Hank 3 rolled into Mill City Nights last night and played a massive four-plus hour set that gave equal time to each of the sides of his personality. The grandson of Hank Williams essentially opened for himself, as he brought out four separate sets that covered his traditional country, punk, doom, and speed-metal material.
See Also: Slideshow: Hank Williams III at Mill City Nights, 10/28/13
The multi-faceted Nashville artist started off the night with what he called the "country part of the show," with his Damn Band playing amplified traditional instrumentation, including banjo, fiddle, lap slide, drums, a red-white-and-blue striped stand-up bass, and Hank on acoustic guitar. Hank has always had a handle on traditional-minded material even as he delivers it with a slight tweak, incorporating subtle song choices like double kick, chugga chugga riffs, and punk tempos that added just enough modern sound to what was primarily straight-ahead country. The long set reached across his long discography, and included some of his material from Brothers of 4x4
which dropped earlier this month.
Though Hank's songwriting is always buoyant and teeming with energy, there can be a sameness to the lyrical motifs. He is drunk rebel who drinks, and he will remind you that he gets himself into some trouble sometimes, perhaps in some seedy locales. This certainly didn't distract too much from his impressive playing, and the band was remarkably tight together.
Each player is skilled at their instrument and got the opportunity to show off on almost every song during breakdowns. The bassist got the opportunity to belt in an excellent metal growl for songs like "Rebel Within." Hank switched up and played a second banjo for the final third of the set and proved adept at multiple instruments and styles of plucking. The set lasted nearly two hours, and Hank 3 had already proven himself to me as one of the hardest-working and dedicated musicians I've ever seen live -- and the show has just started.
Just one day before Hank 3 dropped his new country double-album, he also released a punk album, playing all instruments himself simply under the name 3, a blown-speaker acoustic punk album Hank recreated live with only bass and drums underneath. I couldn't tell if this was simply a transitional thing at first, but again he delivered a full set. The sound pulled elements from West Coast hardcore, but oddly enough sounded slightly like late '70s U.K. also.
My worry with any act that decides to dabble in multiple genres is that they'll never quite scrape deeper than surface-level on any one of them, but hearing Hank 3's punk immediately next to his country proved he had a real grasp on both. The sound was less intense than the psychobilly metal stylings of his Assjack material, finding just the right level of energy to play off the first set, which still hit a rollicking stride most country doesn't even attempt. The crowd was moshing already, so moving into the punk set was surprisingly smooth despite how rarely you see a band transition into another in the way this one did (several times).
I wondered early in the night why they needed the giant stacks of amps and the rack of extra guitars for what seemed to be an acoustic-ish leaning concert. But when Hank came out brandishing the first electric guitar of the night and jumped right into his Attention Deficit Domination set, which was simply him and the drummer, I saw where the rest of the evening was going. So did the audience, many of whom left around the beginning of the gigantic feedback coming from the massive Green amps. (It was a pretty smart way to structure the set, actually, knowing that would be some folks there for one portion over others, and even if you left early you would've gotten a full and satisfying set.)
Hank had been opening these sets with Sleep songs like "Dopesmoker" and "Dragonaut," though it was hard to place what the opening instrumental tonight was. It was appropriate to open with Sleep songs because not only is his sludge-doom side project heavily influenced by the band in terms of song structures, but Hank specifically utilized the same gear setup Sleep used live around the time of recording Dopesmoker. Hank's vocals were distorted and slightly obnoxious in tone but the guitar was perfect. He's clearly not just dabbling in doom but really has a clear understanding of it. For a second there I forgot I'd seen the same guy clawhammering a banjo not long ago.
Finally, a second guitar player emerged and a sampled auctioneer began to play in the background. Now we were entering the style Hank branded "cattle-core." A sudden switch over from the slow, plodding doom of Attention Deficit Domination to the speed-metal blasts of 3 Bar Ranch felt like another seismic shift in the show though it was just as heavy. Lightning-fast riffs played against the auctioneer samples in a way that worked better live than on record, where the novelty got stale quicker.
They powered through yet another huge set of material, and it was cool to see that Hank's side projects are given as much credence and time alloted as his country material. He's a chameleon performer that can handle each of those modes with equal power. Not only did he play across genres for over four hours straight, there were almost no breaks between sets or even songs. I've never seen a musician work as hard on stage. He remained energetic and passionate the whole time and the show was incredible front to back. Easily one of the most impressive shows I've ever taken in.
Personal Bias: This was my first time seeing Hank 3 and I had no idea what to expect.
The Crowd: A range of people, each seemingly associated with a different aspect of his musical scope.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I will pay your bail!"
Random Notebook Dump: Pretty disappointed no one did any square dancing in the mosh pit.
"Country Part Of The Show":
Straight To Hell
Smoke & Wine
Lookin' For A Mountain
Thrown Out Of The Bar
Long Hauls And Close Calls
If The Shoe Fits
The Things We Used To Do
Crazed Country Rebel
D. Ray White
Brothers of 4x4
Day By Day
Don't Ya Wanna
Six Pack Of Beer
Things You Do To Me
Pills I Took
I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (Hank Williams Sr.)
Me & My Friends
Double A Daddy (Wayne Hancock)
Gettin' Drunk And Fallin' Down
Dick In Dixie
- with 3:
Different From The Rest
There's Another Road
Can I Rip U
Watchin U Suffer
Fight My Way
Break My Jaw
- with Attention Deficit Domination:
In The Camouflage
Livin' Beyond Doom
I Feel Sacrificed
Closed with 3 Bar Ranch set