The Reverend Horton Heat returned to Pappy and Harriet’s for the third time on Thursday, Jan. 11—and the band was welcomed by a sold-out crowd.
But first, Riverside’s Voodoo Glow Skulls brought their ska punk—with a heavy emphasis on punk—stirring up the crowd, especially three corn-feed bro-punks who moshed while the rest of the crowd was buffeted in their wake. As the band chanted “Who Do Voodoo We Do!” the crowd responded by replying, “Fuck You!”—which fed the fury of the moshers, who splashed perfectly good beer on the crowd.
Big Sandy was slated to go next—but Jim Heath, the Reverend himself, announced with a grin that this is a “Pioneertown psychobilly freakout!”
The Rev delighted the crowd with the hits, including “Five-O Ford” and “In Your Wildest Dreams,” off 1994’s Liquor in the Front. Heath caused some rockabilly gals to swoon with these words from the latter song: “My breath on your neck, the touch of my hand, you’ll awake in a room of steam, I’ll see you in your wildest dreams.”
Halfway through the set, Heath introduced the group’s new, husky, drummer, R.J. Contreras, who was incredible, keeping the beat strong and acknowledging the crowd with a “What’s up Pioneertown?” Heath added that R.J. “is young enough to put up with his bad habits.”
Jim Heath shared many stories about bassist Jimbo Wallace, including the time the Reverend performed in Seattle during the grunge-rock era for free—while Wallace bled on the crowd after cutting his hand. The injury drew the attention of executives from Sub Pop Records who were in the audience—and the whole thing led to the band getting signed to the label. This tale segued into the “Jimbo Song.”
At one point, Heath talked about the time they played in Fresno. “Fresno is every bit as redneck as Lubbock, Texas,” he said, leading to a big cheer from Jen Ault Michalk, a super-fan of Fresno who was at Pappy’s celebrating her son’s 18th birthday. Heath went on to say that “Cowboy Love” was inspired by a gay cowboy bar in Fresno, with the lyrics: “Yeah, I know that us as a couple, will cause talk, but I wouldn’t mind; those cowboys will be pea-green with envy, when they see his cute behind.”
The Reverend threw a curveball halfway through the show when he introduced Big Sandy as the best rockabilly singer today. Big Sandy proceeded to sing his song “Hot Water” with perfect pitch—living up to the compliment bestowed by Jim Heath. Sandy reciprocated his love for the Rev, saying, “I am very blessed playing with the Reverend Horton Heat.”
While all this mutual admiration was in the air, I overheard a father saying that his boy, Steven, who is 6, was at his second Reverend Horton Heat show—although Steven does not remember the first time, because he was much younger. Steven was all smiles, sitting on the edge of the stage watching the show at one point when Jimbo handed him a bottled water, causing the child to smile.
As things were winding down, the tempo wound up with “Let Me Teach You How to Eat.” I spied David Catching, a member of the Eagles of Death Metal, rocking out while wearing a hoodie towards the back of the venue.
Big Sandy returned to the stage: “We are going to dedicate this song to all of you,” he said as he took the lead on vocals. Meanwhile, Jimbo Wallace brought up little Steven to the stage. “Steven, have you ever had a bass lesson?” he asked. “Uncle Jimbo is going to give you a bass lesson.” The show ended with “School of Rock and Roll” by Gene Summers.
As I left the stage area after the show, Jimbo asked me if I got a shot of Steven playing the bass. I told him I didn’t, since I was only supposed to shoot during the first three songs. He then asked me to take photos of him and Steven.
“The future of music rests with kids,” he explained.