Saturday, 24 December 2005

It was tradition in our family. We had Thanksgiving dinner at our house and spent Christmas Eve at Grandma Bertula’s.

Both dinners were pretty much the same: turkey and all the trimmings. We had candied yams (sweet potatoes), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, asparagus (Grandma didn’t like broccoli), pie, and, and, and… And stuffing.

Now, Mom wasn’t known for taking shortcuts in her cooking. For Thanksgiving, she went all out, even making her own cranberry sauce. She’d start with bags upon bags of cranberries then boil them for hours down in water with a bunch of sugar. It’s primary purpose was to make yifta (it’s a real dish!), but one delicious benefit was that we never had to eat the stuff out of a can.

Mom would even make the stuffing from scratch, tearing the bread by hand; a task for which she got up early just to have time. The hard work certainly paid off, because the whole house smelled wonderful and dinner was amazing.

Yet year after year, one thing troubled my Mom – she never felt that her stuffing lived up to Grandma’s. She could never get it quite as moist or to taste just like her mother’s. Personally, I thought it was great, but Mom wasn’t satisfied.

Finally, as we sat down to Christmas Eve dinner, Mom took her first bite of Grandma’s stuffing. “I use your recipe every year and no matter what I do I can’t get my stuffing to come out like yours. I can’t figure out how you get it so perfect. How do you do it?”

With a wry smile on her face, Grandma said “The stuffing? I’ve been using Stove-Top for years.”

Tuesday, 06 December 2005

You would think that, with rock-n-roll’s frantic, chaotic nature, there wouldn’t be much you could depend upon. But then, at least when it comes to the Reverend Horton Heat, you would be wrong. Not does he stop by the Twin Cities about this time every year, but we can also count on him to put on a hell of a show. It’s loud, crowded, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Normally, for a First Avenue show, I’ll skip the opening act, but a friend told me that I should really check them out. It was a group named the Supersuckers and he described them as a “speed-country” act. That really doesn’t do them justice, but if you check out their Web site, you can see the comparison.

Hailing from Seattle, the Supersuckers are Eddie Spaghetti (Edward Daly III) on bass and vocals with Ron “Rontrose” Heathman and Dan “Thunder” Bolton on guitars. They recently hired a new drummer, but he couldn’t make the tour. Then they hired a temporary guy, and he flaked out. Literally, as a last-minute fill-in, Scott Churilla from RHH helped them out. Blasting through an hour-plus set, they kicked ass and got the audience going.

At one point, Eddie looped his bass around the neck of one guitarist (I can’t remember whether Ron or Dan was first.) Holding the guitar out of the way, although still actually worn by the guitarist, they each played the other’s instrument. Eddie on guitar and the guitarist on bass. Then the other guitarist got his chance. Finally it was Scott’s turn. But instead of playing it like a normal bass, Eddie held it over Scott’s kit and Scott he used drumsticks. The whole thing was much cooler than I can describe.

With our primo spots, just left of center, maybe 20 feet out, Todd, Hjalmer and I held our places as the crew turned the stage. Then, shortly after 2300, Reverend Horton Heat took the stage with his intrepid, psychobilly travelers Jimbo Wallace (on the upright bass) and Scott Churilla (on drums). They laid right into a blazing set that didn’t stop for nearly two hours.

From what I can remember, they started with “Big Sky,” “Baddest of the Bad,” “Five-O Ford,” “Can’t Surf,” “Wiggle Stick,” “400 Bucks,” “Callin’ In Twisted,” “Revival,” “and “Indigo Friends.” Then a handful of Christmas tunes: What Child Is This,” “Santa Bring My Baby Back (originally by Elvis),” “Jingle Bells,” and “Run Rudolph Run” (where Rev plays bass and Jimbo plays guitar.)

After that, Rev talked about some guy that posted to their Web site saying that their set list “hasn’t changed in a decade.” The Good Reverend explained that “First off, it changes at least once every 2 years because they come out with a new album.” Second, they used to not bother with set lists at all. Their management said it would be a really good idea to put one together, so they did. And they never follow it. “So if you have an official Reverend Horton Heat set list — it’s wrong.”

As if to drive the point home, they took requests from the audience pretty much the rest of the night. We were treated to (in no particular order): “Big Red Rocket of Love,” “It’s Martini Time,” “Local Gringos Like to Party,” “Marijuana,” “Galaxy 500,” “Bales of Cocaine,” “The Jimbo Song,” “Psychobilly Freakout,” “F’d Up Ford,” “Like a Rocket,” “Theme from A Shot In the Dark” (originally by Henry Mancini), and a couple others I’m sure I missed.

After the show I hung around for a while hoping to get their new Christmas album We Three Kings, signed. I caught Jimbo first, he tends to appear before the others. Then, by pure luck, I saw Scott next — I’ve never seen him come out after a show. Finally Rev came out, signed stuff for a couple other people, then asked if I’d follow him to the merch table and he’d sign mine. No problem to me. I had all the time in the world. Along with the autographs, I got with all three guys too!

Final tally: 2 bands, 3 hours of music, 404 pictures, 3 autographs, 1 sore back (from being so close to the mosh pit and getting shoved around) and 3 hours sleep. A damn fine night, indeed.

I might be able to hold out for a whole year until they return to town.