Smile Politely

Hank III’s outlaw country hits Canopy

For the first half of Hank III’s performance on Wednesday night he was transcendant.

He united everyone in the Canopy Club with his brand of outlaw country in an admirable fashion. What he performed was the kind of music that would make most disillusioned music fans, the kind whose mantra is “The only music I hate is country,” come around and have a good time.

Hank III kicked out the jams with a very talented group of backing musicians. He had a fiddle player who seemed like he might go through bows at a rate of about one a week, next to him a Grizzly Adams-looking upright bass player, and across the stage two incredible musicians manning the banjo and slide guitar.

When Hank III and his boys started in a song, it was a whirlwind of picking, grinning, yelling, and stomping. Their energy was infectious, but the crowd didn’t need to catch any more energy. The Canopy was relatively packed, especially for a Wednesday night, and everyone in attendance was ready to have a good time. Hank III and his band gave them everything they wanted, going through as wide a variety of songs as fans could hope for.

Hank played his hits, he played covers, he played country, and he played metal. He gave the crowd a reason to holler and he gave them a reason to mosh. He and the band did everything they could to please the large and diverse crowd, and for that they showered him with appreciation.

To me, every concert is also a little bit of a sociological study as well as a night of entertainment. I find it interesting to see the kinds of people who come out to shows and how varied those in the audience could be, and I can comfortably say no concert I’ve been to has had quite as interesting a crowd as the one Hank III drew.

I saw people un-ironically wearing overalls, shirts that read “Don’t be a pussy, get a tattoo,” camouflage (Real Tree, Mossy Oak, digital camo, etc.), and beards that have been growing longer than I’ve been shaving. These people were commingling with those wearing button-down shirts and polos as if they ran in the same circles every day.

There were people who were taking finals this week next to people who had not taken a final since high school. There was pot smoke wafting away from the exuberant moshers up toward the seats in the back of the Canopy where people were sitting, quietly enjoying the same concert. It was really something to behold; this diverse group all cheering for the same man, wearing ratty clothes, strumming an acoustic guitar with the word “FUCK” printed on it, and singing about putting the “Dick in Dixie.”

After Hank III and his band took an intermission, however, the concert lost some of its momentum. When Hank came back out he strapped on an electric guitar and began belting out metal licks. Maybe I missed something, but this part of the show was mystifying.

The second half was comprised of Hank and a drummer playing metal, often without lyrics in a monotonous fashion, while a movie played in the background. If the music was supposed to be a soundtrack for the movie, I suppose it made sense, but only in the way that metal is the only acceptable soundtrack to a film of clips compiled by a paranoid schizophrenic who took Vonnegut way too literally and frequents conspiracy theory message boards.

When Hank III had played his two-man metal act for more than 30 minutes — and seemed as likely to stop as he was to go on for another hour — he lost me. I preferred the acoustic, full band Hank III set, and since it was a weeknight, I decided I had seen enough. (Side note: Those who don’t rock hard enough critique, your author being a prime example.)

The odd second half to Hank III’s show was not enough to ruin the evening, however. It was just enough to make Hank III seem like more of a mystery than anyone will every be able to decode.

All photos by Chris D. Davies.

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