Daytripper: Pantera’s Triumphant Comeback Ignites Syracuse

So there I was, August 8th, 2023, tossing my camera gear into my truck, revving up for what promised to be a legendary night with the Cowboys from Hell, none other than Pantera themselves. The rain had been playing its own gig since I hopped in my ride, but hey, nothing could put a damper on my metal pilgrimage. On my way to the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview in Syracuse, I swung by a rest stop and instantly spotted my fellow metal comrades. Trust me, you could tell we were all part of the same sonic tribe – black attire or a metal band tee was the unspoken uniform.

Photo by Nick Dicocco

Destination reached, I rolled up to the amphitheater, rain still hammering down, but did that stop Pantera fans from pre-show tailgating? Not a chance. Tents were pitched, grills were firing up, and beer cans, let me tell you, were practically in a metalhead mosh pit of their own. There was even one car trunk turned beer can treasure chest. Sporting my trusty camera bag, and clearly underdressed for the aquatic weather in shorts and a tee, I realized that the chance to capture the legendary metal maestros on film was all the warmth I needed. Raindrops aside, I stepped into the venue, greeting my photography buddies and getting the word – our pit shoot was now gonna be from the soundboard. Now, I’m usually not a soundboard enthusiast – I mean, those snaps can lack a certain intimacy, you know?

But hey, no time to dwell – the opening act, Child Bite, tore onto the stage with a barrage of kicks and jumps, each note a dinner bell summoning metal vultures from all corners. They had this vibe that said, “Alright folks, it’s game time!” The Child Bite set was short but oh-so-sweet, adrenaline flowing like a power chord. Rain? Yeah, it didn’t care that we were under a roof. Puddles were the new mosh pits, and the venue staff waged a heroic battle with squeegees against the water invasion.

Photo by Nick Dicocco

Darkness descended, a thunderous crack of drums echoed, and a primal scream marked the beginning – “Memento Mori” by Lamb of God, kicking off an electrifying performance. These guys had polished their craft for nearly three decades. It wasn’t just music; it was a visceral experience. Flames leapt from the stage, and mini circle mosh pits erupted, cargo shorts and rain ponchos embracing the metal mayhem. As the set wrapped, Randy Blythe, the lead singer, posed the ultimate question, “Ready for the Cowboys from hell?!” The crowd answered with an earth-shaking roar.

Intermission o’clock. Time to wring out shirts, grab an extra brewski, and possibly indulge in a burger that probably cost more than the ticket itself. Video screens lit up, taking us on a nostalgic ride through Pantera’s early days, a rollercoaster of debauchery since their inception in ’81. Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, the legendary brothers who co-founded the band, took center stage in vintage videos. A curtain unveiled, the Pantera emblem blazing, and a swirling pot leaf projection set the stage for what was to come.

Photo by Nick Dicocco

Curtain drop, the band strides forward – it’s like giants gracing the mortal realm. Phil Anselmo, the frontman, steps into the spotlight, a moment brimming with significance. Years, losses, and countless memories forged this moment. This wasn’t just another gig – it was a chance to bridge the past and present, to fuel the fire in seasoned fans and ignite a new generation of metalheads. Fathers and kids, metal moms and their offspring, all bound by the electrifying chords that coursed through the air.

Anselmo’s emotion was palpable as the set commenced. The bond between him and the crowd was a living testament to his role as a metal maestro and family conductor. He’d point at fans with posters, thanking them as if they were kin. Heck, sometimes he’d even invite them on stage for a duet. A historic night in Syracuse, etched in the annals of metal lore, a memory forever etched in the hearts of those who bore witness. So, yeah, we might’ve left with squelchy shoes, but grins etched on our faces? Absolutely.

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