Biscuits & Blues, San Francisco

April 28, 2004
By Rolf Olmsted

Having emailed Biscuits recommending Ron Hacker & the Hacksaws I put my money where my mouth was and went on a Wednesday night Road Trip to Biscuits & Blues.  Even though I was dragging.

"I am,
A backdoor man,
I am,
A backdoor man
The men don?t know,
But the little girls
They understand!"

The house was two-thirds full when we arrived.  Holding my red ticket to give the person who was to seat us I waited 30 seconds and saw no action.  I just went and sat where I wanted right down front.  No one ever came to the table to collect the ticket or to get a drink order.

Ron on guitar, Artis Joyce on bass, and Ronnie Smith on drums were in good form despite a persistent 60-cycle hum from the PA.

Ron was in great voice and ripped through his fine numbers like "I Got Tattooed" with dynamite support from AJ and Ronnie.  I love that slide played on his old red ES-125.  It distorts just right for that old time sound.

After a few numbers I got up and danced a bunch.  Starting with just a few people the dancing got heavier and heavier over the course of the night, and the tight against the stage table arrangement of Biscuits became inadequate.  The sides and front filled up.  A large table of young people became filled with the spirit and danced mightily first on the sides and then in front.

Being beat I didn?t take notes on the songs, I was having a full Hack attack enjoying the full interplay of this unusual band.  The crowd filled up over the course of the night and nobody left.  More and more dancers all the time too.  Hope Biscuits takes note of the power of the Hack attack.

Ron plays heavily distorted slide licks on his collection of historic instruments or lower register riffs on his Stratocaster in a very pre-war blues way.  He has a lot of variety n the licks he uses but he never ever heads into the country of screaming sustain lead guitar.  He?s taken guitar playing in another direction based on Charlie Patton and Sleepy John Estes.

Meanwhile AJ is playing a highly complex bass line with modern funk, jazz, and Willie Dixon elements in it---and all the time AJ is dancing as he plays. T he energizer bunny (large size) does huge space filling and drives the show.  Wow.  Sometimes this band has a lead bass.

Ronnie Smith is a drummer unafraid to play simply and directly.  Support and groove come first with him.  Then suddenly he?ll do a complex roll and crash, and then right back in to the backbeat.  Ronnie had an extra tom and two extra cymbals with him for greater variety.  He often plays with the smallest drum set around: snare, small tom, and bass drum.  He put the floor tom and the cymbals to good use.  Crisp and full, he?s a favorite of mine.

At the table next to us were four young people who were staring at the band like Ron and the Hacksaws were water in the desert.  Along with the party of young kids at the big side table, plus some in the back, the number of younger fans was above average.  There?s been a lot of talk about how to get younger fans interested in the blues.  Show ?em Ron Hacker and the Hacksaws.  Too bad there are few live music punk clubs now, Ron would?ve killed at the old Mabuhay Gardens.  The hip shaking young ladies were having a ton of fun.

And through it all Ron was playing all those mordant songs he does so well.

"I?m a stranger here, baby, yes and I just rolled your town.
I wonder just how long they gonna keep a stranger down"

"I got tattooed"

"I gonna take that 32-20 and blow you all to hell."

"Is that you baby? Knocking on my front door?
Said you had another Baby,
Now you?re back for more.
Well, that?s all right,
Mama, that?s all right,
I may not want to admit it,
I?m just a fool for your stockings,
I believe."

Had my treatment, the medical team was in town.  Ronnie and AJ started CPR and the Doctor connected his defibrillator to the Fender Hotrod De Ville, turned up the gain, and WHAP I came back.  I?m feeling much better now.

...Rolf Olmsted

Rolf Olmsted was born on the banks of the Mississippi River and had a dog and played his father's mandolin. He was exposed to the blues at an early age which accounts for it. Among his accomplishments are reproduction, a collection of cheap guitars, and computer semi-literacy. He's guilty of attempted guitar and mandolin playing.