What a weird day. If it happened to somone else and they related this tale to me, I would view them as either a liar or a crank, but here goes, believe it or not.
This week the IHS reptile symposium was happening in San Antonio. I was at the event on Friday intending to zip back to Austin that night to review the Sonic Youth show at Stubb's, but fate, coincidence, or maybe the positioning of the stars and planets had decreed this was not to be. Little did I know that shortly I would be racing through Texas in a car with a rock star on a mission to get him to the show on time.
I was talking with a friend, Kamuran Tepedelen of Bushmaster Reptiles, at the symposium and as we were chatting he received a call from Kerry King of Slayer, scheduled to play in San Antonio that night. Turns out Kerry was in a bind. He had flown home to watch his carpet pythons hatch and was planning on flying in to re-join the tour. Due to forces beyond his control he was unable to make his flight into San Antonio, and the nearest place he could fly in on time was Austin, but his plane wasn't going to land until 4:30 pm and he had to be at the venue by 7 pm. Considering this was all occuring during the Friday rush hour and we had two major cities to traverse, it was destined to be a close thing. Since I was more familiar with the area, I was asked along to act as a human GPS. Having met Kerry more than once in the course of reptile work, I heartily agreed knowing that to do so would destroy any chance I had to do the Sonic Youth review.
We hopped in the car and raced to the airport, easily arriving 30 minutes early. It was 30 minutes after the plane had landed before we had Kerry and his luggage packed away in the car and we sped off off only to immediately encounter Austin's world famous traffic congestion. It took us a full 45 minutes to get from the airport, and back onto IH-35 pointed the right direction, maybe 3 miles total. The clock was ticking much faster than any of us cared to note. Once on the interstate the traffic began to thin and we raced south. Kerry popped in a pre-release copy of the new Slayer CD to provide us traveling music as we weaved and bobbed among the 18 wheelers. Along the way Kerry and I had a nice chat about his snakes, his music, the tour and the new album. I got a chance to mention that we had just launched the music site and that I was supposed to review the Sonic Youth show but probably wouldn't be able to make it. Kerry, seeing my dilema, offered to get me a photo pass to his show instead so I would still be able to review something.
How could I refuse an offer like that.
Well obviously I didn't.
We made it to the venue with 10 minutes to spare, and shortly afterward I had one of the coveted Slayer photo passes taped to my bag, and I was in the coliseum. This was my first show in San Antonio since my 20s, my first since launching my music journalism career, and I was definitely "odd man out" in the camera pit, the regulars all wondering how this "rookie" rated a photo pass. After relating my tale of travel I could tell that they thought I was probably full of shit, but they suffered me well even though I didn't know the venue's etiqutte or rules and committed more than one major faux pax.
By the time we arrived Mastdon had been completeing the last song of their set leaving only Lamb of God, and then Slayer. We really did just barely make it.
I used Lamb of God to zero in my new Nikon D200 during their first three songs before being booted from the camera pit til Slayer. I am not that familiar with Lamb of God's music but it was apparent that the crowd was, and the band was really in sync with them. They roared through their set, which lasted about 45 minutes. I wandered off midway through to get a coke at the concession stand, but their music seemed to follow me in the form of a very large obviously-inebriated man in the next line over who insisted on screaming along in a vocal accompanyment with the band on stage, to the ambivalence of the others in line.
Lamb of God did deliver a hot set, and really got the huge mosh pit warmed up, but it was obvious that the crowed was ready to see Slayer. After a short break, we photographers were ushered back into the pit. Using a heads up from Kerry I planted myself in the right hand side of the pit between Kerry and Tom Araya and stuck like glue.
The stage darkened, then with a flash and a crash Slayer launched into their set, steaming through "South of Heaven." I started blasting away with the camera at everything I could, not paying much attention to the music, as I grabbed as many pics as possible. Much too quickly the tap on the shoulder came and we photographers were then escorted out of the pit and literally out the front door of the venue, as per the venues standard policy. I tried to get Kerry's attention to flash him a thank you for the pass as we were escorted out, but the security guard knocked my arm down before I could do so. Once I had returned my camera to the car I was able to return ticket in hand to watch the rest of this blazing show.
Slayer was on for what seemed like forever but was in fact only about 90 minutes, returning to do two encores. They played a total of 14 songs, and I know I heard "Chemical," and a cut from the new disc called "Cult." I am trying to get a copy of the set list and will post an addendum should it happen. A great show, Slayer rocked the Freeman and its audience, literally to its foundations, all the windows in the place were buzzing and shaking. It was somewhat strange for me to see Kerry, a guy I know pretty much as just another snake guy, literally in the role of rock star doing his job and entertaining a couple thousand people. Slayer is off to Dallas next and I am going to take a few days off, at least until I can hear again.
I managed to produce about 50 usable Slayer photos, with a couple real gems of Kerry and Tom. It is all the work of the camera and the location, as I am still extremely unfamiliar with my D200. Still it was a great feeling to know that I had corrected at least some of the issues that flummoxed my ability to get some quality Les Claypool shots from the other night and had some really nice photos as a result.
Kerry if you read this, thanks for the photo pass, great show, and I look forward to our podcast interview. And if you do - have that Lizard Man guy get in touch with me, we need him in our tattoo photo gallery, though you're certainly no slouch yourself in that arena;)