Speaking in tongues

Psychobilly rocker the Rev. Horton Heat in rare form at the Brick Works

SMITING THE HEATHEN HORDES <br>Jim Heath (aka Rev. Horton Heat, left) and longtime musical partner Jimbo Wallace catch holy fire at their Brick Works show.

Jim Heath (aka Rev. Horton Heat, left) and longtime musical partner Jimbo Wallace catch holy fire at their Brick Works show.

Photo by Tom Angel

Rev. Horton Heat, Bare Jr.
The Brick Works, Tuesday, July 10

He’s the guy in the band who’s slam-danced with God!

I walked through the swirling exhaust of the Reverend Horton Heat’s touring bus and into the revival tent known as the Brick Works. Already, dozens of believers from across the county had assembled and were partaking of the ministrations of the “no glass” bar. All it took was a swig of Summerfest to adjust my attitude and set me straight.

I was so charged to be deafened by the Rev’s psychobilly freak-out that I could have overlooked openers Bare Jr. completely. And that, I assure you, would have been a fundamental mistake.

An electronic, scrolling marquee above an amplifier caught my eye, advertising that its existence was because Bare Jr. didn’t want to have to talk between the songs (though they did). Then it asked why I was looking at a stupid sign instead of watching the band. Then it told me it liked sushi and quiet walks on the beach. Huh?

So I started watching the band. Man alive, were they loud. And me without my earplugs. Yet among all the hootin’ and hollerin’ there was something absolutely killer happening on stage. Bare Jr. whipped out punk rock ditties with just enough of a quiver of country to make a cowboy quake in his boots. Original tunes morphed into a bring-down-the-house twist of The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” and The Who’s “Baba O’ Riley.”

Really. It was far-f***ing-out.

I almost forgot why I came. Maybe because the last time I saw the Rev, he’d just played a three-night set in SF and seemed tuckered out, hung over and just plain old.

When Jimbo laid down his upright bass, the Rev looked like he wanted to crawl inside the thing instead of mounting it. I wasn’t expecting miracles.

This time, however, the Rev cast his trademark shit-eating grin at the crowd, glinted an eye at Jimbo, and they tore the crowd a new one with a double shot of “Big Sky” and “Baddest of the Bad.” Now, that’s showbiz!

I screamed, spilled my beer, and resented the sandals on my feet as I watched the pit hurl-and-swirl, hoisting hipsters and old-school rockers into the air throughout the band’s trademark tunes. Thoroughly covered were songs from all the Rev’s albums, maybe a little heavy (much to my heart’s content) on older stuff. Crowd hits included “Eat Beef,” the crowd-participating, cha-cha ending “In Your Wildest Dreams,” and everyone’s favorite sing-a-long, “Five-O Ford.”

The trio played nearly two hours, taking a break halfway through and playing a quality encore featuring a drawn-out "Big Red Rocket of Love." The Rev’s shtick of climbing the upright bass as Jimbo slaps it silly doesn’t really get old, and it’s an awesome thrill that shoots through his flashier licks, leaving us speaking in tongues.