Chances are your first memory of a band after you’ve heard the music for the first time was through a photo. There was a time before YouTube videos, massive concert tours, and ubiquitous festivals that the only way you ever saw a band was in a magazine. Now that technology has made it possible for everyone with an iPhone or a decent DSLR camera to think they are a concert photographer, everyone and their mom is trying to shoot and cover bands. However, there is more to pictures of bands than aiming a device in the general direction of the stage; there is an art to capturing the essence of people, on film, or now digitally.
Many times photos can tell the story of a band that you never knew, peel away layers of years, war stories, fights, loves, and biases. Photos show people as they were then, giving a new perspective. This is the case with the loving collection of Pantera photos from Joe Giron, A Vulgar Display of Pantera (Lesser Gods Publishing).
Pantera, beloved by fans, hated by well.. haters: almost no one is in between with their opinions these days. The band were clearly the cream of 90s metal bands, when they almost put the entire sub-genre on their backs and waved that flag like no other. Like many 80s and 90s metal fans, Pantera was a big deal to me and I had several Joe Giron (AC/DC, David Bowie, U2, Gwen Stefani, The World Series of Poker) photos/posters adorning my walls. Giron started with the band in their very early days in Texas, before Phil Anselmo was in the band in the old “Glamtera” days, with Terry Glaze singing. Joe himself shot the band many times before they hit the big-time, and he certainly documented their every step of the way. If you have ever seen any of the Pantera Home Video series, Joe can be seen as the butt of a few practical jokes, once asking the band to not accidentally “blow his eye out before the photo shoot”! The bands comfort level with Joe, similar to their entire crew back then, can be seen in how natural and even keel the band looks in their early shots. Obviously the band full of intense, image conscious showmen like the late Dimebag Darrell knew how to mug for the camera on stage, in their natural element. But off stage, in honest and candid moments or in promo shoots, they seemed very natural, and not coached at all. It’s just something you rarely see anymore.
Certainly diehard fans of the band will recognize many of the Anselmo-era photos from album sleeves, CD inserts, guitar magazine posters, gear product packaging, and several books covering the band. Next to his keen eye, Giron’s almost photographic recall of the times associated with each photo, really fills in the context on every page. For the most part, Pantera was a brotherhood first and foremost, until it wasn’t. But you see no ire in these photos, only love and teamwork. In addition to Giron, anecdotes provided by Rex Brown (he also penned the forward) and Vinnie Paul also help tell these stories of triumph. From the Cowboys from Hell tour, to Moscow Russia and the Musicians For Peace concert, to dropping Far Beyond Driven at #1 and getting gold records, Giron was there for it all. He also took time the document small moments no one could ever see unless they were present. Lucky for us, he had his camera with him and the presence of mind to shoot, a lot.
This gorgeous book is wonderfully put together and an essential way for fans to stay connected to the legacy of a great band. The book especially serves as a loving tribute to Dimebag, doing what he loved, better than most. You can buy the book at this link.