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The Beatdown

Why would you want to/Hurt or kill or maim/To take a dream of life away/And why would you hear the calling/In your Napoleonic mind/To hurt so many people that way/Why would you want to pull the trigger/Of a black shaft of steel/Where have you lost the ability to feel?

Last Wednesday night, fourteen years after Jeffrey Gaines penned those poignant lines, the words kept ripping through my head. And then the words dwindled down to just one: Why? Why was Dimebag Darrell murdered on stage by some delusional douchebag named Nathan Gale? The horrific event seemed as inexplicable as John Lennon's violent death at the hands of Mark David Chapman -- which, eerily enough, was exactly 24 years to the day before Dime expired.

Last spring, at South by Southwest, I ran into Dime on my way to Drowning Pool's listening party, and although the encounter lasted all of six seconds, I'll never forget it.

All afternoon, I'd bugged my buddy Charles Treadwell -- better known in Mootown as Funky W of the Hellafied Funk Crew -- to phone Bob Kakaha, aka Bob Zilla, Hellafied's former bassist who's now a member of Damageplan, to hook me up with the band. He obliged, but per usual, I couldn't get my shit together, and by the time I finally made it down to Buffalo Billiards, Dime and his crew were heading out to the Yellow Rose, an Austin strip joint. Dime, clad in his trademark sawed-off shorts, shook my hand and told me to say "What's up?" to Charles. That was the end of the chitchat; just like that, he was gone.

No problem, I thought; I'd catch up with Dime some other time. But then Dime ran out of time.

To non-metal heads, his murder may just seem like the unfortunate death of yet another rock star. But to me and countless other maniacal fans, Dime was a legend. He wasn't merely a guitarist; he was the ultimate guitarist, at least in terms of heavy music. His playing was as distinctive as the Day-Glo-dyed hairs that extended from his chin. His technique, tone and stylistic approach not only set him apart from the majority of his peers, but helped shape the aesthetic of many who followed. As whammy dives went the way of the dodo in the early '90s, Dime made the tremolo bar part of his signature sound, augmented by squeals, squalls and a vibrato that few could replicate. And while most of his counterparts relied on the warmer, tube-driven thickness of Marshall stacks, Dime preferred the crispy, crunchy, more consistent high-end timbre offered by Randall solid-state heads. In many ways, he was the antithesis of the players who preceded him, embodying the true face of mainstream metal for a new generation.

While his ability as a guitarist was undeniable, the primary reason that the imposingly brutal music he produced with Pantera and, most recently, Damageplan (which I was fortunate enough to catch a few weeks ago at the Ogden) resonated with fans was the man himself. Dime wasn't all that different from those who loved him. "He was one of us," as KBPI's Uncle Nasty said last Thursday, during a prime-time tribute to the icon. And unlike Metallica, an act that Pantera replaced in the pantheon when it became a shell of its former self, Dime and his crew never changed, regardless of how much success they had. From the sound of it, when Dime wasn't shredding, he was all about getting fucked up, fucking shit up and naked chicks.

At least that's how Jesse Morreale, formerly of Nobody in Particular Presents, remembers Dime. Any time the Brothers Abbott were in town, Morreale was riding Shotgun with a fistful of singles.

"For the most part, they would try to set it up so they would either come in a day early or stay an extra day," Morreale says. "And it was always strip bars, you know, the 'Gun, generally. Shotgun's was the place; we went there last night and had a shot of Jäger in his memory. That's what we'd do. They were just good-hearted, Texas kind of dudes. They'd put on their fuckin' cowboy hats and their good boots and we'd go hit it and get fucked up. And sometimes we'd go back to their hotel afterwards and party 'til late. But it was always a good hang, because we all grew up together, basically, in our careers.

"That was the first band I ever promoted that was a bigger show than a club show," he continues. "I was like 22 or 23 years old. Pantera, White Zombie and Trouble at the Auditorium Theatre -- that was with Gess Presents. There were very few bands that I would ever say that I know the guys, you know what I mean? Like, we'd hang out, they know me, and I know them. And that's one of them."

For so many, the loss of Dime is immeasurably profound. But for his brother, Vinnie Paul, it's got to be just devastating.

"It's just such a drag, dude," Morreale says. "I knew Vinnie better than I knew Dimebag, really. But I knew both of them well enough to know that their family is really tight. When their mom died, I sent flowers down to the funeral. Vinnie called me afterwards, and he was obviously a wreck. So I just can't imagine him seeing his brother get basically assassinated right in front of him. He's got to be a basket case."

Ultimately, whether you were a fan of Dime or not is inconsequential: There's no denying we lost a great last week. All over Mootown, folks were grieving and paying homage in their own ways. Friday night at the Soiled Dove, for instance, as I watched Tyfoid Mary's Jerry Harper order a shot of Jäger at the bar in Dime's honor, I noticed that he had taken a Sharpie and scrawled the guitarist's name across his shins. And at a rave later that same night at Cervantes', DJ Matthew Orloff opened up his set by playing "Cemetery Gates" -- not exactly rave fodder.

As cliched as it sounds, though, it's comforting to know that my man went out doing something he loved. And I can't help but think that wherever Dime is right now, he's cracking up hearing stodgy geriatrics like Dan Rather uttering the word "Dimebag" on the idiot box just as white-picket-fence Americans sit down for dinner.

Upbeats and beatdowns: Another loss I'm lamenting -- while obviously not on par with Dimebag's death -- is the demise of the Gamits, who will play their last show ever this Saturday, December 18, at the Bluebird Theater, with Sterotyperider, Link, Le Boom and Magic Cyclops. And finally, on a much happier note, Red Cloud, which features Westword scribe Jason Heller on guitar, will unveil its self-titled debut that same night at the hi-dive, with White Dynamite, Two Gallants and Out on Bail opening things up.