The last Friday in January saw the start of my 2015 gig calendar.
The band with the honour of kick starting the year’s live musical entertainment were rockgrass giants Hayseed Dixie, who were playing Glasgow’s O2 ABC as part of the annual Celtic Connections festival.
Irish folk rock band The Riptide Movement opened the show with a stellar set. These boys from Dublin quickly won over the ever increasing crowd. Their forty five minute set featured tracks from their Irish no 1 album “Getting Through”. Check them out.
Within minutes the stage had been cleared of everything except for four mic stands and a transport case. Four scruffy figures appeared on stage carrying their own instrument cases and the Glasgow crowd went wild.
Hayseed Dixie were on the stage.
This was as stripped back a rock show as I’d ever been to.
This four piece acoustic band of hillbillies gave numerous rock classics the rockgrass treatment over the next two hours. Their name is a linguistic play on AC/DC (say it out loud to yourself) and front man John Wheeler, dressed in cut off denim dungarees and a tie dye t-shirt reminded me of a kindergarten Angus Young.
Hearing “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Highway To Hell” played on an acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo may be enough to tip any hard core AC/DC fan over the edge, but these good ol’ boys did an amazing job of “rockgrassing” these songs!
Mandolin player Hippy Joe Hymas sets himself up as the band’s “comedian”. Dressed in torn dungarees and well-worn work boots, he plays an expert mandolin but with all the rock moves and poses. Plenty of tongue too. Move over Gene Simmons!
Rock anthems from many major bands were given the Hayseed Dixie treatment. “Eye of the Tiger”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” among manyothers will never sound the same again!
These highly skilled musicians have carved a perfect niche for themselves. With well-practiced ease, front man John Wheeler engages the fans and regales them with tales in between songs and plenty of toasts to good health, music etc. The beer and the whisky flowed (the ice was in the transport case beside the fiddles)
The set was broken up with some of their own material most notably “I’m Keeping Your Poop” and a blistering rendition of “Duelling Banjos”. Fact- banjo player Johnny Butten is the holder of the Guinness Book of records title for the fastest banjo player. Awesome musician.
As an encore Hayseed Dixie performed a fifteen minute “Hotel California” medley. Amazing end to the show and, with promises to meet as many of their fans as could be crammed into the upstairs bar, Hayseed Dixie took their final bow.
If you’re a purist and can’t handle hearing your favourite songs being sung this way, then give these guys a wide berth.
If you have a sense of humour, don’t take life too seriously and enjoy good music then treat yourself to a Hayseed Dixie rockgrass show.
Life will never sound the same again!
Words by Coral McCallum