“Punch! Fight! Fuck!”
The chorus of Hank Williams III’s tribute to G.G. Allin (“P.F.F.”) transformed the pit from a moderately tame group of onlookers into a violent pack of brawlers at the Newport Music Hall on a recent Sunday evening. Nearly four hours later, Hank3 hadn’t stopped playing, and the room hadn’t stopped shaking.
Crust punks, metal heads and Appalachian outlaw-country fans, with fists proudly in the air, sang along to every whiskey-laden lyric with more conviction than a backwoods Baptist minister.
“I’m getting fucked up every goddamn night!” the crowd shouted in unison. “And I’m spittin’ in your face, ’cause I’m dominatin’ you!”
It wasn’t a song, it was a battle cry. G.G. Allin would have loved it.
Hank’s set started at his country roots, covering Hank Senior’s “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive,” followed by a tribute to the White Family of Boone County, West Virginia. With the steady momentum of a steam engine, Hank3 chugged toward harder-hitting, rowdier tracks until the country ho-down had evolved into a full-on thrash-punk show.
My voice was hoarse and I was covered in sweat and whiskey. I checked my phone. It had been two and a half hours. Hank3 showed no signs of slowing, even when I did.
I went outside for some air. The frenetic energy from the scene inside had trickled out onto the patio. I sipped the Jack Daniels I swore I wouldn’t drink, and soaked in the night air. Two cigarettes and a fresh Jack Daniels later, the show had again mutated into a growling, grinding metal spectacle, complete with a darkened stage, smoke machine and projection screen. It felt like a different band. Hank3’s signature twang was exchanged for a low, snarling growl.
The bass line radiated from the bottom of my feet through the rest of my body while I watched a tripped-out video montage projected behind the drummer onto a screen. By the top of the fourth hour, I realized Hank3 is an experience, not a show.
I went home right before he finished. The intensity was too much, and I had to work. Monday morning my liver ached and my lungs burned — and all I could think was “I’d do it all again.”