Review: The Rev. Horton Brings the Heat at the Old Rock House, May 12, 2010

by

DREW REYNOLDS, VIA MYSPACE
Dave the barber told me the Rev. Horton Heat was washed up.

I don't know much about the St. Louis rockabilly scene but I get my hair cut at the American Classic Barbershop by Dave, where he works with his partners Tim and Warren. Dave and Tim are part of the band The Cripplers (not a barbershop quartet) and they always seemed to me like the Godfathers of the south city greasers, telling stories about getting roughed up by bouncers at Mississippi Nights while holding a straight razor to my neck to put the finishing touches on a fine cut.

Anyhow, I was in the shop earlier this week and inquired about the show Wednesday night by the the good Reverend. "Stopped going five years ago," they basically said. "It was the same show every time and the crowd got to be too many obnoxiously drunk frat boys."

He usually tells it pretty straight -- like a good barber should -- so I was a little worried. I've always been a fan of the Reverend but missed out for one reason or another on his shows at the Tractor Tavern in my native Seattle and at Pop's since moving to St. Louis. After all, a bad crowd can ruin even a good show.

I gotta to say, Dave was dead wrong.

The crowd was a human circus. My personal favorites were the guy with a mudflap mullet and epic horseshoe mustache and the guy with the black bandana draped over his head and a T-shirt that read "Truck drivin, gun totin, meth smokin, blue collar, true american hero."

It was those two, Beatle Bob and every walk of life in between.

Wearing a snazzy, Ferrari-red, western-embroidered jacket, the Rev. didn't disappoint either. The tall Texan chugged through old and new tunes alike with a gravely growl and whammy bar-bending guitar wails. He plays with a glint in his eye and a sneer on his face, shuffling back and forth between the vintage microphone to sing and the corner of the stage for solos.

The audience (as audiences are wont to do) was much more comfortable with the classics. They belted out the hell-raisin' anthems like "Baddest of the Bad" ("young girls and gin may be the cure!") and laughed out loud at the devilish country yarns like "Bales of Cocaine" ("Horton that's some blow!).

Taking a break after the first fifteen minutes, Heat apologetically announced it was time for some new songs, prompting the packed house to practically stampede the venue's bars. Songs like "Drinkin' and Smokin' Cigarettes" and "Ain't No Saguaro In Texas" have just about the same edge and charm, respectively, as the hits but don't resonate for some reason.

The band took another break and finished with a medley of favorites, including a cover of "Folsom Prison Blues" that had some scorching hot licks and "Big Red Rocket of Love." Bassist Jimbo Wallace, a rock on the upright, hammed it up nicely introducing Heat just before the final reprise of "Rocket" in which each member of the trio rocked an extended solo, including drummer Scott Churilla, filling in for the regular percussionist Paul Simmons, whose house was affected by the flooding in Nashville.

In short, there was a whole heap of rock and roll with very little douchebaggery. So, with apologies to the boys at American Classic, I can definitively say that The Reverend Horton Heat still has it.

(Now here's hoping Dave doesn't go Sweeney Todd on me next time I come in for a trim.)

It should be noted that opening act Split Lip Rayfield was also outstanding. Bassist Jeff Eaton headbangs and beats the hell out a crazy, homemade bass contraption mounted on what looks like a gear case. With frantic mandolin strumming and mad banjo picking, the band sounds like a chase scene from the Dukes of Hazzard on PCP.

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