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Concert Review: Texas Hippie Coalition at GB Leighton's Pickle Park (6/14/2011)

Texas Hippie Coalition's concert at GB Leighton's Pickle Park in Fridley, MN

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It's very rare when I discover a new band that just blows my mind. When you've been to as many shows as I have (most of which I don't remember until a friend or ticket stub reminds me) and reviewed so many albums, it takes a lot to be impressed and stand out. It's a great feeling though when you stumble upon a band or a friend recommends you check out a song or two and you know right then and there that you're going to be a huge fan of the band. It becomes that musical obsession that you play non-stop for the next two weeks.

Texas Hippie Coalition
Ash Newell, THCoutlaw.com

That's how it happened for me when a guy named Dizzy posted a link on Facebook to the song "Pissed Off and Mad About It" by the band Texas Hippie Coalition from Piedmont, South Dakota. Just kidding, they're from Texas obviously! More specifically, North Texas around the Denison area. I was a huge fan of another Texas-based band that a few of you may have heard of by the name of Pantera. While nobody can replace Pantera, once I got into Texas Hippie Coalition after watching that video, that void began to fill inside of me. In this fan's humble opinion, they are truly worthy to sit at the throne left vacant by the "Cowboys From Hell". This great review at NewReview describes THC's style perfectly:

"Recipe for some THC: take Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, ZZ Top, Johnny Cash, Pantera, a pinch of Skynryd, and sprinkle with Monster Magnet; pour bands with one quart Jack into a Harley Shovelhead and blast it out the exhaust. The backfire you get will be authentic, unapologetic, Southern-burned metal."

That's probably the best recipe (opinion) on THC's style. In my own recipe, I mixed in some Black Label Society as well. Either way, after buying both albums - 2008's Pride of Texas and 2010's Rollin' - I kept checking their website and Facebook page religiously hoping for tour dates outside of Texas. No luck until a few weeks back when I saw new Midwest tour dates including June 14th at GB Leighton's Pickle Park in Fridley. I was beyond excited! I was happy that the world didn't end in May, because if I ended up going to the afterlife without having seen Texas Hippie Coalition, I was going to be "Pissed Off and Mad About It" indeed.

I'd never been to Pickle Park until Tuesday night. It's a fair-sized restaurant/bar/music venue (great burgers!), and even though it was pouring rain, there was a great turnout tonight. I don't know if it was for Texas Hippie Coalition or the final band of the night (American Gothic), but it's no secret who I was there to see. The first band, Wayward Boyz Klub (hooray for 80's spelling!) was surprisingly solid and a great warmup act - even though they played longer than most openers. I told my friend it was probably because THC vocalist Big Dad Ritch was "busy" backstage with a few ladies, so they probably kept telling Frank Kohler "Keep on playin'! Big Dad ain't ready yet!"

Once he finished up deflowering Fridley's finest, THC hit the stage to "Cocked and Loaded" off the Rollin' album to a great reception. Big Dad Ritch thanked everybody for "comin' out on a school night" and told several stories behind a number of THC songs. He wrote a song about his pickup truck ("Texas Tags"), his days as a drug dealer ("Drug Dealer"), and the difficulty of being on the road away from family ("Troublesome Times"). From the guttural growls to the screaming vocals, he didn't miss a beat the entire night. Definitely a pro at working the crowd, he had several great one-liners, including about his own band, including bassist John Exall, who Big Dad Ritch said is "most likely the reason that we're most often havin' to leave some place before we want to, cuz some big motherf***er is bangin' on the RV lookin' for his girlfriend or wife."

All in all, everybody was on the top of their respective games tonight, including Randy Cooper and Wes Wallace on guitars, the "pornstar" John Exall on bass, and the "kid" of the band, drummer Ryan Bennett. "What the hell is wrong with the kids today?" asked Big Dad Ritch before Bennett broke into his excellent drum solo. After ending the show with "Pissed Off..." and a Mötley Crüe style bow (who Big Dad Ritch admitted they stole it from), the band hung out for a long time after the show, snapping pictures and chatting with fans, including the closest Gene Simmons clone I've ever seen, who also happened to be the biggest goof of the entire night, drawing more laughs at him than with him.

I'm happy that the albums translated to the live show so well, especially with Big Dad Ritch's storytelling between songs. Sometimes, you get into an album and the band is so disappointing in a live setting that it ruins the music for you. Texas Hippie Coalition definitely isn't that band. I included a recently-uploaded YouTube video of the highlights at the Minneapolis show. Check it out to see what you can expect!

If you like the previously-mentioned bands like Pantera, Black Label Society, Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and so on, by all means, please do yourself a favor and check out Texas Hippie Coalition when they come through your town. They're a great band with great songs who truly appreciate the fans that showed up. If it's a venue anything like Pickle Park, where there's no cover charge or tickets to buy, definitely pick up a CD to be autographed or a couple t-shirts to help support the band.

Gas for the Texas Hippie RV isn't cheap, you know!

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