Isleta Amphitheater, the venue formerly known as The Journal Pavilion, is one of the biggest and funnest places to see your favorite bands on stage whenever they tour through Albuquerque, New Mexico. Even the drive can be exciting! Smoking in the car and hot boxing it up… passing by fancy tour buses, expensive trailers, BMW vans, and limousines, all with dark windows heavily tinted, and speculating as to which rockstars and VIPs might be inside… passing by the awesome giant stone diamondback rattlesnakes, creepy cool landmarks that remind you that you’re halfway there… There is also a giant guitar that serves as an entry gate from the parking lot to the venue, another fun photo op.
The view is always spectacular. Even the bands remarked on the gorgeous view of a stunning desert sunset, as clouds of all shapes, sizes and colors scattered throughout the sky, the horizon a brilliant gradient of heavenly hues. Even when the sun was gone, and the darkness descended upon the night, the lovely full moon illuminated us with her gentle glow. Hundreds of stars dotted the sky. And as much as I love the twinkling urban neon city lights up close while painting the town red, they look even more beautiful from a distance, mysterious and moody. This set the scene for one hell of a show!
Lamb of God is always a good time. Explosive pyrotechnics are just the cherry on top. Randy Blythe is a savage untamed beast on stage. I swear, I could feel him stomping the ground from all the way in the lawn! Similarly, the drum fills, bass lines, and power riffs all reverberated throughout the entire colosseum. The entire amphitheater was like one giant, grooving, pulsating speaker that was about to blow out.
Memento Mori is always a great banger. Redneck is a fun throwback. And of course, I get total nostalgia vibes from the classic track, Omerta. There were also some songs that I didn’t recognize. Some might have been newer singles. Others were probably deep obscure cuts from way back in the early days of their seminal discography. Lamb of God acknowledged how much they appreciated Albuquerque. They even recognized those of us from their previous show here, from a few years ago, when we literally weathered the storm through actual rain, thunder, and lightning! They also, once again, acknowledged all of the Native Americans in the audience, and dedicated a song to them.
The band repeatedly tried to incite mosh pits up in the lawn, from walls of death, to circle pits. It’s hard to see from the stage, but the steep slope of the lawn is not exactly ideal for moshing. So, scared of losing my people in the pit, I linked my arms with theirs, so that way we could still stay connected, when and if someone inevitably came barreling towards us to tear us apart. And so, with our arms awkwardly slung over each other’s shoulders, we headbanged together.
After Lamb of God played their final closing track, we followed the crowds spilling toward the taco trucks and cocktail bars. While we’re waiting in line for our snacks and drinks, I overheard all the music nerds totally geeking out over the unusual guitar tones and syncopated drum beats. The sound quality was just phenomenal. Again, I didn’t just hear the music: I felt it all the way down to the marrow of my bones, on a microscopic subatomic level! The abrasive noise totally rearranged my DNA!
And so, libations in hand, we returned back to the lawn, near the front, a prime location where all of us had a clear view. I had never seen Pantera before. This was my first time. I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous and excited. My heart was pounding. I had butterflies in my stomach. Phil Anselmo bounded on stage and started gesturing to the audience: “We love you guys! We love you… and you… and you!” He looked and pointed right at us! It was almost like I even made eye contact with him for one brief, breathtaking moment!
So of course my entourage and I immediately started jumping up and down, squealing like fangirls.
“Oh my freaking God!”
“Pantera loves us!”
“I know right?”
But then again, Pantera were also a bunch of teases. They played the long, slow, ballady intro to Cemetery Gates, but never the badass breakdown, riffs, bridge, and chorus! What a rip off. Total bait and switch. Don’t flaunt it unless you’re going to put out! Go all the way, baby! Similarly, their cover of Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan, while undisputably classic, was also a little too tired and sleepy for my tastes. Yeah, sure, don’t get me wrong, I’m a stoner and a hippie, but I came here to riot and rage, goddamn it! And, ultimately, we spent a good portion of the show laughing, joking, and headbanging just like Beavis and Butthead.
Cowboys from Hell kicked ass. This Love was an absolute rager. Floods was a total barn-burner. The Great Southern Trendkill was my jam. And who could possibly forget the aggressive anthem dedicated to independence, Walk! This song in particular has always intrigued me. It’s clearly a study of toxic friendships, fairweather aquaintances, and parasocial codependence. But men suck at expressing their feelings, so instead of talking it out like adults, they just put this song on blast, while mumbling obscenities about whichever annoying coworker or problematic drinking buddy they’re arguing with *this* time. Same, bro. Same. Platonic friendships can be just as difficult to navigate as romantic relationships, and losing a former bestie can be just as painful as a brutal break up.
At some point, my curiosity got the best of me. My imagination was running wild, wondering just how many people were there. So I turned around, to look behind and around myself. I was surrounded by THOUSANDS of like minded friends! Each and every single last one of them was smiling and laughing, with metal horns on one hand, and a beer in the other! Just like me! I felt at home. I was in paradise. Finally, at long last, a place where I actually felt like I belonged!
This concert made me feel like a heavy metal Cinderella at the headbanger’s ball. But instead of glass slippers, I had crystal combat boots. My pumpkin carriage was a designated driver. My princess tiara was a wild mane of untamed hair. My beautiful ballgown was a Lamb of God t-shirt and ripped jeans. And Lady Tremaine, my wicked stepmother, would be all the stupid obnoxious authority figures against whom I continue to rebel. Five stars outta five!