Live Review: Hayseed Dixie

02 ABC – 30/1/15

Hayseed Dixie, at first glance, seem like a perfect, original genre splicing gimmick. Dubbing themselves as“Rockgrass;” the quartet of country musicians (banjo, mandolin, bass & guitar), shred their way at an unrelenting high speed through rock songs played in the style of a hillbilly cliché.

The appeal lies in their frenetic renditions of a variety of ‘70s classics; AC/DC (of course), Black Sabbath, Queen and Kiss. Opening with ‘Hells Bells,’ which coupled multiple solos, entertains at first, but definitely sets the standard on the extent of their abilities and what to expect for the rest of the night. They’re a talented bunch, all playing strongly and precisely and despite the comedic bent, their musicianship is of the highest quality.

Indeed, frontman and guitarist Barley Scotch, aka PhD-holding John Wheeler, quickly betrays his education with a Hegelian anecdote on sub preferential beings. Only briefly however; their hillbilly façade is maintained as he proceeds to holler convincingly like a wrecked cowboy and interject regular “comic” banter to the audience; “The four tenets of songwriting are sex, drinking, cheating and hell”. However, their humour wouldn’t get a laugh in a schoolboy locker room if it didn’t play into their get up.

However, they wane quickly during the course of an exceedingly lengthy one and a half hour set. While a waltzy ‘Shook Me All Night Long,’ and hilarious barbershop quartet take on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ are highlights, inane twin shredding from the mandolin and banjo becomes a bland default setting. Similarly, even their own decent cuts like ‘I’m Keeping Your Poop (In a Jar)’ fall flat due to how long they’ve overstayed their welcome. It is undoubtedly a necessity to be drunk in order to last the set.

Overall, a good idea executed well, they just don’t have enough tricks in the bag to elicit a truthful recommendation. If you see them play one song, you really have seen them all.

[Dom MacInnes]

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