Words by Matthew Hutchison | Photos by Brendon Crigler Photography
Friday, April 6, had the garage punk scenesters, contemporary beatniks, and young hipsters alike descending upon the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. What brought them here? Two groups steeply entrenched in lo-fi fuzz-laden riffs, monster masks and denim vests, and old-time religion. How to describe it? It was “epic,” as one would say—that term is overused, but you get the idea.
Reverend Beat-Man was in town.
Who the hell is that? Good question! This guy has been the man over in Switzerland for some time when it comes to garage punk, one-man bands, weird folk and blues music, and the like. He’s not new to Los Angeles, however; he’s cruised through here a few times, but this is his first tour with Nicole Izobel Garcia, a local resident and artist from L.A. who specializes in punk and ranchera music. Finally getting the chance to see them after hearing people describe their live gigs—they’ve toured Europe together and are headed back there in late spring—and listening to his records on repeat, we were amped, and it looked like the room at the Hi-Hat was too. However, when organizers Cretin Hop announced they threw Thee Cormans on this bill, that made the deal sweeter.
With the night’s bill consisting of two bands, the Cretin Hop crew playing DJ occupied the first hour of the gig. The room was packed with a mixed older and younger crowd socializing in all corners and in-between while the P.A. blared a mix of ‘60s garage, contemporary glam punk, surf, etc. Across the stage near the DJ and sound booth, merch tables were set up with the lively Reverend Beat-Man manning the Voodoo Rhythm booth, greeting folks and old friends, getting picture opportunities, and wheeling and dealing various LP, cassette, and CD releases from his Voodoo Rhythm label, a cornerstone imprint in the garage rock and punk world.
As 10:00 p.m. hit and the room packed in, Thee Cormans took the stage, and their drummer, Shaved Ape, announced to the crowd, “This is the worst show we’ve ever been asked to play,” then kicked off a setlist that blended lo-fi surf and garage rock. For anyone new to these guys, they’re the total package. Three big biker looking dudes wearing Ed Roth-inspired monster masks, who antagonize and shit-talk the audience between songs. It’s cartoonish, it’s abrasive, it’s crude, it’s loud, and it’s hilarious. They don’t play live much anymore, and that fact worked in their favor as a horde of people caught their set.
For the next 45 minutes, these three unabashedly talked trash and mocked the audience. Their targets returned the abuse—L.A.-based DJ Howie Pyro being one to return the verbal venom spewed forth—while the three ripped through a 97-percent instrumental set with the final 3 percent consisting of grunts and various noises from their guitar player, listed as Creature in their liner notes. These guys are enemies of the politically correct: an awesome band and a great set.
The 11th hour was upon us, and the crowd refocused on the stage when church music blared through the P.A. and Beat-Man and Garcia—in full holy-roller cloth attire—took their positions on stage right and left, respectively. Historically, Reverend Beat-Man’s live appearances have been as a one-man band, but with Garcia, he’s relieved of minimal percussion duties, and she incorporates keys effects in his compositions. Sitting in front of a branded kickdrum and hi-hat with a Danelectro sitting on his lap, smiling, Beat-Man glanced over the crowd while Garcia held a reserved-yet-focused look, inspecting her keys setup and crash/snare kit. The smile turned to a jaw clench and Beat-Man’s eyes bugged out of his head as the opening lick of “Get On Your Knees” rang out.
Watching these two throw down onstage is like witnessing some outlaw backwoods Baptist troupe screaming lyrics and banging on their instruments as if lives hang in the balance should they not execute 110 percent onstage. We’re talking primitive and unhinged-sounding stuff here, ladies and jerks—as raw and bare bones as it can get.
Unlike the preceding band, Beat-Man didn’t talk shit but engaged the audience about the sound—it’s their first show, after all, the warm up before the tour—and made small comments on each song played. Their set was raw, bare-bones rock, engaging and a good time. If you’re a Cramps fan, this is absolutely your speed!
For the next hour—aside from a hiccup with Beat-Man’s amp short-circuiting—the two weaved through classic Reverend Beat-Man tracks like “Jesus Christ Twist”; an L.A.-centric rendition of “Come Back Lord”; and the gospel of incest with “I See the Light,” to name a few. Also included: cuts from their upcoming collaborative album, Baile Bruja Muerto, such as “I Never Told You,” and the recent Blues Trash release, such as “I Have Enough,” “If I Knew,” “Lass Uns Liebe Machen,” and “But I Love You.” That last track was a spotlight moment for Garcia, in part due to her vocal delivery enticing loud cheers from her hometown crowd, which broke the reserved look she was sporting in exchange for a gracious smile upon the track’s conclusion.
Good set, good show, beer ‘em when you see ‘em.
Reverend Beat-Man & Nicole Izobel Garcia Tour Dates:
April 18 – Slim’s Last Chance Saloon (Seattle, WA)
April 19 – Dante’s (Portland, OR)
April 20 – Tom Grainey’s Basement (Boise, ID)
April 22 – The Garage (Salt Lake City, UT)
April 23 – Beauty Bar (Las Vegas, NV)
April 24 – Green Room (Flagstaff, AZ)
April 25 – Yucca Tap Room (Tempe, AZ)
April 27 – Café NELA (Los Angeles, CA)
April 28 – Alex’s Bar (Long Beach, CA) w/ Spindrift and Thee Swank Bastards