I have gone to hundreds of concerts, interviewed quite a few folks, photographed shows, and met many. Hands down I can say Hank III was the most humbling experience. Check out my interview with him by clicking here. This would be my second time seeing him play in concert. The first time was in Lexington, Ky at Busters. I was on the front row for that show. This time it was Mercury Ballroom in Louisville, Kentucky. The venue was very nice and all of the staff were very helpful. I’ll talk about the venue setup, then the show itself.
Mercury Ballroom is situated in downtown Louisville right down the road from Louisville Palace Theatre. Just past the venue on the right is a parking garage, so parking is within walking distance and is well lit at night. In looking at the venue, the Will Call window is on the right side on the side of the building. There are two entrances. The far left corner in the front of the building is VIP entrance. The other is general admission. Right after you walk in VIP section, there is the merchandise area to your left. There is a large bar on the right side. I had to ask the staff how to get up to VIP area upstairs. There is an elevator and stairs to take, so it is handicapped accessible. Very few venues take this in consideration of their facilities. I get upstairs and VIP is really nice. On the sides are tables and stools on the edge. The back is 3 rows of theatre seats (very comfy by the way). There is a bar in the back corner, couches & large flat screen tv areas. The restrooms are large with 2-3 small stalls and one large handicapped accessible stall. Throughout the night they were kept very clean.
I met with Mindy with the VIP access area for a bit. She mentioned that she showed my article to the security staff and Hank 3 spoke to them beforehand to let them know what to expect. Needless to say, from the looks of it they done a good job at keeping things at bay. There was some mosh pit action, but it was controlled. I decided to be in VIP this time so I can honestly sit back and watch a show rather than be down in the pit. Been there, done that and I’m not getting any younger. haha.
FYI – with Hank 3 shows, you are allowed to videotape, record, take photos with any camera, etc and share.
Promptly at 8:00 pm on the dot, Hank 3 came out onto the stage with no introductions needed. It’s funny how at other concerts you have someone to introduce the act with all of these awards, latest single info, their album name and where you can buy it and all this other stage filler then “give me a welcome for ___.” Not for Hank 3. He walks out and the fans are cheering loudly and hollering from the get-go. He needs no introduction.
Now if you have never been to a Hank 3 show, you are in for a treat. He breaks it down into sections. First two hours are the country/hellbilly set with Anthony Galler on upright bass, Daniel Mason on banjo, David McElfresh on fiddle & steel guitar, Duane Denison on guitar, and Matt Bohli on drums. Afterwards, Hank 3 will do a minor change of clothes and thank the fine folks for coming out. Many people will leave the show, but others will stick around. Mind you, he just played 2 solid hours without take a drink of anything. Most acts are lifting up their red solo cups in the air, asking the crowd to lift up their drinks and holler. He doesn’t need to lift up his arms to get people to do the same in the pit. He does not need to beg for fan interaction like others.
So you’ve gotten through the first two hours and you’re not sure what the next two will be. For the next 30 minutes, you will get the punk sound with songs off of his “A Fiendish Threat” album. This set has band member changes with Anthony Galler staying for Upright Bass, Bobby Hattenburg for drums, David McElfresh on steel guitar, and Hank 3.
After that, a quick change of clothes on stage, the lights are lowered and green lights come on. The movie screen comes down and shows a movie that you can’t explain to friends, but you remember what you saw. I’m not going to give it away…you just have to see it for yourself. For about an hour, you will hear the heavy doom metal from David McElfresh on keyboard, Bobby Hattenburg back on drums, and Hank 3. Then the last 30 minutes or so, we have another drummer change as Phillip Cancilla comes out and David McElfresh switches to guitar. What is even more impressive is the fact you have the cattle auctioneer callin’ alongside speed metal playing with the drums and guitar licks. You honestly sit there wondering how in the world does he do it? How does even the drummer keep up for 30 solid minutes. Not only that – how does one perform for 4 hours without having to go to the bathroom? Steel bladder that’s for sure!
The whole entire show was fueled by the fans and the fans fueled by the music. This was an all ages show and literally from probably 7-8 year olds to 80 year olds were in the place. I’m not a fan of kids going to a concert without earplugs to protect their ears. Needless to say it reminded me of “Sweet Home Alabama” movie where Reese Witherspoon’s character goes “you have a baby…in a bar!”
As soon as the show was over, there was no encore. In a way, you have a country concert fueled by a 2 hour encore. The show was well timed at just under 4 hours on the dot. How about that for timing? Afterwards, he met with the fans that stuck around. He gave each of them individual attention and took his time talking to him. He wasn’t flanked by security guards or tour manager or someone telling people to move along now. I think some acts would freak out being among fans all by themselves. Again, it is all about respect and he respects his fans just as they respect him and each other.
Special thanks to Wayne Titsworth for this photo of Hank 3 talking to us.
Special thanks to Wayne Titsworth for capturing this for me.
While waiting for the fans to clear out, I noticed that over to the side Daniel Mason and Leroy Troy were talking. I ended up with a conversation with a fellow fan, Cora, out of Tennessee. I also saw some other familiar faces. Then it was my turn to talk to Hank 3. Needless to say I was nervous, but I managed to carry a conversation. I introduced myself and told him that I was the one that did an interview. He thanked me for the article and said that he enjoyed talking with me. We talked for a little bit more, he signed my ticket, and we took a photo together.
Hands down I will say that Hank 3 has grown to be one of my favorite musicians to see live in concert. Quite a few in the music industry could learn a thing or two from the musicianship on stage by all of the band members, as well as how to entertain the crowd with the music minus the smoke, big screens, and other filler in big arena shows. Not only that, the fact that he truly appreciate the fans says a lot. There is a big difference between corporate and non-corporate music business. At a show with someone on a major label, they had a tour manager, 2-3 security guards, very limited time to say “hi” and get an autograph (if the performer even does autographs as many do not anymore), and then a “pro photographer” takes your meet and greet photo that then takes almost a week to upload only to be disappointed in the result and that it is on the world wide web for all to see. To even get to meet that corporate owned performer, you either have to win m&g passes, know someone at the radio station, have a friend in the band, or shell out $$ on a fan club membership to have a ‘chance’ out of a lottery drawing to even meet the person. For Hank 3, he stood around meeting fans minus security guards, entourage of handlers, and he spoke with each and every fan, signed anything, and took a photo and made sure it came out ok. When it is about the fan, the experience, the music, etc and not about the money, you earn respect. Thus, why I’m proud to say I’m a fan of Shelton Hank Williams, III, and will be for life. Like what you read? Be sure to check me out on Facebook & Twitter.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website with over 20 years experience in music journalism, concert planning, photography, and promotion. Jessica is a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the 2019 Leadership Kentucky BRIGHT Class and a recipient of the Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award. Listen to her each week on WFKY on Friday mornings for the Nashville News Roundup.