The godfathers of the rockabilly revolution and the schoolmasters of the psychobilly-pastors known as the Reverend Horton Heat, brought their notoriously high-octane crusade of profane retro rock to Greenpoint Brooklyn’s Warsaw Ballroom with all the divine power you’d expect from these three wisecrackers. Singer and guitarist Jim Heath and upright bassist Jimbo Wallace have delivered their slicked-back Texas cool with an intoxicating brew of classic early country, blues, rocking R&B, and surf rock in a phoenix-from-the-ashes revivalist gospel fashion since way back in the mid-1980s. Taking classic raw and rowdy sounds of everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Dick Dale and Jonny Cash to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins to the forefront of popular culture, this trio bucked all pop culture norms during a decade when synthy-pop ruled the world. For that they deserve credit for widening the music scene so much more for the alternative nation to sweep into power. From making the Ren & Stimpy cartoon theme song to showing how to be fashionable while singing about being blind drunk, they continued to spell out true coolness in the early 1990’s alternative music scene. Having seen these guys dozens of times over the last 25 years, I can rightfully proclaim that they continue creating combustible live performances.
Lucky Tubb opened the show with a stripped-down lonely guitar and bass country duo in the enduring style of classic honkytonk legend Ernest Tubb, who happens to be his great uncle. Next came the epic debauchery of the band Nashville Pussy, who I had witnessed opening for the Reverend before, which is probably the only reason I knew not to grab my beer and run for the hills, ‘cause right up front is right where you wanna be for this ruckus. Former Nine Pound Hammer singer and guitarist Blaine Cartwright pours out the wildest of demons in his simple, sleazy southern-rock brew with unapologetic hillbilly abandon. Still, it’s his wife, guitarist Ruyter Suys, who seems to always steal the show with her barefoot and busty performance of unhinged rock n’ roll recklessness. Together, they create 100-proof pure and simple rock with zero percent of shits given as they soak the stage with beer, whiskey, sweat, and tears.
Now, I have seen Reverend Horton Heat curate their sets in many different formats in the past; from playing a song off each album in chronological fashion, to doing all audience requests or covers, to playing albums start to finish. However, this show was a whole new beast. This time, joined by long-time RHH skins master Paul Simmons behind the drum kit, they played like a travelling roadside gospel revival, interspersing their classic material by bringing up holy guest acts to help exorcise all your evil demons and heal your sinful soul. Thusly, they brought out classics like “Psychobilly Freakout,” “Badddest of the Bad,” and even “Jimbo Song” way early in the set. From the outset, Jim Heath proves himself as one of the most supreme guitarists who wander the Earth today, deliciously and dexterously picking away at every blazing crossroads lick as he feverously speeds up and down the fretboard.
About halfway through the set, they brought out a legend of his own last of rites called Unknown Hinson for a few songs. Playing his countrified psychobilly rock in the guise of a sort of undead Dracula character, with his bat-shaped necktie and black scythe-like eyebrows with his fiendishly undead guitar virtuosity, this wild cat is the voice of lead character Early Cuyler in the Cartoon Network show Squidbillies. Blaine Cartwright returned to the stage for a roaring rockabilly rendition of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades,” followed by Lucky Tubb and local guitar virtuoso guitarist Jason Loughlin also taking to the stage in turn. In the end, RHH ended up skipping a few of my favorites off the typical setlist, but it was no less of a wild adventure to share with one of the finest bands in the badass Rock N’ Roll Universe.
Article: Dean Keim