PHILADELPHIA, PA—After listening to Down’s latest release, Down IV Part I – The Purple EP, for the last few weeks, I was really pumped to see the boys from NOLA blow the roof off my first visit to The Electric Factory. Unfortunately, I missed the sets by haarp and Warbeast, who are actually on Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records label, and from what I heard, I missed two really amazing sets. I actually caught the tail end of Warbeast’s set where Phil jumped out and did a song with the band, although I was more focused on meeting up with my girlfriend’s friends, Down guitarist Pepper Keenan and drummer Jimmy Bower. When they finally came out from the backstage area to say hi, I was like a kid in a candy store. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to speak to Phil. Anyway, Jimmy told us that we were in for a treat because we got to The Electric Factory just in time to see the band Pentagram. Pentagram? Why did I know that name? I was about to find out.

It turns out Pentagram are this huge underground metal band from the ‘70s, who were the American counterparts of Black Sabbath. Only Sabbath were so big that Pentagram kind of got lost in the shuffle. That’s too bad too because they were outstanding. They had my attention from their first song, “Death Row,” until their last song, “Dying World.” Their catchy riffs and guitar tones proved that they could’ve easily been a major influence to the sound of Down and many other American metal bands out there today. They were so good that they were even cheered on to come back out for an encore, which they did with a song called “Wartime.” Animated singer Bobby Liebling was something else too. Check them out on facebook.com/pentagramusa.

Now, on to the reason why we were really here. The lights went “down” and out came Down, led to the stage by Keenan. After jamming to the beginning of “Eyes Of The South” for a few minutes, Anselmo walked on stage to an astounding roar as he tore right into the first lyric of the track, which was a loud “Goddamn!” I thought the floor was about the drop out. The Electric Factory was packed and it was no surprise that they were happy to see the boys from NOLA. After finishing “Eyes Of The South,” Down ripped into their latest single, “Witchtripper,” and the place went nuts. I have to say that this was definitely a passionate Down crowd. It was like Phil was the preacher and everyone was following. The band would then run through songs like “There’s Something On My Side” and “Lysergik Funeral Procession” but in between, Phil joked about the show being a like KISS concert, where guitarist Kirk Windstein jokingly started playing “Calling Dr. Love” when the whole crowd began singing the chorus with them. It was a pretty funny moment in the show.

Down would then play the “Dimebag” Darrell dedicated song, “Lifer,” and other Down classics like “Pillars Of Eternity,” “Losing All,” “Ghosts Along The Mississippi” and “New Orleans Is A Dying Whore.” I have to say they sounded amazing and tight. It was great to see Phil sober and alert. I remember seeing him with Pantera many times, where he would nod off right at the mic. Even when I’ve seen him with Down in the past, it was hard to understand what he was saying in between songs. On this day, the band looked like they were having a lot of fun on that stage. Phil was wide-eyed and entertaining this Philadelphia crowd. I even caught him rubbing his sweaty armpit on Pepper and Kirk’s back-up mics when they weren’t looking. He was absolutely animated and hilarious up there. Oh, and by the way, I’m a huge Rex Brown fan, but Pat Bruders really did hold his own on that bass. Down would end their set with another brand new song, “Misfortune Teller,” and what a great song to end the set with!

After a very short break, Phil and the boys would come back out and open their encore set with my favorite Down song of all time, “Stone The Crow.” They would then tear into another brand new track called “Open Coffins,” which Phil told me when I interviewed him was one of his favorite songs on the EP. Down would finally end the show with their anthem “Bury Me In Smoke,” and at the very end of the song, the guys from Pentagram came out to jam with them and Chris Hamilton (Saint Caine, Give Them Rope) jumped onto Bower’s throne to finish off the set. What a show! The only song that I really wanted to hear besides “Stone The Crow” and “Witchtripper” was “Hail The Leaf,” but the boys never played it. I did hear that they played it at the Starland Ballroom a few nights later along with “Temptation’s Wings,” another one of my favorites. I hope Down doesn’t wait too long to come back because they were awesome.

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