The Legendary Shack Shakers
The Pour House
May 11

A small but boisterous crowd of fans and musicians was on hand for the Legendary Shack Shakers’ Tuesday night gig. Many in the half-filled room were still totally stoked about the opening set from N.C. group Pine Hill Haints by the time I walked in (coming straight over from the John Hiatt concert earlier in the evening).

It was the Shakers’ first time at the Pour House. Their usual haunts were always the Music Farm, the Village Tavern, and the much-missed Cumberland’s. The Nashville quartet hit the stage armed with a bunch of new rockers and punk-paced country tunes from Agri-dustrial, their newly released studio album.

Short, skinny, and wild-eyed, frontman J.D. Wilkes howled, jigged, and mugged from song to song, switching between a heavily distorted harp mic and a cleaner vocal mic. Drummer Brett Whitacre’s double-kick kit looked like a relic from a 1973 Vanilla Fudge concert. Sporting a new beard and big straw hat, bassist Mark Robertson thumped his full-sized upright bass, occasionally switching it for an electric standard four-string.

It’s been two years since the Shakers parted ways with their longtime lead guitarist David Lee, a native Charlestonian who started playing guitar as an East Cooper teen punk in the mid-’80s. Guitarist Duane Denison — of Chicago rock band The Jesus Lizard and West Coast collaboration Tomahawk — replaced him in the summer of 2008. Denison looked and sounded sharp on the new material as well as on some of the older numbers. His treble-heavy, shrill tone blended well with the thuddy, muscular sound of the rhythm section — percussive and tight, they sounded great as the backing for Wilke’s hyper singing style.

Nearing the end of the set, Lee jumped on stage and plugged his fancy custom Gretsch guitar into Denison’s amp for a few quick LLS classics. It was a fun, high energy, totally unexpected reunion and one of several highlights of the night.