By Frank Miller
Rockabilly music and its fans are a unique cultural faction that celebrates ‘50s style as much as the twangy, frenetic sound.
At a Reverend Horton Heat show at Ace of Spades on Tuesday night, the crowd was littered with men with slicked-back hear, rolled-up sleeves and high-waist slacks. Women with big skirts, bigger hair and smeared in bright red lipstick were also out in full force.
Since the rockabilly sound is so adaptable, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the bill was an eccentric collection of bands that spanned a gamut of genres.
Matt W. Gage and his band took the stage first and their off-key, out-of-tune country twang played to a sparse crowd that either wasn’t interested in the tunes, or hadn’t lubed up enough yet to abandon their reticence. The band played a collection of straight-forward southern party rock that, admittedly, might have played better with a packed crowd later in the evening.
Guttermouth took the stage next and subsequently antagonized the audience into rapt attention. The punk rock stalwarts and their mouthy lead singer, Mark Adkins, wasted no time working the energy into a froth and didn’t let up until the last crunchy chord was played. Adkins has a reputation for offensive behavior and it was on full display at the show as he called out practically everyone, including audience members, club security and even the venue itself.
However, Adkins’ attitude was in the spirit of punk rock and a savvy concert goer would be remiss if they took the barbs at face value. It was a live-wire act that certainly brought a spark while they ripped through their oeuvre.
Reverend Horton Heat took the stage next and played to a packed floor. They started off the night playing one song from each of their first albums, in order, until taking a break to play a few covers, which included tunes from Chuck Berry, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. Gage played a Cash cover earlier in the evening, but the difference was evident as Gage tried to punch it up, while Rev was more, well, reverent.
Highlights included “It’s Martini Time,” “Psychobilly Freakout” and “Galaxie 500.” There was also a mean cover of “Johnny B. Goode” that featured Jim Heath switching to stand-up bass for the track.
The show was drenched in nostalgia and kitsch, the music was a throwback to a bygone era and the cultural appreciation was palpable. With so many modern anxieties that plague us on a daily basis, it’s nice to have a throw-back, old-fashioned good time every once in a while.