Any night that starts with a stand-up bass shaped like a coffin is bound to be intriguing. Alex’s bar in Long Beach set the stage for a night of slick back hair, Betty Page bangs, stand-up bass solos, and psychobilly music on Thursday, April 3. The evening’s lineup included Nekromantix, Reverend Horton Heat along with guest artist Deke Dickerson playing to a sold out crowd. It’s not often that one gets to see bands of this caliber in such an intimate setting and each of the bands did a great job engaging the shoulder to shoulder crowd with some feet tapping, bass slapping rhythms.
The Nekromantix who originated in Denmark then relocated to the U.S. are the embodiment of a true psychobilly band. The genre brings rockabilly sounding music to the dark side featured in classic horror, monster and sci-fi images. Kim Nekroman fronts the band and plays a custom built coffin shaped double bass with a cross headstock. He is the original member of this 3 piece band whose stage presence is fitting of such an instrument. Through song after song of the hour long set, Nekroman’s expressive face, bass maneuvering and strategic tongue licking of said bass and vocal mic gave a full performance worthy of the following this band has had since its origin in 1989.
Joining Nekroman are Lux, a petite red head that keeps her cool while carrying the beat on drums and Francisco Mesa on guitar. Lux’s style, precision and grace (not to mention her bright orange hair) are a great contrast to the men in the band with their swept-up black fade hairstyles. Mesa holds his own on guitar to support the dynamic lead of Nekroman. The description of ‘Elvis meets the Wolfman’ is fitting in both look and style of this group. With songs including “Gargoyles,” “Alice in Psycholand,” “Haunted Cathouse,” and “Horny in a Hearse,” the set was a great representation of the band’s focus on B-movie images with fast paced guitar rhythms and bass slapping beats. Nekroman maneuvers his coffin bass like a dance partner and making this a fun stage show all the way to the closing hit, “Who Killed the Cheerleader.” And that was just the first half of the show!
For the full two hour set psychobilly legend Reverend Horton Heat brought a steady stream of classics and songs from the recently released album, Rev. He was joined on stage by his band: Jimbo Wallace on upright bass and Scott Churilla on drums. Holding down lead vocals and guitar, Jim Heath (stage name Reverend Horton Heat) delivered an amazing performance worthy of the following he has established through 11 albums and 29 years on stage. Pianists are noted for ‘tickling the ivories’, Heath does the same thing with his fingering on the frets of his guitar. The combination of psychobilly, rockabilly and country overtones with a surf music tone is a direct result of this crazy shredding supported by the slap bass and drum.
Heath has a great stage presence, is warm and even jokes with the crowd. Reverend Horton Heat peppered the set with old favorites peppered with songs from the new album. The set began with “Victory Lap” and “Smell of Gasoline,” the first two tracks of the album, immediately followed by the fan favorites “Psychobilly Freakout” and “Devil’s Chasing Me. He introduced ‘Jimbo,’ a song about the bassist by saying it came from their worst selling album of all-time, Space Heater. Though not a big commercial success, it did not stop the crowd from energetically singing along to the catchy J-I-M-B-O spelled out chorus of song. Midway through set, Reverend Horton Heat was joined onstage by Deke Dickerson to perform some of his surf rider anthems with the band and treated the fans to some dual-neck guitar insanity. The same guitar was simultaneously played by Deke and the Reverend and even Jimbo got in on the action. A pretty impressive demonstration of musicianship to be sure!
The group did an impressive self-proclaimed ‘obvious choice’ cover of the rockabilly classic “Johnny Be Good” and carried the energy all the way through their set. When the band finished the set with “Big Red Rocket of Love” and left the stage, bar owner, Alex Hernandez, jumped up onstage and encouraged the crowd to cheer for an encore. He was successful and Reverend Horton Heat closed out the night with “Bales of Cocaine,” “Galaxy 500,” an awesome drum solo by Churilla, and “Honky Tonk Girl.” Definite praise to Alex’s Bar for booking two iconic psychobilly bands for a great night not to be forgotten by this reviewer and the fans lucky enough to be in attendance.