was first hit: a series of reflexes, ancient survival instincts, his brain scrambling to grasp what had brought him to the ground and why. I could never know, but perhaps once those bullets struck him, his next seconds were spent thinking, ‘What’s happening? Who would try to hurt me? Why? What knocked me down? Will somebody pick me up?’ Like I did. A combination of hurt, surprise, pain, and sadness. The shock of reversing course from physical and emotional happiness, the rush of loud metal and screaming fans, to panic and confusion. The sadness of being robbed of control, the loneliness of feeling weak, the terror of being unable — even just temporarily — to protect yourself. In absence of any certainty of his circumstances, of his attacker or attackers, of his future, of his freedom, was he left to wonder why his world rose up to smash him — jolly, lovable Dimebag — during whatever short time he had before passing from consciousness? And then before he could make sense of it and get over it, to be at peace, his life was over? It’s so cruel. I cry forever.


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