Blue Grass shin kickers Hayseed Dixie, kick some shins in the heart of the Brecon Beacons
The town of Brecon sits in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. It is a market town surrounded by mountains and the rivers Honddu and Usk meet near by. The A470 skims past the outskirts of the town and you can hop on a narrowboat to sail down to Cwmbran on the Monmouthsire and Brecon canal. The infamous Mr Beeching put paid to any hope of going anywhere by train though, back in 1962.
The town is famous for hill walking, tourism, farming, military training camps and the Brecon Jazz Festival. It seems to thrive quite well, for a town that is so difficult to get to by pubic transport.
Sitting at the end of the aforementioned canal sits Theatr Brycheiniog. Built in 1997 by the local council, it provides space for a theatre auditorium, art gallery, conference venue, restaurant with local Welsh cuisine, a bar, and community spaces. The theater hosts plays, comedians, orchestras and live music (Yes, I do realise that an orchestra is live music, don’t be pedantic, you know what I mean).
The drive up to Brecon is one of my favorite roads in South Wales. After passing Merthyr and leaving the (post) industrial heartlands of the valleys behind, the A470, whilst it retains the status of a ‘trunk road’, turns into a country road that winds up and down the contours of one of the most scenic mountain ranges of the British Isles. You glide past the Llwyn Onn and Nant Ddu reservoirs, skip past the unfeasibly popular Pan-y-fan Mountain, the highest in the Beacons, before rolling over the top of Stoery Arms, at which point you are presented with the sight of the Beacons laid out in front of you – eventually dropping down into Brecon itself.
There is an ample car park next to the theater and with the minimum of fuss we find ourselves sat close to the front of the stage ready to be entertained. The auditorium is mostly seated, with a ‘stalls’ and ‘balcony’ option. There is space down the front though for those feeling the need to boogie.
First on stage tonight are Caldicot’s Rusty Shackle. This six piece outfit sound like – well – what you would expect a band called Rusty Shackle to sound like. Blue grass folk but with a twenty-first century welsh take on things. With Banjos, fiddles and all that malarkey a good time vibe is soon established and the audience is warmed up nicely. We get audience participation, we get the brand spanking new single ‘Love is the Answer’ and we get people getting of their arse to dance.
After a short ‘interlude’ (we are in a theatre darling after all) Hayseed Dixie hit the stage. It seems like their first album , ‘A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC’ was only released a few years ago – but it was actually 2001 and they have banged out another fifteen albums since, not to mention countless gigs all over the world.
The band name is actually a play on the name AC/DC (am I stating the obvious here?) and they do play a lot of AC/DC covers, but over the last two decades they have expanded well beyond being just a tribute to Australia’s finest (all be it a piss-taking parody type tribute).
They now pay tribute to a whole host of rock bands, and more. Tonight we get blue grass versions of songs by Black Sabbath, Journey, Motorhead and Lynyrd Skynyrd, along with a handful of original tunes…. “she was the moonshiner’s daughter and she made me liquor all night long”.
We even get Praise You by Fatboy Slim (who himself ripped off “Take Yo’ Praise” by Camille Yarbrough,)
‘Eye of the Tiger’ has me shaking my head in disbelief, but their version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is inspired and a joy to behold.
One minor gripe. They have a tendency to wander off into medleys, such as squeezing Freebird into the middle of Highway to Hell, but hey, it’s one way of fitting in as many killer riffs as possible.
The banter and engagement between songs is sometimes surreal, often hilarious and always entertaining. Dungaree sporting Hippy Joe is animated runs all over the stage pulling faces whilst plucking on his mandolin. He even jumps off the stage and runs around the auditorium.
Whilst seats can kill a gig, a respectable number of people are up dancing through most of the set.
As the set comes to an end we drift out into the night and pick up an old mate. The homeward leg involves a detour via Crickhowell, but driving through deserted hills seems an appropriate way to end an evening of hillbilly rockin’.
Disappointed you missed the band playing in Wales? Fear not, they have a welsh tour coming up before the year is out. YeeeHaaa! Praise the lord!