As Day Five found it’s way into the final hours; the Muddy Roots compound oozing it primordial iron rich grease was a call to the battle weary stage veterans to summon the core strength to bare witness to the twisted pontifications of the Southern learned Sin Eating preacher himself Colonel JD Wilkes. First observed earlier under the yellow and white striped Muddy Roots headquarters and merchandise central; JD was ever the polite southern gentlemen on the exterior and a pulsing caged animal, bound tightly behind his horn rimmed classes, his tweed blazer and brown woolen pants and leather shoes. Mingling among his bandmates and with his Shack Shaker faithful, he seemed to dance an awkward waltz in the Tennessee mud and straw, his brow noticeably sweaty as if he hungered for the stage vacancy which would call forward the name of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers once again for their twisted testimonial of life from behind a quadruple soul possession from the “other side.”
With the witching hour upon us and the Trailer Stage clear, the tension and anticipation were palpable in the late evening air. With oozing red mud underfoot, a chorus of sloppy slurping footsteps welcomed the band and stage hands as the gear was loaded in through a precarious gauntlet of straw, cardboard, wooden pallets and various other sundries submerged in the quagmire behind the stage. With each step toward the stage JD seemed to grow closer to his “performance edge”, the once clean well tended tweed pants and jacket were now adorned with mixed dots of the mud claiming him bit by tenacious bit. With a stage questionably afloat on the what felt like the buoyancy of the surging celebratory emotion of the steaming droves of attendees beneath the tent roof, the Shack Shakers took their positions on stage. Behind the stage JD found himself his “darkest space” – lifting the breast of his tweed coat from his sweat stained chest, he produced a leather S&M Horse mask complete with zippered mouth. As he glanced my direction, we momentarily caught our visual exchange – his eyes aglow like a man possessed by a dark, evil, inner spirit that needed out and most importantly needed to “Shake the Shack”. With the familiar bass line of Mark Robertson coaxing Wilkes to the stage, he hesitantly bucked and jostled up the stairs as Rod Hamdallah’s guitar danced the equivalent of his hooves stomping and pawing the vacant stage space. In nodding bionic rhythmic power, Brett Whitacre rocked the crowd gently into an introductory submission as Wilkes pranced about proudly – strutting like a leather and tweed bound stallion beneath the mask the eeriness of the evening settled onto the stage just as prescribed and it was from here we would escalate and exploit the condition as only the Shack Shakers can.
As the Shakers rammed the crowd in a head on collision of backwoods musical savagery the message was received loud and clear; despite rumors of disbanding, the Shakers were always on top – will always be on top and will not relent. From the opening song, each band member locked into the mission with a rifleman’s accuracy. From stage right Mark Robertson towered above my camera, vacant transfixed stare with jaw agape as he powered his bass through the tightest of chords, his masterful fingers launching countless reverberating assaults on the audience. Rod Hamdallah with his incredibly technically playing complimenting Mark and balancing the intense equation as only could be expected. The true engine leading the charge behind Wilkes, has always been the bionic beat man himself Brett Whitacre, a man with a street cred rap sheet that includes “clinical death” being listed as “experience”. With Whitacre, firing on all cylinders so too did all the remaining members of the band which inevitably brings us back to the lead; how can you top this you ask ? your only possible chance of complimenting the Guitar stylings on Hamdallah, the Bass of Robertson and the Drums of Whitacre is with the deliciously deviant mind of Col. Wilkes himself.
From song to song, the Shakers never relented – they pushed the crowd, the audience pushed back. . .through excised snot and saliva flowing freely from Wilkes the crowd was spun into a mud induced seizure. The attending physician in one Dr. Wilkes would be in attendance and all too enthused to embark on a crowd initiated house call whereby he would either willingly cast his body to the waiting supportive hands of his cult following or he would be “taken from the stage” by the crowd into their again hungry hands. Without missing any beats on these measurable journey’s the lyricist kept true to form, continually rattling through favorites like CB Song, Sin Eater, Hunkerdown and Pinetree Boogie. Occasionally playing hide and go seek with a fellow photographer in his firing line; Wilkes would step on his shoulders, grinding and undulating his body against the aluminum support column in some twisted homage to Striptease. At one point throughout the evening Wilkes literally walked to the center of the crowd on their hands for his support – indeed an incredible sight!
With this their return for a limited time to the music scene, the Shack Shakers did not disappoint; their music is as much the foundation and cemented core of events like Muddy Roots as any other. The Shakers collectively bring a tailored irreverent behavior which seems to unite audience members from all backgrounds; their music is truly inspirational and calculated madness which caters to the desired freedom culture of Muddy Roots.
Performance Art knows no other form – Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers have staked their claim; from this Tennessee mud we shall never be moved!