The legendary outlaw threw a big party in Doswell, VA
On a cool and cloudy October night, thousands of diehard fans received a real lesson in country music history from a man who knows a thing or two about it: Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank Jr. took the stage at Meadow Event Park around 8:30 for a tight 77-minute set. The southern rock god barely addressed the crowd, but when he did it was always with a wink and nod to his famous father.
The venue itself is nestled in the greenery of middle Virginia, right next door to the King’s Dominion amusement park. More festival fairground than amphitheater, the field was lined with vendors selling everything from whiskey to fried Oreos. The openness of the venue — replete with dance floor behind the “tech world” stand — lent itself to a party atmosphere that seemed to allow Hank Jr. and company to crank it even harder.
Fan favorites “O.D.’d in Denver,” “Weatherman” and “Kaw-Liga” were present. Thousands sang louder than Hank Jr. on “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound.” Every three or four songs he would change his hat. During one hat change, he poked fun at family friend and collaborator Kid Rock. “This Ain’t no Kid Rock bullshit hat,” he said. “This is a Hank Williams Senior 1950 F**kin’ model Stetson!”
The crowd loved hearing Williams tell it like it is. Hank Jr. shredded on guitar with the intensity of someone fed up with the country music posers that have cropped up of late. And, he took shots at those who had wronged him in his career. Before “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming over Tonight,” Junior told the crowd plainly: “Thirty-two years, three Emmy awards, eight Super Bowls, and I’m the one that wrote the f**king song!” He was referring to “Rowdy Friends” long use as the NFL theme.
For those that are unaware, Hank Jr. is a multi-instrumental genius. He switched from guitar, to fiddle, to piano throughout the evening. He makes southern-rock shredding look effortless.
Williams’ setlist was a true education in country music history. He schooled the crowd on the lineage that bore him, with a rendition of “Your Cheatin’ Heart” on the piano. He also paid homage to Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash with “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Walk the Line,” respectively. He also nodded ZZ Top — who recently lost bassist Dusty Hill — with a fiery rendition of “Waitin’ on the Bus.”
Indeed, Hank Jr. does occupy a unique space in country music. At once considered an outlaw, he is also looked to as the protector of his father’s legacy. No more is this more obvious than the song, “The Conversation,” with its line “Did your daddy really write all them million-dollar songs?” The Hank of in that song refused to answer. But the Hank onstage is clearly proud that his Daddy did, indeed, write those songs.
This write-up is part of a new series called “Reviews on the Road.” TMU is traveling to report on the return of live music across the country. We are proud to be documenting this important time in the history of entertainment. Check out our podcast for more detailed discussions on this topic, and stay tuned for more concerts in more states. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with venues you think we should check out.