It's been quite a year for Alabama 3, who are about to stage their last gig of '97. They've just completed their first headlining tour, and have come a long way from their humble Brixton beginnings. Tim Perry reports
The strange, murky trip of the Alabama 3 started for real almost three years ago in Brady's, the grubby Brixton bar where their lead singer, Larry Love, is now sitting. He's amused by the wobbly hand-written sign advertising house spirts [sic] at pounds 1.70 a double in the place that he declares to be the Mother Church of chemical country music.

Larry is recalling those days when Alabama 3 played some half a dozen gigs in this dive bar before getting signed. What made them a hit with the locals was their full-on stage show. As well as seven or eight band members, there were banks of analogues and lights, plus ancillary people dressed as bordello girls and the Pope. Then there was Larry out front singing alongside the Reverend D Wayne Love, a wild-eyed, lanky character spitting out words of wisdom in a pastiche of a deep south preacher man. It was a true freak show for the pre-millennium years.

This year started with an underground buzz that indicated 1997 could have been the band's year. However, it seems that it was not only their name that confused people - their hybrid of techno, country, blues and gospel did leave some by the wayside. "It's gonna be a long slow seduction 'cos we don't fit into any one genre. But we've been pleasantly surprised as there really is such a cynicism about anything to do with country," says Larry.

They've just come off their first national headlining tour, and Larry's "getting a lot more confident after that. We experimented by doing acoustic version of our songs in our ordinary clothes before coming on in our gear and blasting out techno. In about a year's time, we want to be putting on four-hour shows with the techno, acoustic and DJ sets all jumbled together."

In the meantime, they've landed the support slot on Primal Scream's UK tour in February, before which they will have been in the US (where they are on the Geffen label).

As for their final show of the year at the Garage, "We're really on a mission as we haven't played the bastion of indiedom that is north London on our own terms yet. We'll turn the venue from sad indie to hot country acid. There'll be the usual ridiculous numbers on stage, though we have to choreograph it a bit so we can all fit onto that stage. We've also got BJ Cole on pedal steel, the gospel choir and the Rev D Wayne is sure to be on good fire-and-brimstone form."

"We're going out with a message that night - the Second Coming is at hand." Continuing the Yeats theme, he warns, "The beast slouches toward Highbury. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. D Wayne cannot hear the falconer."

Alabama 3: The Garage, London (0171-344 0044) Sat 20 Dec