Saturday night’s four-band bill at Crossroads KC was a study in hybrids, in how various styles of rock differ and resemble one another, from rockabilly and bluegrass to country music and its many permutations.
The openers were the hometown rockabilly stalwarts the Rumblejetts.
Next, Arkansas-based Mountain Sprout took the stage. A four-piece self-proclaimed “redneck hippie” string band, Mountain Spout gives its mashup of hillbilly-blues and bluegrass compositions a potent shot of punk attitude. It shares a kinship with bands such as Split Lip Rayfield and others who turn the tradition sideways and inside out but with enough respect for form that the band gets invited to open for purists such as the Del McCoury Band.
Speed and precision aren’t the group’s only virtues, however. The lyrics typically express a fondness for whiskey, hard living and an intolerance for authority.
Lucero was the next band on the bill and for many of the 800 or so in attendance it was the reason to attend the show. Lucero is a rock band with an array of colors and flavors on its palette: country, alternative-country, Southern rock and soul.
Saturday Lucero embellished its sound with a trumpet and sax and lead singer Ben Nichols told the crowd how great it was to be a rock band with a horn section. Too bad the sound was mixed so heavy on guitars and vocals that it was often hard to hear them or the rest of the band.
Its latest record is called “Women & Work,” and Lucero delivered several tracks from that album during its 90-minute set. But the crowd was geared up for older material, and it responded enthusiastically to tracks such as “Nights Like These,” “Hey, Darlin’ Do You Gamble?” and “My Best Girl,” which they played upon request.
Nichols writes rockers and ballads about drinking and heartache and sometimes both, as in two crowd favorites: “Sixes and Sevens” and “Drink Till We’re Gone.”
The Reverend Horton Heat, a trio from Dallas led by Jim Heath, closed the night with an 80-minute set that completed the circle, bringing it back to rockabilly, or its version of it: psycho-billy.
It was all an infernal, high-speed hybrid of rockabilly, surf, Texas swing and country, and it aroused plenty of energy and dancing up front.
The sound mix could have been better — Heath’s vocals were fuzzy all night — but the energy was palpable. The set list included covers of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Johnny B. Goode,” and crowd favorites such as “400 Bucks,” “The Jimbo Song” (a tribute to standup-bassist Jimbo Wallace), “Where in the World Did You Go With My Toothbrush” and “Death Metal Guys.” In that one, Heath contrasts the differences between rockabilly and death metal bands, although you could sketch a few connections and similarities, too.