For a musician whose claim to fame occurred 3 1/2 decades ago, Neil Turbin demonstrated Friday night at Fitzgerald's he can still rock and sing like it's 1984. And he's not exactly opposed to allowing up-and-coming local artists join in on the fun.
Playing, ironically, 34 years to the day of his final performance with Anthrax in that band's native New York, the original vocalist of a group that went on to become one of thrash metal's Big 4 without him headlined the quaint San Antonio bar. And although he came to the Alamo City by his lonesome, Turbin's arrival and performance were made possible by Jessikill bassist Arturo "Knight" Alvarado, who served as the gig's promoter -- and much more.
Knight, guitar mate Jyro Alejo, vocalist Jessica Marie Espinoza Alejo and Jessikill in-transition drummer Marcel Biel served as Turbin's backing band, accompanied by rhythm guitarist Fernando Moreno. But that wasn't all.
In addition to Jessikill performing a 30-minute set of its own, Jyro Alejo, Knight and Biel joined Helstar vocalist James Rivera for a half hour of Dio and Judas Priest classics in a makeshift version of Rivera's Sabbath Judas Sabbath tribute act (see 116-photo slideshow below).
Local artists Target 7, Pup Zenabi Instrumental Project, solo guitarist Jose Shrederiffic and Aeternal Requiem also played along with Houston metallers Serpent Attack.
Though Turbin is said to be working on new material with Deathriders, his band named after the opening track on Fistful of Metal, he didn't mention any of his current activities on stage. Dressed in black top hat and black attire with "Deathriders" running nearly as long down his sleeves as his jet black hair was down his back, Turbin was content living off his past. He played a bulk of his Anthrax contributions such as "Metal Thrashing Mad" (ATM video below), "Death From Above" (ATM Facebook Live video here), "Soldiers of Metal" and even the album's Alice Cooper cover "I'm Eighteen."
Showing appreciation for Knight, Jessikill and the other "great bands" on the bill, Turbin also unveiled the two tracks from Anthrax's 1985 Spreading the Disease effort for which he wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the music but never received the opportunity to sing: "Armed and Dangerous" and "Gung-Ho." Turbin lamented the void left by that album's songwriting credits and the path his career -- and that of Anthrax's mega success -- took when introducing "Armed and Dangerous" by saying, "Well, you all know how that went."
Turbin introduced "Panic" by spotlighting Alejo, telling the intimate but enthusiastic audience witnessing the 12:34-1:33 a.m. set he and the local guitarist played the track with Michael Angelo Batio at a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention in California a couple years ago. Batio, incidentally, was another artist brought to town earlier this year by Knight (coverage here). Turbin appeared humbled by the fans who sang, headbanged and came to witness his set, taking it all in but barely fist-bumping or high-fiving those who were close enough to do so.
Rivera, on the contrary, preceded Turbin's set by saluting fans with beer and shots of Jagermeister and soaking in the adoration. Though Helstar was originally scheduled to be performing as a band, that changed in the days leading up to the show, with Rivera opting to keep his commitment in a different capacity. Performing Priest's "Electric Eye," "The Ripper" and "Beyond the Realms of Death" plus Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell," Rivera jammed enthusiastically with Knight, Jyro Alejo and Biel on drums.
Surprisingly, Turbin and Rivera did not jam together, though the former referenced the latter as a friend. It was similar to Rivera's appearance June 23 at the Dio Disciples concert at Quatermain's Pub in Live Oak when Tim "Ripper" Owens said he knew Rivera was in the house and wanted to say hi to him, but Rivera's efforts to take the stage were limited to helping himself to the mic between sets and singing along to the intermission music pumped throughout the bar (ATM coverage here).
Target 7 had the distinction of being the post-headlining act, taking the stage 25 minutes before closing time. Fronted by Chris Cronk -- who also sings in the local Monsters Of Rock tribute act and who also performed at the Dio Disciples gig -- Target 7 ended the night on a rocking note just prior to the new, lone police presence at the bar cracking the whip and telling patrons who had been searched prior to getting in to head home.
Cronk, like Turbin, has his own claim to fame of sorts with a prominent metal band. He sang with Fates Warning, but did not perform on any albums, in 1987 after original singer John Arch left and prior to fellow San Antonian and current vocalist Ray Alder (Balderamma) debuting in 1988.
Instrumentalists, meanwhile, also had their say on this night, both in group and individual form.
The Pup Zenabi Instrumental Project, which also opened for Batio at Bonds 007 Rock Bar on May 25, sounded tighter yet played more relaxed as they unveiled a few tracks. Guitarist/frontman Tony Astarita joked prior to the opening tune, "If you know the words, sing along." Backed by rhythm guitarist Andrew Goodine, bassist James Graham and drummer Kris Ardolino, PZIP ran the gamut of emotions through their non-lyrical content. Astarita dedicated a track to his late father before the band ended mightily with "Slaying the Dragon" (ATM footage here).
Although all support acts inside shared the same drum kit, Jose Shrederiffic needed no such tools. The solo artist took care of his guitar work with a 20-minute amazement of guitar precision accompanied by backing tracks of the other instruments. Jose never announced to the crowd who he was, perhaps simply relying on observers noticing his name on the back of his jacket as he walked throughout the bar. He ended by thanking Knight and the fans, saying, "It's been a long time since I've played."
Houston's Serpent Attack also performed inside, warming things up for Turbin with a 30-minute set, while locals Aeternal Requiem did the honors on the outside stage. Aeternal Requiem, which debuted its new lineup anchored by original singer/guitarist Austin Zettner during its first show since 2015 at the Memorial Day Metalfest (coverage here), also opened for Exmortus at Come And Take It Live last month in Austin. Aeternal Requiem returns to that venue this Tuesday to do the same for Powerglove (tickets here).
Not to be outdone was Jessikill. The do-everything band shined on opener "Metal Knights" plus "Save Me," "Another World" and "Run and Hide." Debut EP classic "The Beast" ended things with Knight and Jessica Alejo sharing lead-vocal duties and Jyro Alejo performing in your face on his 668-notes-per-minute solo (ATM footage here). Biel, who drums with the Alejos and Knight in the Yngwie Malmsteen/Dio tribute Sacred Star, was "temporarily" filling in for Alan Cisneros and could become a more permanent fixture in Jessikill, according to Knight.
With more programs such as Batio, Dio Disciples and Turbin that also place the spotlight on local artists possibly on the horizon, promotions put on by the 24-year-old Knight will only give the local scene the shot in the arm it has needed for some time. And no self-serving metal knight should find anything substantially wrong with that.