I caught the Reverend Horton Heat featuring Unknown Hinson at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, NC, on Thursday. Opening for the psychobilly trio were Igor & Red Elvises and Nashville Pussy. Like all concerts at Neighborhood Theatre, it was an incredible show!
Igor & Red Elvises took the stage first, in a tympany of drums, sequins, and animal prints. I suddenly had the taste of borscht in the back of my throat as they opened with “I Wanna See You Bellydance.” As he proclaimed the index finger to be the most important thing in “the disco business,” I couldn’t help but wonder if Igor’s life during the day is as mundane as it is outrageous during the night. If he lives in a stucco ranch home with a labradoodle named Stewart. But really, I don’t care. Igor can do whatever he wants, because he is the showman of the century. Igor ordered the formation of a conga line, and it was so. The trombone trilled through the air as the conga line snaked through the crowd, and an energy of happy unity permeated the Neighborhood Theatre. The audience was more than warmed up, the audience was ravenous for more.
Then, like a southern breeze, the members of Nashville Pussy appeared on stage, all hair and denim, pure musical mettle. They are the reason people grow their hair long. Lead guitarist Ruyter Suys made little eye contact with the audience as she rocked through some truly impressive riffs, never missing a beat or an opportunity to let her hair do the talking for her. She stole the show, especially during the group’s rendition of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See”. She treated her Gibson like a snake charmer does a cobra; as if by magic, she coaxed it to do the most remarkable things. At several points during the set, it was unclear who was playing who. She was Prometheus, and music was the fire she stole from the gods. It is a rare thing to come into contact with such an artist. What I witnessed from Nashville Pussy is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
The Reverend Horton Heat took the stage: The Rev on vocals and lead guitar, Jimbo on the upright bass, and Scott “Chernobyl” Churilla on drums. It was something I can’t say I ever experienced in the North, a curious juxtoposition of country sound with a mosh pit, seamlessly followed by hard rocking jam after jam. The Rev wielded his guitar as a missive from the heavens, with the occasional angelic smile during the instrumentals. His smile struck me as one of the many unique aspects of the performance: a bemused acknowledgement of the adoring shouts and wriggles from the crowd accompanied by an air of personal fulfillment. Damn, do I love watching musicians doing what they love. The Reverend Horton Heat rocked through Zombie Dumb, after introducing it as the “dumbest song on the new record,” much to the crowd’s delight. The Reverend made small talk with his guitar as Jimbo walked along with the bass, Scott in tow on drums. Conversation got heated and the rev smiled his angelic smile and things got boiling. The crowd screamed in pleasure along with the Rev’s guitar as the drums kept on pounding.
After several songs, the Rev shared an anecdote detailing the necessity of slow songs for a band’s survival (it had to do with the fact that the cheerleaders hired them for dances many moons ago). The guitar’s reverb floated smoothly through the air, playing peek-a-boo with time.
Momentarily taking over lead vocals for the Rev, Unknown Hinson took the stage, with eyebrows as loud as his pompadour. His unapologetically strong accent matched his strong persona, and when he reached the chorus of “Your Man is Gay” the crowd could barely contain itself. Hinson is known for his cult following, and the members of his cult went wild when Hinson joined the Reverend Horton Heat for their encore. It was a marvelous evening in the Queen City!