Review // A stringed axe and a flaming washboard: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band at The Tunnels

The hillbillies from Indiana put on one hell of a show at The Tunnels

Nitelife-Reverend-Peyton-Big-Damn-Band

We were whisked back in time to the moonshine drinking porches of America’s south at The Tunnels last week, when we saw The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, who joined us from the tail end of an eight-week Europe tour.

The band isn’t so big in reality, but their sound most certainly is. Hailing from Brown Country, Indiana, the band is made up of The Reverend on guitar, his wife Breezy on washboard/ vocals and Ben Bussell on buckets/ drums. Keeping up an impressive pace of 250 gigs a year, after seeing them live it’s easy to see how much they love performing together.

The evening’s festivities began with supporting act Brockley Forest – an interesting Bristolian duo made up of a singer/guitarist and drummer, who managed to make sounds that could rival an eight-piece band. Their heavy rock, blues sound with clever song writing and catchy riffs shook the cavern to its core. Brockley Forest ended their set with their track Rubicon, a punchy blues enthused song filled with just the right amount of pauses, heavy riffs, slide guitar and haunting vocals. One of the best support acts I’ve seen in a while and definitely one to watch out for – I haven’t been able to stop listening to them since.

One of the best support acts I’ve seen in a while and definitely one to watch out for – I haven’t been able to stop listening to them since

Starting their set with one of their older tracks, Aberdeen, the big, bearded Reverend, wearing dungarees and a flat cap, began playing furious slide guitar. By the time we heard favourite Front Porch Trained – a biographical song about how the Reverend learnt to play guitar – the crowd were dancing like there was no tomorrow, the cave-like room packed with sweaty bodies.

the crowd were dancing like there was no tomorrow, the cave-like room packed with sweaty bodies

Not that the crowd needed any more impressing, the charismatic Reverend informed us that he was playing fingerstyle on his steel bodied resonator, expertly playing the bassline of songs with his thumb, while simultaneously playing the melody.

They played with wild abandon, singing their own songs interspersed with well known covers of country/blues and bluegrass songs – the Reverend entertaining us throughout with stories and faux-hillbilly antics. We Deserve a Happy Ending was accompanied by the story of how they set a sixty-year-old friend on fire for the song’s low budget, amateur music video: ‘If Hollywood can do it, we can do it. How hard can it be?’

The Reverend plays guitar as if he’s sold his soul at the crossroads and sings with a fiery bass that matches the music perfectly – at one point playing the guitar behind his head whilst Breezy blindfolded the drummer, which didn’t stop any of them from killing it on their instruments.

The Reverend plays guitar as if he’s sold his soul at the crossroads and sings with a fiery bass that matches the music perfectly

Songs like Cornbread and Butterbeans and Pot Roast and Kisses reminded us of the simple pleasures in life, while Devils Look Like Angels and the toe tapping Something for Nothing kept the dancefloor in full motion. Next came Willie Dixon’s You Can’t Judge a Book By its Cover, before the inevitable encore, for which the Reverend whipped out a stringed axe (yes, a real wood chopping axe) and Breezy set her washboard alight to whoops of encouragement from the crowd.

the Reverend whipped out a stringed axe (yes, a real wood chopping axe) and Breezy set her washboard alight

The former railway arches of The Tunnels captured the sound perfectly for an intensely satisfying show. The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band well and truly proved their worth as musicians – whether their instrument of choice is a guitar, an axe, cigar box, washboard or some buckets. Few bands have this much presence and infectious energy on stage – if you get a chance to see them live next time they’re in the UK, it’s an experience not to be missed!

Words by Charise Clarke

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