Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Recap of Reverend Horton Heat Show With Nekromantix and The Creepshow, January 15, 2014, The Trocodero, Philadelphia

Reverend Horton Heat

I've covered or attended hundreds of shows in my lifetime and can probably come up with a Top 10 best if held at gunpoint, perhaps.  These days, as a father, I'm just satisfied to attend shows at all.  I dearly miss the days when I was at 10 to 15 shows a month.  I've done so many on-site interviews with musicians backstage, on tour buses or at local bars near the venues that it grew to be addictive.  As I mentioned in another post, I was writing for seven magazines and five websites once, which meant I was either on the phone or at a show doing interviews.  Now that most of those publications have vanished into the ether of music journalism past, I long for those days when I was living on the edge on caffeine bombs, late night drives along the east coast and the occasional lonely hotel room.

Last week, in snowy Philadelphia, I was hardly lonely as my family came with me for a road trip as I took in the evening at the historic Trocodero club on Arch Street.  After turning in a glowing review of Reverend Horton Heat's newest album REV for Blabbermouth, I was graciously invited to the show by the Rev's camp and his new label, Victory Records, who I've been fortunate to have enjoyed a longtime professional association with.  I think back to when I got started in this racket, interviewing some of their earlier artists like Himsa, Atreyu and Between the Buried and Me, and to see the iconic Psychobilly Freakout, Reverend Horton Heat on their roster is a bit surreal.  However, he appears to be in great hands and I was treated to one of the best concerts I've seen in many moons.  Jim Heath and his compadres Jimbo Wallace and Scott Churilla knocked out a home run with tremendous support from the always amazing Danish psychobillies, Nekromantix and impressive newcomers, The Creepshow.

The Rev and Jimbo Wallace

I won't bore you with a full play-by-play of the night's show, but I will strive to give you a hopefully colorful overview of all that I saw that wild evening at the Troc.  As mentioned, Canadian opening act The Creepshow really cooked as aspirant cowpunks in the same vein as their hosts.  In their case, they're led by a trim and tatted-up female vocalist and guitarist, Kenda "Twisted" Legaspi, who got the venue rolling with her blazing confidence and sharp pipes.  The band knows their way around a psychobilly jam, so the swing dancers and moshers volleyed for control of the floor rather quickly.  Kenda all but stole the show by climbing up the amplifier stacks toward the end of The Creepshow's set into the balcony and sang from the upper tiers.  The packed venue went out of their minds at this point, so by the time Kenda slithered back down and soon thereafter mounted the side of Sean "Sickboy" McNab's slap bass, they'd fully endeared themselves to the audience.  Later, Reverend Horton Heat would pull the same stunt on Jimbo Wallace's standup bass to even louder accolades.

Kim Nekroman and Lux, Nekromantix

Seldom do you see such energy from the opening act, but all this did was make Kim Nekroman and the Nekromantix play even more feverishly than them.  The last time I'd see Nekromantix play, they'd run into some sound issues.  Not this time, and as the Trocodero has been long standing since the late 1800s as a one-time vaudeville and burlesque theater, the old-time acoustics served the Nekromantix well.  Since bringing lady drummer Lux on board, there's a tightness about the band that's larger than ever.  Lux was just about perfect in keeping Kim Nekroman grounded, no matter how fast he slapped his coffin bass and rolled all over the stage in a frenzy. 

At this point, the swing dancers were whittled down to a few diehards as the moshers took over the place.  I recall listening to a couple of people nearby commenting how they didn't expect to see a slam pit this evening, which made me laugh, since anyone who's seen Nekromantix play knows they propagate chaos at-will.  It didn't help a pair of twin roughnecks tackle-danced each other on the floor, bruising one another and laughing like loons.  I felt a little bad for the swing dancers, who were mixed in age, as is apropos for a Reverend Horton Heat show, but I couldn't help thinking some of the people at the Troc should've done their due diligence on the rest of the bill.  Regardless, Nekromantix were balls-out and I'm happy to have seen them slay at all stations this time around.

Kim Nekroman, Nekromantix

In-between sets, I was fiddling with my camera settings following Nekromantix and didn't look up in time as a woman fell backwards from the short step I was standing on beneath the balcony, stage left.  I won't ever forget that sickening thud the back of her head made as it connected with the hardwood floor.  Instantly, me and another guy attended to her and the poor woman clung to me for dear life.  Thankfully she wasn't bleeding, but was decidedly wrecked from her evening's excesses.  Finally her boyfriend showed up and we waited with her, sitting her up and giving her water until security took her to the lobby.

Once the Reverend Horton Heat started, I was ecstatic in the photo pit as he began with the opening two songs from REV, "Victory Lap" and "Smell of Gasoline."  I was happy to have already been familiar with those tunes when most of the crowd was just jumping around and learning it for the first time.  I made eye contact with Jimbo Wallace as I sang and pointed my camera.  He gave me a grin and a nod and lurched his upright bass toward me for a picture, which is this one:

Jimbo Wallace

I'm still fascinated how professional The Rev, Jimbo and Scott, recently returned to the group after a sabbatical, are.  They blitzed through their staples such as "Martini Time," "Psychobilly Freakout," "Big Red Rocket of Love," "Bales of Cocaine" and of course, the crowd-pleasing "Marijuana."  They had the confidence to play six new songs including their hilarious surf hike, "Zombie Dumb" and the equally riotous "Let Me Teach You How to Eat."  There wasn't a body at the show that wasn't moving in some fashion for all two-and-a-half hours of The Rev's set.

One of the crowd heroes ended up being a heavy older man with full white hair to match his shocking white sport jacket, who got drunk enough to start dancing with any girl who would tolerate him, and then he daringly took on the mosh pit.  I'm laughing right now thinking about the look of terror on his face as he first got slung and bopped around in the pit, but to everyone's credit, they took it easy on him and he hung in there for a number of songs.  He got as many ovations as The Rev's band.

Reverend Horton Heat and Deke Dickerson

In his set, Reverend Horton Heat brought on rockabilly and country revivalist Deke Dickerson, who showed up in cowboy gear and a double-neck guitar.  He and the Rev laid down duets that would honor all of Texarkana's best and Dickerson won over the crowd by talking about his younger punk years that led into a crashing cover by the entire ensemble of the Ramones' "Psychotherapy."  Prior to that, Dickerson talked about losing his contacts in a mosh pit at a Black Flag show and he demanded the crowd boo him for it.  During "Psychotherapy," Dickerson got off the stage and yowled the chorus on the edge of the Troc's pit. 

For their encore, Scott Churilla pulverized a wicked drum solo that included the use of his elbow and cheeks.  Reverend Horton Heat and Jimbo Wallace swapped instruments for a bitchin' cover of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," and then Deke Dickerson returned as the foursome ripped through some Merle Haggard covers that were simply tremendous.

I walked out of the Troc to my car with a group of older gentlemen as the snow re-emerged and doused Philadelphia's Chinatown with an extra half inch.  We were chawing about the show and noting how Reverend Horton Heat still has the, well, the heat.  I'd seen him perform before to a less crazy audience where swing dancers ruled the roost and those varying generations took turns offering the floor to one another.  This night was decidedly a free-for-all, and I felt shadows of my younger, more reckless self peeking at all of the insanity with giddy appreciation.

All photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.

              Listenin' to:  Nekromantix - Brought Back to Life

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