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Who: Hank Williams 3
Lincoln Theater--Raleigh, NC, USA
Frank H.

"Even with no opening act, we had fully succumbed to the clawing Hyde beast after nearly four hours of music when he finished."

Country Hank

The weather was damn near perfect in Raleigh, NC at the Lincoln Theater where Country music's hardest working outlaw Hank Williams 3 was in town. Yep, I'm talking about the grandkid of one of the great founders of the Country genre. Those who came out knew this was not your Pappy's, Grand Ole Opry kind of show. The city venue was the dark, dungeony type you could find in any urban downtown and the crowd wore as much black and was just as ugly as any heavy metal show might be. It was a comingling of tattoos and disparate styles that made for a Jekyll and Hyde kind of night.

I expected a gaunt, strung-out scarecrow to stagger and boot-stomp us through some old-school honky tonk, but that's where my inexperience with Hank's history was limited. As much as I had expectations, he defied them as he has with anybody who wants him to walk in the footsteps of his paternal lineage. Some quick research shows that his history in various underground styles of punk, hardcore punk, and metal are documented--mainman for Assjack, bassist for Superjoint Ritual, drummer for Arson Anthem, etc. He's even been known to wear a Bathory hoodie which he did during our post-show hangout.

The size of the venue didn't allow for a large setup, so the stage was a basic wall of amps and speakers with Hank and the Damn Band--stand-up bass, fiddle, Hank, banjo, steel guitar--lined up across the front with the drummer largely hidden in the back. The lighting set was minimal and a lone Confederate flag was draped over one of the monitors. With his trademark cowboy hat, patchwork outfit, worn-out boots, and hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, Hank slid out with "Goin' Straight to Hell" and the place erupted.

I should've known better to assume any pre-show imbibing would affect his performance. Hank was a polished leader and all of his band were solid pros whose level of skill was absolutely needed for such a driven sound and tight production. Every high speed song--"Dick In Dixie", "Smoke & Wine", "Six Pack of Beer" and the rowdy "Punch Fight Fuck", sent half the floor crowd into a swirling circle pit of sweat and flying beer. Slower numbers like "Pills I Took", "Mississippi Mud", and the new "Ghost to a Ghost" garnered loud sing-a-long chants. This "Country" set lasted about an hour and a half itself.

Metal Hank Following the Country and Hellbilly set, which is mainly electrified Country with attitude, the traditional instruments were removed and instead of the usual Assjack punk, Hank came out alone to play metal from his "Attention Deficit Domination" album. With a lone green light and a video backdrop of mostly black and white pop culture and conspiracy imagery, Hank played low and slow (mostly top e-string work), non-stop, for a looooong time. At about ten minutes in, he ceased to be Country and became something a little more otherworldly--a long-haired demon of doom far removed from the prior music. After a full hour of him and his drummer only, some of the crowd who couldn't mosh had dissipated to the various bars and the merch table, but their patience was soon rewarded when Hank and another guitarist donning bandanas over their face (eye & mouth holes cut out) started the fourth act--a strange mix of speed metal and auctioneering, deemed cattle-core, from the new "3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin'" release. Even with no opening act, we had fully succumbed to the clawing Hyde beast after nearly four hours of music when he finished.

Afterward, Hank came out in his aformentioned Bathory hoodie and Copenhagen hat to greet the hundred or so who stayed for the entire show. He took the time to sign various items, give hugs, and politely take pictures with every single person who stayed. Every fan request was met with the humble thanks of a Southern gentleman.

It's hard to say what the potential is for Hank with his freedom from a long-term recording contract and his newer music. A group of Country guys in the 70s grew long hair, became outlaws, and changed the face of their musical landscape. The only prediction I can make based on his past is that Shelton Hank Williams is the hellbilly who will hang out in his own niche and do whatever he wants.

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