TVD Live: Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band at Jammin’ Java, 12/7

Going to a large number of shows, whether as a music writer, a nightclub employee, or just as a passionate fan of live music, you can find yourself jaded after some time. You see it all—fantastic shows, shows that leave you asking “Why in the hell am I here?” and pretty much everything in between. But every now and then, you have the wonderful privilege of witnessing something truly great—a moving experience that touches you all the way down to your soul.

On Friday night at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA, local radio/ podcast personality Chad Dukes had organized a birthday bash with two bands he loves, Whitey Morgan and the 78’s and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. The crowd was an odd mix of fans of the bands and die-hard followers of his show. After a brief introduction from Chad and on-air partner Oscar Santana, Whitey Morgan took the stage. Hailing from Flint, MI, Whitey seemed to be on a mission to keep the old-school honky-tonk country sound alive, and he did it flawlessly.

With a look that was the spitting image of late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell, Whitey played songs like “Honky Tonk Queen” and Johnny Paycheck’s “(Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train” and won over the already almost-full venue in no time. In between songs celebrating the joys of alcohol, Whitey proclaimed that “We haven’t played this early in a long time! Skip the beer, go straight to the whiskey!”

As the set went on, it was obvious that modern country rules had been thrown out the window. This was most evident in the song “If It Ain’t Broke,” which paid proper tribute to Hank, Johnny, Merle, and Waylon, shunning the manufactured pop-country so prevalent today. I would imagine that Waylon is smiling down on Whitey Morgan in approval from up on high.

After a brief set change, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band took the stage with little fanfare. Instantly enthralling the crowd with their unique mix of Delta blues and rootsy Appalachian-country-by-way-of-Indiana, with just a dash of punkish craziness thrown in. Opening with the ode to the railroad “That Train Song,” the crowd responded as if in a fever, with a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, hollering enthusiasm. Drummer Aaron “Cuz” Pershinger pounded out the beat on his meager drum kit (that substituted the floor tom with a five-gallon bucket), and the flamboyant Breezy Peyton attacked her washboard with with a passion. Breezy would also contribute to vocals, maracas, tambourine, and harmonica throughout the set.

As they held down the rhythm, all eyes and ears were on the Reverend Peyton. With a dazzling display of fingerpicking and slide guitar wizardry, The Reverend’s style is second to none. As a demonstration of how it’s done, he played “Yankee Doodle” on the bass strings and the “Dixie” melody on the higher strings…at the same time. He alternated between an old, weathered resonator guitar, a turquoise electric guitar that looked like a 54 Bel Air with strings, and even played on a cigar box guitar for “Easy Come and Easy Go.” What really shines through and is most evident is the love for what they do. As they played through songs like “Something for Nothing,” “Mama’s Fried Potatoes,” and “Ft. Wayne Zoo,” it is plain to see the passion and soul put into every note. This is music that comes from a place so heartfelt and pure, and that feeling is infectious and spreads to everyone in attendance. Smiles were on nearly every face, and when audience participation was called for in songs like “Clap Your Hands,” everyone was participating.

As the Reverend introduced their closing number, “Glory, Glory (Lay My Burden Down),” he instructed that “You do not have to sing good; you just have to sing loud.” From the first note, Jammin’ Java turned into a full-fledged revival, as the intensity of the song increased exponentially as the song went on. The crowd, whipped into a frenzy, belting out the simple yet deafening “YES! YES!” repeatedly until the Big Damn Band came out and gave them more. They ended the night with a boisterous rendition of “Two Bottles of Wine” that included my first witnessing of a washboard set on fire while it was being played. The Rev was in a frenzy himself, assisting Cuz with his drumming by giving his cymbal a big kick on cue, sending it crashing down. No sooner did the roadie get the cymbal set up that it was flying through the air again, courtesy of Peyton’s foot. This was repeated about six times, the cymbal soaring higher every time to everyone’s approval (and the roadie’s dismay).

The looks on the people’s faces said it all as they filed out, with many looking like they just had an orgasm or their soul just got saved. It’s no wonder Josh Peyton took to calling himself Reverend because this night was truly a religious experience.

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s

Photos: Kristin Horgen

This entry was posted in TVD Washington, DC. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Rally the Horde

    http://www.bigoanddukes.comOne of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.  For those interested in checking out the reason this show came to be, check out

  • TerranRoberts

    A more accurate review I have never read.  A truly eye opening show.  I have been a fan of the reverend since I saw them open for flogging molly in AC, but Whitey Morgan earned himself a fan for life.

  • ChrisO1

    I would have loved to catch that show – unfortunately, I have not yet perfected the trick of being 2 places at once.  Hopefully, the Reverand will return soon and often.


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text