Gasoline Alley, Clearwater, FL • August 25, 2001
Lee Ann Leach
The thing that initially piqued my interest in Hank Madison was the connection with Ty Tabor of King’s X in the band’s bio on their Web site. This Tallahassee, Florida trio has some earlier material that reeks of the King’s X vibe and solemn heaviness that I have come to love since the early ’90s. Their live performance at Gasoline Alley proved that the depth of Hank Madison goes a lot deeper.
The crowd that gathered to see this performance had a wide range, from older couples to extremely beautiful girls to hardcore headbangers. That alone was interesting enough. As soon as they emerged from the backstage area, throngs of people poured down to the front of the stage from the back of the venue, most sporting black and yellow Hank Madison T-shirts. Shortly after 11PM, Hank Madison took command of the Gasoline Alley stage with the familiar “Swimming” (from their Flags CD) combined with “Miss Me,” and quickly followed it with another Flags tune, “Was I Your Man?” The beginning of this show seemed to be a Flags overview, as they followed these two tunes with three more from the same CD, “Siddartha,” “Ultraman,” and “Enemy.”
Lead guitarist, lead vocalist, songwriter, producer, and “all-around everything man” Tripp Lanier carried the show with amazing vocals that never broke or cracked once during the entire 22-song set. I left this performance with the opinion that this man is a prime example of what a real musician is supposed to be to music. He loves his music, and it shows with intensity as he performs his creations. His songs are moody and emotional, yet still heavy and intense enough to keep the most hardcore music fans enthralled.
After the five-song Flags showcase, the band broke into a Police cover song, “Walking On the Moon,” which Lanier announced was one of his own personal favorites. They followed the Police cover with a showcase of the band’s earlier CD, Big Water, with tunes entitled “Pig,” “Pad 13,” and “Tidal Bride.” Nestled snugly between the Big Water tunes were pieces of unrecorded material by the names of “Lollipop,” “Lullaby,” and “Survivor.”
Drummer Jack Higgins was hard to see enveloped behind a huge kit full of shiny Zildjians that masked his face, but he was definitely not hard to hear. Higgins made it apparent that he knew what he was doing on skins as he rumbled mightily over the toms, while sweetening the whole deal with precise crashes on the cymbals, and communicated impeccably with bassist, Aquil Salih. I saved mentioning Salih until the last, because this man is quite the entertainer, not to mention his extreme talent at bass. At one point, he held the bass up over his head at an angle and still maintained breathtaking accuracy.
The third act of the opera called Hank Madison began with having club owner Preston Thompson invited onstage, where Lanier wished him a happy birthday, and had the whole venue sing the birthday song in unison. The Gasoline Alley waitresses passed out chocolate birthday cake to all in attendance as the band moved on with the show. The band quickly launched into newer material like “Arrested” and “Do To Me” (which will be released in the first few weeks of September), bookending an unrecorded tune entitled “Cycle,” and then followed with a song called “Satellite Sky.”
Act four was when the real energy kicked in. I was more than happy to have had all my photos shot by this point, as a headbanging, thrashing mini-moshpit broke out in front of the stage with arms flailing and bodies writhing to the rhythm of “Drive It” and “Invisible Girls.” Even the girls with long, flowing blonde hair, short, stylish dresses, and heels leaned into the stagefront and thrashed away with their heads bobbing in unison.
The band closed out their own material with “Cowboy Reason” and “Gun/Void” combined with the same opening tune, “Swimming.” As an added (and secret “just between us” song) the band launched into the Van Halen tune “Everybody Wants Some,” and frankly, did a much better job than Eddie, Alex, Michael, and Brother Dave could have done! This was intended to be the last song of the Hank Madison set, but this overheated, frantic crowd was going to have none of that business. As the last notes of the Van Halen tune dwindled away, the crowd began an uproarious chanting of, “One more! One more! One more!” Lanier smiled and walked back to his setup, and I overheard him tell drummer Higgins, “Let’s crank this one up!” He walked forward and the band flew into another one of their newest tunes, “Testimony,” sending the crowd into another frenzy of bouncing and thrashing.
I can honestly say that Hank Madison is one of the best kept secrets in the Florida music scene. They play intelligent music to an intelligent crowd, and do so with massive character and musical class. Musical class is a hard thing to find these days. If you’re looking for a band with the class of bands like those known in the days when music was made for the sheer love of the art and craftsmanship, then Hank Madison is the band you need to take the time and effort to see in a live performance. Incredible.
For more information, visit http://www.hankmadison.com.