Step right up folks. Here we have the genuine article. A regular nine-toed, Jim Beam soused, hard working, son of the South. Brought straight out of the backwaters of North Carolina and direct to SONAR Baltimore’s side stage to both bewilder and terrify you with his gravel voiced howls and suffocating sludge bass guitar. The wild man reputation of “Dixie” Dave Collins has preceded him for a decade and on Tuesday night I finally got to experience this force of nature front man for myself.
“Dixie” Dave fronts Weedeater, a Stoner Doom metal band with a sound that is a little more Southern-fried than most of their peers. Accompanying Collins on drums is Keith “Keko” Kirkum, an imposing mountain of a man who would look equally at home guarding the gates to Mordor with a giant war-hammer or roughing you up for the change in your pockets. On guitar is Dave Sheperd; tall, slender, eyes hidden beneath the brim of his camouflage cap; lurking in the background like your uncle’s weird hunting buddy or that unassuming neighbor that turns out to be a serial killer. All three of these guys look like they could deliver some serious damage with any assortment of WalMart supplied bows, shotguns, and lawn darts. Weedeater trade in their firearms for instruments every couple of years to cut an album and tour behind it, unleashing an entirely different type of punishment than the kind they delivered to Ned Beatty’s ass in “Deliverance”.
Early in Weedeater’s set, someone in the audience trucked out the cliche concert joke of yelling out “play some Skynrd!”. In response “Dixie” Dave proudly mumbled into his microphone, “They say you play what you know,” before the band ripped through the lion-share of their set. It was a set full of songs from their new album “Jason…the Dragon” and its immediate predecessor “God Luck and Good Speed”. The sound was thick like tar and heavy in a way that crushed the air out of your lungs. It was the way the rhythms ground forward, the cadence of Collins’ vocal delivery, and the odd angry shot of guitar flourish that recalled Weedeater’s classic Southern rock ancestry.
It also didn’t hurt that Collins and Sheperd just completely look the part of guys who sell refurbished radiators to satiate their constant need for weed. The camo hats and the ever present bottle of Jim Beam also helped to complete the image. Like most good rock bands from the South, at the top of the set Collins proudly introduced his band as being from North Carolina and thanked us all for having them as guests. It was an enjoyable contradictory moment to have this touch of Southern politeness coming from such a vicious, wrecking crew. I guess Collins’ mother must have done something right.
There isn’t much to say about Weedeater’s set other than it delivered exactly what I had hoped for. The promise shown on their albums, particularly the two most recent ones, was met and in most cases exceeded the recorded versions. Personal highlight moments for me were when the music dropped out and Collins’ yelled “God Luck and Good Speed”.* This was a perfectly orchestrated moment. The entire performance of “Give Me Back My Bullets” was probably my favorite moment of the whole show. It was inspired playing and Collins vocals seemed to be fueled by his experience losing a toe to a shotgun last year. Also hearing “Weed Monkey” was just a fucking treat.
Whether they were playing an agonizingly slow grind number or putting the full pedal to the metal, the trio worked incredibly well together. There were a few times when they seemed to be using jedi mind tricks and/or telepathy to sync up their timing in a non-verbal way. It is obvious Weedeater play together a lot because they had that Delta Force vibe going on. These guys may look rough around the edges but they are elite players.
“Dixie” Dave is a maniac. It’s true. When he started howling the lyrics to the first song I had to do a double-take. Are his eyes crossed? Yes. And they stayed that way. His cross-eyed yelling was at first hilarious but eventually became down-right unsettling. His attitude with the audience for the most part was the ‘take it or leave it’ approach of a true artist. He even introduced one song saying “You’ll probably hate it”. Of course Collins had us eating out of his hand the whole time. Behind his cross-eyed visage and broken-asphalt voice, his bass playing was simply mind-boggling to watch. Collins plays a weather-worn, battle-scarred, bass guitar like a virtuoso. Playing with his fingers rather than a pick, he plucked those surprisingly loose bass strings like an expert. Unlike most other metal, in the Stoner Doom genre the bass gets to be the star. When you have someone of Collins’ caliber on lead bass, backed by band-mates as reliable as Sheperd and “Keko” you are in for a real treat. Weedeater’s set on Tuesday was an excellent display of technically proficiency as well as a good old fashioned ass-kicking.
* It was also great to hear Collins shout the opening phrase of “Good Luck and God Speed” which is “I live ouside!”; mainly because you can sort of believe Collins might actually live outdoors.