Hank Williams, Jr. hit the campaign trail with a stop in Minnesota on Sunday night. Naw, I'm just pullin' your leg. He has announced intentions to run for a 2012 U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee but he wasn't campaigning at last night's Mystic Lake Casino show. That is, unless you imagine the banner decorating the drum riser reading I'll keep my freedom, my guns, my religion, you can keep the "change" (also displayed on t-shirts for sale in the lobby) was some sort of announcement of his platform.
Given that he later went on to proclaim that Obama ain't one of his heroes, accompanied by an enthusiastic thumbs down, I'll reckon it just may be so.
Talk of politics aside (I have, after all, chided conservative folks who act shocked, dismayed, even offended when an openly liberal artist like Steve Earle starts going on about jobs, health care and the president so though I'm liberal as the day is long in July, I'm gonna go ahead and call it irrelevant), Ol' Bocephus got rowdy with a packed room of his friends at Mystic last night and it was impossible not to fall under the spell of his good ol' boy charms. I had to sit a minute on whether or not to put "charms" in quotes. But goddamn, he is charming in a damned irritating, reminding a few of us that we have daddy issues and are endeared to a dude who'll give you a piece of his mind so long as he knows how to own it sorta way. You know what I'm talkin' about.
Speaking of daddy issues (hey, AH!), my female companion and I arrived at Mystic early enough to load up on gas station soda and tea, throw a little whiskey in each and hang in the parking lot for a minute where we were met with a holler of "Y'all here to see Bocephus? Want some homemade wine?" before we dumped the drinks and hustled into the restaurant to quickly chow down on some casino grub. The best kind of grub, in my opinion. We started on crab cakes then my friend enjoyed the filet, I had the queen cut prime rib, all for under fifty bucks. The line was excessively long, as they tend to be at casinos offering lobster dinners at two for twenty bucks. When I die I may not go to heaven; I don't know if they have casino buffets there. If I die, just let me go to Mystic, boy. 'Cause Mystic is as close as I been.
And I digress. I have a tendency to do that when it comes to casino food.
Bellies full of meat, we took our seats in Mystic's big fancy theater and were soon met by a giant screen displaying Merle Haggard reading from a biography of Hank Williams, Jr. After waxing on about Hank Sr., about how Hank, Jr. was pushed by his mama and the Nashville establishment to imitate his daddy 'til he got fed up and tossed 'em all a big fuck you in the form of a transition to country rock and blues, Merle finally introduced the man himself and Hank came strutting out to "My Name is Bocephus." He was sporting a camouflage cap, gator tooth necklace and Monday Night Football shirt proclaiming himself to be a whiskey-bent and hell-bound geetar man who loves the money and loves the honeys but really loves to get down with the band, at which point he grabbed a guitar and did just that.
From there, we were party to a good two hours of high-energy, Southern-style country rock (with at least a dozen hat changes - baseball to cowboy and back again - and an occasional diatribe about what it's like bein' Hank) as he powered through all his hits, new and old: "If Heaven Ain't a Lot Like Dixie," "The Conversation," "Red, White and Pink Slip Blues," "The Blues Man," and his rockin' version of "Kawliga" (during which he pulled out a fiddle, which I've never seen anyone play so nonchalantly).
He continued on with, duh, "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight," at which point security brought a slough of busty ladies onstage to dance... and one skinny dude who danced awkwardly before showing off his muscles.
Hank then gave us a show of his piano skills when he jumped on his "Bocephendorfer" for a li'l historical medley of "Your Cheatin' Heart" and "Whole Lotta Shakin'" accompanied by a story about how his mama used to introduce him to the kings of 1950s rock - Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis - while bemoaning the fact that "Hank, Jr. wants to boogie woogie woogie all the time!" He topped off the story by playing a Lewis-style glissando first with his fingers, then with his ass, and finally - get this - with his crotch.
From there, Hank briefly went acoustic for "Dinosaur" which transitioned into "There's a Tear in My Beer" (one of the earliest songs my Grandma Florence ever taught me), then "All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down," which quickly jumped into "Good Ol' Boys," a reference to how some of Hank's friends have been "called home," then a little "Walk the Line" upon mention that June Carter Cash just happens to be his godmother. He finished off the night with some steel guitar on "Long Gone Lonesome Blues," "Country Boy Can Survive," "Born to Boogie," a "Sweet Home Alabama/Cat Scratch Fever/La Grange" medley, "Walk This Way" (stating Reverend Run was a friend of his), and finally, a "Family Tradition" sing-along in which we all shouted that we drink to get drunk, we roll smoke to get stoned, and live like the songs Hank wrote in order to get laid.
Well, yes. Indeed we do. When someone's this honest, it's a little easier to shove your politics aside, cringe only briefly at slights on the president, get rowdy and just have a good time.