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Right now, Hank III, son of Hank Jr. and grandson of legendary country music badass Hank Williams Sr., resembles an XY version of that hirsute ghost in the horror flick The Ring. Long, dark brown hair hides his clean-shaven face as he works his fingers furiously over a red electric guitar patched up with duct tape and a Misfits sticker.
Hank III, a.k.a. Shelton Hank Williams, trades off groaning, unintelligible Ozzy Osbourne-esque vocals with Assjack front man Gary Lindsey, who plays Uncle Fester to Williams' Cousin Itt. The band's sound is like a screech of a locomotive as it locks on the brakes and tries in vain not to run your bumble-butt over, and the audience of punks, metal heads, club cowboys and freaks at Tempe's Marquee Theatre is lovin' every murderous minute of it.
A mosh pit forms in the midst of the crowd, right beside where the bi Brooke Burke and I are trying to snap shots of the Assjack crew with our digital point-and-shoot. Bodies crash into us. Beer cups fly, showering us with brewski. And the J-girl is getting right pissed.
"Christ, Kreme, can't you play the male and block those moshers from tackling us?" nags the Jettster. "You weigh about as much as an NFL lineman, so why don't you put that blubber to use?"
"How romantic, Jett, this is the first time you've everwanted me to play the male with you!" I gush. "Do I get to play the male after the concert, too?"
"Remind me to strap it on and make you my bitch in the parking lot," growls my switch-hittin' soul sista. "Actually, scratch that, you'd probably like it too much."
A half pint of Newcastle hits me in the back of the head, and the Jettster and I decide to pussy out, retreating backstage to watch the remainder of the Assjack concert there. Hank III's transformation from his initial country set to this thrash-metal cacophony is as remarkable as Lil' Jon singing love songs with Usher. Actually, H3's country set is pretty freakin' intense, too, and would prolly give Garth Brooks panic attacks if he saw it. Dressed in a battered straw cowboy hat, beat-up cowboy boots curved at the toes like elfin footwear, and a red cowboy shirt with black pentagram patches, Hank III rips Nashville a new one on an acoustic guitar with the words "Fuck Curb" on it. Curb being H3's label.
Even a Wu-Tang/G-Unit/Doc Dre devotee like me's gotta admire the playa's steelo, his music also. That skinny white boy can knock it out, especially with the help of his crazed, Mohawked upright-bass player Joe Buck, who could pass for the bastard son of Jon Voight. ("Joe Buck" was the name of Voight's cowpoke male prostitute in Midnight Cowboy, so I'm guessing the bassist knows who he looks like.) In the first half of the show, Hank and the Damn Band, as he calls 'em, blaze through joints from his 2002 album Lovesick, Broke and Driftin'such as "5 Shots of Whiskey," "Mississippi Mud," "Trashville" and "Whiskey, Weed and Women." (Notice a pattern?) H3 even makes a nod to his famous family with covers of Hank Sr.'s "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" and Hank Jr.'s "All My Rowdy Friends." Best of all is when H3 busts loose with Johnny Cash's "Cocaine Blues," playing it faster and louder than the Man in Black did.
Like a skate punk on a 45-degree incline, Hank III increases momentum as he heads toward a short intermission prior to Assjack. He switches to electric guitar, and takes a wicked combo of whiskey and Red Bull offered by a fan as the punks start crowd-surfing.
When H3's returned from the break, he's in full Assjack mode, whipping around his long-ass hair (released from its Willie Nelson-style ponytail) like he's in that LL Cool J "Headsprung" video. The frenzied mob bangs furiously on the metal barricade between them and the stage. Oddly, the whole deal flips from riot to group hug after the final song. And H3 sticks around to sign autographs until the last fan is gone.
Thankfully, the J-girl and I were able to get our CDs signed preshow, as we met up with H3 in the back of his tour bus, doing his Unabomber impersonation in a hooded pullover, his black-and-tan dog Trooper lying next to him. Canine head on master's lap.
"He's out of Poplarville, Mississippi," explains H3. "I spotted him while I was driving back and forth from New Orleans and Nashville. He's half Doberman, half hound. This is his first tour, but he's adapting pretty good. I found him on the road, so I guess he's kind of meant to be on the road."
"Still workin' on your new album, Hank?" I ask, glancing 'round at the claustrophobic quarters, crowded with a computer, printer, clothes, and recording equipment plastered with stickers for Superjoint Ritual (www.superjointritual.com), the headbanger group headed by Pantera's Phil Anselmo that H3 is also in.
"It's basically done: 14 songs, two CDs, and a 42-minute hidden track on it, with maybe seven or eight extra songs of just me and acoustic guitar. We're either gonna call it Thrown Out of the Baror Not Everybody Likes Us.We recorded it on that machine right there," he says, indicating a flat white device in front of us.