Category Archives: Concerts

Tops in Waikiki: The Rock-a-Hula Extravaganza

Aloha From Hawaii! BLURT’s Travel Desk Editor heads to Waikiki for plenty of surf ‘n’ turf ‘n’ The King… (photos follow the story – Hashtag: #Elvis). Incidentally, Ms. Gaar has written previously about Hawaii – and Hawaii-related Elvis matters – for the magazine. Check out “Waikiki After Dark” and “Dancing Barefoot: The Great Waikiki Mai Tai Taste Off,” should you dare.

BY GILLIAN G. GAAR

I’ve been a fan of the Rock-a-Hula show in Waikiki since it opened seven years ago, and have seen it in its various incarnations. Initially, this tribute artist show (created by Legends in Concert Las Vegas) simply presented sets by four different impersonators. In 2014, the show boosted the Hawaiian quotient, and made it a more lavish production, with multi-screen projections, decorative sets, and dancers. They’ve recently given the show another facelift, cutting back on the tribute artists, and adding even more of that Hawaiian spirit.

I was offered the opportunity to check out the show again, choosing whatever package I wanted. I eagerly accepted, choosing the top package, the Green Room “Ultimate Experience.”

This is the package to choose if you want to go all out, and get the very best seats in the house (there are also cheaper options; I’ll get to those later). The Green Room package spares no attention to detail from the moment you check in, when you’re given a backstage pass to wear around your neck. Green Room attendees are welcomed into the Royal Hawaiian Theater before anyone else, escorted down the red carpet while hula dancers perform. You’re taken to — where else? — the Green Room, where you’re greeted by one of the evening’s tribute artists (the night I attended, it was Michael Jackson), who poses for a picture with you (a free print is included in the package). The Green Room is supposed to be an homage to the tropical themed “Jungle Room” at Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion, which, well, wasn’t green. Never mind. There are glasses of sparkling wine awaiting you, along with hors d’oeuvres. Get snacking!

You’re then taken on a backstage tour, getting an idea of what the dancers deal with when they have to race through the small corridors between numbers. We were allowed to try on the Tahitian headdresses the dancers wear (very heavy!), and you get to pose on stage with the huge Taiko drum. Next, you arrive at your stageside table, where you’re served a four-course meal, including beef tenderloin and wild Alaskan salmon and Maine lobster with your salad. Two free drinks as well. Everything was delicious. And now, on with the show….

Rock-a-Hula is a multi-media production; there are screens on both sides of the stage, and one at the rear. It’s also very much a live show; the band is placed right on stage, and none of the performers are lip-syncing. One fun element is how the film footage is used to underscore the live action on stage. The show opens with footage of the SS Lurline arriving in Honolulu, illustrating how most tourists visited the island before air travel took off. Then a large prop ship comes out on stage and the dancers re-create the kind of pier-side hula that greeted the new arrivals; a surfer even hangs from the ceiling, in a Cirque du Soleil touch. A panorama of images on the screens highlight Hawaiian legends of the past, like singer Alfred Apaka (some explanatory text on these pictures would be useful for those who might not immediately recognize the performers).

It all builds to the arrival of the first tribute artist to appear, Elvis Presley. The King is played by Rock-a-Hula veteran Johnny Fortuno, who handles the ’60s and ’70s Elvis eras with ease, starting out in the outfit Elvis wore while performing “Rock-a-Hula” in his first Hawaiian film, Blue Hawaii, then graduating to a jumpsuit, for his homage to Elvis’ 1973 Aloha From Hawaii satellite broadcast. Among the well-known stuff (“Hound Dog,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love”), there’s also a rarity; “Slicin’ Sand,” from Blue Hawaii, a song I don’t believe I’ve ever heard an Elvis tribute artist perform. Fortuno also gets up close and personal with audience, passing out scarves, kisses, and handshakes to the faithful during “Suspicious Minds.”

Michael Jackson (as performed by Jason Jarrett) is the only other tribute artist featured in the show. Aside from a quick nod to his Jackson 5 past (“I Want You Back”), it’s mostly the latter day Jackson that’s on display: “Shake Your Body,” “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” (complete with moonwalking). It’s a set that’s as heavy on dancing as it is on singing, and Jarrett has the moves down.

Though the show has no underlying narrative, there is an unifying theme; Rock-a-Hula is meant to take you on a “Hawaiian Journey,” the idea of a trip being referenced from that first footage of the SS Lurline. There are more dance numbers, with the energetic troupe performing to a medley of surf tunes, as well as traditional Hawaiian dancing (the Tahitian dancing is especially thrilling). The fire knife dancing is another highlight. No, it’s not a knife; think of it as a torch, or a baton, lit at one or both ends, and then vigorously spun around.

Also new to the show are spots for a local singer (who will rotate; Hirie was the performer when I attended). Hirie was featured in the show’s opening, and throughout the rest of the performance; in one moving sequence, when footage of Hawaiian legend Israel Kamakawiwoʻole was shown while his medley of “Over the Rainbow”/“What a Wonderful World” was played, the song segued into Hirie performing the final verse live. The show comes to a heartwarming conclusion with the entire cast on stage, leading everyone through the chorus of “Aloha ‘Oe,” written by Queen Lili‘uokalani (Hawaii’s last ruler). Afterwards, everyone’s welcome to meet the cast in the lobby, where they happily pose for photos and sign autographs.

 It’s a lively and engaging show, and making it more of a theatrical production than it was in its original incarnation has definitely made it more exciting. But in this latest iteration, I felt the tribute artists were a bit short-changed, with their spots cut back to allow for more dancing and the local singer.

Elvis in particular I felt was underused. If you want to make the show more Hawaiian-flavored, why not draw on more of the songs he performed in his other Hawaiian films (Girls! Girls! Girls! and Paradise, Hawaiian Style)? Including Hawaiian-born songwriter Kui Lee’s “I’ll Remember You” would also be a good touch during the “Aloha From Hawaii” sequence (the concert was a benefit for the Kui Lee Cancer Fund). It felt like Elvis was in and out too quickly. And while I enjoyed Hirie, since she wasn’t playing a character herself, it made the show feel like a bit of a mish-mash. Is it a tribute artist show? Or a Hawaiian production where Elvis and Michael Jackson drop in for a couple of numbers?

It’s still a show I highly recommend. It’s just too much fun to pass up. And there’s so much going on, you can’t properly take it all in, in one viewing. That’s why I look forward to seeing Rock-a-Hula again.

Now, about those other ticket packages. The theater seats 750, with most seats in the upper auditorium (which they call the mezzanine), and Green Room and Stageside VIP packages seated at tables down front. The cheapest package is the Rockin’ Show ($69 adult/$41 child) which gets you a seat in the rear part of the mezzanine. I’ve sat in a variety of places in this venue and the view is good wherever you sit. But of course it’s more exciting to get as close as you can to the performers, so if you don’t want to do one of the deluxe packages, I recommend the Luau package ($109 adult/$66 child), which, you’ve guessed it, includes a very tasty luau buffet, with all the luau staples (roast pig, hulihuli chicken, lomilomi salmon), a mai tai, and better seating in the mezzanine. The Stageside VIP ($149 adult/$89 child) includes a reception before you’re seated at your not-quite-as-good-as-the-Green-Room-seating-but-still-pretty-good table, where you’re served the same dinner as the Green Room package, and you get two free drinks. The Green Room package isn’t that much more ($185 adult/$111 child), and consider that you also get an extra drink (that glass of sparkling wine in the Green Room itself) and a free souvenir photo (which otherwise costs $25). Depending on your budget, it might be worth the upgrade.

Tip: Be sure and take some time to explore the lobby, which features various rock memorabilia. There’s also a bar, and you’re allowed to take drinks into the auditorium. Want a scarf from Elvis? The stageside seating, or the front row and aisle seats of the mezzanine, give you the best chance.

***

 Jumpsuit Elvis (Johnny Fortuno) sends you plenty of Alooooooha!

The ever-energetic dance troupe of Rock-a-Hula

All hail the awesome fire knife dancer!

The swanky Green Room. Sparkling wine and snacks to spare.

Local non-character performers are now part of the Rock-a-Hula show. Pop-reggae artist Hirie was one of the rotating performers.

Jason Jerrett cops all the right moves as Michael Jackson.

Can you feel it? Michael Jackson (Jason Jerrett) gets it on with a Rock-a-Hula dancer.

Maine lobster, flown all the way to Waikiki — just for you.

Your humble correspondent and Johnny Fortuno, après the show.

Johnny Fortuno in action as the Blue Hawaii-era Elvis.

2018 Montreal International Jazz Festival 6/28/18-7/7/18

Dates: June 28 - July 7, 2018

Location: Montreal, Canada

Hot Fun in the Summertime: The Montreal Jazz Festival Burns Away the Bluster

BY ALISA CHERRY

As the namesake city of the internationally renowned jazz festival it’s hosted for the past 39 years, Montreal is a cool, cool city. However this year it was hot, very hot in fact. And that has nothing to do with the hot acts… or, for the matter, the cool performances either. With temperatures approaching the mid-90s, and the stifling conditions that made even brief walks between venues a daunting challenge in itself, this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival which took place June 28 to July 7 was not without some tedium due to its temperatures. (Go HERE for our  2017 coverage.)

Nevertheless, those who attended either the free outdoor performances, the dozens of ticketed events or a bit of both, mostly agreed it was worth dealing with the heat at least for the sake of witnessing some amazing music. And indeed, with choices between dozens of world class artists, both known and occasionally obscure, the 2018 Montreal Jazz Festival proved yet again how all-inclusive it is when it comes to its musical offerings. As anyone who has attended the fest over the course of the past several years will attest — its handle aside — The Montreal Jazz Festival isn’t just about jazz. In years past, such rock luminaries as Brian Wilson, King Crimson and Bob Dylan have graced its stages, either as featured artists or associated performers. This year, such popular luminaries as Ry Cooder, Jann Arden, Seal, Boz Scaggs, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull took to its stages.

It may be sweltering outside, but the Montreal Jazz Festival — or as it’s referred to so eloquently in French, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal — is cool. Very cool indeed.

Montreal is indeed a model city for a festival so sprawling it takes up several city blocks just to contain it. Fortunately, the heat notwithstanding, all the venues are easily accessible. The venues come in all varieties, from a multitude of clubs to the expansive Place des Arts, home to several ample staged stages within its massive confines. Then of course, there are the outside locales spread along the main drag, Rue St. Catherine, all of which invite the choice of a concerted devotee.

Naturally, those who consider themselves diehard jazz aficionados had plenty to cheer about. Herbie Hancock, Carla Bley, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Dave Holland, and Terrence Blanchard were among the more iconic names that headlined the many stages and featured concerts. Those weaned on a rock or pop pedigree had opportunity to soak up the blues, bluster and boogie of George Thorogood or marvel at the performance by Number 9, a group comprised of young musicians who faithfully reproduced every note and nuance of the Beatles famed “White Album.” A spectator whose tastes weren’t necessary confined to any particular parameter could marvel at the genre-bending abilities of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the classic and contemporary musical fusion of Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, or simply find themselves dazzled by the ageless Dee Dee Bridgewater and the sultry sounds of Beth Hart.

Personally, we found ourselves immediately impressed on the first night by the combined talents of John Medeski and Marc Ribot. It was jazzy indeed. Or was it? The sheer sweep and intensity of the music’s remarkable dynamics had us completely held in sway.

That perhaps is the greatest gift the Montreal Jazz Festival provides for all, an opportunity to venture into unknown realms, jump between genres and learn to understand and appreciate sounds which may not be immediately familiar. Those who normally find adventurous sounds of this sort alien or intimidating in any way are given a chance to explore on their own without judgement or disdain. It’s a vast musical market boasting a wide array of wares, all of which make Festival International De Jazz De Montreal one of the coolest festivals around.

Even when it’s just too damn hot.

 

LAKE STREET DIVE 7/12/18, Raleigh NC

Dates: July 12, 2018

Location: NC Museum of Art, Raleigh NC

Sonic art one beautiful Tar Heel eve at the North Carolina Museum of Art. (Scroll down for more images.)

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TODD GUNSHER

On a clear Carolina night, the amphitheater at the NC Museum of Art was filled with the sophisticated pop sounds of Lake Street Dive. On tour supporting their latest record, Free Yourself Up, this was their third sell out of this venue, causing lead singer Rachael Price to comment that it is starting to feel like home.

Opening with the first cut from the new album, “Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts,” the 21 song set included all the tracks from the new record interspersed with songs from their previous two albums, closing with a longtime fan favorite, the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”

Price, Mike “McDuck” Olsen, Bridget Kearney and Mike Calabrese, always had a full sound but the addition of Akie Bermiss on keys adds just enough extra to help fill out the live sound. He even took a lead vocal singing Shania Twain’s “Still The One” in a style suited to a dark jazz club. Throughout the night the vocals and playing were tight and on point, with Kearney’s bass playing delivering numerous amazing moments. But to me, what really makes Lake Street Dive stand out in a world of beats, jam-bands, and singer/songwriters is their finely crafted songs. Even songs that at first sound simple still contain interesting chords, changes, and rhythms that harken back to The Beatles and Brill Building, in approach, if not actual sound. That’s what keeps me coming back whenever they come to town.

Opening the show was Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear (above), a mother/son duo with a soulful, bluesy sound. They grabbed the audience’s attention from the first song and I’m sure gained a lot of new fans.

Follow master shutterbug, journalist, and vinyl enthusiast Todd Gunsher at his Instagram page.

 

 

 

Cut Worms 5/29/18, Denver

Dates: May 29, 2018

Location: Globe Hall, Denver CO

Live at Globe Hall!

TIM HINELY

I’ll have to admit I didn’t know jack about Cut Worms until la week before the gig, but I listened and liked what I’d heard. On this tour they were opening for King Tuff (who I didn’t feel like staying for but the gig was sold out on this Tuesday night).

Also, I swear one of these nights I’m gonna show up to Globe Hall early and get some of their BBQ that many folks have raved about. I usually show up late, catch the gig and leave, but next gig there I’ll come back with a full food report. Promise.

Cut Worms (admittedly not the best band name ever, but apparently from a William Blake poem) was already on stage when I sauntered in at 8:55 PM (they went on at 8:45 PM). Main guy Max Clarke (a NYC guy via Chicago) had a full band including bass/drums and a keyboard player. You’ll read lots of reviews comparing him to the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, and those aren’t totally wrong, but it’s even more whimsical than that, with dashes of folk and country, too.

From his recently released debut full-length, Hollow Ground (on the Jagjaguwar label) he played cuts like “How It Can Be,” “Coward’s Confidence,” “Cash For Gold,” and “Till Tomorrow Goes Away.” Also, from the Alien Sunset EP (from 2017, also on Jagjaguwar) they played “Song of the Highest Tower” and ended the (short) set with a cut from that EP, “Don’t Want to Say Good-bye.”

I don’t think there’s any tongue-in-cheek irony with this guy, I think Clarke genuinely is a throwback to a different era where you threw your coat over puddles for women and a pack of cigarettes were in the back pocket, not a cell phone. Come on people, get with the progam, Cut Worms already have!

 

 

Anna Burch / Xetas 6/16/18, Denver

Dates: June 16, 2018

Location: Larimer Lounge, Denver CO

Live at the Larimer Lounge, a triple bill for the Mile High crowd.  Above: Xetas.

BY TIM HINELY

I’ve really liked the two album by Austin trio Xetas (both released on the 12XU label 2015’s The Redeemer and 2017’s The Tower) but had yet to see them live. They were opening this triple bill, Speedy Ortiz headlined (who I like but have seen before and I had an early morning the next day) so I made sure to get down there early and catch ‘em.

The crowd grew during their set and the band did not disappoint. All three of them: David on guitar/vocals, Kana on bass and Jay on drums tore the place apart. The energy level was up to 11 (on a scale of 1-10 ) and they played a good bunch of cuts from their two records.  The band was completely  locked in on this night and even seemed a little possessed (always a good thing). If Xetas come to your town and you can peel yourself off the couch (and miss a Matlock rerun) then by all means do it.

Michigan native Anna Burch burst on the scene a few years ago (and co-sang for the Fred Thomas band Failed Flowers…in fact it was Thomas who hipped the Polyvinyl label to Anna’s work) and released a few random singles before inking a deal with Polyvinyl this year and releasing the solid/at times excellent  Quit the Curse. She  assembled a band together of Summer on bass, Nick on drums and Joe on guitar (with Anna singing and playing rhythm guitar) and they played most if not all, of the songs on said debut LP. The songs sounded pretty much as they do on record (which I happen to like though some folks prefer more experimentation) and the soundman did a fine job on this evening. A few of the highlights included the melodic, quirky pop of “2 Cool 2 Care,” “Asking 4 a Friend” (which Burch introduced  as “this is a song about dating your drug dealer”) and “Belle Isle. “ (with Burch giving a little history on the place prior to the song).

In between songs Burch was amiable, chatty and witty (just the kind of person you’d think would write a line like, “The stabbing hatred for you suddently felt softer,” from the almost jazzy “What I Want”) and seems genuinely happy to be out on tour. I’ll be there next time as well (whenever that may be).

Hot Snakes + Le Butcherettes 5/18/18, Denver

Dates: May 18, 2018

Location: Oriental Theatre, Denver CO

Two killer bands destroy the Oriental Theatre.

TEXT BY TIM HINELY / PHOTOS: JASON NUNN (2 CLOSE UPS OF HOT SNAKES AND ONE OF TERRI GENDER BENDER and JEFFREY WEBB DAVIS (THE TWO FURTHER AWAY SHOTS OF HOT SNAKES)

I’d been waiting very (im)patiently for this gig since It’d been announced and while I’d already seen Drive like Jehu and Rocket from the Crypt I’d never seen Hot Snakes before so I was ready (and, as I remembered below, I had seen Hot Snakes once before…).

The packed house seemed to really love Mexico’s Le Butcherettes. The band is a trio with vocalist/guitarist Teri Gender Bender (who I’d found out is orignally from Denver) and a rhythm section that includes drummer Gabe who used to be in The Locust. Musically they’re a heady mix of souped-up garage and sauced up rock and rock and roll had the crowd swaying dancing and even flying (one guy thought he was a squirrel) with Teri leading the charge like a ringmaster from a Jodorowsky’s film (Santa Sangre?). They laid a nice mix from all of the band’s records.

Hot Snakes returned a mere four years after their scorching set at Riot Fest 2014 and they were ready. John Speedo Reis and Rick Froberg are up front on guitar (Rick sings) while Gar Wood holds down the bass and on drums they had had rapid-fire monster Jason Kourkounis (formerly of Delta ’72 among others). These four were born to play together.

They played a good mix of tunes from all their records. Their latest Jericho Sirens (on Sub Pop, like their other three) came out this year to plenty of acclaim and with good reason, it’s packed with songs are are tight and smack you around like a angered bear. Cuts like “Death Doula,” “I Need a Doctor,’ “Six Wave Hold-Down” and the title track were all shredded to bits while older songs like “Lax,” “Who Died” and “10th Planet” were the requisite glorious punch in the face.

They played a handful of encores at least two of which were non-moldy oldies like “Retrofit” and “Braintrust.”

The crowd were certainly appreciative as the packed house didn’t want the band to leave the stage but alas, shows have to end as did this one. The next time the Hot Snakes come to town we’ll roll out the red carpet (kept in the trunk of my car). Hot Snakes rule!

 

HOW TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN: Frank Turner

How, indeed: by speaking the truth, not lies. Philly’s Fillmore was the scene for this sweat-soaked June 5 evening by Britain’s Frank Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls, and they did not disappoint—not even the Trump-country drunks who took exception to some of Mr. Turner’s more sharpened verbal daggers. Above photo by Ben Morse, via Turner’s Facebook page.

 BY JOHN B. MOORE

It’s been a long time since Frank Turner had to play basement shows and VFW Halls, sleeping on strangers’ floors before loading up the van the next morning and heading to the next show, but he clearly is still every bit as much of that scrappy DIY punk rocker.

Headlining a show in Philly recently, promoting his latest record, Be More Kind, Turner did plenty of crowd surfing, sang enough of his own political punk anthems to please The Clash and encouraged safety in the pit (a plea from just about every punk rock singer with a mic dating back to the early ‘80s).

“First rule tonight, don’t be a dickhead; second rule, if you know the words to these songs you have to sing along – loudly!”

The set, and Turner in particular, was a masterclass in pleasing everyone from diehard fans to the uninitiated dragged to the show by friends. From the moment Turner took to the stage in dark pants, a soon-to-be soaked through with sweat white oxford and a thin black tie, he entertained with a ferocity and passion that belied the fact that he’s been on the road for nearly a month already. Running through a couple of his newer songs up front, he quickly moved into some of the older fan favorites like “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous,” “If I Ever Stray” and even the B-side “Tattoos.” He and the band also rolled out “Brave Face,” off the new album, for its live show debut.

“I’m not American, but over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time here. I’ve toured 48 states so far,” Turner said before launching into the remarkably appropriate song, “Make America Great Again,” a pitch perfect rebuke on Trump and all of the racists who have crawled out from under their rocks since his election. “A friend told me you’re not going to have the balls to play this song in America. I said, ‘Americans are fucking adults and they can understand a song about politics.’”

The song was met with loud cheers as the sold-out crowd sang along to every verse. Well, almost everyone, one of the exceptions being the drunk stranger who leaned over to me and croaked out “I don’t know about you, but I don’t like people coming into our country and telling us what’s wrong with our politics. Amirite?” When I disagreed, he hugged me (that’s odd, right?) and then walked out of the venue and into the night, like a Red State Michael Landon from a Highway to Heaven reboot for the Trump era. No one else seemed to have a problem singing along loudly and proudly to the chorus (“Let’s make America great again/let’s make racists ashamed again”).

Turner closed off the show with a spirited encore that included the rapturous “I Still Believe” and the should-be punk rock anthem “Four Simple Words.”

Below: The King in action, followed by his doppelganger Turner making things great, in a pair of official videos.

Frank Turner will be spending a good amount of time touring North America this summer and into the fall. Dates are HERE. Our suggestion: borrow your redneck Republican neighbor’s MAGA hat and bring it for Turner to sign…

Wye Oak 5/23/18, Denver

Dates: May 23, 2018

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

Jenn and Andy – plus a new bassist – leave the Bluebird Theatre spellbound. (Photo above, by Eleonora Collini, via the Wye Oak Facebook page. Tour dates available at the page as well.)

BY TIM HINELY

Still fresh after only being on the road for a few weeks the Baltimore duo of Jenn Wasner and drummer Andy Stack (now armed with bassist whose name I did not catch) had a more than appreciative crowd at the Bluebird on this Wednesday night. Hell, I saw this 50-something couple who I see at my gym (but who I do not know) here arm-in-arm swaying to the music. Hey, if the good-lookin gym couple is here then Wye Oak as made it!

They band is in touring in support of their new record (on Merge, just like all the others) The Louder I Call the Faster it Runs  which is a little different than he band’s other records. Still a unique, soaring mix of electronics/ rock/pop , folk and the like but the mix of Wassner’vocals (an instrument unto itself) and Stacks unique drumming (plus the solidity of adding the bassist) adds up to a band that’s still experimenting, still growing.

In between songs Wassner told stories and joked with the crowd who seemed to hang on her every word (and hey, she is a great storyteller).

From the new record we heard, “(tuning)” into “The Instrument” and right into “Lifer” and the gorgeous, should-be-a-hit “It Was Not Natural” which is 4 of the first 5 songs on that record.

They then dipped back a bit and played “Shriek” from the 2014 record of the same name as well as other older cuts like “Spirtal,” “Glory,” “Holy Holy,” “The Tower” and Civilian.”

They ended it with the title track from the new record. There were no encores, but they didn’t have to (I’m not sure if that’s their standard for them or not). Wye Oak were definitely worth leaving the house for.

 

 

The Reverend Horton Heat 6/8/18, Kansas City

Dates: June 8, 2018

Location: The Crossroads, Kansas City MO

Live at The Crossroads in the big K-C, it was psychobilly supreme.

By Danny R. Phillips / Photos by Drew Phillips

I ventured out into the heat of a Missouri June night to witness the reigning kings of psychobilly The Reverend Horton Heat, for what would be my fifth time since first seeing them at The Warped Tour sometime in the 1990s.  I’ve followed the Dallas, Texas, band for 25 years, from the Sub Pop years, and through 11 albums and four or five drummers. Their blend of country, swing, jazz, rockabilly, punk and metal had always appealed to me at a deeply rooted level.  All the sounds of my childhood and teen years blended together in one unstoppable monster.

I had been there for years with anxious anticipation, wondering, what they would do next? How would they push the psychobilly envelope? 

When we arrived at The Crossroads in Kansas City, the crowd within the gates was sparse, making me wonder to myself, “Did people not realize the show they would miss?” My photographer and I made our way to the beer stand to procure a warm Coors and wait.  Fast forward 45 minutes: the smell of marijuana fills the air as the crowd explodes in size.  Standing next to the barricade at the front of the stage, I looked back to see a suddenly packed house; a venue 20% full moments before was now pushing the limits of the venue’s capacity.

Wandering through the crowd, I saw a multi-generational cross-section of the Midwestern rock and roll populous: kids in black metal t-shirts, sleeveless denim jackets, greasers with pompadours sporting cowboy shirts, ten year olds with mohawks, aging punk rockers in faded Descendents and Supersuckers t-shirts, curvy rockabilly chicks with bright red lipstick and poodle skirts and dudes in suits, in total defiance of the 90+ degree temperatures.

As night fell, The Reverend Horton Heat took the stage.  Jimbo Wallace readied his upright bass, newest and best Rev Ho drummer RJ Contreras took his position behind the kit and Jim Heath, The Reverend himself, walked to the mic, strapping on his orange signature Gretsch guitar with a big shit eating grin on his face.  He knew what was coming and once they began playing, so did we.  It would be one of the best live performances I had ever seen.  Opening with the instrumental “Bullet” (the band almost always opens a show with an instrumental), the band blew through one hot number after another: “400 Bucks,”  “Big Red Rocket of Love,” “It’s Martini Time,” the crowd favorites “Five O Ford” and “Psychobilly Freakout”, Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon” with guest vocalist Big Sandy of Big Sandy & The Fly-Rite Trio, (one of four songs performed with Sandy) “Baddest of the Bad,” from my personally favorite album Liquor in the Front, and many others.

They even proved their metal chops with their amazing take on the Motorhead classic “Ace of Spades.”

One look at the audience around me revealed people dancing, others hoisting beers while still others just stood and stared at the stage, either high, transfixed by the blistering set or both.

It was a two hours plus clinic on how a performance should be done, that a band with a damn would never “phone in” a show, whether they had been in a band for five minutes or 30 years; it was my friends, a night of psychobilly near perfection.

I’ve often thought that Jim Heath is the best guitarist I’ve ever seen live.  On this night, he proved it.

 

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever / Turvy Organ / Serpentfoot 4/28/18, Denver

BY TIM HINELY

A few friends had bailed but I  wasn’t about to miss the Denver debut (Larimer Lounge) of Australia’s Rolling Blackout CF (at least I don’t think they’d played here before).

Had to endure a few openers but the first one, Serpentfoot, wasn’t hard to endure. A trio from Fort Collins who had a fierce yet fun sound. Taking at least a few cues from Thee Oh Sees they hammered out a good 30 mintues of gritty, psychedelic rock that wouldn’t have been for the faint of heart had the main vocalist/guitarist guy not belched into the mic a few times and offered a few cheery greetings to the crowd. They didn’t take themselves to seriously, but a handful of the songs were seriously good. Definitely worth your time.

Up next was Denver’s own Turvy Organ and I couldn’t get a handle on this bunch. Their quirky indie rock I know that they didn’t do much for me and that’s about all I can muster in this review.

Rolling Blackouts C.F. came out amid a mini light show and the 5-piece (3 guitarists: Fran Keaney, Tom Russo and Joe White, all of whom sing and the rhythm section of (Joe Russo on bass and Marcel Tussie on drums) and they wasted no time, busting right into a couple of hits off of their handful of EPs (released here in Sub Pop) and their forthcoming album (which, judging by the songs played tonight, is gonna be a doozy). They specialize in fast, strummy pop tunes with slithering guitar leads all over the place (think The Feelies raised on Vegemite instead of Land O’ Lakes and you’re in the ballpark). Each guitarist sings which gives a real vibrancy and depth to ther songs while the rhythm section hung in there in near-perfect cadence.

We heard a clutch of songs off EPs Talk Tight and The French Press including the title track of the latter and “Clean Slate” off the former plus other cuts like “Julie’s Place,” “Fountain of Good Fortune” and “Sick Bug” and had the packed house at the Larimer eating out of their hands. We heard a few new ones too, off the bands forthcoming LP, Hope Downs, including “An Air-Conditioned Man” and “Mainland” which both sounded ace.

The frenetic energy of these songs couldn’t be denied, the band was locked in and plenty of mouths were agape. Denver certainly gave them a much-deserved warm welcome.

It seems like the future is bright and endless for these 5 gents. With songs this good they can just keep going. I’m going along for this ride.