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With cat Lemmy away, mice still play

MUSINK Tattoo Convention and Music Festival, Costa Mesa, Cal., March 10, 2013

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

It took a few minutes to get over the disappointment that The Head Cat, an all star rockabilly band featuring Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister, would not be performing at Orange County's annual music and tattoo festival. The festival publicist said Lemmy was sick, so perhaps this iconic musician's steady diet of cigarettes and whiskey isn't so healthy, after all.

All was forgiven, and nearly forgotten, however, after Reverend Horton Heat's headlining set. This may have been one of the retro rocker's best local performances ever, and one that was made even better because he shared the stage with Deke Dickerson.

Dickerson spent so much time on stage with the Heat trio, he probably should have received co-billing for his efforts. He alternated between guitar workouts, where he and Jim Heath traded fiery licks, and down home country music, such as a fantastic singing of There Stand's The Glass, which was dedicated to both alcoholics and country music fans. When he played Double Neck Boogie, he even switched to the stand up bass and showed off what he could do with that instrument. As for his country selections, he also reached way back to perform Mule Skinner Blues.

Make no mistake about it, Reverend Horton Heat was no slouch, opening with Psychobilly Freakout, and also choosing an appropriate cover of Folsom Prison Blues. Maybe it was the Texas gentleman in him that caused him to let Dickerson receive all the glory tonight.

Lucero preceded Reverend Horton Heat with a soulful stew of country music. Led by gritty vocalist Ben Nichols, the band performed the title track to the act's most recent full-length, Women & Work, as well as the perfect-for-this-occasion All Sewn Up, about bad tattoos. Nichols has plenty of ink work, so he must have felt right at home.

Johnny Two Bags stepped out of his day job, which is playing punk rock lead guitar with Social Distortion, to perform Celtic-country music (accompanied by banjo, mandolin, accordion and other such things), including a wonderful reading of Ryan Bingham's Southside of Heaven. At its best, this fine group came off as a local answer to The Pogues in their prime. This is an underdog to keep your eye on.

When it comes to concert festivals (and life in general, for that matter), it's always best to be thankful for what you have, rather than regret what you don't have. Sure, this night of Americana music could have been amazing had Lemmy been well enough to appear. However, the bands that did show up put on a fantastic show with too many highlights to name. When the 'Cat' was away, the mice still played and played wonderfully.

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