LIVE: Reverend Horton Heat’s Holiday Hayride @ Colony, 12/8/17
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
What do you do on a cold December night in the Catskills to heat things up? Well, you could have a cup of cocoa by the fire, a couple of shots of bourbon at the local distillery, or go see the sold-out, Reverend Horton Heat’s Holiday Hayride with special guests The Blasters, Junior Brown and Big Sandy at Colony in Woodstock.
With a line-up like that, you would expect a blazing hot show, and, of yes, it was.
Leading off the evening’s festivities were perennial favorites, The Blasters. Formed in California by brothers Phil and Dave Alvin, they have become favorites of many in the rockabilly world, although there style also blends in some punk and county and even some hints of Cajun thrown in for good measure. While Dave has left the band for a successful solo career, Phil Alvin has carried on the tradition with the current line-up featuring original member Bill Bateman on drums, John Bazz on bass and Keith Wyatt on lead guitar. Alvin puts so much feeling into his vocals that if you close your eyes, as he does, you almost feel as if you are being catapulted back to their early days and hearing these fresh new songs. While the audience immediately started dancing and inching toward the stage, by the time the band got to “Marie, Marie,” the crowd was in full fever pitch.
Next up was Junior Brown and his band. This was the first time I had heard them and wasn’t very familiar with his songs. They range from solid country to surf, all played on his hybrid double-neck lapsteel with one neck being straight off his old Fender Bullet and the other a standard lapsteel neck. Depending on the song being played, Brown would play fill-in leads and solos jumping between the two. Brown was backed by his wife, Tanya Rae Brown on guitar, Jon Penner on bass and Scott Matthews on drums. Toward the end of his set, Brown showed his surf-twang pedigree with a surf medley, which included “Apache,” as well as a few other well-known standards. Although I wasn’t familiar with Brown, I quite enjoyed both his playing skills and his unique vocal style.
Last, but certainly not least, Texas-based Reverend Horton Heat opened his set with the first Christmas song of the night, “We Three Kings.” The rest of the set bounced between Christmas songs, “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and “Run Run Rudolph” and regular RHH show songs, including “Psychobilly Freakout” and “JIMBO.”
As if the crowd wasn’t excited enough, everyone’s favorite, Big Sandy, jumped on stage for a mini set of his own. With RHH (guitarist Jim Heath, bassist Jimbo Wallace, new drummer Arjuna “RJ” Contreras and keyboardist Matt Jordan) backing him up, Big Sandy ran through a selection of his songs such as “Hot Water” and “Chalk It Up to the Blues” (he brought Kingston’s own Lara Hope on stage to help with the chorus) as well as a few choice covers, such as Big Al Downing’s “Yes, I’m Loving You” and Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday show without doing at least one Christmas song – “I Want a New Baby for Christmas.”
Big Sandy left the stage, and RHH played a few more holiday tunes; his own “Donuts in the Snow”, a “Batman”/”Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” mash-up and “Jingle Bells” before finishing up with Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”
After a brief pause, the Rev came back on stage for “Martini Time” before bringing up Big Sandy once again for the finale, a rollicking version of “Rock the Joint” featuring the Lustre Kings’ own Chops LaConte on bass.