By Brad Dress
Like beating footsteps, a drum solo began. One spotlight illuminated the drummer in the back as he pounded effortlessly on the drums. Then a piano chord, picking up pace with the beating drums. And another spotlight revealed a young man with a red Fedora hat, collapsed over a piano.
A guitar pricked into the melody. Now the spotlight revealed the Reverend himself, wearing a snazzy red jacket and shredding his guitar. And finally there was “Jimbo” Wallace, clutching a massive black ‘bass taller than himself, glimmering to the Reverend’s right.
The band soared into a roaring instrumental, while in the background three blocks depicting the letters “REV” flashed an orange-yellow hue.
The Reverend Horton Heat were finally here.
But the show began quietly, if not simply. At 7:30 p.m., Dale Watson, a traditional folk, country-rock guitarist who scorns new country music and refers to his genre as “Ameripolitan,” started the 50’s style show at the 9:30 Club with a laidback, comedic flair.
Watson swayed onto stage with a beer tucked into his hand; his spiked albino hair complementing his black, leather jacket. His deep voice rumbled like a modern Elvis Presley. He frequently made jokes about truckers while sipping on his drink and straddling his guitar.
At one point, he started talking about the new wave of country and introduced his song “CMA.”
“CMA,” he said. “Stands for Country My Ass.”
At 8:35 p.m., The Blasters rocked onto the stage without a word.
They ripped into a 50’s-style rockabilly instrumental. The band was an ode to 50’s legends such as Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, and they blasted their music into the crowd with popular hits like “Dark Night” and “American Music.”
They finished a little after 9:00 p.m. while the audience milled around for 30 minutes wondering when the Reverend Horton Heat would come on. When the club went dark, the crowd knew they were coming.
After the flashy introduction, the Reverend introduced his band and spun a narrative about his bass player, Wallace. At one show, Wallace had continued to play bass despite his bloody hand.
“He made a cross of blood on his face,” the Rev said. “Then he just looked over and he just said ‘Go.’”
The story led to “The Jimbo Song” followed by “Run, Rudolph, Run,” a hit off their Christmas album. The Heat added their psychobilly touch, mixing punk, 50’s rock and folk blues to most songs, and playing super hits like “Psychobilly Freakout.”
Alex Sakes, a resident of D.C., said the show was great.
“[Jim Heath] is a hell of a guitar player,” he added. “They got Dale Watson, Big Sandy and everyone else. It’s a lot of bang for your buck tonight.”
“Does anyone want to buy me a shot of tequila?” Watson asked the crowd. Two people scrambled to buy him his shots, and delivered them. Watson passed them around to Big Sandy and the Reverend.
After playing “Thanks to Tequila.” the group posed for a photo shoot before playing one final jam.
Charles Ferrera said he flew in from California to see the show.
“I liked the lineup,” Ferrara said. “The fact that they all played together [and] played some Christmas music … it was great.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Reverend Horton Heat’s Facebook page.
Brad Dress is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.