Derrick Brumley, lead singer of the local metal band Conquest, which played shows with Abbott and his new group Damageplan, remembers Abbott as a salt-of-the-earth guy with tremendous talent.
"To me it's like [losing Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist] Randy Rhoads," says Brumley. "It is that much of a loss. To me, he was a good old boy. Dime partied, but he didn't party hard. He liked to drink beer; he liked his green. He was a down-to-earth person that just loved to play music."
Rumors are flying as to what could have motivated the 25-year-old killer, Nathan Gale, to jump onto the stage and shoot Abbott at point-blank range. These rumors are fairly pointless, much like the endless debate over what caused the Columbine killings: It's not like there's a possible answer that could make you slap yourself on the forehead and say, "Oh yeah, now that makes sense." Whether it was because the killer was an extreme fan of Pantera and was angry at the group for disbanding (a rumor that Brumley has heard but doesn't advocate) or because the guy's dog told him to do it, it's done, and it was pointless.
But that won't be good enough for some people, especially in this new "moral" climate we're living in. Every time someone with a Slayer T-shirt does something stupid, someone, usually with a Bible in hand, takes the opportunity to step in and play music critic. Which they are welcome to do, as soon as they let me give a Sunday sermon. The topic: evolution. Until then, please back off.
Charles Manson was a Beatles fan, and so am I. Brumley, who has played the game long enough to see this coming, hopes that this doesn't become another opportunity to demonize heavy metal.
"This happens at sporting events. This happens everywhere," says Brumley. "[It was just] some 25-year-old person who didn't have a clue in life."
While taking Abbott out onstage may have been the most dramatic murder the killer could think of, Brumley suggests that it also may have been the easiest.
"Damageplan has a strong backstage security area," Brumley explains. "When I was at Pop's with Damageplan, you couldn't get nowhere near them. So I doubt it was a mistake on their part. This [going onstage] would be the only way you could get to him."
Hearing "Primal Concrete Sledge" from Pantera's 1990 album, Cowboys from Hell, was a thrilling shock. To a teenager back then, it had the same freshness and power that Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine and Nirvana's Nevermind contained: a secret that your parents and peers didn't know, a newness and a promise that this was your music. Pantera was one of those bands that shaped adolescence for some people, and the oft-hoped-for reunion that always seemed possible is gone now.
RIP, Darrell Abbott.
In much-less-somber news, congrats to Gretchen Wilson for picking up four Grammy nominations last week. The Pocahontas, Illinois, native was in the top tier of nominees this year (if nowhere near Kanye West, who picked up ten nods). But West threw a temper tantrum when Wilson beat him for Best New Artist at the American Music Awards last month, so it's still even. Wilson is still riding high on her massive hit, "Redneck Woman," a slice of cracker soul that wears its white-trash cred like a badge of honor.
Wilson still has to prove that she's more than a one-hit wonder, and there's the infamous Best New Artist Grammy Curse to deal with. (It's right up there with the Best Actress Oscar Curse.) But still, the little redneck woman beat the pants off the rest of the area with her four nominations. Even Mr. Pimp Juice only pulled down one nod, for his lovah-lovah album Suit (yeah, nothing for Sweat). Is the worm turning? In three years will my inbox be flooded with aspiring artists ready to make it big in our hot country scene? Only time will tell. No pressure, Gretchen.