Many bands can attest to making some sort of Top 100 chart. Fewer win actual awards. But how many musicians can claim to have made a woman who'd been wheelchair-bound for 20 years get up and dance?
That's right, the hot blues trio known as Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band can cure what ails you. Well, sonically, at least. The revivalist spin just makes a great story.
The miraculous moment happened at the South Park Music Festival in Fairplay in September, when the Indianapolis band took the stage in the old Fairplay Hotel. Reverend Peyton, a big damn man with an even bigger damn beard, howled his brand of blues with a voice full of gusto. His brother, Jayme, worked the small drum kit, while his wife, "Washboard" Breezy, added to the percussion with her Maid-Rite washboard.
Until then, the evening's entertainment had featured fairly low-key indie rock boys who shuffled around with acoustic guitars. When the Rev kicked into gear, listeners suddenly kicked up their heels. According to Breezy, it's a common reaction.
"I think it's that people haven't seen anything like us," she says. "They've seen a lot of rock bands and they've seen a lot of blues hammer, but when they see us and see a washboard, I think they're thinking it's going to be some folk, lame-ass music."
Not so. The group's style took shape when the Rev (who actually is a reverend, via the online Universal Life Church) broke his fret hand and developed tendonitis.
For a year, he couldn't play at all, and he spent a lot of time listening to country blues -- whose syncopated rhythms he never had been able to play before, despite years as a musician. After surgery, he found that his more limited range of motion actually meant he could play country blues better than anything else.
The group just finished recording their second full-length album, Big Damn Nation, to be released in early 2006. The Big Damn Band tours the country regularly, and kicked off their latest tour with an appearance on NPR's popular radio show "Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know."
A good part of the band's energy comes from Breezy herself. While strumming and beating her washboard with thimbles on her fingertips, she dances and mugs for the audience.
As she tells it, the blues wasn't always about being mopey. In the 1920s and '30s, it was downright dance music. The Rev's mission is to revive that, to bring back the good-times beat that was lost once white guys with electric guitars got a hold of it in the '60s. After all, it brought a handicapped woman to her feet.
"If we'd only known, we would've done some sort of 'healing' of her," she says. "It would've been a good photo op!"
-- Kara Luger
The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band
Dulcinea's 100th Monkey, 717 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $5; call 303/544-5875.