by Jeff Barringer - Staff Photographer
"No, I'm pretty sure I'd know if I'd seen someone like that..."
The diminutive hostess at the Driskill's downstairs bar looked me up and down and her eyes told me I was way way under dressed to be hanging out at the Driskill.
Camo shorts, Motorhead T-Shirt, and Black Converses were definitely not on the acceptable list at the ritzy 19th Century downtown Austin hotel that charges $300 a night and hosts Austin's largest ghost population. But I had no choice - the text said to meet at the Driskill, in the bar and so I pulled up a stool, ordered a Tanqueray & tonic, no fruit, and waited. After a second round, close to an hour later, I noticed that I was the last one there and they were closing up. The upstairs bar was still open, so I wandered up.
The place was packed end to end with UT fans and wedding parties, the noise like a flock of geese at feeding time. Retreating down the stairs I grabbed a chair in the lobby, and started checking my phone messages. After a half our of this I began to compose an apology message, prepping myself to bail. It was a beautiful message, filled with flowery halve truths about being up early to milk cows and the like. Before I could hit the send button, under the phone I noticed a black pair of combat boots standing three feet right in front of me. I knew before glancing up it was - Slayer!
Slayer's Kerry King enjoys a Jägermeister on Austin's 6th Street.
Ok to be fair it wasn't all of Slayer. It was Kerry King, Dave Lombardo, and for this show Gary Holt, filling in for Jeff Hanneman, out on injured reserve. And there was also Slayer's management team and Kerry's lovely wife Ayesha who always greets me with this monster hug like a long lost aunt. Tom Araya, who lives in Texas, was to drive down the next day.
We spent a long time over a lot of drinks that night trying to pin down exactly when Slayer had last played Austin and what venue. We couldn't decide if it was a La Zona Rosa gig or an Austin Music Hall gig but one thing we knew for certain is that it was a long time ago, way too long, with no shows going back at least to 2006. I know I had been bugging Kerry for at least that long to do an Austin gig.
Kristen, one of Kerry's management team elbowed me and said that she booked this show just for me. We both laughed and I told her it took more than my personality to get Slayer to book a one off, off tour date four states away from home base, and I am not nearly as convincing as Lars or as handsome as Mustaine. Talking with Rick, Slayers business manager later that night, he said the band was really pumped to be doing an Austin gig, and after seeing how much the town had grown they wanted to start slotting us into their tour schedule more often. Maybe as soon as next year. Let us all hope so.
Dave Lombardo had already gotten a recent taste of Austin's music scene, as well as seeing the power of the Slayer mystique, after a rumor circulated last Thursday that there would be a "secret" Slayer show at the new Emos East, after Dave's own band performed. But alas, I knew the bands travel schedule and I knew it was not to be. Dave said he was really impressed by the new club, and the crowd, and we spent a bit talking about how he could get his band into a SXSW showcase next year. Later I was able to extract a promise from the band that should Slayer perform a "secret show", it would be under their nom de guerre "DEATHBUG", and I would be among the first invitees which led to the inevitable question - just how tall do you have to be to play on Slayers stage? But I digress.
Gary Holt and I got to talk some about Exodus and then I let him know I knew about his "reptile secret". He laughed and said "Yeah I kept some reptiles, Burmese Python and other stuff. My favorite was my Water Dragon, how did you know". I then had to reveal my reptile secret, that underneath the Motorhead shirt I was really kingsnake.com - he laughed and said he used the site all the time. I told him I tried to get pics of him, Kerry, and Slash together when they were in Australia this year, I wanted a picture of the "Three Snake Keepers of the Apocalypse". I promised him some t-shirts and gave him my email address, hope to hear from Gary again soon.
By now we had attracted quite a crew, some of the guys from Cannibal Corpse having arrived, and friends of the band showed up, with groups breaking off and heading up 6th Street. At some point it was just me and Slayers manager deep in conversation about audiophile stereo gear and the bar was closing. My phone buzzed and it was Kerry down at another bar asking us to join them.
Wading through the streets, still packed at 1:30am with people (supposedly) celebrating the UT football game, we made it just in time for that bar to close as well. Following Kerry out into the crowded street, we found a bar taking advantage of the time change to squeeze in 1 more hour of service, and headed upstairs out on the balcony to watch the festivities below.
Kerry was amazed saying that it was like we had won the Superbowl. I said no, it's just Austin. As we watched the Austin Police Department tangle with a couple drunks all too soon our time was up. It was 2:00, or 3:00, all I know is that I didn't crawl off to bed until 4:30 by my circadian clock and at that point the alcohol was no longer being my friend.