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The Regulars

26th Anniversary Weekend Hole in the Wall, June 18-20

Even if they put in a Galleria downtown and finally finish tearing up South Congress, two things will never vanish from Austin: the Hole in the Wall and truck driving songs. Whiskey makes three. The Ex-Husbands rolled into town on Friday at about half past Jim Beam and stayed 'til a quarter past "Johnnie Walker Redneck." Blasting hard-boiled honky-tonk hell-raisers like Chris Rock cussing a blue streak, the scraggly Nashville trio betrayed more debt to ZZ Top, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath (even doing "War Pigs") than the dearly beloved Grand Ole Opry, but still found room to work in Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" and Billy Joe Shaver's timeless chaser "Georgia on a Fast Train." Breaker, breaker, here comes "Truck Drivin' Man." Ten-four, good buddy, got that cup of coffee all ready; how 'bout a little "Eastbound & Down" and watch old Bandit run? Perfect. And even after all that, the most indelible song was one of their own, "Off the Wagon," a brilliant ode to whiskey, wild women, and everything else worth writing a song about -- even the dire consequences of such backwoods bacchanalia. Said consequences finally wore off Saturday, in time to witness Oklahoma's Billy Joe Winghead leveling the Hole like one of the Sooner state's patented Category 5 tornadoes. A sort of Iggy & the Strangers, Winghead squeezed five guys, several guitars, and a theramin onto the minuscule stage, and plenty of pent-up road rage and trailer-park temerity into selections from their new Be Your Own Boss CD. Afterward, some in the bursting room could still actually hear, but the Sons of Hercules took care of that. San Antonio's finest laid to rest any lingering plans for Sunday afternoon with a crude, exquisite set that mixed in old favorites like "Used to Be Cool" and "Too Late" with brash new ones from the Get Lost CD. The resulting tinnitus finally cleared up not long after the Astros beat Montreal Sunday, so it was down to the Free For All for one more night of insanity, and of course more truck driving songs. The usual debauchery was a little slow in starting, due to Choking Ahogo's overly introspective collegiate rock, which could use less pondering and more melody; and Troy Young Campbell, who writes impeccably crafted, literate songs more suited to the Cactus Cafe or Flipnotics. But things were bound to right themselves, and did so once the mysterious Honky Tonk Man and a motley group of musicians (Jon Sanchez, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Cotton Mather's Dana Myzer) made their way onstage and sounded the familiar lead-in to "Six Days on the Road." They followed up with a sassy "Baby What You Want Me to Do" and an absolutely s-s-seething "Burning Love," firmly re-establishing the truckers' supremacy. The mellow locals of Lil Cap'n Travis were up next, their hardcore country by way of Brian Wilson, Lou Reed, and the Orange Mothers sounding mighty fine on "Flattened by the Good Times," "Rodeo Clown," an affecting cover of George Jones' immortal "Loving You Will Never Be Better," and -- naturally -- "Truck Driving School." It was up to Superego to close out the weekend, and they delivered, even though "Two Tickets to Paradise" was as close as they ever came to a trucking song. Nevertheless, they evoked past Hoot Night honorees Tom Petty and Neil Young on the new "Lack of Experience" and "Nothing in Return," and had the whole joint rockin' with choice selections from their bottomless grab bag of covers, this time the Who's "The Kids Are Alright" and the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" (sadly, there was no "Convoy"). When the lights came up, Superego launched into Roky Erickson's "You're Gonna Miss Me," and another year passed into the books. Erickson's jagged sentiments don't even begin to cover the void that would exist should the Hole ever get filled in, so here's to at least 26 more years of truckin' for Texas' rowdiest, raunchiest historical site. -- Christopher Gray

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