Eric Lee clearly remembers the first heavy metal concert he ever attended.
“The band was Death Angel. They were playing with Slayer at The Stone in San Francisco, and it was awesome,” recalls the longtime Petaluma resident. Now a fulltime trainer at the downtown 24-Hour Fitness club, Lee was a teenager when he discovered the high-energy, high-volume joys of thrash metal music.
And at the time, no one played it better, or with more on stage style, than the South Bay’s Death Angel.
“It was around ’82 or ’83, and I was fifteen years old,” says Lee, filling in the details of that life-changing night. “My buddy’s mom dropped us off at the theater in the City, then she came and picked us up after the show. That show — my first live metal show — for me, it was so great. I remember watching Death Angel perform, these five guys just turnin’ it up, and me standing there going, “Wow! I want to do that! I’m gonna do that! And someday, I’m going to play on the same stage as Death Angel.’ ”
Lo and behold, 35 years later, Lee’s teenage heavy metal dream is about to come true. On December 15, Lee’s band Hellbender will be the opening act in a show at Slim’s in San Francisco featuring Death Angel as the headliner.
“Finally, I’m going to be opening for Death Angel, and at Christmas time,” he says with an enormous smile indicating that he’s already received his Christmas present. “It’s so cool I can’t even believe it.”
The Slim’s show, which also features the band Old Firm Casuals, is part of Death Angel’s annual Christmas show, and the first time Hellbender has played the venue or opened with the band that was such a big part of Lee’s rock and roll education.
Lee’s father, the late Jack Lee, was a local opera singer in and around Petaluma, and was an enthusiastic musical theater participant with Petaluma’s Harmoneers.
“I would go see him perform, and though I wasn’t really into it, I saw that he was an entertainer, and I think I was influenced by it early on. And my mom, who was a church organist for years, she got me into playing the piano when I was six. So I did that for a while, till I switched to drums in junior high.”
It was in high school that Lee took up the bass guitar in 1981.
“A lot of my friends were forming bands,” he recalls. “There were a lot of guitar players, a couple of drummers, but no bass players. So that’s why I picked it up - and a month later I was in a band. I pretty much learned how to play the bass guitar by just doing it. It’s pretty much been all metal, all the time, ever since.”
Asked to name the first rock album that he couldn’t stop listening to, Lee mentions KISS’s 1976 “Destroyer.”
“Seeing what Gene Simmons was doing changed my life,” Lee says. “Guys breathing fire and spitting blood and playing the bass. I was like, ‘Wow! This is awesome!’ ”
He admits that his love of such outlandishly over-the-top entertainment was a bitter pill for his classically-inclined parents to swallow, and led to more than one confrontation.
‘ANOTHER DEATH ANGEL CHRISTMAS SHOW’
What: Local metal band Hellbender opens for the legendary thrash rockers Death Angel
When: Friday, Dec. 15, 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.)
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th Street, San Francisco.
How much: Advance purchase $24, at the door $26, with dinner $48.95
Tickets and information: SlimsPresents.com