The outer limits

Asskickers show why they’re among the best

Asskickers, Richard March, 3-Fingers Whisky
Off Limits, Fri., Feb. 25
Friday evening’s country jamboree was already in full swing by the time I walked into the Off Limits at about 9:30. Bob Howard, the amiable mastermind of the Asskickers, was standing near the bar looking dapper in matching Stetson and western jacket, so I joined him there for a restorative beverage while we enjoyed the last song or two by the Richard Marx band, a country-rock outfit with the emphasis on country that flavors its tunes with excellent walking bass lines supporting the vocals & mellow guitars. Just the sort of thing for sipping a bit of the high octane and tapping a toe or two.

Speaking of which, 3-Fingers Whisky took the stage next, and the transition from Marx’s smooth brand of country rock to hot, guitar powered cow-punk provided a burst of raw energy tempered by the excellent dynamics of the players. Drummer “Super Dave” Breed deserves accolades for power, versatility and precision, but it’s easier to say he rocks out like Animal on The Muppets Show. This band is now on my list of locals not to miss.

With the bar packed, the crowd fired up and a short period of equipment wrangling out of the way, the Asskickers took the stage to an enthusiastic greeting and proceeded to demonstrate what five years of consistent practicing and steady gigging can do for a group of musicians. It turns them into a band. And in this case a damn fine one, capable of smoothly shifting gears between a full-steam-ahead rocker like “Anger in My Soul” and a downtime country waltz, such as “Gasoline.”

Howard writes lyrics perfectly suited to his baritone voice, whether he’s singing ironic observations about life’s misfits or exhorting the social discrepancies that led to the creation of punk rock and aligning it with the foundations of country music’s rebellious roots. And in songs such as "My Dog Bites" the band concocts a heady brew that fuses country, heavy metal and punk into something uniquely and powerfully their own. As my note-taking self scrawled across one page during that song’s performance, "heavy fucking shit!" Which I meant in the most complimentary way possible.