Hank III & Assjack | 02.18 | Texas
Hank Williams III/Assjack :: 02.18.09 :: Emo’s Alternative Lounge :: Austin, TX
Well, I used to think that country
Was out of Nashville Tennessee
But all I see in Nashville
Is a bunch of backstabbers takin’ you and me
They don’t care about the music, ya see
Well, I used to think that country
Was out of Nashville, Tennessee
I’d rather take my things and
Go back to Texas, ya see.
If you don’t feel at least a little raucous and uninhibited during a Hank III show you should probably question the combination of those pills you took. Anthems of druggy darkness become a mass middle finger you want to wave at the first cop, politician or TV preacher’s face you see after the show is over. During “Straight to Hell,” I yelled, “You just better give me one more round!” with everyone else, an insane grin spread across my face, jumping up and down with my hands waving wildly in the air. But there’s also honorable authenticity in these songs, heads held high through the hard times and hard drinking, coming out the other side with thick skin and defiant words.
“No matter what they take from you,” Williams yelled early in the country set. “They won’t take your good friends, good times and good music.” As it drove through my skull, it occurred to me that “Six Pack of Beer,” from his latest album Damn Right Rebel Proud, is an apt anthem for the recession:
Well, workin’ real hard
Ain’t hard to do
When you got you a lotta’ money comin’ to you
But I ain’t got a dime
So, I’ll just sit here
Even though I’m broke
I’ve got a six-pack of beer
A tribute to Williams’ country heroes and influences pierced to the heart of what country music should be. David Allan Coe‘s “The Ride,” slipped into Kris Kristofferson‘s “If You Don’t Like Hank Williams” (you have to shout the next line, “Then you can kiss my ass!”), starting off measured but gradually shaking up and fizzing with fury. The son of a son reclaimed some of his “Family Tradition” from his father, Hank Williams Jr., who’s performed bastardized versions of the song with Kid Rock and a McCain-Palin version on the campaign trail last year. He also tackled the ominous Hank Williams Sr. number “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive.” The physical and vocal resemblance of Williams to his grand dad has often been mentioned, but seeing him live, it can’t help but give you chills. After a rollicking “Cocaine Blues,” Williams ended the set with his original material, going from “Little Bit of Smoke” through the growling, moving “Country Heroes” and finishing on “Dick in Dixie.” The song order drew an arrow, from honoring true country legends to standing up for his family name to taking his place as one of the rightful torchbearers of that outlaw tradition.
The limitations of William’s Curb Records contract, which has a handful of months left, have left him without any options to officially explore his hellbilly and metal work on record, although bootlegs circulate. Once Williams is finally free of Curb, there should be some kick ass output to look forward to. I will admit I am not as familiar with this other side of Hank, but I got down with the hellbilly. In a seamless switch, DIY wires fused in unruly snaps and snarls as a trucker hat sporting Williams and co. ambushed Emo’s with a gruff timing belt. The punk velocity that had been scratching under the surface ripped free, inhaling gasoline fumes and knocking back moonshine, at times infused with a slippery psychobilly twang. McOwen looked like he was about to split his fiddle right in half with his bow. Muddy, dirty and hollering to embrace a “Life of Sin,” this set was a real shit kicker, especially “White Trash Part 2,” whose rusty-spurs left a savage bruise. Williams and Lindsey barked out the lyrics: “Holes in my boots, tattoos on my back/ I guess that’s why those rich folks call me white trash!”
Lindsey has a hell of a fearless stage presence, throwing himself every which way, bellowing from the bowels of hell, with some bloodletting to boot. Williams would whip his head around while shredding over machine gun drumming that dissolved into thundering rolls with quick snaps. Thematically, the speaker shakers tie in with the honky tonk with songs about cocaine (“Look out for the white devil! He will bring you down!”), redneckery and flying fists. It’s another face of rebel pride, and in popular culture’s stifling vanilla-flavored world it’s that “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” attitude at its barest boiling point.
During Assjack’s set, in a moment where the feedback buzzed, holding its breath before the violent rush took hold, Williams yelled, “You’ve got to live life with no fucking regrets!” Watching Williams’ intensity you get the sense that he’s holding a sparking fuse, grabbing each moment full throttle, pushing those self destructive edges to the breaking points traced in his bloodline, owning his narrative. But no matter where the plot leads, this M-80 will leave a smoldering trail, scorching scars across that night sky. Long after the Nashville pop country rat race has finally run its course, his hellacious presence will still be howling from that heart of darkness.
Sign the petition to get Hank Williams Sr. reinstated into the Grand Ole Opry here.
And check our exclusive feature/interview with Hank III here.
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