As previously noted in this blog, my other half Jill has a liking for bluegrass. So what better way to indulge her interest than a Hayseed Dixie gig? Like Alabama 3’s cross-pollination of “sweet pretty country acid house music”, Hayseed Dixie’s “Rockgrass” mash-up works a treat.
Famously originating in the epiphany that Hank Williams’ Lost Highway and AC/DC’s Highway to Hell were one and the same, the band duly deliver some slices of that initial inspiration early in their set, with ‘Hell’s Bells’ and ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. But anyone expecting a one-trick High Voltage pony or merely a dumb joke should think again, for three reasons. One - over the years their repertoire has evolved to cover a wide variety
of rock anthems, plus original material and,
er, Norwegian classics. Two – these boys
can’t half play. And three, it may all
be a bit of a laugh, but it’s a smart and knowing laugh; as main man John
Wheeler says at the end of a philosophical rap about Hegelian synthesis, these
are educated rednecks.
|Hippy Joe Hymas makes with the mandolin|
So on a bare stage they set about demonstrating just what “an acoustic band that plays fuckin’ loud” can do, with the likes of Edwin Starr’s ‘War’ seguing into Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ – personally I’d have preferred more of Edwin, but each to their own. They collide ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ with a middle section channelling ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’. Hell, they even manage to take a piece of high-cholesterol AOR schlock like ‘Don’t Stop Believing’, and turn it into something that has the crowd progress from smiling to laughing to whooping as if it’s the very stuff of life.
The show would have better balance if they did more of their own stuff, like the excellent ‘Hangovers Hurt More Than They Used To’ and ‘She Was Skinny When I Met Her’. Apart from anything else they need to give all concerned a rest from the furious pace evident on the likes of ‘Ace Of Spades’ and ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ (the latter working far better than the earlier ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’). Along the way Hippy Joe Hymas and Johnny Butten respectively turn in blistering mandolin and banjo solos, while Wheeler occasionally swaps acoustic guitar for suitably frantic fiddle.
They encore with a medley that takes in everything from ‘Hotel California’ to Wham, two blasts of Dio, and a snatch of Abba en route to ‘Highway To Hell’. As brilliantly bonkers as it is, I’d like a decent slab of Bon Scott-era AC/DC myself. But hey, this is a show that demonstrates, as John Wheeler says, that “Coldplay sucks!”
Ah, hard rock support bands I have known! Anyone remember Dedringer? Samson? Actually The Jokers aren’t that bad, and do a decent job of warming up proceedings. Front man Wane Parry has a good way with the crowd, even if his singing is inaudible half the time. Meanwhile Paul Hurst isn’t as gormless on guitar as his goofy gurning and shape-throwing suggests, and they have a thumpingly tight rhythm section. They may have a look that suggests Metallica, but in their better moments they echo classic rock in the vein of Bad Company and UFO, and they certainly seem to love what they’re doing.