This was one of those shows where I didn’t know what to expect going in. My decision to go was very last minute and I only went because a friend of mine mentioned that he had really enjoyed The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. If you read this blog you can probably guess that I enjoyed myself, because hell, it seems I enjoy every show because live music is a beautiful thing. There are levels of enjoyment though. Levels of awesome. Levels of ‘Dear God please keep playing music and never ever stop.’ This show and these bands managed to chart in at somewhere around 99 out of 100 on all of the scales I just mentioned. I find it hard to rate shows because, as I said, I enjoy them all but seriously, honestly, if you get a chance to see either of these bands take it. Here’s why:
Holy Christ these guys are young, I mean just young young young young. Super young. Youthful, one might say. Really, they looked like they should be playing a high school house party or something. They didn’t sound like they should be playing a high school house party though. No, they sounded much better than that.
I actually didn’t notice their youth at first. Perhaps I registered just how young they looked when they stepped on stage but I wasn’t really thinking about it. I think perhaps how good they were brought their youth to light. You just don’t expect a group of musicians in their early 20s to have these kind of chops and when they launched into their first song I was thoroughly impressed. Their sound has a classic rock, late 50s early 60 feel to it. A sort of Chuck Berry vibe but it’s infused with a smattering of other influences to create a wholly unique sound that is at once old and new at the same time. The familiarity of the guitar riffs, the steady beat of the drums and the smooth bass just sort of lull you into this state of ‘I’ve heard this before’ and then suddenly a run on the violin or a hard rocking guitar solo will perk up your ears and draw you in.
The songs were well written and the band was clearly having a lot of fun playing them. Actually they were just having a lot of fun in general. There were several people in the front row who clearly knew their work and loved them and they played up to them. Hamming it up at the front of the stage with a solo or just giving knowing smiles and nods to the people who were really showing their appreciation. There was also a fair amount jumping around and more than one guitar solo where the guitarist ended up writhing on the ground. The fun that they brought to the stage was infectious and the crowd really got into it. It’s safe to say that they made more than a few fans at this show. I know they made one in me.
The first thing you notice about The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band is that they aren’t a very big band. They are in fact an incredibly small band, a trio if you will. They are perhaps the smallest amount of people you can have on stage while still referring to yourself as a band. The second thing you notice, after they start playing, is that the name is entirely appropriate because these three, with just a guitar, a washboard, and a drum kit make more music than bands twice their size. It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s fair to say that a lot of the music they create comes from the two hands of The Reverend Peyton himself. (His real name is Josh but I don’t know him that well so I’ll stick to his formal title.) I have never seen a better guitar player. Never. It’s also pretty safe to say that I’ll never see anyone better as long as I live. The man is a magician on the guitar who takes country blues finger picking to a whole new level. I spent a large portion of the show in awe of what I was seeing, asking myself again and again, ‘How is he doing that?’ How is he making that much music with just one guitar. The real beauty of it is there are no theatrics here, no technology, no loop pedal. Nothing, it’s just him and his guitar and it’s outstanding. At one point during the show he introduced us to the band’s bass player, that being his thumb. At one point he switched to a three string cigar box guitar and got more music out of it than many can coax out of a twelve string. He’s simply an incredible musician.
He’s not alone up there though and he doesn’t bring all the music himself. The drummer brings a hard fast and steady beat and keeps up easily with the changing tempo of the songs. The Reverend’s wife plays the washboard and what can I say I love the washboard. It’s one of my favorite musical instruments and I was really happy to see it used as a main attraction as it is so often relegated to just a song or two. She really rocks it too. I mean if you have any inkling that the washboard isn’t a real musical instrument then I’d suggest that you watch her do her thing. Your mind will be changed. She’s hard core as all get out too, at one point she lit the washboard on fire and kept playing and at the end of the show she smashed it to bits. Also, right near the end of the show she pulled the tambourine off her washboard and played it on my head for a while. It was unexpected and hilarious. Also it was awesome.
Finger style country blues is music I’ve been listening too my whole life Robert Johnson, John Hurt, Charlie Patton, there are some of the men who pioneered the style. I’ve seen people play finger style before but never this well, never this fast, and never this powerfully. The power comes from the other influences the band has, this is not a straight forward country blues band. This is country blues with a hard rock twist. That’s where the speed comes in. It’s frenetic but so good and so powerful. You really have to see these guys to believe it and see them you can. They are touring constantly so you really have no excuse. At the very least you should go to watch The Reverend do what he does on the guitar. The man is a once in a generation talent and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t see him at least once.
Now, as usual I’ll leave you with some songs:
First the Cigar Box:
Then some country blues: