This Legendary Shack Shakers Article was written by Macon Oxley, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster. Lead photo by Geoff Magill
With 2015 marking the band’s 20th anniversary, The Legendary Shack Shakers have a lot to celebrate, especially as this milestone coincides with the release of the band’s first new material in five years, ‘The Southern Surreal’. And with what was the penultimate date on the UK leg of their tour, the Shakers took to the stage at Newcastle’s The Cluny.
Prior to that, however, support act KSVT were the ones to kick off proceedings. With their bluesy rock sound, characterised by gratuitous slide guitar and some very impressive guitar displays, the band didn’t have a hard time warming this audience up. And with some fun anecdotes and inspired cover versions, including ‘Smoke on the Water’ delivered in a Yorkshire twang (“smoke on’t water”) and a country take on Fun Lovin’ Criminals‘ ‘Scooby Snacks’, this good-humoured performance was enough to set the crowd up for the main act.
Taking to the stage, The Legendary Shack Shakers, the band with such admirers as Robert Plant and Steven King to name but two, appeared rather timid at first – a feeling which they, without a doubt, put to bed within seconds of their opening song.
The opener, ‘Mud’, sees the first track on ‘The Southern Surreal’, and really showcases the quality of the song writing on their new release. However, as great as the songs are, the real standout aspect was in the band’s live performance. Singer J.D. Wilkes is truly a showman suprême and, as the show went on, his unrelenting energy and wild antics kept the audience enthralled.
Appearing in true cowboy get-up, Wilkes did not fail to get up close and personal with the crowd as the show progressed. With foot on monitor, the singer leaned into the crowd, spilling pints, licking faces and rubbing the heads of two follically challenged chaps in the front row. Indeed, though the music may not have fully suggested it, the performance definitely embodied the spirit of punk rock.
A minor setback in the form of a broken kick drum pedal was not enough to deter the band’s drive, with the audience being treated to anecdotes of wannabe vampires and some impromptu banjo noodling.
With things fully back on track, The Shakers ploughed through their set with a ferocity reminiscent of the similarly-styled Jason and The Scorchers. (It later transpired that Wilkes had actually supported The Scorchers’Jason Ringenberg at one point – Ringenberg also having helped give the band a push in the past.)
With apparently boundless energy, the band were certainly not letting up, and neither was Wilkes with his wildman antics. Taking on the persona of a classless, unapologetic hillbilly, the singer went on to simulate various sexual acts, playing with his zipper, seemingly with his hand constantly down the front of his trousers. The perverse posturing was reminiscent of some of Jerry Lee Lewis‘s more full-on displays, with Wilkes even having a flopping mop hidden under his cowboy hat, akin to that of The Killer’s.
As large bequiffed rockabilly types gyrated at the front of the crowd, Wilkes saw fit to liberate one from their shirt, wiping beer from his mouth and unceremoniously shoving said shirt down his pants.
Although, the antics did really characterise the show and bring the performance to life, it must also be said that the songs were indeed first-rate. For those looking for some great rockabilly-styled hillbilly blues, you really need look no farther than ‘The Southern Surreal’. But this is definitely a band to see live with a frontman that is perhaps one of the most charismatic and entertaining in the business.