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Turn on the Heat 

The Reverend Horton Heat can crank up the temperature in any town -- even ours

click to enlarge The Rev. Horton Heat will be burning up the Colorado Music Hall
  • The Rev. Horton Heat will be burning up the Colorado Music Hall

A smaller venue is really cool because you can sling sweat on the crowd," said Jimbo Wallace after I'd described the Colorado Music Hall to him.

Wallace is the bass player for the one and only band known as The Reverend Horton Heat. He's the guy in the back sometimes perched on top of his stand-up bass, slapping it silly. But he's only one third of the Texas-based psychobilly trio. The Rev. himself, a.k.a. Jim "Reverend Horton Heat" Heath, who stands front and center, and drummer Scott Churilla with his single snare, help cast the rest of the band's delirious musical spell.

They'll be in the Springs Monday night and, guaranteed, this is one experience you won't want to miss.

There's a reason the Rev. and his band have earned a reputation as one of the best live acts around. Somewhere between a hootenanny, a swing show, Dick Dale and the Grand Ole Opry, their live performances are about as close to a religious experience as you can get without actually setting foot in your desired place of worship for a springtime revival. Oh, the Reverend preaches all right. He preaches the gospel of rockabilly, punkabilly, country honk, rock 'n' roll, swing and surf.

The Rev. himself is one hellacious, big ole huggable hillbilly. Swaggering straight out of the heart of Texas, there's nobody out there that bangs a guitar like the Rev. Add Jimbo and his bass tricks, Scott and his snare and you have an insanely potent mix for a raise-the-roof night.

I can use every adjective and adverb in the dictionary to describe Reverend Horton Heat and his band's music. You can go buy every one of their CDs, play them for the next 28 hours straight (there are seven altogether) and try to gain a sense of what the band is about. But to truly know, experience and appreciate RHH, you have to see them in the flesh. Get dripped on by their sweat. Soaked up by their music. As good as their CDs are -- and they do stand on their own -- no producer has yet to capture the real essence of RHH and translate that to shiny plastic.

For those already familiar with RHH, there's not much explaining to do. For the unindoctrinated, think the Stray Cats meet the Cramps. Johnny Cash meets Eddie Cochran. Buddy Holly meets all of old school punk. Elvis meets Dick Dale. Jerry Lee Lewis meets the Butthole Surfers. Suffice it to say, RHH rocks out with a little more insanity than most.

RHH has been around for about 10-1/2 years now. They've played everywhere from Iowa to sunny Southern California; every venue from The House of Blues in L.A., to the Fillmore in San Francisco, to some skanky basement in upstate New York at a frat party, to the main stage on the Vans Warped Tour back in '98. Along the way they have picked up legions of devoted fans and a cultlike following.

And they are not a fad. So often you end up at a show -- some hot new band that's getting lots of hype, column inches and play time on college radio. You go to the show because you should, because they're in your town. It ends up being a decent show. Maybe. But do you remember it two years later? Or five years later? Or eight years later? You might remember the name of the band and that you were actually there ... but do you remember the show? You won't ever forget a Reverend Horton Heat show. That said, transport yourself to the Music Hall, in any way you can.

As Jimbo told me of the upcoming Colorado gigs, "Be prepared to go wild when you come out to the show. Tell everyone, the more they move around, the better the show, the better and crazier we play, the more fun had. We're interactive with our fans and audience. We feed off of that energy."

If you need a little appetizer before the show, RHH has a brand new CD. Produced by Butthole Surfer guitarist Paul Leary and recorded in none other than Willie Nelson's studio just outside of Austin, their latest release, Spend A Night in the Box, hails back the more traditional RHH sound: Pure rockabilly, surf and raw blues. The title track of the CD rocks. Infused with guitar licks, growling vocals, steady bass and a bit of spring reverb, it's a great opening track and a glimpse into the musical and lyrical psyches of the band.

"There's a little bit of truth in each song," said Wallace. "It's hard to make up shit like this. Basically our music is about everyday life, from drinking to girlfriends to being on the road, and everything in between. And that's part of the energy we bring to the stage. Raw life."

Get ready to be converted to the house of the Heat.

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