Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Year of Hasil #2: Snapshots from "the Lexington Years"

by J.T. Dockery

It is an accurate statement as any to anoint the last six years of Hasil Adkins's life "the Lexington years." He played Lexington once every year, recorded and posthumously released "Night Life" which many Haze fans consider the best of his latter day albums. As far as I know, he didn't play any towns that regularly, including the nearby Charleston, WV, in that time period.

In those years (1999-2005), it was an age of the internet growing to domination, but not quite yet exactly an age of social networking (which even now is an age Cheeseburger & Fries do not exactly, ahem, endorse, just as we weren't endorsing it in its infancy, Friendster, my butt) and, as we ourselves (we primarily being myself, Jeffrey Scott Holland, Brian Manley and friends) were all if not behind the times, out of step with the times (why else would we be pals with Hasil Adkins?)...not that that particular reality has digital cameras and anal retentive archiving were not always, as they were not Hasil's, our priorities. Hang on to our coattails was our motto...

Making it happen was what we did. And as it is said, amongst Hasil's shows, the time spent with him and the recording sessions: if you didn't see it, you weren't there.

But none of us were allergic to archiving or snapshotting, just busy being drunk, being sober, being hungover, or else picking a guitar in some damn nightclub. And many of these images were online at some point, available on now defunct, and lengthily elaborate, urls from the "golden age" of free web hosting (kids, dotcoms were the stuff of wealthy insider go go go folks early on, haw). As a matter of fact the photo of Hasil below, taken in summer of 2000 by Jesse Saxon, was once online and some other artist in another town used it as a basis of a caricature of Hasil used for a poster for a show that Hasil had hanging in his trailer by the next year after the photo was taken.

Hasil liked to smoke. His philosophy was that it wasn't unhealthy for the smoker if one constantly changed brands. Not bad thinking. He certainly didn't die from lung related illnesses or cancer despite being one of the heaviest smokers this old boy has ever observed. I got him to sign this pack of Coronas, a brand I never saw him smoke again before or after.

One photo I was surprised to come across in my files, as I had no memory of it whatsoever, perhaps largely due to the poor quality of the snapshot, was of Hasil Adkins sitting in the audience watching the Smacks! in 2001 at the now defunct Lynagh's. Memories of this show include the fact that it was at a literary/music festival. Thinking Hasil might be uncomfortable sitting watching poets read their work, I offered to him to go to the bar next door. There was an attractive young woman performing at that moment. Hasil looked up. Looked back at me, suggesting we stick around as, "We might learn something." I also recall sitting down with Hasil but then immediately running out to get Haze another pack of smokes as he'd already burned through the pack we had bought for him before departing West Virginia. When I returned with a pack, Hasil stuck the whole thing in his mouth, miming lighting all 20 cigarettes. The Smacks! opened for Hasil. After this show, he started referring to me as his "favorite drummer." Hasil broke a string during his first song. Manley replaced it. Hasil, getting his guitar back on track, after Manley's swift improv guitar tech moves, then opened with an instrumental that blew Manley and I away. He went on to deliver a kick butt set. All previous festivals, SoUP fest this thing was called, had been recorded at the sound board by the club. For some reason this year they did not. Bugger.

The picture below was from later in that same evening. We all went to an after-party at a downtown loft inhabited by J.K. Mabry. Hasil ended up crashing at Cave Manley that night, them staying up to all hours baking home recordings with Manley on mandolin (I recall when I picked up Hasil the next day him saying to Manley, "Send me a copy of that tape so I can hear how drunk we was."). We are posing for a Polaroid with Manley holding a copy of A.B. "Happy" Chandler's 45, "Come Back To Your Kentucky." The frame is a goofy frame my mom gave me for some reason, and at some point when I was preserving the photo to hang in my studio, I felt it properly idiotic to frame this snap within.

I want to say that the photo below, in front of the Adkins Plantation with the infamous "Hazel Hotel" in the background, is from the same show, albeit from picking him up in Boone county on the way to it, the previous snaps was from. But, hell, who knows? I can say I drove down with Jessi Fehrenbach and Jesse Saxon to get him in a rented car. As my first name is, in fact, Jesse, that was the time a car full of Jesse/i's went to fetch him. My favorite anecdote in regards to Hasil and Jessi Fehrenbach was when I overheard the two of 'em down in our basement talking when Hasil was buying a synthesizer from Fehrenbach. I heard Haze out of the blue ask her, "How much do you weigh?" Jessi told him. Hasil pondered the information quietly. Later, on the ride home, just the two of us, Hasil said, "Jessi's a good looking woman. BIG. But a good looking woman." Which then begs the question: Did Hasil ever use that synth on any home recordings?

If anybody out there in radioland has pics of Hasil from "the Lexington years," send them on....we'd love to share 'em with the studio audience. Either way, I got more puzzling evidence coming on in this "Year of Hasil." Stay tuned.

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