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Dimebag Darrell: Taco Hell

Dimebag Darrell: Taco Hell

5:00 p.m.

>>> Pantera are just getting up. They finally come down to the lobby—their rumpled duds and conspicuous sunglasses proclaiming that everyone did, indeed, rock and roll all night. But their slow movements and pained expressions suggest that any attempt to “party ev-very day” is out of the question. Clearly, no one in Pantera is a morning person.

5:30 p.m.

>>> Like convicted murderers being transported to the state pen, Kiss is secretly escorted through a side door into heavily guarded vehicles. Pantera and crew, on the other hand, amble into promoter-provided family vans. There is little conversation, with everyone preferring to yawn and rub last night’s whisky out of their eyes.

Talk in the van slowly turns to last night’s alcoholic debauchery, evaluation of their own performance (“Man, I thought we did pretty good, considering that we weren’t even advertised on the bill”), and, ultimately, to Kiss. Pantera, all of whose members are cardcarrying sergeants in the Kiss Army, do little to hide their excitement over the chance to tour with their all-time favorite band—especially Dimebag Darrell.

“Dude, when we were first told that it might happen, I just freaked. I didn’t even want to think about it and get my hopes up in case it fell through,” says the guitarist. “And when our management finally confirmed it for real, I couldn’t even sleep!”

Memories of watching Kiss (always from the front row) are recounted by the Panterans to the accompaniment of enthusiastic high fives, and the adrenaline begins to flow. “We’re gonna kick some serious ass tonight, I’ll tell you want,” predicts Dimebag, barely able to sit still.

6:00 p.m.

>>> The van pulls into the arena grounds… and right into an improvised flea market filled with bootleg Kiss and Pantera merchandise— thousands upon thousands of spectacular T-shirts of every imaginable color, covered with the bands’ logos and the likenesses of the individual members. “These shirts look better than the ones our merchandise company makes,” notes Vinnie Paul, Pantera’s strongman drummer. He presses his face against the van window and drools over the striking designs.

That the life span of a typical bootleg Tshirt is usually three washes on gentle cycle, no bleach, disturbs exactly no one. The shirts are selling like burritos at an average of 80 pesos (10 bucks) a pop. The salesmen here have no “official” competition; there are no laws governing bootlegging in Mexico, so Kiss and Pantera don’t even bother bringing merchandise to the shows.

6:15 p.m.

>>> Darrell, a wad of fresh pesos burning a hole in his pocket, says, “Dude, I wanna go out there and get me some shirts.” Val—Pantera’s intimidating bodyguard and seven-foot mascot— leads the way beyond the relative protection of the arena’s chainlink fence. Darrell, Vinnie, a few production assistants and this Guitar World correspondent (valiantly battling a thunderous cae of Montezuma’s Revenge) slowly wade into a sea of several hundred metal-starved maniacs.

Darrell, with his unmistakable hot-pink beard, is immediately mobbed. At first it’s hard to tell whether he is being surrounded because he’s a famous guitar hero, or because he is a Texan with a fistful of dollars.

Three very young, virginal Mexican girls approach Darrell, giggling and saying something that sounds like “He has a Chevy in his beard!” Not familiar with local colloquialisms, Darrell shrugs and heads for a wall covered with Kiss shirts.

“What do they mean by ‘Chevy’?” I ask a kid who speaks English. “Not ‘Chevy,’ ” he laughs. “They say he has a cherry beard—you know, all red.”

Val, whose giant arms resemble tank turrets, effectively keeps the rank and file away from everyone’s facial hair as his boys do some sidewalk shopping. “How much for that shirt right there, the one with Gene on the front with the devil horns? Gimme two of those…” “What? You want 160 pesos for that hat? Fuck you, man…”

Darrell is on fire. Hundreds of bootleg Kiss and Pantera shirts are spread out on the ground as the merchants, possessed by the spirit of free enterprise, bark out their prices. Darrell—who’s having a bit of trouble converting pesos to dollars in his mind—simply reaches into his pocket and stars pulling wads of money while grabbing as many hats, posters, Kiss clocks and shirts as he can carry. Finally out of cash, their arms sagging with their new wardrobes, Darrell and Vinnie follow the wide swath cut by Val’s mountainous form back to the arena, a throng of fans swimming along like pilot fish. Darrell reaches into his pocket and tosses out a handful of Pantera guitar picks, creating a pile of fans battling each other like dogs for their prized souvenirs. Amazed, laughing, he tosses another handful of picks in the air. More scrambling, more dust flying, more heads banging. “It’s like feeding barnyard chickens,” chuckles a production assistant.

7:00 p.m.

>>> Pantera’s dressing room is furnished with several couches, a chair or two and a table sagging with Crown Royal, Seagram’s, beer and several thousand disposable cups. Darrell walks in with his arms straining with Kiss shirts, taking care not to crease his prized find: a glossy Kiss/Pantera tour poster. “This is so fuckin’ cool,” he gushes, holding it up for all to worship. Someone calls for a celebration. Styrofoam cups are lined up like firing squad targets, and Darrell, the band’s self-appointed bartender, expertly fills seven cups with whiskey and a splash of Coca-Cola. “These are called ‘Black Tooths,’ ” he grins, handing the potent drinks to everyone in the room. A group cheer and down the hatch, anywhere from 20 to 50 pesos a day ($3.50 to $8.50), which means that a lot of people just spend a week’s wage to see Kiss.

9:30 p.m.

>>> With cannons blazing, Kiss hit the stage. With drinks in hand, Pantera rush out and edge themselves intot he front row, much to the delight of the crowd. Darrell, high-fiving everyone around him, settles into air-guitaring along with Ace. Rex, Vinnie and Phil stay closer to the side of the stage but rage no less joyously. Pantera and the crowd—the same crowd they just finished immolating—gradually bond and become one. Together they do their damnedest to get Gene to acknowledge them from the stage. The God of Thunder, however, cannot be distracted from a buxom blonde shaking her fine body in the third row.

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