Rockabilly Redemption this weekend

Oh, I think it was 1991 or thereabouts: the first time I encountered The Reverend Horton Heat. The Toad Café was still open, it was an otherwise uneventful Sunday night, and I'm walking downtown to catch a bus home, when friends of mine drive past, lean out the car window and call out, "Why are you going home? There's rockabilly at the Toad tonight!" What the heck, might as well pop in.

My friends and I turned out to be four of the seven people in the club to witness some severely great psychobilly. They didn't give a hoot that they didn't have a full house; the Reverend still played it like he had a full house. Bass player Jimbo crawled all over his black-painted stand up bass like he was making love to it, and to this day I still don't know how drummer
Paul Simmons keeps up the frenetic pace he lays down, especially during songs like "Psychobilly Freakout." Besides one of the best shows I'd ever seen, it was also one of the last times I saw the friend who called out to me from the car alive -- fucking cancer got her, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Reverend for the absolute lust for life he soundtracked for her on one of her last nights out.

I've tried each time they hit town to catch them again, sometimes I make it, sometimes I don't. Last time I made it was around my birthday in 2004 -- and the amazing Split Lip Rayfield opened for them at Shank Hall. What a double bill of moonshine soaked hillbilly madness that was! (And dammit, fucking cancer strikes again. Raise a shotglass full of filthy roadhouse whiskey to SLR's Kirk Rundstrom who lost his battle last week, but went down in a blaze of glory, playing out pretty much right until the end and sticking it to cancer on his own terms.)

I don't mean to associate the Reverend with death. He's too full of life -- put your Big Red Rocket Of Love in full gear and floor it life -- life that knows death's coming (and hell and damnation may follow) and spits in its face. He growls, he screams, he wails the blues, and he preaches the gospel of psychobilly that's either going to save us all or throw us directly into Satan's arms. Oh, am I just talking about his voice? His guitar is on fire! Sinful, brimstone laced, you're-going-to-get-in-trouble-if-you-stick-around fire. I knew he was good that night at the Toad Café, but didn't realize just how amazing he was until I picked up a guitar myself and attemped to play psychobilly with the Psycho Bunnies a year later. (It's sort of how you have an idea that Hendrix was good, but didn't realize to what extent until you learn your three chords and then you just accept you're never going to be Hendrix.). I missed the Reverend in 2005, and there was no 2006 Milwaukee appearance, so I'm due.

So, that's my major destination for the weekend. Accept that you're not Hendrix, that you're not Jim Heath (The Rev's "real" name), and that you're going to be a worthless piece of protoplasm on Monday at work after you drag your sinful ass down to the Miramar Theatre Sunday night to find redemption in the Full Custom Sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat.

  • Other recommendations: Go see Julie "True Heart" B at Caroline's on S 2nd Friday night for some good prog that isn't about post-apocalyptic dystopian disaster. Yeah, I liked ELP and Rush too when I was in high school. Julie B has since been to college, where she obviously learned that writing complex songs about the here and now works well. Early show, starts at 9, and you'll be out of there in time to go sing Karaoke at, get this, the Cactus Club. You thought they were too hip for that, huh? You were wrong.

  • Or brave the drive down to Racine and go to the Y there to see Snooky play an all-ages show with something like 5 other bands Friday night. It's a benefit food drive, so its a good cause.

  • Saturday night Dr. Chow's Love Medicine is making up for the fact that the snow did us all in last weekend, so let's try this again, folks. Again, stop into the House of Hamburg, right by the airport, and buy me a weissbier to thank me for turning you onto the medicinal blues that is Dr Chow.

By the way, if you've had it up to here with burying wonderful people because of goddamn cancer, and you don't hold a degree in biomedical engineering so you can actively work on stopping it, the next best thing you can do is throw money at it. Join me in sponsoring my sister-in-law as she walks/runs for the American Cancer Societyin Madison. And as many of my breast-cancer surviving friends plead, don't forget those self-exams, ladies!


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