Downtown Abbey: The Reverend Horton Heat

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Punk isn’t dead — it’s hiding under a cowboy hat and a fringe shirt.

Psychobilly Godfather Reverend Horton Heat and his loyal congregation of rockabillies, greasers, punks and pin-ups nearly brought down the balcony at Skully’s Music-Diner on a recent Saturday. Though Jim Heath and Co. have been playing since the mid-1980s, the Revs brand of corn-fed psychobilly rock was just as adrenaline charged as ever, nearly eviscerating the sold-out crowd at the take-no-prisoners performance.

“Sorry guys! It’s sold out — no one gets in unless they have a ticket,” the security guy yelled over my head at the influx of would-be party-goers rushing the door. It was nearly impossible to move inside the packed venue. The Reverend was about to go on, and everyone was piling near the bar for a drink before the fun started.

We found some open space on the balcony between an 11-year-old kid and his parents and a girl with a victory roll updo. I felt like I was at the jamboree at Turkey Point.

The band started in, thrashing through new tunes and old favorites. When the Rev. hollered “It’s a Psychobilly Freakout” the gasoline coursing through the band’s veins had the audience high on fumes. At times the group let off the gas, but they never hit the brakes while tearing through upright bass, guitar and drum solos.

“Bass is easy,” Rev. said to upright bassist Jimbo Wallace after they had switched instruments for a cover of “Johnny B. Goode.” The Rev.’s loyal followers stomped along while drummer Scott Churilla slaughtered his kit, effectively shaking the entire mezzanine. A woman diagonal from me was shimmying with such vigor I was waiting for a breast to pop out or the fringe on her blouse to fly off. She wasn’t alone: it seemed like every lady in the place was waiting for Jimbo’s upright bass-drop to bring out the heavy artillery.

“I can’t quit on my own, I need help!” the Rev. said before barreling through another honky-tonk-tinged number. His sentiment mirrored my feelings toward outlaw country and rockabilly bands; I just can’t quit loving them.

We left after “Martini Time,” still zooming from the spectacle we just witnessed. I skipped going out afterward — I mean hell, who was going to compete with Rev. Horton Heat anyway?

Downtown Abbey is a nightlife column that covers everything from drag shows to magic shows, the club scene to fetish parties. It runs every other week.