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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Coachella and Stagecoach dominate the music coverage in April—but there are a whole lot of great events going on before, during and after the festivals throughout the Coachella Valley.

The McCallum Theatre will soon enter its summer hibernation, but not before a fantastic April schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, April 4, find out who’s the boss when Tony Danza brings in his one-man variety show. He’ll be telling stories about his life and playing music with the Desert Symphony. Tickets are $75 to $250. At 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 10, popular Christian-contemporary music artist Stephen Curtis Chapman comes to the McCallum. He’s won five Grammy Awards and sold more than 10 million albums. Tickets are $39 to $88. At 7 p.m., Saturday, April 27, the Coachella Valley Symphony will be holding its 26th Anniversary Gala, joined by Under the Streetlamp, a fun music group that performs rhythm and blues, rock ’n’ roll and doo-wop from the 1950s to 1970s. Tickets are $45 to $85. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has an April event you won’t want to miss … especially if you’ve watched Netflix or Hulu recently. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 6, Ashanti and Ja Rule will be performing. Ja Rule may currently be best-known for his recent involvement with the disastrous Fyre Festival. He’s also known for a few hits in the early 2000s. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage has several fun events from which to choose in April. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 5, truTV star and magician Michael Carbonaro will be performing. Carbonaro is also known for his appearances on 30 Rock, Happily Divorced and Grey’s Anatomy, on top of his dazzling magic act. Tickets are $25 to $160. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 26, Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh will take the stage. You remember him … he’s guy who has all the videos from YouTube showing people doing stupid and ridiculous stuff—supplemented by his colorful and hilarious commentary. Tickets are $80 to $100. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of intriguing shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 13, Paquita La Del Barrio (upper right) will be performing. Known as “Franny from the Neighborhood,” this beloved performer is well-known in the United States and Mexico for her songs that promote strength and solidarity while challenging sexist machismo. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 27, the “comedian of a thousand faces,” Jo Jo Jorge Falcon, will bring the funny. Falcon is known for his twisted sense of humor—and for sometimes wearing a condom-tip cap. Tickets are $36 to $81. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has a full slate of impressive April offerings. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 5, ’60s pop icons Chubby Checker and Frankie Avalon will be performing on a double bill. Frankie Avalon is best-known for his movie performances with Annette Funicello in what become known as the “beach party” genre. He’s also a singer-songwriter and has recorded seven albums. Chubby Checker is known for his hit “The Twist” (which was actually a Hank Ballard and the Midnighters cover) and the accompanying dance. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 12, comedian Cedric the Entertainer will be performing. He’s best-known for his role as Eddie in Barbershop, as well as his other acting roles, but he’s also been a popular standup comedian through the years. Tickets are $59 to $79. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 26, country artist Rodney Atkins will take the stage. He’s had six No. 1 hits on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs chart since his career began in 2003. Tickets are $45 to $55. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a lot going on in April—and is always a popular place to be during Coachella and Stagecoach, as you never know who will show up. Here are a couple of events with tickets still available. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 19, Pale Waves will be performing. It’s a four-piece indie-pop band from the United Kingdom—and this group is fantastic. When I listened to their debut album My Mind Makes Noises, it reminded me of the best alternative pop, such as the Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Echo and the Bunnymen. Pale Waves has been selling out venues in the U.K., Europe and North America. Tickets are $16 to $20. At 8 p.m., Sunday, April 28, the legendary rockabilly/rock ’n’ roll band Reverend Horton Heat will be performing, along with the Legendary Shack Shakers. No hyperbole: These are two of the best rock bands in America, and both have recorded great music that any rockabilly, blues or rock fan can appreciate. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The action remains hot at the Purple Room. At 6 p.m., Friday, April 12, the “King of the Song Cue Ball” Jerome Elliott will be performing. A hilarious award-winning actor, singer and director, and a friend of the Independent, he’s performed at just about all of the top cabaret venues across the country. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 6 p.m., Friday, April 26, jazz singer, songwriter and actress Ann Hampton Callaway (below) will come to the Purple Room. She’ll be singing jazz songs that were made famous in films. Tickets are $55 to $65. At 6 p.m., Saturday, April 27, actress and singer Renee Olstead will be performing. You might remember her from Still Standing and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Well, she’s also a hell of a singer, and performed at the Live 8 concert in 2005. Tickets are $35 to $40. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

The Reverend Horton Heat returned to Pappy and Harriet’s for the third time on Thursday, Jan. 11—and the band was welcomed by a sold-out crowd.

But first, Riverside’s Voodoo Glow Skulls brought their ska punk—with a heavy emphasis on punk—stirring up the crowd, especially three corn-feed bro-punks who moshed while the rest of the crowd was buffeted in their wake. As the band chanted “Who Do Voodoo We Do!” the crowd responded by replying, “Fuck You!”—which fed the fury of the moshers, who splashed perfectly good beer on the crowd.

Big Sandy was slated to go next—but Jim Heath, the Reverend himself, announced with a grin that this is a “Pioneertown psychobilly freakout!”

The Rev delighted the crowd with the hits, including “Five-O Ford” and “In Your Wildest Dreams,” off 1994’s Liquor in the Front. Heath caused some rockabilly gals to swoon with these words from the latter song: “My breath on your neck, the touch of my hand, you’ll awake in a room of steam, I’ll see you in your wildest dreams.”

Halfway through the set, Heath introduced the group’s new, husky, drummer, R.J. Contreras, who was incredible, keeping the beat strong and acknowledging the crowd with a “What’s up Pioneertown?” Heath added that R.J. “is young enough to put up with his bad habits.”

Jim Heath shared many stories about bassist Jimbo Wallace, including the time the Reverend performed in Seattle during the grunge-rock era for free—while Wallace bled on the crowd after cutting his hand. The injury drew the attention of executives from Sub Pop Records who were in the audience—and the whole thing led to the band getting signed to the label. This tale segued into the “Jimbo Song.”

At one point, Heath talked about the time they played in Fresno. “Fresno is every bit as redneck as Lubbock, Texas,” he said, leading to a big cheer from Jen Ault Michalk, a super-fan of Fresno who was at Pappy’s celebrating her son’s 18th birthday. Heath went on to say that “Cowboy Love” was inspired by a gay cowboy bar in Fresno, with the lyrics: “Yeah, I know that us as a couple, will cause talk, but I wouldn’t mind; those cowboys will be pea-green with envy, when they see his cute behind.”

The Reverend threw a curveball halfway through the show when he introduced Big Sandy as the best rockabilly singer today. Big Sandy proceeded to sing his song “Hot Water” with perfect pitch—living up to the compliment bestowed by Jim Heath. Sandy reciprocated his love for the Rev, saying, “I am very blessed playing with the Reverend Horton Heat.”

While all this mutual admiration was in the air, I overheard a father saying that his boy, Steven, who is 6, was at his second Reverend Horton Heat show—although Steven does not remember the first time, because he was much younger. Steven was all smiles, sitting on the edge of the stage watching the show at one point when Jimbo handed him a bottled water, causing the child to smile.

As things were winding down, the tempo wound up with “Let Me Teach You How to Eat.” I spied David Catching, a member of the Eagles of Death Metal, rocking out while wearing a hoodie towards the back of the venue.

Big Sandy returned to the stage: “We are going to dedicate this song to all of you,” he said as he took the lead on vocals. Meanwhile, Jimbo Wallace brought up little Steven to the stage. “Steven, have you ever had a bass lesson?” he asked. “Uncle Jimbo is going to give you a bass lesson.” The show ended with “School of Rock and Roll” by Gene Summers.

As I left the stage area after the show, Jimbo asked me if I got a shot of Steven playing the bass. I told him I didn’t, since I was only supposed to shoot during the first three songs. He then asked me to take photos of him and Steven.

“The future of music rests with kids,” he explained.

Published in Reviews

The Reverend Horton Heat has gone on to do many things that most rockabilly bands could never imagine.

The band’s music has been featured on soundtracks for television, films and video games; the group has toured with acts such as the Sex Pistols and Motörhead; the members have collaborated with rock ’n’ roll heavyweights; and it has been labeled as one of the hardest-working bands and best live acts in America.

The Reverend Horton Heat is returning to the desert for a show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, Jan. 11.

During a recent phone interview, the Reverend himself, Jim Heath, said he never imagined what would happen after he started the band in 1985 in Dallas.

“I just wanted to do my own songs within the rockabilly framework, and I was just giving up on the idea of being a rock star,” Heath said. “We ended up on a major-label deal, and we worked with Al Jourgensen of Ministry and Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, and some other pretty heavyweight people. This has been quite a ride! We were on the tail end of major labels giving out big money. It’s been a lot of fun.”

If you’ve been to a Reverend Horton Heat show, you know that all kinds of music fans, across all age ranges, come out to see them play.

“In the early days, we would play a punk-rock room one night, a country bar the next night, and then a heavy-metal place the next night,” Heath said. “Even though we were playing our own original music, we could tailor the set list to fit any situation we were in. That really helped make ends meet when we were just trying to do it full-time, so no one needed to have a full-time job. It’s a blessing, because now, we have shows where we have a really diverse fan base. We have rockabilly guys, heavy-metal guys, old guys, country guys—it’s crazy! It’s flattering, and it’s a real blessing.”

In some places, the mixture can lead to chaos. During a Reverend Horton Heat show I once attended in Cleveland, a fist fight broke out between a couple of older guys and some young punk-rockers who had started a mosh pit. Heath agreed that the diverse range of fans can sometimes lead to drama.

“We played quite a few gigs on our first trip to California where they would swing-dance,” he said. “For those clubs, we would tailor our gigs to a swing-dance crowd. But there was one particular gig in Long Beach (at a place) called Bogart’s where we showed up and started playing, and the swing-dancers started swing-dancing—and the mosh pit started. It was a clash of cultures, and we had to stop the show because five to 10 fights broke out all at once. Some sweaty alternative rocker goes slamming into some girl in her perfect little ’50s dress, and her boyfriend hits him. It was just a big brawl. It is what it is, and people want to have fun, but I want them to have fun and not hurt each other.”

The Reverend Horton Heat was once on tour for 250 to 275 dates a year, but that number has been decreased to a still-substantial 120 to 150. Heath said the band has always been a touring band first, regardless of album sales.

“With where record sales are now and that side of the industry falling apart, the lucky thing for us is that our art form is playing music, which has nothing to do with recordings,” he said. “Music is about a live thing with people having fun, socializing and enjoying the music together. That’s my art form, and that’s what I do.”

The list of legends with whom the Reverend Horton Heat has shared the stage is quite impressive.

“One of the best shows we ever did was opening for Johnny Cash at the Fillmore. We got to meet Johnny Cash and June Carter, and guys in his band to this day still keep in touch with us,” he said.

“I did a recording session, played golf, had dinner and played golf again with Willie Nelson. We opened for Carl Perkins, and after the show, he sat and told me stories for over an hour and a half. He was so funny and had some of the best stories. Johnny Rotten, when we toured with the Sex Pistols, would come up to me and tell me the craziest and funniest stuff. We did a TV show that included Wayne Newton, and he told us stories ’til 4 in the morning.”

The band’s last album, REV, was released in 2014—but Heath said to expect some new material soon, despite delays.

“We took most of the summer off to try to record a new album, and in the middle of all that, we switched drummers,” Heath said. “The album project got a little bit pushed back, and now we’ve been so busy that we almost don’t have time to do an album. I think we have 10 basic tracks pretty well, but we might go back and try to redo some of them. The good news is we have 10 songs, and it’s coming. We just need to get in the studio and finish it out.”

A word to the wise: It’s well-known that throwing beer is a no-no at a Reverend Horton Heat show. Heath took a serious tone when he told me his thoughts on the matter.

“I don’t like it; it’s stupid, and it’s ridiculous. I’m not into it at all,” he said. “You’ll get your ass thrown out doing that, and it’s not right. The first thing you learn in kindergarten is don’t throw stuff; the first thing you learn in college is don’t waste beer. There was a guy who threw beer on me in Denver one time, and I told him, ‘I always wondered what kind of person throws beer, and I figured it out—it’s rich kids!’ If you’re a rich kid, you can afford to throw beer and then call Mommy and Daddy, saying you need money for laundry or whatever. He got mad at me, and he was a writer, so he wrote a bad review of the show, saying what a wuss I was, and I was going, ‘Who is this guy?’ I Googled him, and he was a lead singer in a band whose stage antics were throwing beer. I kinda blew his stage shtick, which is awesome!”

The Reverend Horton Heat will perform with Voodoo Glow Skulls and Big Sandy at 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 11, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $25 to $30. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Published in Previews

Season is finally here! As you make plans for Thanksgiving and prepare for the other big holidays just around the corner, you should also plan on attending some of these great shows.

The McCallum Theatre has an amazing variety of events booked solid through the month. One show that definitely won’t disappoint music-lovers is an appearance by Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Graham Nash at 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 18. While he may be best known for his work with Stephen Stills and David Crosby, he’s had a long and successful solo career; his 1971 solo debut album, Songs for Beginners, was critically acclaimed and reached No. 15 on the Billboard albums chart. Tickets are $35 to $75. Herb Alpert will also be stopping by the McCallum, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, along with his wife, singer Lani Hall. The jazz trumpeter, known primarily for his years with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, was a pioneer in jazz because he mixed Latin, funk, pop and R&B styles into his sound. While jazz has been on the decline with audiences over the years, Alpert is still going strong. Tickets are $35 to $75. The Kingston Trio will be appearing at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. Before folk music became political in the 1960s, putting the genre on the path to a major revival, The Kingston Trio was paving the way for that revival. One downside: The original three members are long gone from the group, so the trio continues in a “third phase” with collaborators who worked with the original lineup or were otherwise affiliated with the trio. That shouldn’t stop you from going to see them and taking in some of the songs that inspired the folk revival of the 1960s. Tickets are $25 to $45. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Aaron LewisAgua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some big events, too. Theresa Caputo, aka the “Long Island Medium,” will be there at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. What can be expected from Caputo? Well, it’s a safe bet that she’ll be communicating with the spirits and talking directly with their living relatives in attendance. Tickets for the event were $60 to $100, but we received word just before our deadline that the show is sold out. (I do NOT suggest shouting out a request for “Freebird” to her.) The following night, Neil Sedaka will take the stage; the “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” crooner will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Sedaka was a pop icon before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll took America by storm. He’s still a success today; he’s been involved with American Idol and had his first big-hit album in two decades in 2007 with The Definitive Collection. Tickets are $50 to $75. For those who remember the band Staind from the infamous nu-metal era: Aaron Lewis, the frontman of the band, will be there at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30. Lewis became a hit after he did a live duet at Korn’s Family Values Tour in 1999 with Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit of a song Lewis penned called “Outside.” He turned in solo acoustic performances in the later part of the last decade and has now transitioned to country music while Staind is on hiatus. Fun fact: In July 2012, Lewis had a bitter feud with Carrie Underwood after she released her song “Last Name,” which he said “made her sound like a complete whore.” Whoa! Tickets for the event are $25 to $55. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has two big music events booked this month. Modern R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. The three-time Grammy Award-winning artist is currently touring behind his latest album, R.E.D., an acronym for Realizing Every Dream. He has crossed over into pop and dance-pop; his recent single with Sia Furler, “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” was well-received and even included a successful music video—in an era when the music video isn’t appreciated much any more. Tickets are $49 to $109. Burt Bacharach will follow in Ne-Yo’s footsteps a week later, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23. Like Sedaka, Bacharach was part of the pop scene that came before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll, but he always stood out because of his unique songwriting. With 73 Top 40 hits in the U.S., Bacharach has also won Grammys, Academy Awards and pretty much every other award a singer-songwriter can win. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a light music schedule for the month of November; however, the resort’s Free Friday Concert Series kicks off with a Johnny Cash tribute by Rusty Evans at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. Admission is free. Also, the venue will be hosting The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience: Moonwalker at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9. With a live band and a cast of singers, the show is a must-see for Michael Jackson fans. Tickets are $15. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has just one big scheduled November event: The Cabazon resort will host comedian and TV host Craig Ferguson for a standup performance at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8. Ferguson has established himself as the host of The Late Late Show and is a possible replacement for David Letterman if The Late Show host ever decides to step down. We’re dying to know: Will Ferguson bring along his robotic skeleton sidekick? Tickets are $55 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s has booked Cass McCombs for a gig at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12. McCombs blends folk, rock, blues, country and several other different styles into one big, awesome mess. He’s toured with the likes of Band of Horses and Cat Power—and he’s definitely someone you should see live at least once. Tickets are $15. (Read my review of his latest album at CVIndependent.com.) The following evening, at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13, Bill Callahan will take the stage. The underground rock artist, who has also performed under the moniker of Smog, continues to push the boundaries of simplicity in songwriting; it’s said that he can repeat the same chord progression throughout the entire song. He’s another musician who has tried his hand in writing, releasing a novel, Letters to Emma Bowlcut, in 2010. Tickets are $15. After an appearance earlier this year at The Date Shed, Reverend Horton Heat will be playing Pappy and Harriet’s at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. The Texas trio and warriors of the road never disappoint and always put on a great show. I saw them on the same night as the 2009 Academy Awards when they played the House of Blues, right down the street from the awards ceremony and Vanity Fair after-party; the show was packed despite the traffic and all the Oscars craziness. They’re truly one of the hardest-working independent bands in the business today. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

The ExpendablesThe Date Shed hosts The Expendables at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. No, this group does not include Sylvester Stallone, the Governator or any of those guys; it’s the Santa Cruz surf-rock band that mixes reggae and punk. The resulting sound is similar to that of Sublime. Tickets are $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza continues to get some great bands thanks in part to their booking genius, Brandon Henderson. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, the Palm Desert venue hosts a retro-themed show going back to the big-band and rockabilly eras featuring Vicky Tafoya and the Big Beat, the Jennifer Keith Quintet and the Deadbeat Daddies; the show will include a pinup contest. Admission at the door is $10. Guttermouth plays at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Guttermouth’s shockingly humorous and offensive lyrics reportedly got them booted from the 2004 Warped Tour; you never know what to expect from the Huntington Beach group. Antics aside, they’re a great punk band that shouldn’t be underestimated. Admission to the 21-and-over show is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio features a November party that is not to miss—Bella Da Ball’s Star Dedication. It will take place at 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, in front of Azul, followed by an all-star concert at 7:30 p.m. with food and drink specials. Performers such as Allison Annalora, Doug Graham, Keisha D, Marina Mac and others are all scheduled to perform. Admission is free, and the full menu is available, but reservations are suggested. Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio, 369 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs; 760-325-5533; www.azultapaslounge.com.

The Hard Rock Hotel is open for business and moving forward with events. The hotel will kick off an entertainment series titled The Edge at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, with repeats on Friday and Saturday the following two weekends. The Edge is variety show that brings together actors from the screen and the stage in a production of rock classics, similar to Rock of Ages and other Broadway productions that include classic rock and stage performance. November’s show is titled “Top Rock.” Tickets for the event are $45. Hard Rock Hotel, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; www.theedgepalmsprings.com.

Neil Sedaka

Published in Previews

Reverend Horton Heat frontman Jim Heath is content with his career thus far. After 28 years of bringing an unabashed celebration of sex, booze and hard living to venues across the country, Heath and his band have cultivated a diverse and loyal fan base.

Few rock 'n' roll bands last a decade, let alone more than a quarter-century—especially with a rigorous tour schedule. In the band's early days, it wasn't uncommon for them to play 300 gigs a year. These days, though, the group only tours about one-third of the year—and the current tour is bring the band to The Date Shed this weekend.

"We were always a party band. ... In every town, people were waiting there to party with us. The next night would be really difficult to play music," said Heath. "We knew if we kept this up, we were going to die. So we had a band meeting and decided we are here to play music, and we cut out the partying."

Heath is feted by peers and loved by fans for his ability to make his guitar cry the blues and wail rock 'n' roll with blistering, reckless abandon. He loves extremes: sudden drops from loud to soft, or a sweet, sustained guitar riff followed by a jolt of speed.

Heath absorbed all kinds of music growing up and was influenced early on by Johnny Cash, The Cramps and The Blasters, along with blues artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Freddie King and Buddy Guy.

"I took a few lessons, but what really worked for me was just listening and trying to copy what I heard," Heath said. "I dropped the needle about a million times until I could imitate what I heard."

When he started Reverend Horton Heat in the mid-1980s, Heath didn't want to be pigeonholed into a specific musical genre. Instead, he used rockabilly as a foundation from which to build an original mix of surf guitar, swing, country, blues and up-tempo rock 'n' roll.

Spawned from the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, the band would play in the punk-y Twilight Room one night, and around the corner in a blues bar the next. Further along, RHH opened for Johnny Cash and, two weeks later, played with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.

Today, the trio serves up a hearty mix of rock swagger at a surf-rock speed, topped with a dash of blues and some countrified melodies. The band released the two-CD-and-DVD box set 25 to Life in 2012, and recently announced it signed with Victory Records and plans to release a new album in 2013.

The Rev is currently flanked by upright bassist Jimbo Wallace and drummer Scott Churilla. Ultimately, though, it's Heath's original compositions and guitar skills that drive the band.

"I'm an electric-guitar player, and I hear all instruments in a song." Heath explained. "So I come up with the whole arrangement before I have a song for the band to work up. I am very focused on the beat."

Heath also experiments with a variety of guitar techniques.

"One technique I worked on my whole career is mimicking pedal-steel and steel-guitar licks with my guitar. The way you hold three notes, and then bend one of them will give you a kind of pedal steel guitar swell effect," Heath said.

Another signature move calls for Heath to play lead and rhythm guitar simultaneously—a technique he uses to fill out the trio's sound which he's named the "hurricane."

"I play a drum note on the low end while I am playing the strings on the top end. The key to that is how I mute the strings," said Heath.

But Heath's aptitudes aren't confined to the technical realm. Lyrically, few topics are taboo for RHH. For example, the song "One Time for Me" is about female masturbation, while the track "Slow" reveals the band's familiarity with female physiology: "It took a long time but I learned what they like / Once you've learned my lesson it's like ridin' a bike ... Drivin' real slow gets you home pretty fast / Keep a cool head gonna make it last."

On "Cowboy Love," a country tune in which Heath pines for the attentions of a tall, black, gay cowboy, he sings: "That's why each night by the campfire / I thank my lucky stars above / For inter-racial cowboy homo kind of love." And in the fast-tempo "Big Little Baby," Heath pens a love song for his tall girlfriend, whose "heart is as big as her feet are long": "Well, I got a sweet baby who's six foot tall / Well, she's a full grown woman who's got it all."

On stage, Heath has it all—mingling anarchy, virtuosity, deep blues and a hammy guitar playing shtick that keep all eyes focused on him.

Whether he's singing with gentle menace or bending new curves into a blues note, Heath is a master of tension and release. It's during a live show that bona fide Reverend Horton Heat fans are born. And Heath says fans are everything to the band.

"We party with the people who come to see us at the show. ... To me, music is an art form that involves getting up there and playing in front of people," Heath said.

The Reverend Horton Heat plays at 8 p.m., Friday, March 8, at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St. in Indio; $25. Also on the bill are Deke Dickerson, and Wade Crawford and the Country Trash. For tickets or more information, call 775-6699, or visit www.dateshedmusic.com. A version of this piece appeared originally in the Boise Weekly.

Published in Previews