Posted by: Necci – Mar 04, 2011
“Shit. I thought he was already dead,” my friend Travis joked when I told him I was going to see David Allan Coe play the Hat Factory on February 11th. I had to laugh at his honesty. To the uninformed, country shows aren’t much different than any rap, hard rock or metal show, but most people don‘t make the connection. Dudes get drunk, testosterone hangs thick in the air like a mayonnaise sandwich, and as with nearly every show, there are a few ladies who seem to do everything in their power to provoke a fight. Generally, they either succeed in instigating or succumb to starting a throwdown of their own. This can happen at both a Carrie Underwood concert and a Hank Williams, Jr. hoedown. Strangely enough, though, I didn’t witness a single swinging fist unless it was in the air to the honky-tonk gallop emitting from the stage.
You can tell the real rednecks from the people who bought their flannel get-up earlier that day at Short Pump (Jesus Christ, I haven’t seen that many Western shirts since the last time I was at Sticky Rice.) No difference whatsoever from kids shopping at Hot Topic before going to see Underoath or DTLR before going to see Rihanna. People want to play the part. Meanwhile--camouflage hats, dirty Carhartt jackets, work boots. I don’t need to tell you that these people don’t just have one hillbilly night a month. These fuckers are country every day. They don’t need new threads to prove they aren’t in the wrong place. Yee Haw.
The Hat Factory was probably a little more than half full (both floors) when I arrived, which didn’t really surprise me. At the same time, I was taken aback by the lack of heads in the audience. “They won’t book him (Coe) at the National no more,” said an older man in his mid to late forties. “Last time they did, he was three hours late and the rednecks drank all the PBR, Budweiser, and Jack Daniels. Then they started fighting.” I don’t know how accurate the man’s story was, but it sounded spot on. David Allan Coe’s reputation as a country outlaw is right up there with the likes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Running from the law. Doing time in the clink. But unlike Cash and Jennings, stardom alluded David Allan Coe--much like it did rock n’ roll legend Leon Russell. Both men are revered in the industry for their musical genius, and both have been saved from obscurity by younger and much more successful performers. Coe was rescued by the likes of Kid Rock, and Vinnie Paul of Pantera, while Russell has seen interest in him do a fucking pole vault thanks to Elton John. I don’t remember the last time anyone gave a shit about a man near 70 unless it had to do with politics, he killed someone, or he himself died.
That being said, Coe’s performance wasn’t anything to sell the farm over. Sad to say, I was kind of bored. For years friends from back home swore by David Allan Coe. Field parties with my drunk buddies howling at the moon like coyotes, passing out by the river and pissing my jeans. It’s safe to say I had more fun doing that than actually seeing it live. I guess I expected more because I was seeing a country legend and his character preceded him. I didn’t expect a cannon to go off or a stripper to give me a tug job in the crowd but it’s a goddamned disappointment that there wasn’t some type of controlled anarchy. It felt like going to a seated Slayer show. And I guess in some ways it was.
There are several factors weighing in on this, though. Some things Coe and crew are responsible for, and some things were solely my doing. For starters, the sound that night didn’t do Coe any justice. Every few minutes the monitor pierced the air with feedback, and some fool would run behind the amp to fuck with the wires. Their stage sound was too low. The music didn’t surround you, giving a full-on bear hug. Instead, you got the half-hearted squeeze from someone who doesn’t really like you. Sure, if you walked closer to the stage there was more of a pulse, but the cover band that played for the first 45 minutes seemed to be louder, and the singer sounded like Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish. On a side note, it was the first time I’ve ever been to a show where some dick in the crowd shouted “Free Bird” and the band actually played it.
There was no stage presence either. Give the guy some credit--he’s old and looks like he’s earned every year with interest, so I’d be foolish to expect him to act like David Lee Roth. But that doesn’t mean I want to yawn throughout. Coe pretty much repeated his legacy to the audience between songs. Told us he wrote a song with Dimebag Darrell and Kid Rock. Told us he had written songs for Tanya Tucker (when she was 13), Elvis Presley, George Jones, and Johnny Cash, then played a medley of those songs. Told us his thoughts on rap music and rappers in general: he’s not a fan. He teeter-tottered between his own beliefs and his many achievements, and it was all pretty impressive. I think I was most impressed by how often Coe dropped “mother-fucker.” This guy made Eminem sound like Pat Boone. I wish I had kept count.
The show not being what I wanted it to be was my fault. I built it up so much that I was guaranteed to be disappointed. I think I was more excited about the fact that I was going to see David Allan Coe than I was about actually seeing him. Same thing happened to me when I saw Bob Dylan a few years ago at Bonnaroo. In fact, he was terrible. It was one of the worst shows I’ve ever been to. But then again it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. Because it was Bob Dylan. Dylan could have played the kazoo, and I would have walked away like there were strippers in the crowd giving tug jobs. Because it was Bob Dylan.
It wasn’t the same with David Allan Coe. It was great hearing “If That Ain’t Country (I’ll Kiss Your Ass”) and “I’ll cum when I wanna cum / And that’s my jelly roll”--which Coe believes is the line he will be remembered for. But by the end of the night, I felt as tired as Coe looked. It was a good show, far better than Dylan’s, but maybe the entire reason I enjoy listening to Coe, and songs penned by Coe, is situational. Maybe listening to David Allan Coe and getting drunk at a field party is better than the real thing. Maybe that’s the difference between Bob Dylan and David Allan Coe. When you’re seeing Dylan you’re seeing a god, but when you’re seeing Coe, you’re only seeing a legend.
By Ryan Kent