I wasn’t expecting much from the show on Friday night. It’s not that I didn’t think it was going to be a good show. I knew it was going to be a good show. I mean, you can’t be a band for over thirty years and have a bad live show but I didn’t know what I was going to get from the three bands performing. It was exciting, exhilarating, and just the way I wanted to spend my Friday night.
Gracing the First Avenue mainstage first was Georgia-based Nashville Pussy. I feel like I’ve always written this band off just due to their name. I’m really not sure why but, for some reason, their name has just always rubbed me the wrong way but that ends now. After seeing them live, I want to know everything and anything about this band. Nashville Pussy’s sound is a bit of southern rock, a bit of 80s glam metal, and a whole lot of heart and soul. Although the entire band was super fun to watch, it was lead guitarist Ruyter Suys who stole my eyes the majority of their opening set. From her huge blonde hair to her even bigger personality that shined under the spotlight, I found watching Ruyter to be super addicting and fun. It added to the already explosive stage presence of the band. From a flawless cover of Steve Earle’s “CCKMP” to the moment when vocalist Blaine Cartwright poured two Mich Golden’s into his cowboy hat and then attempted to drink it (I say attempted because the majority of the beer ended up just going down his shirt), I found Nashville Pussy’s set to be dynamic and loud without being too in your face. It was a perfect balance and absolutely made me a fan of the band that I had been avoiding for so long.
It’s easy to say that James C Heather (also known as The Reverend Horton Heat) has truly made a name for himself. At 62 years old, James is and always be known as the godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly and being able to see that on stage right in front of me was an absolute dream come true. I truly can’t remember if I have seen The Reverend Horton Heat live before but that doesn’t matter because they had me completely in awe throughout their nearly twenty-song set that ended with an amazing cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” in the style of Reverend Horton Heat. The guitar playing from James was absolutely mesmerizing and I found myself not wanting to miss a single note being played by upright bassist Jimbo Wallace. Between the talent of these two seasoned vets and the undeniable connection between them that can only come from playing together for thirty years, I was completely enamored and lost in The Reverend Horton Heat’s world in all of the right ways. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention drummer Jonathan Jeter. Although Jonathan is a newbie to the band having just joined in on the fun in 2020, he fit right in and was the icing on the cake that was their set on Friday night.
I am a 90s baby. I’ve talked about that before but just figured I would remind you. Put on Third Eye Blind, Goo Goo Dolls, or Matchbox Twenty– I’m all about it. I’d like to think I know a lot of 90s music even into the obscure but Toadies are one of those bands that somehow slipped under my radar. I’ll go ahead and blame it on the local radio station in West Des Moines, Iowa for not playing it while I was spending day after day at the local public pool listening to the top forty radio stations but, regardless, I knew nothing about Toadies as prepped for their set on Friday night but walked away from their set wanting to know so much more.
As I eluded to, Toadies are a 90s band through and through. They formed in 1989, took a break in 2001, then got back together in 2006, and have been going strong ever since. They found huge success with their first album ‘Rubberneck’ which came out in 1994 and was actually played from front to back on Friday night. Although that seems to be the only time they really hit that commercialized success point, Toadies never stopped and continued to put out six more albums with their 2017 album ‘The Lower Side of Uptown’ being the most recent. Even though this tour is a celebration of their 1994 album, the band also treated the audience to various songs from throughout their lengthy career which seemed to be a thrill to many of those in the audience. From people singing along to those trying their best to headbang to the non-headbanging sounds, it was clear that everyone in the packed audience was there to relive a simpler time through the music that acted as the soundtrack during those times. Although I couldn’t relate, the overall vibe of Toadies’ music took me back to those days of listening to the radio at the pool and it was a nice relief from the hustle and bustle of what life has become.
This brings me to the biggest shock of the night– the audience. I was expecting older, chill, beer-drinking with just a handful of people who would overdo it and then would be led out by security to sober up. I got a lot more than that and it was super surprising to me. I won’t get super into details but I was shocked to see multiple people being dragged out of First Avenue by security probably for being in a drunken stupor and was beyond floored when a man with his head wrapped in gauze was being led out by medics and straight into an ambulance. I have no clue what happened but that’s not the point. I didn’t expect a rowdy crowd but that’s exactly what I got and it added a very interesting element to the evening.