Heavy Rebels

by Brian Clarey

‘Elvis Presley was a badass. Yeah,he may have ended his reign as King as a bloated mass, dead on thetoilet, but when Elvis was coming up, man, he had the stuff. Ducktail. Sideburns. Tight pants. ‘ Hetook that trashy hillbilly music, set it to a strong backbeat and justlet those hips swing in a way that made people… downrightuncomfortable. That’s the climate in which rock and roll wasborn. It was rebellious. It was subversive. It was raw and rude and,dammit, people just loved it. Ever seen footage of Buddy Holly fans going crazy after a set? BuddyHolly? You kidding me? Total badass. That immortal combo of guitar,simple drum kit and upright bass. His geeky glasses and primal roar.That six-string jangle. Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly… who else?Throw in Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Waylon Jennings, Jim Morrison,Jerry Lee Lewis. Ronnie Van Zandt because he went down on tour. OtisRedding for the same reason. Stevie Ray Vaughan because he threw down.Little Richard because he was freaky. These were the guys MikeMartin and Dave Quick had in mind when they conceived Winston-Salem’sHeavy Rebel Weekender back in 2001. “Heavy Rebel,” Quick said on a cold January night behind the Millennium Center. “Like the heaviest rebels of rock and roll.” A concept was born that night that has evolved into a three-day bacchanal celebrating all that’s wild about rock “n’ roll. 3852a.jpgRock”n’ roll was built upon the wild men and women who took it from itsinfancy and merged it with electric guitars, tattoos, bourbon, cars,Zippo lighters, Mohawks and black leather to form its many-huedoffspring: rockabilly, punk, metal, alt-country and every little thingin between. The Heavy Rebel Weekender doesn’t discriminate.Among the 60 or so musical acts there are names like Rev. D-Ray and theShockers, the F’n A-Holes, American Speedway, Sasquatch & theSickabillies, the Big Bad, Deadneks and Locke & Load. They fillthree stages in the Millennium Center: the main stage upstairs and thesubterranean Jailhouse and Underground rooms, nestled in a warren ofchambers that are very poorly lit. Interspersed between theacts, there are bass and guitar contests, a beer drink-off, a wetwifebeater contest and a chance to prove how much ‘nanner pudding youcan suck down in a minute. And a procession of hot rods and chopperslines Trade Street the entire time. It’s a magnificent mess, andI was fortunate enough last year to spend three days bouncing aroundthe festival, swilling PBRs, wandering into shows and connecting withoutlaws of every stripe. My personal festival highlights were watchingHick’ry Hawkins jam in a hotel room as the sun rose and a blisteringset by Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival down in the Jailhouse. Ilearned to keep a beer in my pocket and to bring as many cigarettes asI could carry. Here’s a short list of other things I learned, and a fewgleaned from my friends in the Loserville chat room, that may serve youwell at this year’s Heavy Rebel Weekender: • Don’t be afraid tosweat. Sweat happens when you spend your days drinking beer in darkrooms filled with people. And sweat is very much a part of Heavy RebelWeekender. • The staff – particularly Quick and Martin – willhandle things coolly and calmly without benefit of clipboards orearpieces, or to quote Divine Misfortune in Loserville, “Dave Quick’shair will look perfect, even as he’s running by like a chicken with itshead cut off.” • Red clay mud doesn’t come out in the wash. • A wet wifebeater contest is not as demeaning towards women as you might think. •Chances are good you’ll meet someone with whom you’ll communicate bye-mail and phone until you see him again at the next Heavy RebelWeekender. • Wear boots. Or shoes you don’t care about. • When they throw beer cans at you, it means they like you. • Sleep is kind of a waste of time, but a necessary one. • You may think you’ve seen cool tattoos before. You haven’t. • Buy that T-shirt/hat/picture/button/sticker/piece of jewelry you’re debating about – you won’t see the likes of it again. • Bring sunglasses, if only for the walk home. • The description “white trash” is not necessarily a bad thing and in some cases is a desirable appellation. • You don’t have to hold in your stomach at Heavy Rebel Weekender. Push-up bras are another story. • Overalls without shirts = fashion • Bring a Zippo. And lots of socks. •You will meet some of the friendliest freaks on the planet, see some ofthe most exciting bands around, marvel at the things people do to theircars and eat very little. Hope you like beef jerky. • There are reasons people come from all over the world for this festival. And there are as many reasons as there are people. Thatshould do ya for your first Heavy Rebel Weekender. Look for me down inthe Jailhouse, dripping with sweat and flinging beer cans at the bandsI love most. To comment on this story e-mail Brian Clarey at