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Friday, August 13, 2010

Reverend Horton Heat and Split Lip Rayfield at the Fillmore

Posted By on Fri, Aug 13, 2010 at 12:51 AM

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Reverend Horton Heat 
Split Lip Rayfield 
Hillstomp 
@ The Fillmore
August 12, 2010 

Better than: Toad-lickin' on a hot summer's night. 

First, there were the cameras. Big cameras on big cranes, Hollywood style. We were all gonna be famous tonight, documented in digital glory for a DVD to celebrate the Reverend Horton Heat's 25th anniversary as the psychobilly freakmaster of the universe. It was exciting, and we prepped accordingly: liquor, beer, and wine -- and smoke 'em if you got 'em. You know how it goes. We were at the legendary Fillmore, after all. 

While lubricating our dancing shoes, we scoped out the girls. As the good Reverend (aka Jim Heath) simply puts it on "Death Metal Guys," one of the standout tracks on the new country-soused album, Laughin' and Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat, his best recording in years: "Rockabilly guys like rockabilly chicks." It's the cherry lips, the wide-swingin' skirts, the body art to match the classic curves, readymade for the lasso. Rockabilly ladies know how to kick up their heels, and rockabilly guys aren't afraid to get their hands dirty.


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But there was a minor problem: the lights in the concert hall were a bit on the bright side. That might work out well for the video, but the atmosphere seemed more like a high school sock hop than a jukejoint get-down. No worries, we'd toss back another Jim and ginger, try to feel less self-conscious. When the band came on after a fiery, gut-bucket bluegrass set by Split Lip Rayfield (we sadly missed openers Hillstomp), we were more than ready to give ourselves over to the Reverend's Texas-tough brand of rock 'n' roll.

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Unfortunately, in an effort to deliver a proper retrospective, the band arranged the set list in chronological order, intending to regale us with a historical overview of the group's progression from drunk punks of the late '80s to their hard-earned status today as world-class representatives of the last half-century of American roots music. But the thing is, Reverend Horton Heat shows almost always start off with a bang: the rippin' instrumental "Big Sky" followed by the deviant singalong "Baddest of the Bad." For many years, this powerful combo of tunes would often stir up a pit at the outset, then the energy would surge till the last note of the encore. This didn't happen last night.

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Which isn't to say the gig wasn't spectacular. By the standards of your average concertgoing experience, it was over-the-top, sweat-drenched, crazy-ass fun. But it took a while to get there. And the band realized this, shifting gears midstream (breaking from the proposed set list on their web site) and cranking out that "Big Sky"/"Bad" jam that always gets us going. From there, "Jimbo Song," the classic homage to the Reverend's lifelong four-string partner Jimbo Wallace--"J-I-M-B-O" (shouted in the rhythm of that "Bingo" dog rhyme)--brought on the fist-pumpin' en masse.
   
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Then finally, about three-quarters into the night, in the middle of a fleet-fingered "Galaxy 500," those rockabilly guys with the sideburns and pompadours busted up the stoners near the front of the stage with good-natured mosh etiquette that enticed a few fearless rockabilly chicks into the pit as well. This is what the congregation had come for: punk-country transcendence. And in the end, as always, the Reverend delivered.

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Sam Prestianni

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