Concert review: Hank III at Pop’s

Hank III’s show at Pop’s in Sauget, Illinois, on March 21, was quite an interesting show. When I walked into Pop’s central area at 7 p.m., the pit area in front of the stage was empty, (as expected, being as, that the show did not start till 8). By the time I’d returned from talking to some punks sporting leather jackets, cowboy boots and Misfits shirts, the crowd in front of the pit was packed full of a very diverse crowd.

Hank III is the grandson of country star, Hank Williams, as well as the son of Hank Williams Jr, so that obviously inclines him to play country, but that’s not all he plays. He has explored into the country/punk crossover genre of “psychobilly” as well as some genres of metal, making, as previously stated, a very diverse crowd full of country fans, metalheads and punks alike.

The first set of three that he played that evening, was the country influenced set. It started at 8:05 p.m. and ended exactly at 10:05, giving a full two hours of southern-tinged madness. It was very interesting to see the way the band played some of the “psychobilly” songs, with an upright bass, banjo and pedal steel replacing the usual punk instruments.

Hank played some of his most popular songs including, “The Grand Old Opry Ain’t So Grand,” which addresses the subject of the famous country venue never reinstating his grandfather into its halls (even after his death many years ago), as well as some other classics of his. His new double album, “Ghost To A Ghost/Guttertown,” released in Sept. 2011, got surprising amounts of play at the show, with the two title tracks as well as the song “Trooper’s Holler.” The choruses and bridges sung originally by Tom Waits on a few songs, (most notably “Ghost To A Ghost”) were belted out in perfect mimicry by the band’s upright bass player David Sherman, who is also the screamer for the doom metal band Wretched.

At 10:05, Hank announced he was taking a break, and would come back in five minutes to continue on with set #2. Five minutes passed and he was up on stage playing some of the doom metal songs from his doom record “Attention Deficit Domination.” The only member of the band on stage during this set besides Hank was his drummer, who did a fantastic job keeping up the driving rhythms on this continuous set. Each song from the album (including one of my personal favorites “Makes A Fall”) were played in a row without a break in between ending at the set with “I Feel Sacrificed” at 11:15.

The whole set was played continuously, with the only stage effects being the clips of black & white sci-fi films, news clips and James Bond footage, projected onto a screen behind the stage, making for a very interesting set.

After the set ended, the drummer was switched out for one wearing a black mask made out of a bandana on his face, a spiked leather vest and a cowboy hat. Besides this oddity, I thought they were continuing on with the doom set and maybe taking a short break, but soon another guitarist came onto the stage with the same garb on as the drummer. Others who had seen Hank in a show before explained what was going on, all the members of the band dress up in this manner when they play their set for Hank’s odd metal album, “3 Bar Ranch, Cattle Callin’.”

When Hank had finished putting on the same garb, a cattle auction started playing over the speakers, and then the band members played along, with extremely an extremely fast speed/thrash metal accompaniment to the barrage of words. The whole set was styled like this, with Hank and his band playing as accompaniment for cattle auctioneering, played over the speakers.

The show overall: outstanding. It is in my list of the top four best shows I’ve seen for sure, falling short only to the likes of Cage The Elephant & The Grateful Dead.

“The show, was great, very high energy, higher than any I’d have expected on a weeknight,” said Hank, after the show.