Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Legendary Shack Shakers/Those Poor Bastards plus a screening of “Seven Signs”; May 21, 2008; High Noon Saloon

Tonight I learned my new favorite joke. “What’s green and has a thousand legs?” “Grass! I was just kiddin’ ‘bout the legs.”

Awesome isn’t it? Of course, the drawled delivery was a fair portion of its humor. That side-splitter came to me courtesy of one of the colorful characters in JD Wilkes’ documentary short “Seven Signs.” The Shakers lead screamer assembled a collection of interviews with various religious zealots, many in the Deep South and nearly all of them at least a little bit bat-shit crazy. Playing like a companion piece to Jim White’s similarly themed (but musically superior) “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus,” the movie began the evening in a non-traditional way. Even so, a few people reacted as if it were just another band on the bill until they were promptly shushed by the promoter. Other than that fantastic joke, the image that stuck with me was of one religious group’s insistence that “There is no LIE in what we BELEIVE.” Just in case you forgot, the deliberately misspelled signs emblazoned simply BELEIVE showed up repeatedly in the film.

The Shake Shakers certainly seem to believe, though it doesn’t seem to be religion that they stand behind. No, they believe in the power of rock and roll, and their version of it is just about as down and dirty as you can get. As well as just a little bit scary, it doesn’t take long into the set before Wilkes whips off his shirt, revealing his emaciated torso. The way he burns calories during a set, it is no wonder you can count his ribs. I’ve seen them before but it’s never the music that sticks with me, instead it’s the “show,” Wilkes’ fervor for the music instead of the actual music. It all seems to be fire and brimstone preachin’ in the guise of music as he hops around like an angry Rumplestiltskin singing and blowing his harp. I don’t think you actually need a Shack Shakers record, but if you get a chance go see a show.

The thing I didn’t know was that their guitar player had been replaced by Duane Denison formerly of the Jesus Lizard. Impressive. He seemed calmly oblivious to the chaos to the left of him. I guess if you spend enough time in a band with David Yow (as well known for exposing himself as for his music) you learn to ignore anything.

Local openers Those Poor Bastards were perfectly suited for the bill. Described on their website as “Old Time Hellfire Music,” and by Hank Williams III as “the best gothic country band I’ve heard,” the guitar/drums twosome created almost as much heat as the headliner. Lonesome Wyatt screamed profanity-laden lyrics about death and being saved and who knows what else while Vincent Presley pounded away on the drums. It got a little same-y after awhile (I mean, how much preachin’ can you take in a night?), but I found their opening set entertaining all the same. If you get a yearnin’ to go see the Shake Shakers and they aren’t anywhere nearby, check out Those Poor Bastards instead, they’ll do in a pinch.

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