Down with In Solitude and Ponykiller at Pop’s
In any music genre, supergroups usually tend to be nothing more than a temporary novelty act that will ultimately fade in a given amount of time. An exception to this rule, however, is the southern sludge/stoner metal supergroup Down. Fronted by Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo, Down’s current lineup also features guitarists Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity and Kirk Weinstein of Crowbar and Kingdom of Sorrow, as well as Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod, Crowbar and Superjoint Ritual on drums. It was announced in June 2011 that Down’s long-time bassist Rex Brown, originally of Pantera, would be leaving the band and replaced by current Crowbar and former Goatwhore bassist Patrick Bruders. Down grace the stage of Pop’s regularly every other year or so, whether or not the band is supporting any new material. With rumor circulating of a new EP in the works for release in late 2011/early 2012, it only made sense for the band to stop at Pop’s once again on their most recent tour.
Opening for Down on this tour were two acts met with understandably poor crowd responses from eager Down fans chomping at the bit for the headlining act. First to take the stage were Louisiana natives Ponykiller, a slightly experimental southern stoner rock jam band signed to Phil Anselmo’s record label Housecore Records. Clearly put on the tour as a favor from Anselmo, Ponykiller’s audience comprised mostly of impatient, unaccepting Down fans, though some positive response from the front of the crowd generated from the positive-minded drinking crowd of music fans. The other opening slot was filled by a classic metal-influenced band from Uppsala, Sweden called In Solitude. Playing a combination of thrashy NWOBHM-styled metal with a touch of 1970’s-styled hard rock, In Solitude’s love and integrity for the fun-spirited forefathers of rock and metal permeated from their unabashedly old-school stage presence, donning spandex, leather jackets and aviator sunglasses. Their crowd response was noticeably more positive than Ponykiller’s, as more people began filling up the venue as the night went on.
Once Down’s set time began, the crowd’s energy truly came together as all enthusiastic fans unrelentingly cheered, chanted and sang along throughout the band’s performance. Whether fans were happy to see the show at all, or were simply unapologetic Down fans completely uninterested in any of the opening acts, it was unmistakable that both Down and their St. Louis-area fans thoroughly enjoyed the night at Pop’s. It seemed obvious from the start that all of Down’s members were honestly pleased not only by the crowd response but also just for the opportunity to perform. From the band’s performance, one could gather that the five musicians were thoroughly enjoying playing their music together. During breaks between songs, front man Phil Anselmo’s positive banter to the crowd showcased not only his satisfaction with the crowd response, but perhaps even a touch of awe from a truly enthusiastic audience showcasing their collective devotion and appreciation for the band.
Down’s set included songs spanning their so far three-album career, including “New Orleans is a Dying Whore,” “Ghosts Along the Mississippi,” and “Lifer” which followed a dedication to the fallen but never forgotten “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott. During the middle of Down’s set, Anselmo made sure to lead the crowd in an appreciative chant in honor of drummer Jimmy Bower’s birthday. Down’s two-song encore consisted of the obligatory song “Stone the Crow” and “Bury Me In Smoke,” in which members of the opening acts joined the band on stage to participate in the jam, bringing a genuinely special feel and climatic end to the show. For both veterans and virgins of a Down concert, their performance at Pop’s on September 17, 2011 proved how a metal supergroup can remain in existence for twenty years and still maintain a die-hard following, against the grain of the novelty status that generally surrounds such an act.