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A Night with Captain Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers at The Palace Theater (Review)

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A Night with Captain Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers at The Palace Theater, Albany (Review)

Deadliest CatchWhen I write reviews of cultural events, I try my best not to tell you whether it was good or bad. The thing about cultural events is that they are, well, cultural, and are not therefore measurable in some quantifiable way. This truth has never been more evident than at The Palace Theater Saturday night (May 7 show) during A Night with Captain Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers. Captain Sig Hansen, John and Andy Hillstrand are principal “characters” in the Discovery Channel hit reality television show “Deadliest Catch,” a program depicting the lives of crab fishermen on the dangerous Bering Sea. The show, which was originally pitched as a one season special, has been on air for seven, and is watched by viewers in over 150 countries.

The event was billed as a “rare, live, interactive event, the Bering Sea’s toughest crew swap stories as they take the audience through some of the roughest situations the captain and crew have ever had to face on the high seas,” and in this respect, it failed. This is for a variety of reasons, the most obvious one being that John Hillstrand, co-captain of the Time Bandit with his brother Andy, showed up to the event so drunk he could not string an intelligible sentence together. Never allowing a question to get answered without some outburst or another, John, for many people, ruined what they were told would be a night of harrowing adventure stories. In many ways, John, in never allowing a question to be answered directly, stopped the show from being what the audience was told it would be.

In addition to John’s inebriation was the vulgar quality of the evening, which sent many parents who had brought children (having no reason to believe they shouldn’t) running for the exits. Sig took the cake in this category, taking special care to move the mic close to his lips as he told a ten year old he would figure out, in a year or so, exactly how sailors “entertained themselves” during long months at sea.

Now, here’s where subjectivity finds its way into a review. Everything I just mentioned, the drunkenness, the cursing, the general vulgarity of the evening, was what many patrons enjoyed. To them, a night with a bunch of sailors would have seemed disingenuous if it had been held in an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” setting. John’s stupor, was, to these people, endearing, and they cheered him on as he attempted (with a diligence only matched by the effort it must have taken to get him to that point) to make his way to his original unintelligible point. Vulgarity on stage was met with shouted vulgarity from the crowd, giving the evening an atmosphere less “60 Minutes” than a spoken-word punk rock concert. Had a moshpit started in the first few rows, I’m not sure the conversation on stage would have even paused.

There were tender moments, however, moments capable of eliciting tears from audience members, Sig, and the Hillstrand brothers (especially John). These moments came as the conversation on stage turned from Sig arm-wrestling some punks in New York City, to Captain Phil Harris, close friend of the men and fellow captain, who died in 2010 after suffering a massive stroke. John immediately teared up, which, according to Andy and Sig, is par for the course, John, surprisingly, being the sensitive one of the three. Andy brought out a guitar and sang a song dedicated to Phil, which quieted the place as much as anything could. It was a touching moment, and one of the more memorable of the evening.

The thing about A Night with Captain Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers was that it was a night with Captain Sig and the Hillstrand brothers, and no more. They did not clean up their act or put on their thinking caps to answer some philosophical questions about life, the universe, and everything, but instead threw a bit of a party. Some people left complaining that they had spent eighty dollars, and that therefore John should have shown up sober, and I found myself with little argument. Others left feeling they had received a real night with the boys, and I couldn’t argue with them on that point either. As it turns out A Night with Captain Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers means many things to many people, and only these preconceptions could have indicated the enjoyment an audience member would have.

–Matthew Holden is an Assistant Editor for The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our new City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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