Twenty minutes after his show had ended, Hank Williams III lingered at center stage and leaned down to talk to his fans, taking their gushing praise with a smile and signing whatever was thrust in front of him. If Hank III shares anything with his much-celebrated grandfather, it is the ability to bend the ear of the people. He inspires die-hard support among his followers, many of whom came from well south and east of San Francisco to see him play.
Williams opened with a country set including a solid version of his grandfather’s “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It” as well as his own stellar “7 Months, 39 Days” and a rollicking take on Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues”. For the most part, he failed to take the discourse beyond the well-worn topics of drinking, drugging and, his favorite, the iniquity of pop country.
Where the Clash railed against first-world imperialism and the Sex Pistols taunted the British monarchy, Williams spews his venom at Nashville, which he has dubbed Trashville in a song of the same title. A later tune, “Dick In Dixie, Cunt In Country”, builds around the lyric, ‘Pop country really sucks.”
Williams also never tires of listing off his allies in the battle, both living and dead. He invokes David Allan Coe, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard and a host of others, to the point of distraction.
Though he’s not the introspective, troubled loner his grandfather was, that’s not altogether a bad thing. The exuberance and energy with which Williams and his band play is contagious; minutes after he took the stage, the crowd was ready to follow him anywhere.
After his country set and a few punk/metal-inspired songs he classifies as “Hellbilly”, Williams took a short break before returning for a set of speed metal, joined by bassist Joe Buck, singer Brian Poskochil and drummer Tim Yeung. The shift in tone left some discomfited and heading for the door, but at least three-quarters of the audience was game for both sets.
Hank Williams III still seems to be finding his voice and shaping his legacy, but his fans are more than willing to go along for the ride, famous lineage or not.
Opening act Scott Biram doesn’t have the benefit of a recognizable name. This became apparent when he was haltingly announced as Scott…uhh…Bee-RAM, provoking him to let loose a cackle and shout back, “It’s BY-rum, you asshole!”
A skinny white boy from Texas with a handlebar mustache and a green mesh cap, Biram took a seat onstage with an acoustic guitar, a stompboard, a CB mike and a tiny, road-worn portable amp. He slid effortlessly from hill country yodeling to lightning-fast guitar playing to auctioneer-style singing with infectious zeal and a swagger no doubt gleaned from his days in San Marcos, Texas, punk band the Thangs.
In addition to ripping through several potent originals with titles such as “I Killed A Chicken”, “Blood, Sweat And Murder”, and “Truckdriver”, Biram masterfully channeled the likes of Lead Belly, the Delmore Brothers and Rose Maddox in his twelve-song set.
A head-on collision with a tractor-trailer last year provided fodder for a positively depraved version of Bukka White’s “Fixin’ To Die Blues” that rang all the more true with Biram’s interjection of his own near-death experience. By the end of the show, Biram had made believers out of the crowd. After his last song was done, he kept the crowd chanting over his tiny amp’s feedback, dropping the biggest and most memorable name in the annals of country music: “What’s his name? Jesus! What’s his name? Jesus!”