Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Reverend Horton Heat

A few nights ago, after being the only fan at my own personal basement show, I headed over to the Rock Block for the much anticipated (by me) Reverend Horton Heat show at Exit In. I had seen them a few times, and I knew that they put on a rowdy party. What I wasn't quite sure of was what the openers, The Legendary Shack Shakers were like. I had heard of them but never seen a show.

When I got there, the Shack Shakers had just started and were already pounding the roomful of dark denim, leather jackets, and Betty Page lookalikes. Within the first few minutes of being there, lead singer Col. J.D. Wilkes was screaming "Normally I would play a screaming harp solo but I'm not doing anything till you guys get this ass hole outta here!" Then he jumped into the crowd and kicked the dude's drunk and disorderly ass before security gave him the Irish toss. All while I was still trying to get the bartender's attention. I could quickly tell that I was going to dig this. Col. Wilkes was a wild man up there like a mix of Iggy Pop, Johnny Rotten, and Elvis. He had a piercing howl and a menacing snarl and great stage moves like spitting loogies up in the air over his head and making devil horns with his hair. The rhythm section was like a machine gun with Mark Robertson on "The shit-house bass" and "Brutros Brutros Whitacre" on drums, looking like the youngster of the bunch. With pin-ups everywhere, a lawless mosh pit, and a blistering punk-billy band, I felt like I had already gotten my money's worth and that was just the opener. I am definitely a new fan of the Shack Shakers.

When the Reverend finally came out, he was a picture of underground rock supremacy. In contrast to the preceding band's no frills, white t-shirts and sweat, the Heat guys were pure class, with the Rev. in a vintage orange suit that matched his huge hollow bodied Gretch. They explained that they were celebrating their 25th anniversary and that the set would be in chronological order. They started off with an instrumental romp from the first album and continued on down the line. The Reverend's deadpan delivery is always fun to watch, the way he looks so serious, then flashes a cartoonish smile, then goes back to grim. After "Martini Time", they enlisted the aid of Ernest Tubb's longtime lap steel player for a couple of slow old-timey songs about Texas and then gave bass player Jimbo Wallace a shout-out with "J-I-M-B-O". At 1 a.m. when they said they were going to jump out of order for a few new songs, I was bushed and decided that I had had enough.

I went into this show excited to the the Heat and maybe check out the Legendary Shack Shakers. It turned out that I had a blast with the Shakers and got a bonus dozen songs from the Reverend. His show was fun and entertaining, complete with playing a solo from atop the stand-up bass, but the rawness and fury of the Shakers hit the spot. You know, that spot in everyone that only spitting, moshing, and drinking Pabst can hit.

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