Annihilator fans from across the UK flocked to North East England for an impromptu meet and greet with founder Jeff Waters after the Canadian extended an open invite to metal heads everywhere.
The Durham-based axeman took to social media last month after hatching a ‘goofy’ plan to gather like-minded souls for a Sunday afternoon session outside Costa Coffee at Newcastle’s Central Station.
And much to the amazement of baffled baristas, nonplussed security staff and unprepared passers-by, a sea of denim and leather greeted Waters as thrashers from far and wide laid claim to a usually quiet corner of the station concourse.
“It was just a goofy idea,” explained the man behind classic thrash metal staples Alice In Hell and Never, Neverland. “I was sitting around wondering whether I had any fans left!
“On Facebook sometimes the filters kick in but every time I put the words ‘UK’, ‘Durham’ or ‘Newcastle’ in there they’d get through and I was thinking to myself I might just have a few fans in this area.
“I’m always going to see concerts at the City Hall and I’d planned to catch Blaze Bayley at Trillians so I thought why don’t I test this theory.
“I just put up a few goofy posts suggesting we all meet up at Newcastle Central Station in front of Costa and the rest is pleasant history!”
True to his word Waters took time to chat with fans, pose for pictures and sign piles of Annihilator music and memorabilia.
The ecstatic masses had rocked up with first press vinyls, posters, jackets and more.
And Waters did the rounds clutching a range of marker pens and wearing a rather fetching embossed Iron Maiden leather jacket.
“I was nervous coming along,” he added. “But I said to myself that as long as there are at least five people here I’m good.
“My wife kept telling me there were going to be more than five and not to worry.
“But I did worry. After 35 years of doing my band if I couldn’t get more than five people along for a chat on a Sunday afternoon I thought I’d have to revisit my whole career and life and go and sit on a beach somewhere!”
With Bayley’s special Sunday afternoon, kid-friendly gig taking place at Trillians from 3pm, Waters had urged fans to meet at Central an hour earlier.
But the crowds were still gathered around the iconic guitarist and songwriter long after doors opened at Newcastle’s famous rock club across town.
“I heard about the meet up on Facebook Messenger and Jeff’s been posting about it constantly on social media,” said Scott from North Tyneside. “We’re friends on Facebook so I decided to come down and support him.
“I was hoping there’d be a few other people knocking about but I was pleasantly surprised with how many turned out.
“It’s an amazing thing to do. He’s only one stop down the line in Durham so it was a great idea to pop up to Newcastle.
“I’d never met the guy before even though I’ve seen him play live many times. The latest of those gigs was on the Demented tour when he played the Riverside in Newcastle and that was an amazing night.
“It was the first gig of the entire tour and the band was totally on point.
“I’ve seen Annihilator at the City Hall supporting Trivium on the Crusade tour in 2007 but I never saw them on the Priest tour which is the one I would have loved to have been at.
“I guess I came to Annihilator a bit late. I started with the Big Four and then got switched on to the German thrash bands like Sodom and Destruction and then someone told me about the Canadian scene. That’s when I found Annihilator!”
Fellow Durham resident Debs had followed Jeff up the East Coast mainline for the chance to talk Jammy Dodgers with the self-confessed biscuit buff.
And after getting her packet of Dodgers signed by the man himself she said: “It’s great that he’s happy to host a little informal gathering just for the fun of it.
“I guess it was a bit of a hit or miss thing from Jeff’s point of view as he must have been wondering whether anyone would turn up or whether he’d be besieged! In the end it was a great turn out and it was really cool.
“Alice In Hell was my favourite Annihilator record back in the day and I have a signed copy.
“I’ve never seen the band live but I did go to a signing in a record store as a 15-year-old. I skived off school to meet the band and it was another brilliant experience.”