Hank III and Assjack at First Avenue, 10/20/10

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Photos by Nikki Miller
Hank III and Assjack
October 20, 2010
First Avenue

Panties are passé. Now, we're passing prosthetic limbs.

That is, at least, the case at Hank III/Assjack shows. Legs, to be exact, passed from the enthusiastic front row by way of security to Gary Lindsey, Hank Williams III's co-frontman in Assjack at their First Avenue show Wednesday night. Such was the nature of the crowd there to see Hank, with spectators thinning out somewhat after his usual transition from old country to hellbilly/psychobilly then finally to his punk/metal Assjack set.

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That crowd, which has proven to be so distracting in the past, was a bit less aggro/testo last night (last year's stop involved the passing of plastic blow-up dolls rather than plastic limbs - now, isn't a passed leg so much sweeter?). And another major difference from Hank's last visit to First Avenue?

The country set was tight and entertaining as ever. But this time 'round I got the sense the band is just phoning in some caricature of themselves they're expected to phone in. This year, it became apparent that the part Hank and the rest really love is the punk metal stuff; where last year I was enamored with the country and turned off by the punk metal, this year, it was the part of their show that was truly engaging if only because this is when the stage came to life.

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In any case, this thing they've set out to do? They do it fucking well. Very fucking well. Hank's singing (during the country set) and guitar playing is impeccable, his stage presence as professional as any drunkass metal punk country dude could ever hope and pray to be.

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And it's clear their fans appreciate it. There are two types of shows at which I see nearly every man in the house howling along to every lyric: Fine Line presents your average Cities 97 clean cut hottie dude-fronted indie rock shows (do the men show up for bands like the National in hopes of picking up chicks?), and this. This guy (and his band) has it d-o-double u goddamn down. Seems so effortless and yet these men, this endless sea of men screaming along, pumping their fists, eat it up.

So many men, and a handful of women competing to be louder and crasser than all of them combined. To that point, and because it's so easy to do, let's draw a comparison here. You got a family of live hard eat shit and die but in the meantime make a hootenanny out of it like the Williams family. Then you have a family of drug-injecting balladeers like the Earles, both families comprised of some of my favorite musicians spanning half of the last century until now. The big difference in entertainment factor between the two? The hootenannies (Hank Jr., Hank III) play venues far too big not to be lost in the sea of screaming men and crass women, the balladeers, so delightfully intimate (and with fans not shoving and shouting).

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Fuck all these aggro dudes; I want to see Hank III in my basement with thirty of my best shitfaced friends. And I could do without my earspace bein' overtook with the nasty chick behind me screaming "punch fuck fight." (P.S. girl, GG Allin was a nasty ass sex criminal who probably woulda fucked you in the ass then pissed in your mouth, why don't you scream a little louder?)

All told, very good show. Bonus: I got a prosthetic limb passed over my head, and walked out with a new can koozie.

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Critic's Bias:
Didn't think I'd want to stay for Assjack. Totally glad I stayed for Assjack.

The Crowd: Big sweet rednecks. Old guys out to prove they can still rock and roll. Aging bikers. Li'l hillbillies who wish they were gutterpunks and li'l gutterpunks who wish they were hillbillies. Outer ring suburbs. So many tattoos. Five hot Hellbetties. Fifty loud Hellbetties.

Overheard In The Crowd:
"Excuse me, the man in the Slayer hat needs his rum and Coke." - server, to crowd.

Random Notebook Dump:
He's asking for the "country rebels" to identify themselves. Dude, these kids are from, like, Forest Lake, and White Bear Lake, and Lake Elmo. Yooou saaaay thooose naaaames with a Minnnnesoooohhhtaaah accceeent toooo, liiike this. Foooorest Laaaaake. They're no more country than the last stretch of suburbs. MAYBE, by a stretch, they're country enough to buy their jeans at a Fleet Farm, when they're not buying at the Gap. Remember when the thing was to assess who was most punk? Now we assess who is most country. I've been to county fair after county fair. I've bruised my vag on mechanical bulls. These people ain't country. But consider this: my companion notes these guys remind him of six different kids he went to school with, in the outer suburbs. What these kids had in common: lived in the shittiest houses and had the drunkest parents. Shot BB guns and introduced him to butterfly knives. First kids to get you high. Ok, maybe these outer ringers are country after all. They just don't know what pig shit smells like, and I'm gonna go ahead and hold that against them.

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