Fri. Feb 28th, 2020

Performance: Slayer at Valley View Casino Center

The Final Tour! A Gonzo Journalistic Adventure about Childhood and Metal Music

One of the first albums (CD) this grubby, fat, foster kid was able to buy with the money I saved from mowing the lawn, crushing cans, and picking up Great Dane dog shit, is still to this day one of my favorite albums of all time.  I, of course, am talking about the greatest Slayer album in their entire discography.  The one to rule them all: “South Of Heaven.” It was entirely because of the success of “Reign In Blood” meant it was $23.99 at Warehouse Records.  (A place people used to buy music.)

“South of Heaven” was only $13.99, and with tax, I had just enough to buy it.  I’m sure I could have stole it, but, I was brimming with pride as I walked out the store almost displaying my new CD with it’s red, skull cover and huge “Parental Advisory” sticker gleaming in the sodium vapor glow of the parking lot.  I’m not sure why the store let me buy the album without an adult, and even more so why my foster Mom didn’t have a religious fit when she saw me carrying that unholy optical disc. But, she didn’t, and that night I fell asleep to the soothing sounds of “Silent Scream”, “Mandatory Suicide”, “Ghosts of War,” and of course the anthem of all anthems, “South Of Heaven.”

Kerry King : South of Heaven Photo: Anthony Mehlhaff

When I woke up, I played it again… and again… and again.  Over the years, Slayer has always been one of my favorite bands, if not my favorite.  The music blew my mind, almost as much as learning the fact that Tom Araya (the lead singer and bass player) was a Catholic.  Ka-boom!

But, enough about my story… wait, no, this is my story so…. On with the paragraph.  What I’m trying to get at is that it’s, “Fucking Slayer” and it’s their FINAL TOUR“No more.” Tom has said it before. He missed a lot of his kid’s birthdays, with them being in June and most tours starting in May, and the fact that Tom hates touring. It’s probably for the best.  And fuck, what more do you want from this band!?  They’ve given 37 years of some of the best albums in the history of all rock!  Yeah, we want more, but, fuck you and what you want.  The music will tour forever in your car, on a plane, and wherever else you take the music.

BTW, when I die, I want my family to play, “South of Heaven” as loud as the cemetery speakers can as I’m lowered into the earth.  “On and on, south of heaven!”  Fuck yeah.  But again, I digress.

This tour started  in San Diego and was, with the exception of Testament, the first time I saw any of the bands live. It was the first time I listened to Behemoth, Lamb of God, and Anthrax.  (Anthrax for very specific and very uneducated reasons).  more about Anthrax later in the article.  To just see Slayer solo would have been enough for me, but, to have all these powerhouse bands under one roof… get the fuck out of here?!  My big, gaping, yellow teeth smiled as I walked up to get my press pass with “Homie” and owner of @Rockinpins and @Switchmagmx, Mauricio Alvarado.  I thought that smile would remain for the duration of the night, but, of course I had to buy $40 dollar shirts and the patch kit… and then there was the media pass bullshit.

They gave me a pass for Testament, Behemoth and Anthrax but not Lamb of God and Slayer.  No Slayer?  Kill me know.  I forgot I said that out loud, and a line formed behind me of young people to get the most out of their Slayer ticket and experience as demonly possible.  I tried to say “fuck it,” but, it really put me in a shit mood for like 10 seconds, until I was frisked at the door.  That cheered me right the fuck up.

As I parted ways with my “Homie” I ran into another photographer “Homie” and we, as a team, tried to find our way to the stage.  “Down the stairs, left and then around,” a security dude said.  Nope that was wrong, so we just wondered backstage and literally almost ran into Chuck Billy of Testament, and for some reason, we went the other way… “Fucking Amateurs.”  Now we headed out and up, right and down, through a fenced off area that a security dude let us through and ended up back where we began.  Ha, we eventually made it to the stage and into the photo pit and photographed Testament and Behemoth.  Because of the five artist billing, the two bands played six songs, or so, and next up was Anthrax.

I have to make an apology and admit that I’m a fucking idiot.  When I was a youngster I had a strict, “No Butt-Rock Music” policy, (that policy is still my law, mostly.)  These bands included: Motley Crue, Cinderella, Ratt, Poison, and White Snake. For some reason, in my mind, I put Anthrax into that category. I’m sure it had to do with Belladonna’s singing style, but, holy fuck!  How could I have been so wrong?  I gave the band a try on the way from L.A. to San Diego, and I put on the deluxe edition of, ”Among The Living.”  It’s an almost perfect album, and the song “N.F.L” (Nice Fucking Life) is a song that is now burned into my head till the end of time.  I love this album, and Anthrax live sealed the casket lid shut. They fucking killed.  I can’t say this any louder:  “ANTHRAX IS THE SHIT!”

After Anthrax, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get an epic Slayer shot, because I was still with out a Slayer Pass. But, Satan had my back and compelled Lesley to give me the all mighty Slayer Photo Pass.  (I actually think it was Lesley’s own free will but…)

Lamb of God played and everyone was ready to catch Randy Blythe in mid-flight. Honestly I’ve never heard a L.o.G. (funny acronym) song and after 3 songs I went to the lounge to edit some photos.  I’m not saying that I don’t like L.o.G., “I mean, it’s bigger, it’s better, it’s wood.”  J/K.  I will give them a listen, and, I’m sure I’ll see them again.  Besides, a local photographer that was working for Thrasher Mag, (represent) had nothing but nice things to say about Randy and how cool he was.  And, if a cool dude says that another dude is, a “cool dude,” then it’s official.  Bonus, that photographer let me in on a dope taco spot that I hit up on my late night drive back to LA that didn’t disappoint.  It gave me the shits, but, was still the bomb.

So… It all come down to getting that epic Slayer photo and then getting in the DeLorean, reaching 88 miles an hour to generate 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, and going Back to the Future to blow 10 year old me’s mind!  I could care less about fucking up the future, shit, what’s the worse thing that could happen?  But, first, I have to get this epic pic, and for that to happen everyone has to get the fuck out of the fire lanes, because the fire Marshall ain’t the one to fuck with.

Thirty minutes later and a heart-felt plead from SiriusXM host of Liquid Metal and SXM Octane, Jose Mangin, finally resulted in everyone getting out of the fire lanes, and the show finally started.  The lights were black, the Repentless Jesus head was a black-light glow of demonic magic, and the flames of the pyrotechnics rose to the ceiling.   “Delusions of Savior” played, and, as it ended the curtain fell and Slayer ripped into their instruments and right into “Repentless.”  

The place went electric with screams and the adrenaline was palpable.  The team of Kerry and Gary on guitars divided up the shredding solos as Paul Bostaph smashed the drums.  I was able to get my epic shot of Kerry King being a guitar hero from hell, Gary Holt on his custom “Officer Holt” Axe, and even captured a smile from Tom Araya.  He must have been thinking about his family, and his ranch. Or, maybe, he was reflecting on this beast he created 37 years ago with Kerry, Dave and Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P).

Front man, Tom Araya of Slayer. Photo by Anthony Mehlhaff

I really can’t explain how fucking epic this experience was for me on a personal level.  Growing up, the music I loved was deemed by society and all authority figures, as a hazard to our health. No one, not fucking one, of my foster parents had the balls to take me to a show of my liking.  They worried I would become a devil worshiper, but, this music and Slayer specifically, got me through some weird times. It made me a free thinker, tougher, and braver.  The music also makes a great soundtrack while taking your dog to the dog park or your kid to kindergarten.  

I got my shots and walked back among the thousands of savages to see the rest of the  show.  When “South of Heaven” was played I lost my shit with a giant, behemoth of a man, as we screamed the words into each others faces.

The show had to be stopped once more because of fire lanes being blocked. Tom thanked everyone, talked about karma, and thanked us again.  I’m happy I got to witness this epic spectacle. It’s something I will not soon forget, if ever.

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