As prolific and diverse as they come, Hank 3 has managed to drop at least one record per year for the last four years including this year’s recent releases of a double country album “Brothers of the 4×4” and a punk rock record, “A Fiendish Threat,” together adding to an already diverse catalog that also includes doom, heavy metal and hellbilly. So when Hank 3 passes through your town, he has no need for an opening act … there’s simply no time for it when he has so much ground to cover. Monday, October 14 found Hank 3 returning to the Regency Ballroom which has become his go-to San Francisco stomping grounds, playing for an eclectic crowd that mirrored the breadth of his music … from cow girls to Hells Angels and pretty much everything in between.
Taking the stage promptly at 8 pm, Hank 3 and the band dove right into a career-spanning 2 hour country set that had him breaking only to announce the title of the next song. The crowd, which only seemed to grow as the country set progressed, stomped and sang along, sometimes breaking into a full-on mosh when the tempo increased or pairing up for couples dancing like during his cover of “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” At one point Hank stopped to take a picture and exclaimed of San Francisco, “you’re badass every fucking time!”
Two hours into the night, a point where most headlining bands have already hung up their instruments and fans have headed home satisfied, Hank 3 is still rolling. A quick on-stage wardrobe change consisting of a hat and shirt, and Hank 3 is back at it with a 30 minute set of punk rock tunes joined only by his stand-up bass player and drummer. As is usual with a Hank 3 show, the hardcore country fans step out at this point and the floor becomes notably roomier and noticeably more active. Those that chose to skip out after the country set missed what proved to be the clear highlight of the night. “A Fiendish Threat” is not a country singer’s attempt at punk rock, it’s the real deal. Even though it’s played on an acoustic guitar and stand-up bass, it brings in elements of classic 80’s Misfits and Minor Threat with Hank’s vocals dropping that country twang. The recorded versions of these songs don’t do the live versions justice. If you go, do not miss it.
After a switch to an electric guitar, Hank continued on with just his drummer for an Attention Deficit Disorder set of doom metal. A few green mini spot lights and some video on the screen behind the stage set the appropriate tone as Hank ground it out and the crowd got even thinner still. Even then, it’s hard to imagine that more than 10% of those in the room at that point understood Hank’s Sleep and High on Fire references but the set was excellent though unlikely to be appreciated by the remaining country fans who were mostly to be found outside smoking or in the lobby bar.
As with every Hank 3 show, each successive set trends towards lower crowd accessibility and this night was no different, finishing up with a 3 Bar Ranch set of “cattle core.” High on experimental art, low on accessibility, it’s hard to imagine anyone bumping “Cattle Callin'” in their car, but many stuck it out including several folks that had lined up early for that coveted spot on the barrier.
While by no means THE original country outlaw, Hank 3 is without a doubt unique among his peers. With that comes an eclectic crowd that has no choice but to accept all that comes with Hank 3 … country, punk, metal, etc … whether they like or not. For his part, Hank makes no apologies and isn’t bothered by the thinning crowd (at previous shows he’s given fair warning of what’s to come). Those that stuck it out throughout the night … probably less than 20% that what was at the start were rewarded with a casual meet and greet with Hank who invited folks to meet him in the alley behind the venue for photos and autographs. And as always, Hank was the last man standing … even with strep throat.
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