Friday, December 15, 2017

The Reverend Horton Heat at Irving Plaza

Jim Heath
Jim Heath was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, where in high school he played guitar in a cover band called Southern Comfort. A few years later, he dove into a full time music career when he joined a touring cover band called Sweetbriar. His musical approach changed upon seeing New York psychobilly band the Cramps and the Los Angeles roots-rock band the Blasters perform in Dallas, Texas. Heath and his wife had a child, and Heath temporarily became a sound technician at music clubs rather than a performer, but in 1985 he was inspired to form a psychobilly roots-rock band he called Reverend Horton Heat. The band's 11th and most recent studio album in 2014's REV. Reverend Horton Heat presently consists of Heath, bassist Jimbo Wallace and new drummer Arjuna "RJ" Contreras; the core trio is frequently augmented by keyboardist Tim Alexander.

Reverend Horton Heat brought its Holiday Hayride to Irving Plaza on a snowy night. The evening began with a 60-minute set by the Blasters, and concluded with Reverend Horton Heat performing a two-hour set. The Holiday Hayride show was Christmas-themed, and so it started with an instrumental surf-rock version of "We Three Kings," and in short time also included a Gene Autry-styled cover of "Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer," Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolf Run" and a mashup of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and the Batman theme. For the final 40 minutes or so, Reverend Horton Heat backed Robert "Big Sandy" Williams of California's western swing and country boogie band Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Throughout the set, Reverend Horton Heat used rockabilly as a platform to mix elements of country, surf, punk, and big band swing into loud, fast and furious songs with often-humorous lyrics. Between songs, Heath similarly shared humorous anecdotes, including a tale about the time Reverend Horton  Heat jammed with the late Lemmy Kilmister before dedicating the next song to him, a show-closing cover of Motörhead’s "Ace of Spades." Big Sandy rejoined the band for the two-song encore. Reverend Horton Heat stayed true to its high-energy roots-rock traditions, but the few outside ventures, like "Ace of Spades," made the hayride even more fun.

Visit the Reverend Horton Heat at