Hank III at the Ridglea
(or "When the wife's away, Whiskey will play, part 2)
If you want to get up near the stage at a Hank III show, be prepared to dodge stage divers and slam-dancers, to see crazed young women lift their shirts, to see someone get beaten up (and possibly take an errant punch or two yourself), and to have a damn good time. And then maybe question the future of American society when it's all over.
I caught Hank Williams III at Ft Worth's Ridglea Theater on Monday the 16th - one of the wildest shows I've ever been to, and I've seen acts ranging from Fugazi to Anthrax / Public Enemy to the Butthole Surfers. If you wouldn't expect a country show to draw the sort of audience who enjoys mosh pits, slam dancing, and crowd surfing, you're obviously not familiar with Hank III. The grandson of the legendary Hank Williams, and son of "Bocephus" (Hank Williams, Jr.), Hank III has been performing "Hellbilly country" and speed metal / hardcore for several years. Many of his country songs are extremely up-tempo, with machine-gun drums and raucous steel guitar and fiddle-playin' presented with "outlaw" attitude... the hillbilly equivalent of Metallica or Megadeth. I'm sure you can imagine the kind of crowd that might attract.
Typical of Hank III's performances, Monday night's show was broken into three parts, beginning with the country set. I was mainly interested in experiencing his country material, since the last time I saw him I arrived late and missed most of that portion. It's the part of the show that draws the biggest crowd (a sizeable percentage of the audience departed when the metal started), and for my money, was easily the most entertaining. When Hank III replaces his cowboy hat with a trucker hat, the country stuff is over and the band delves into their speed metal and hardcore set. The third part of the show is the "Assjack" performance -- Hank III's band with a different vocalist replacing Hank. It's even louder and noisier, and I didn't stick around for that part.
My evening began when I arrived at the Ridglea around 8:30 pm. I had already missed the two opening acts, and I had to stand in line 20 for minutes or so since I didn't already had a ticket. Cover was $17. When I went inside, the lines at the bars were too long, so I just headed on down as close as I could get to the stage so I could take some pictures. Hey, I owe that much to my loyal blog readers, don't I? Hank III and his band took the stage around 9, opening with "Straight to Hell" followed by "Thrown out of the Bar".
Hank III and his band
The crowd looked like what I'd describe as "Saturday night at the trailer park" -- lots of wife-beater tank tops; Slayer t-shirts next to Kevin Fowler t-shirts; women in revealing, low-cut halter tops and too-short miniskirts; bad teeth; mohawks; shaved heads; long-haired heavy-metal types; piercings and facial hair galore; and tattoos, tattoos, tattoos.... a white trash meltdown in every sense of the word -- not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with that, but I suppose it was probably a good thing that K and the kids were out of town and couldn't go.
At least three women climbed up on stage during the show and raised their shirts (receiving copious applause) before jumping into the crowd. And about halfway through the show, a guy and a girl were punching and kicking some skinny punk who had fallen down right in front of me. Hank stopped playing right in the middle of the song until some of the bystanders helped him get back up. It was a little unnerving to see a guy physically assaulted right in front of me, especially with one of the assailants being a young woman. Of course, I had no idea what he had done to provoke the attack -- he may well have deserved it! The guy seemed ok afterwards (he was pretty "out of it") and he wasn't attacked again. I noticed a handful of other minor altercations (people trading trash talk, shoves, and punches)... some people really need to grow up or else lay off the booze and drugs when they go to a show.
Was I glad I went? Oh yeah... I'm familiar with most of Hank III's songs, so it was cool to hear them performed live. He and his band played with tons of energy and sounded great. It was a fun show, and one I'll remember for quite a while. Wonder how soon his next show will be...