Backbeat is counting down the twenty most fabled moments in Denver music history. Today: A look back at when Pantera played at Mammoth Events Center in the mid '90s and fans took their fury out on the venue.
See Also: - Vinnie Paul on Rebel Meets Rebel - Losing Dimebag Darrell was never part of the Damageplan - #10: Nirvana's first post-Nevermind show here, 1991 - #11: Bob Dylan crashed in the Mile High City, 1960 - 20 Fabled moments archive
You know the situation's serious when concertgoers are ripping out urinals from the walls. That's what happened at a Pantera gig in 1997, when a packed venue of kids got restless and the result was a pissy waterworld in the men's room, broken barricades and a near-catastrophe on stage. Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo possessed an angry charisma that fueled the band's uncompromising sound, which was nihilistic and brutal, and the group had an incendiary live show to match, as evidenced by Pantera's January 30, 1997 show at the Mammoth Events Center (now the Fillmore Auditorium).
"We were always a very aggressive band," says drummer Vinnie Paul, speaking on the phone while on tour with his current band, Hellyeah. "And Denver was always one of the craziest music towns there is." Pantera was about two songs in when audience members broke the barricade separating the band from the crowd. Paul recalls about forty security guards pushing the concertgoers back. The incident caused the band to leave the stage temporarily. Meanwhile, the beyond capacity crowd (the venue was purportedly oversold) was becoming restless.
At the time, Pantera was touring with bands Paul loved, Clutch and Neurosis, and every night was a freakshow. "Back then, we thought, 'The more chaos, the better'. This was back before lawsuits became so popular." If some kid in the crowd got hurt back then, Paul says, it was considered the cost of doing business. Now, that kid's parents are likely to sue everyone connected with the show.
Pantera eventually did get back on stage and finished their set. Afterward, the drummer recalls, "We came off the stage we thought it was the craziest thing ever. I remember everyone taking a deep breath. Then I went down to Shotgun Willie's and had a blast."
Putting it in perspective, Paul says, "We were the bird finger to the entire music industry then. Our label was on us to do a rap-rock record, and our fans loved us for not caving into the system."
Thankfully, says Jerri Theil, who worked with Jesse Morreale's Gess Presents and helped with production, the money made on the excess ticket sales paid for the destruction to the men's room and the resultant flooding -- a dollar amount purportedly in the thousands. Pantera did eventually return to town, playing at the Denver Coliseum in 2001 for a notably different gig than the ill-fated '97 show. "Yeah..." Paul concludes with a laugh. "They had more security this time."
Page down to see the original ad that ran in Westword in December 1997 when the show was first announced.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.