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Stagecoach 2009: The Reverend Horton Heat's tent revival

April 25, 2009 |  9:59 pm

Moshpit Rev

Hallelujah and praise be to the gods of psychobilly. After nearly a quarter of a century of relentlessly heavy, big-sky balladeering, the very Reverend Horton Heat of Dallas is alive and well. The 50-year-old king of populist rockabilly destroyed Stagecoach in the Palomino tent on Saturday night, putting the snakeskin in boots, the drunk in whiskey and the chain in wallets.

Inspiring what may have been the festival's very first cowboy-hat-laden mosh pit, Heat pushed his hour-long set into overdrive in a brick-orange jacket and a slicked-back 'do that put the evening's less devoted old-school, country-loving denizens to shame. With a voice like a rusty lawnmower, he growled out favorite after favorite, including the cult classic "Bales of Cocaine," about a sweat-stained man of the land who trades his farm in Texas for a farm in Peru (after a mother lode of Colombian gold rains down on him in the high plains). Hearing the song, it's impossible not to cast a mental stone back to one's love of that other country-cocaine favorite, "Cocaine Blues," by the late-great Johnny Cash.

Levity abounded in the verbally loose, musically air-tight set, especially when Heat tested out a song from the band's upcoming album called, "Ain't No Saguaros in Texas." Explaining that Texans are obsessed with saguaro cacti, even though said succulents don't exist in the Lone Star State, Heat went on to set the record straight about the fact that saguaros can be found only in Arizona and northern Mexico.

The fact that saguaros are a prominent part of Texan iconography "always perplexes us in Texas, and I know the people in Arizona are fed up with the whole deal too," he said as the crowd chuckled and what could only be Arizonans squealed with insider delight.

By the time Heat's stand-up bass player, Jimbo Wallace, slid his bass on its side, plucking away at its finger-thick strings like a devil dancer at the gates of hell, and Heat stepped up onto its shining, round side, the crowd had lost its mind, spinning around and around in a thoughtless pit of pushing and shoving, as if country still signified an inner anger more dangerous than sin itself.

Post and photos by Jessica Gelt