All aboard the hellbilly rollercoaster

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Review: Hank 3 and Attention Deficit Domination rock ABQ’s Sunshine Theater

By Jennifer Garcia

Folks can usually anticipate what kind of show they’re in for when they decide to go to a live concert. After all, they’re most likely fans of the band they’re buying tickets for.
That logic, however, does not apply to a Hank 3 show.
Shelton Hank Williams aka Hank 3 gave spectators an up-close experience Tuesday night in Albuquerque. He’s no stranger to the Sunshine Theater and seems to play there at least once a year.
The venue is small and intimate, which can be good or bad, depending on how many people are packed into it. For some shows, it’s standing room only, but for this show, there were a few tables and bar stools scattered about. The stools really came in handy, considering Hank 3 put on a three-hour performance.
The music preceding the show was a mixed bag, ranging from death metal to two-steppin’ country songs. That should have been an indication of what to expect of the concert.
It was like being in one of those honkytonks you see in movies. The bar area is separated by Plexiglas walls. Speakers, along with equipment packed the small stage. The crowd was rowdy and the only thing missing was the thick cigarette smoke that tends to choke the air whenever you see them in films.
The band fit the bill, too. Hank 3 graced the stage, complete with cowboy hat, as did his banjo player, while his band members played fiddle and steel guitar, which are also synonymous with honkytonks and country music.
There was no opening band. Instead, promptly at 8 p.m., Hank 3 and his band Attention Deficit Domination took the stage and after a few words about how good it was to be back in Albuquerque, they broke into song. Hank 3’s country-twang boomed through the sound system, filling the small theater at a deafening volume.
At first, a few people crowded the floor, vying for a spot closest to the stage, but once the music started, the crowd swelled until there was hardly room to maneuver. Nonetheless, people still found a way to break into mosh pits during the upbeat songs, while a couple two-stepped in the corner.
The concertgoers were as varied as the preliminary music. Some were young, some were old. Some wore punk-style clothing, some wore cowboy attire, but they all had one thing in common: they were in store for one heckuva show.
Though he’s experimented with Cajun sounds on his newest albums, Hank 3 played none of those during the show. Instead, he played older stuff, ranging from “Rebel Within,” and “P.F.F.,” to “Gettin’ Drunk and Fallin’ Down” and “Six Pack of Beer.” That’s not to say that none of the new stuff was played. “Trooper’s Hollar” from “Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown” seemed to be a crowd favorite. They also played material from “3 Bar Ranch Cattle Callin.”
The show was a series of ups and downs. The group would play an upbeat, toe-tapping song that would get the crowd going and slamming into each other in mosh pits, then just as quickly as it started, they would slow down the pace and play a slow, country-infused song that resulted in the mosh pits turning into slow dances.
For two hours, it was like taking a ride on a hellbilly rollercoaster, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Hank 3 and ADD played for two hours straight, seemingly feeding off the crowd’s energy. Some of the songs rolled into one another, with no break in play, while others clearly ended before another began.
All went well until around 10 p.m., that’s when things got a bit strange. The music stopped and a screen rolled out above the stage. Suddenly, words began to flash across the screen, warning of Earth’s impending doom. After a quick on-stage costume change, Hank 3 let his hair down and traded his acoustic guitar for an electric version and began playing ominous music to accompany the images.
Various scenes flickered across the screen, ranging from World War II shots to B-movie clips. Verbiage also flashed on the screen, some of it offering a bit of U.S. history, while some of it seemed to be quotes from B-movie trailers. After about 20 minutes of this weirdness, one began to wonder when it would end. And just when you thought the political propaganda and movie clips were over, Hank 3, (later accompanied by his drummer), began to pick up the tempo.
All things considered, the show was one of the best this concertgoer has seen. The band was engaged and seemed like they really wanted to be there and entertain the crowd. There were no primadonna attitudes. The band came on when they were supposed to, played consistently and definitely gave the crowd their ticket’s worth — and then some.
And even when a Confederate flag was thrown on stage and landed on Hank 3 in the middle of a song, he shrugged it off and kept playing, never missing a beat. Now that’s a true professional. At other concerts, that could have incited the lead singer to jump off the stage and pummel the flag-thrower, resulting in the concert coming to a screeching halt.
At 11:15 p.m., they were still going, but about half of the crowd had already left. As concertgoers left the venue, the band could still be heard playing their doom rock.
Only the few that remained until the bitter end know how the show came to a close.