Live Review: Down at Zydeco, Birmingham


Review by David Feltman

Security has never been severe at Zydeco, but things were a little different for the Down show on May 23. The ticket takers were having concertgoers empty their pockets and confiscating pocketknives. The band had its own security detail minding the stage behind a portable barricade. Zydeco has never had a barricade in front of the stage and one could only wonder if the specter of Dimebag was behind it. The security wasn’t overly intrusive; it simply felt out of place in the small venue.


Mt. Carmel opened the concert with deafening volume. This is the sort of band you bring earplugs for, not because the music sucks but so your ears aren’t ringing three weeks later. The swampy three-piece sported jeans and ball-caps and an impressive vocabulary of southern rock riffs. The vocals were clean and smoky with just a touch of a southern drawl, despite the band’s Ohio origins. Mt. Carmel kept the set tight but brief and inside of an hour they were off and Honky was ready to go.


All beards and cowboy hats, Honky filled its set with dirty 12 bar blues played fast and sloppy, as if Joe Walsh or the Black Crowes suddenly took up metal. The band had a great stage presence and a great sense of humor, singing songs about ex-wives and telling funny stories in between.


The show started at 9 pm and by 10:30 pm Down was already setting up. Like good metal heads, Down literally wore their influences on their sleeves, decked out in Thin Lizzy and UFO tees. Phil Anselmo is a natural front man that commands the audience with ease, even going so far as to call his shot by making the fans name the song they were about to play from the new EP. “Oh yeah, you guys know it so well? What song are we about to play,” goaded Anselmo. It was “Witchtripper,” what else would it be?


If Mt. Carmel’s volume was deafening, Down’s volume was a physical force. Anyone entering the venue from the doors at the back was suddenly pummeled by sound. Anselmo and Pepper Keenan spent most of the show standing on the edge of the stage, making sure folks in the back could see them and reaching over the barrier to interact with those up front. The fans packed out Zydeco and sang along with every song.


Down encored with “Sweet Home Alabama,” and, before launching into the final song, Anselmo teased the crowd. “We’re going to play something German. We’re going to play some Ratt. We’re going to play some Twisted Sister up here. I wanna rock!” The band went into “Bury Me in Smoke,” bringing out Honky to jam on the song. The show was pure energy and Down proved to be the sort of band that every metal fan should see at least once.

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