The Reverend Horton Heat
with Hank III
The State Theatre, St. Petersburg, FL • February 12, 2000
What a killer night of rockabilly-influenced madness this was!
I expected the usual mind-blowing set from long-time favorites the Reverend Horton Heat, but I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from Hank III, the grandson of Hank Williams (and son of “Bocephus”). As I quickly found out, Hank III knows how to kick ass and take names, and he started the show already in overdrive. Heading up a five piece band (including himself on guitar and vocals, a stand-up bass, electric violin, drums, and most surprisingly, ex-Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison), Hank III charged through a hard rockin’ set that was equal parts country, blues, rockabilly, rock n’ roll, and more snot-nosed attitude than any three punk bands combined.
Looking confident and cocksure in a cowboy hat, ripped-up Misfits T-shirt draped over his skinny frame (exposing his tattoos), and hard-traveled, duct-taped, flame-emblazoned cowboy boots (as seen on the cover of his album) on his feet, Hank looked almost as much like Sid Vicious as he did his legendary grandfather. This dual “heritage” extended to his songs, as lyrically, he addressed typical rockabilly and country themes like drinkin’ and unfaithful wives, but kept these ideas fresh and powerful by screaming the lyrics with rage and punk rock aggression over psychotic space rock and blues grooves. That’s not to say he can’t slow things down and croon, too – to the contrary, Hank switched effortlessly from straight-up, old school country laments to full-on metal; from honkytonk hoedowns to hard, dirty, bluesy jams with just a hint of twang, often switching up within the same song! In short, this kid ain’t coasting on familial coattails – he’s got something all his own goin’ on, and I can’t wait to hear more!
Hank III proved to be the perfect opener for the devastating psychobilly freakout that is a Reverend Horton Heat gig. Looking sharp in a red-and-blue suit with matching bow tie and shoes, the Reverend led longtime bandmates Jimbo Wallace (stand-up bass) and Scott Churilla (drums) onto the stage and directly into a thundering version of “Big Sky.” After a minor technical glitch, the band kicked into high gear with “One Time For Me,” easing into a wicked groove that led to a scorching, sped-up finale.
The band really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and this was confirmed when the Rev exclaimed, “it’s great to be back in beautiful St. Petersburg, but what’s really great is to see your smiling faces.” In affirmation, the Rev treated his adoring fans to several numbers from the forthcoming new album, Spend a Night in the Box (out March 21), including the stomping title track, the country ballad “The Bedroom Again” (which the Rev dedicated to all the “truckers here tonight”), a jumpy rendition of “King,” and a nice n’ sleazy take on “The Girl in Blue.” While the crowd ate up the new material, the packed house really came to life for older tunes like “Wiggle Stick,” “400 Bucks,” “Bales of Cocaine,” and especially the furious shout-along “Jimbo Song.”
If the Rev’s set seemed a bit short, they didn’t waste much time in coming back to the stage to correct that, with a smoking 5-song encore that included such favorites as “Bad Reputation,” “Psychobilly Freakout,” and “Big Red Rocket of Love.” All in all, a truly memorable night, and a truly spectacular show.