OXFORD — Rumble on the Loop returned to Oxford this weekend, bringing bikers, charity groups and the legendary Reverend Horton Heat to the Mt. Cheaha Harley-Davidson parking lot.
Jim Heath — performing as a rockabilly, surf-guitar playing faux-preacher — has been an active force in the punk music scene since the mid-1980s, when he and his friends, toting vintage guitars and upright basses, took to performing in clubs around Heath’s native Texas. In the years since his songs have invaded video games like “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” and movies like “Bio-Dome” and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls,” with “Psychobilly Freakout” as a standout song to hit the mainstream.
Brian Burks, a Birmingham artist who set up as a vendor Saturday, said that he was there with a booth, but he really came to see Heat perform that night. He’d seen him once before, he said, and the show was fantastic.
“If he ever needs an artist, I’m ready to work with him,” Burks joked, when asked what he might talk about with Heat if they met.
Heat’s tour bus sat only a few dozen yards away across the parking lot, like a long silver bullet, catching the few glints of sunlight that were still shining through clouds around 5 p.m. Rain had threatened to arrive a few times since the day started, attendees said, but nothing serious had managed to make its way overhead.
Visitors to the Saturday rumble came with a variety of intentions.
Hayden Bryars, the marketing director at Mt. Cheaha Harley-Davidson, said the event drew new customers on Friday and Saturday who bought bikes from the shop. Various charities attended as vendors, including Christian bike group Christian Cavalry Motorcycle Ministries, founded to unify bikers in Kansas in 2001, and what was planned to be a final ride for Gene Rogers, a Centre biker who died last month due to liver failure.
The ride was originally to be Gene’s last and help raise money for a liver transplant procedure at UAB, according to an explanation handwritten by the family and posted at their booth. After he passed away, the ride plan was kept to raise money to pay for funeral expenses, along with a raffle for various gifts.
Denise Vaughn, Rogers’ daughter, said there had been about 45 riders in the memorial ride, and that the family had made good headway with the support of visitors at the event. Her father had been riding since before she was born — “He would take every chance to jump on a bike” — and would have enjoyed the ride, she said.
Other vendors included jewelry-makers and leatherworkers. Barbara Cross and Tom Hagan sold leather armbands and bags; some of the armbands were made with black leather and iron skull adornments, in classic biker style. But riders also enjoyed bread pudding and cheesecakes from Ivory LeShore’s Gourmet food truck, from Hoover, indulging a sweet tooth while “Sweet Home Alabama” played from surprisingly good motorcycle speakers nearby, subverting the hard-edged image bikers might have cultivated over the years.
Heat seemed to fit that bill, too; the guitarist and singer plays for Alzheimer’s benefits and at the Warped Tour and even for big parking lots full of bikers with equal ease. Bryars said he got to meet Heat earlier in the day, and what struck him most was how friendly the 59-year-old performer happened to be.
“He’s so nice,” Bryars said. “He’s just so laid back.”