A Hellbilly Good Time in Iowa with Hank III

So, what is there to do in Des Moines, Iowa on a Tuesday night?

Well, you could sit in your hotel room at the Sheraton and reflect on your exciting day at the Iowa’s Bankers Conference.  You could hit up the local Applebee’s or Chili’s.  You could even get crazy and grab a burger and a couple beers at Legends American Grill and then head next door to the People’s Court and catch Hank Williams III and his hellbilly friends rock the shit outta the joint.

Hank Williams III is the grandson the of legendary country singer, Hank Williams, who drank himself to death at 29 years of age, which makes him the son of the outlaw country singer, Hank Williams, JrHank III seems to be following in their footsteps with his brand of alt-country music that many consider to be some of the only true country out there.  Hank sings about drinkin’, druggin’, fightin’, punchin’ and cussin’ just like the Hank’s before him.  His lyrics are a little more violent and graphic than what came before him, but it’s a different world now than it was back in the good ol’ days.

Hank III has a intense, cult following.  Fans are notorious for tattooing III on their bodies and holding Hank up on a pedestal that is usually reserved for Johnny Cash or the first Hank Williams.  Although these fans were out en masse for Tuesday night’s show, it still didn’t sell out like the show here in Denver a few months back.

The show started out with a country set.  Hank and The Damn Band performed an hour and a half set of country music that sounded straight out of the 50’s…unless you listened to the lyrics.  The Damn Band was damn good too!  There was a  Blues Brothers lookin’ dude on the steel guitar that was incredible, there was the stoic man on banjo who played like a maniac with absolutely no expression on his face, the drummer was hidden in the back and the stand-up bass player let the music do his talking.  Hank himself, dressed in a cowboy hat, skinny patched up pants, leather vest and a guitar with FUCK carved into it sounded like a cross between his grandfather, early-Dylan and John McCauley. He even had Gary Lindsey (from his metal band Assjack) come out and add growling vocals to songs like P.F.F. (stands for punch, fight, fuck).

The country stuff ended at about 9:30pm after a few covers of legendary country tunes (including Kris Kristofferson‘s If You Don’t Like Hank Williams Kiss My Ass) and a session of drinking Maker’s Mark from the bottle (‘next time make mine Tennesse whiskey please!’).  Without a break, they launched into the hellbilly set.  Hank took off the cowboy hat and vest, let down his hair, put on a Copenhagen cap and proceeded to bust into some punk rock, hillbilly, hellish jams.  It wasn’t such a stretch from the country to this, but it was interesting to watch how the band could switch it up with no break in between.

The hellbilly set only lasted about a half hour before they took a 5 minute break.

After the break, Assjack.  This was the metal part of the show and my least favorite.  Gary Lindsey was now front and center on vocals and the crowd had thinned out quite a bit.  That didn’t stop him from stage diving and almost eating shit into the concrete, but it did stop us from enjoying ourselves.  We stayed through a couple songs, finished our High Life and decided to head back to the hotel and prepare for another fun-filled day in Iowa…but not before my buddy was called ‘slick dick‘ by a local guy on the street.

What’s the area code around here for calling a cab? ‘  ‘5-1-5 Slick Dick!

Hank Williams III Setlist People's Court, Des Moines, IA, USA 2010