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Hank Williams III, Big Red Goad & The Power of Country at First Avenue (Minneapolis, MN)

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , , , .

Kicking off the show with “a bit of national rag” Power of Country opened up with a rousing bluegrass introduction before singer Jim Goad (aka Big Red Goad) stepped on stage at First Avenue, promptly sticking his chewing gum to the microphone stand and taking stance with one boot firmly planted on one of the monitors. Goad, wearing a straw cowboy hat and sounding of his best Marty Robbins, began laying into a string of songs that would make a trucker’s heart weep.

The description for Big Red Goad’s 1996 release Truck Drivin’ Psycho reads, “I sing 14 country songs, 12 of them trucker-related” and with the invitation for crowd participation during “I Got Lost” (from said album) Goad firmly established his musical theme. Playing back-up band for the evening were members of Power of Country, a Portland-based country heartland band; midset Goad introduced its members including the chain-smoking Minnesota native Jay Johnson who received an animated response from the crowd.

Two years ago Hank Williams III, The Damn Band & Assjack played the main stage at First Avenue and the crowd was scattered at best. Then-opening act JB Beverley and the Wayward Drifters began the show to a bare audience, but this time around, even before the first note had been played, the crowd was rowdy, a bit sauced and antsy to blow of some steam. Before closing the set Goad acknowledged Williams’ appreciation of his book The Redneck Manifesto (one which was published not long before he was sentenced to two years in prison) the band stomped out one final session that poked as much fun at white trash as it celebrated it, comparing the Southern Caucasian culture to the “yellows and blacks.” After leaving the stage an audience member close to me winced to his friend, “that man has balls;” Jim Goad also has the ability to get a crowd wild.

A brief intermission broke with the unruly audience cramping the floor as “Straight To Hell” broke out, the long time opener to Hank Williams III’s shows and his latest album of the same name. From there on out Joe Buck slapped the hell out of his well worn stand up bass, Andy Gibson ripped his dobro, Adam McOwen almost sawed his fiddle in half and drummer Munash Sami kept the entire crew in line. Within minutes the pit had been whisked into a fury and after “Straight to Hell” Williams requested the house lights, revealing a bloodied crowd member exiting the floor; “get that man some ice,” Williams said before tearing into the next song.

Metal shows, punk shows, rockabilly shows; for lack of a better term rowdy remains a term best suited for the night’s crowd, and while I have been deep inside pits for all of the genres mentioned this pit was the rowdiest I had ever experienced. Even through the slower songs of the set, relative ballads, the crowd pushed and argued for elbow room; but when Hank was strumming and McOwen was punishing his fiddle the crowd was insane. Even before the first of Hank’s typical, and softest of, sets one audience member left with blood dripping from his head, at least two fist fights broke out and one female member was ripped from the pit after crowd surfing (wielding two cowboy boots as weapons).

While The Damn Band played its typical songs, “Mississippi Mud,” “The Pills I Took,” and “Country Heroes” amongst the rest there was a great track played that was new to my ears, “The Grand Ole Opery Ain’t So Grand No More.” After making a speech requesting the crowd’s participation in an ongoing petition to reinstate Hank Williams Sr. into the Opry (banished for his drinking), Hank III ripped into the fantastic vulgarity-laced song damning the country music patriarchs that continue to exclude his grandfather from their ranks, now almost sixty years after his death.

Two years ago, after the country set concluded with “Dick in Dixie,” Gary Lindsey took the stage and almost immediately the crowd was weeded out, with at most a hundred people sticking around to hear the hellbilly stylings of Assjack. I stayed and witnessed Lindsey bounce off the amp stack and roll around on the stage as Hank dawned his electric and pummeled the sound system. This time around, it was I who was among the now-minority who left after the country set, utterly drenched in sweat and ready to hit bed before waking up early the next day for work. Observing the crowd’s reaction to his milder set however, it may have been in the best interest of my own safety to avoid a grindcore-like set amongst a crowd who cheered hardest in response to GG Allin’s “Punch, Fight, Fuck.” All the same, the weed flaunting, whiskey drinking, skid row dressing, crazed country rebel has still got it.