As if he were challenging Mother Nature to a duel, the Reverend Peyton and his Big Damn Band took the stage with the force of an EF5 tornado and didn't let up for the entire set. A three-piece country blues outfit, the Big Damn Band consists of Reverend Peyton playing finger-style guitar and harmonica, his wife Breezy Peyton on washboard and cousin Aaron "Cuz" Persinger on the drums and 5 gallon bucket.
Persinger was fantastic behind the kit tonight, keeping time like an over-caffeinated metronome and bashing the skins as if he were channeling Bam-Bam Rubble. More often than not his drum kit was wobbling and swaying under the force of his blows, looking as if it would topple over at any second. Breezy strutted around the stage scratching and slapping at her washboard like a proud mother hen, locked in a tight groove with Cuz and the Reverend and occasionally adding in backing vocals.
The Reverend himself was a sight to behold, running around the stage and conversing with the crowd like a manic hillbilly incarnation of Rick Nielsen. Peyton plays the guitar finger-style, whether working the slide or fretting notes the old fashioned way. We've all heard that seeing is believing, but even after witnessing the skill and hearing the sounds coming from that man's guitar I still can't believe that one man was making all of that sound. Taking a break from the set list, Peyton showed the crowd how he plays the bass lines with his thumb and finger picks the rest of the guitar parts, even showing off by playing "Yankee Doodle" and "Dixie" at the same time.
Whether the songs were slow-paced like "Lick Creek Road," fast and furious like "Two Bottles of Wine" or rapidly alternating between both in the same jam like "That Train Song," the Big Damn Band was completely in sync and hit the sweet spot that all good bands look for. Although the band has its roots in traditional American blues and country music, its sound wanders into other territories. On more than one occasion, Reverend Peyton's vocal style and raw slide guitar sound brought to mind Ian Anderson's vocals on early Jethro Tull and Zoot Horn Rollo's raunchy slide work with Captain Beefheart.
Audience participation isn't just asked for by the band; it's insisted upon. On more than one occasion when getting the crowd involved in the show both Breezy and the Reverend called out crowd members who weren't actively participating. Bringing energy to their show isn't an issue either. Between Cuz hitting the drums hard enough to shake the video camera, Breezy strutting around the stage and the Reverend's lightning fast picking the crowd couldn't help but move. The end of their set was rather impressive as well, with the Reverend kicking over part of the drum kit and Breezy setting fire to her washboard before waving it around in the air.
Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band was the highlight of the evening for me. Even if you aren't a fan of the country blues genre, this band will show you exactly how much fun a live music event can be.
Holding the tour to celebrate its 25th year making music, the Reverend Horton Heat took to the stage in typical bombastic style. Opening with the surf rock-inspired instrumental "Marijuana" from the first release "Smoke ‘em if You Got ‘em," the band ran through a few songs from each album up to the 2009 album Laughin' and Cryin' with the Reverend Horton Heat. The band mainly stuck to its humorous country style tunes such as "Please Don't Take the Baby to the Liquor Store" and "Liquor, Beer, and Wine" for the first portion of the show before bringing out the harder hitting raucous classics like "Psychobilly Freakout" and "Jimbo Song" towards the end of the evening.
Jim Heath was in classic form tonight, belting out the tunes like a man on a mission and throwing down some of the hottest guitar licks this side of a Duane Eddy album. Jimbo Wallace was also at the top of his game, slapping and working the bass like a man possessed and keeping the groove tighter than Willie Dixon in his prime. Paulie Simmons made keeping precise time look effortless. The band was excellent from the second it hit the stage and seemed to pick up steam as the night progressed, aided by the crowd who sang along with favorite tunes and kicking the band into high gear.
Highlights of the evening included the aforementioned "Please Don't Take the Baby to the Liquor Store," "Galaxy 500," "If it Ain't Got Rhythm," and a rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues" that would have made Johnny Cash smile.
Both of the Reverends brought the hard-hitting tunes they're known for and neither disappointed anyone in the venue. If the rest of the tour goes as well as the show last night, the rest of the country has a lot of good times ahead.