Sorting through the musical oddities of Heavy Rebel

by Ryan Snyder

Dexter Romweber’s big band will headline this weekend’s Heavy Rebel Weekender. (courtesy photo)

Some appreciate the shades of color between cowpunk and thrashabilly, and others just want to hear loud, abrasive music with an optional ’50s B-movie bent. After guzzling a case of Pabst, the music at the yearly Heavy Rebel Weekender might seem at nuanced as the beverage itself. The truth is far from it. From the mellow country twang of Kelley & the Cowboys to the zombified death gurgle of the Ugly, there’s as much variety inside as there is horsepower outside.

Louder than love

The stoniest, doomiest band of the weekend is inevitably the loudest, and the southern-fried Orlando, Fla. four-piece Confused Little Girl wear that designation proudly. Billy Van Muddlestein vocalizes tales of disposing of bodies in the bellies of pigs and alligators like Neil Fallon with a piece of Concertina wire lodged in his larynx, while riffing out Southern sludge that’s like a shotgun wedding of Queens of the Stone Age and Helmet. Bassist Shannon “Red” Reilly provides the namesake of the band as she’s dwarfed by the band’s three behemoths, but the fat, groovy bottom she creates makes her seem not so small after all. Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in the Underground.

Pretty as you sleaze

You won’t find too many of the faithful willing to admit it, but Heavy Rebel is about as fashion-forward as a music festival can be. Floral tattoos are coordinated with polka-dot dresses and jet black rolled bangs like wallet chains are with toothpicks and Marlboro Reds rolled up in the sleeve of a white T-shirt. It’s like Halloween in July for some; for others it’s a lifestyle. Such is the case for Labretta Suede & the Motel 6. The Brooklyn burlesque queen and her band take costumery to another level in their performances, donning anything from a skinfitting sailor suit to hot pants with fish nets and high heels. And that’s just the (dude) guitarist. Musically, the NYC-via-Auckland bunch have been given the Matt Verta-Ray touch for their forthcoming album, a sleazy garage ganger by the name of All Girl Gang Riot. Friday at 6:45 p.m. in the Jailhouse.

Working blue

There’s a reason that Sasquatch & the Sickabillies have more or less cemented a late-night spot on the Jailhouse stage year in and year out:

They’re the perfect band for when the effects of swilling PBR for six hours have peaked. They’re loud and ornery, and silver-haired front man Dave Sasquatch is as insane mid-song as he is damn funny in between. He’s also as convivial a guy as you’ll ever meet off-stage, but the rest of the time he’s tossing back shots, flicking boogers on the crowd, and telling the lewdest of jokes. Friday at 11:45 p.m. in the Jailhouse.

Built for speed

Chickin’ pickin’ and punk pacing are ways of life for Heavy Rebel bands, but American Speedway certainly possesses a name befitting the sonic rigor they force upon their audience. The fearsome foursome from Philly plays loud, angry speed metal with utterly reckless abandon and a vicious disposition, and frontman Mike Kerchner’s voice is as wooly as his beard. Saturday at 10:45 p.m. in the Jailhouse.

King of the road

The Flat Duo Jets were early pioneers of the drums/guitar arrangement while they were resurrecting rockabilly for a punk crowd, eventually inspiring the White Stripes to follow suit, and Dexter Romweber has made a career of playing with the smallest rock arrangement possible since then. Sometimes though, he likes to stretch it out a bit. When he headlines this Saturday night, he’ll be making a fairly rare appearance with his side band the New Romans: a 10-piece arrangement that includes horns and a trio of backup singers. Even though Romweber’s music has mellowed considerably since his days with Crow, he still retains a sound that’s intensely gothic in interpreting of the sounds of Bill Haley and 20 th century classical composers. The instrumental girth of New Romans simply let him take that sound from black and white to Technicolor. Saturday night at 11 p.m. on the Main Stage.

Creature feature

Thanks to Bernard Hermann and Danny Elfman, we’ve been conditioned to associate the ethereal sounds of the theremin with model UFO landing on a soundstage and Treehouse of Horror episodes. If John Manson has his way, it’ll be the Battle Flag of the Confederacy and the Hammer and Sickle. The frontman of the acid-and–Big-Gulp-soaked Tulsa cowpunk quintet has the conflicting symbology conspicuously overlaid in the front of his noise box, which he uses to infuse a sense of the absurd and macabre. Sunday at 9:45 p.m. in the Jailhouse.