Hank III, ADD, 3 Bar Ranch
Dublin, The Button Factory
24th June 2012

Hank Williams III, (more commonly now known just as Hank III) is probably most well know for his honky tonking cowboy songs. However this is actually just a tiny part of his live set which is one of the most breathtaking shows you’ll ever see & which encompasses genres such as black metal, punk, experimental & industrial. Colin McCracken was lucky enough to see Hank play in Dublin a couple of days ago & what follows is his review of that ‘experience’.

You don’t show up late for a Hank III show. If you are foolish enough to do so, you’ll only miss out. The ticket said that the show began at 7.30 and Hank was onstage promptly, enthusiastically and to the minute. This being his first appearance in Ireland since 1995, anticipation levels were high on all fronts. The crowd was a mixture of Rockabillies, Punks, Southern Metal enthusiasts (a lot of Down and Eyehategod t shirts were on display) and the mandatory bemused looking middle aged couples who had come under the assumption that tonight would be a strictly country and western affair.

The unique and wonderful thing about Hank III is that by the end of the night, he’ll have catered to all of them.

As always, he began the night with his own particular brand of hell-raising country music. The new incarnation of his live band consisted of an upright double bass player, fiddle, banjo, slide/steel guitar, Hank himself and the most obscurely constructed drum kit which I’ve seen in recent memory. Barely taking a breath between songs, Hank ran through a well selected and impeccably delivered selection of classics such as; ‘Straight To Hell’, ‘Pills I Took’, ”˜Country Heroes’, ”˜Dick In Dixie’, ”˜Legend of D Ray White’ and newer material such as ”˜Ghost to a Ghost’ (the studio version of which features both Tom Waits and Les Claypool – see video below). Close to twenty of his country tracks were played when guitars were switched from acoustic to electric and the tempo was heightened slightly for the second stage of the night; the ”˜Hellbilly’ set.

Hellbilly is something almost completely synonymous with Hank III, it’s a hybrid of punk, metal and country and it is both raucous and infectious. The songs about drinking, fighting, fornicating and living the life of an outlaw went down exceptionally well with all present. The musical capability of the band is remarkable. At times the double bass player looked as if he was going to smash through his instrument as he accompanied the drummer on some incredible death metal double bass rolls, something which created the effect of a locomotive crashing through the building. Not something that you hear every day, especially when combined with a banjo solo.

Glancing over at the setlist, a circular cutout the size of a Range Rover tyre, I counted over 50 songs. There was no wonder that he didn’t really chit chat in between them. It’s a rare occasion when Hank III comes to town and he certainly goes above and beyond to make sure that the audience get their monies worth. There was even a tiny digital alarm clock/radio placed amongst the wall of amps onstage so that the military precision could be maintained throughout.

90 minutes in and the Hellbilly set was brought to a close. This is where things began to get really interesting. The cowboy hat was discarded and the hair was brought down. The lights were all switched off except for a tiny one on Hank’s microphone stand and a huge screen in the background. It was time for ADD (Attention Deficit Domination), one of Hank’s most recent projects.

ADD are an experimental sludge / drone rock outfit consisting of Hank and a drummer. They are astounding, compelling and absolutely fantastic to see live. The screen displayed a loop of something entitled ”˜Tribulation 99′, which provided the perfect backdrop of American paranoia, B-Movie invasions and Cold War terror to the hypnotic riffs which played out below. Hank’s vocals dropped several octaves for this part of the show, creating a hallucinatory spectacle akin to Sun O))) or even Can in places, but remaining spectacularly unique and even though they were showcasing album tracks, there was a spontaneity and an improvisational feel to them which was both endearing and captivating.

The final act and part of this bizarre spectacle was 3 Bar Ranch. (See video below) This is what has been dubbed ”˜Cattle Core’ and consists of Hank and 2 other musicians dressed in massive GWAR-like armored shoulder pieces, bandit masks and massive cowboy hats, playing experimental industrial black metal over samples of cattle auctions. Yes, you read that correctly. The effect of this completely and unfathomably odd cluster of elements goes far beyond the potentially novelty format which may have been inferred. To watch 3 Bar ranch live is like witnessing a band like Pig Destroyer, Ministry or hearing the work of Chu Ishikawa for the first time. It left the majority of the crowd bemused, thrilled and thoroughly entertained.

As 10.30 hit, Hank left the stage and wandered into the crowd. I would imagine that he was there for quite some time afterwards as well, given the hordes of people who descended to speak to him. Considering that I have seen shows in which artists play a 70 minute set and then are too ”˜exhausted’ to have any dealings I have seen shows in which artists play a 70 minute set and then are too ”˜exhausted’ to have any dealings with their fans, this was just another example of how truly honorable and hard working Hank III really is. He came and he gave it his all. Notably, during the show, many drinks were bought for him and passed his way but were placed aside in lieu of water. It’s clear that despite the hell raising he gets up to in his spare time; when he’s working, he’s working. A consummate professional and one of the most exciting, creative musical forces out there at the moment. The tour is still taking place, you should definitely make time to go to one of the shows. Just make sure you arrive early.

All words by Colin McCracken. You can read more from Colin on Louder Than War here. Colin also blogs from his website zombiehamster.com & you can follow him on Twitter.

2 COMMENTS

  1. A great review Colin. Thanks.

    I went to the Bristol gig on Tuesday and it seems that the Dublin one was just as good. As you say an amazing musician at the top of his game. He must have played live thousands of times over the years and it shows. His live performances are now as good and as interesting as anything you’ll see.

    I took a few pics of the Bristol gig which you can see here if you’re interested:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/stringberd/sets/72157630316545172/

  2. Hi Matt. I am only just seeing this comment now. I totally agree. I’ve seen Hank a few times and have always had a great night. This year he was on fire. Great pics by the way! ^_^

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