If you go to a Southern Culture on the Skids concert, you might get invited on stage to sing and dance with the band.
If you’re up close at a Southern Culture on the Skids concert, you might get pelted with a flying piece of fried chicken.
And if you’re up close and paying attention at a Southern Culture on the Skids concert, maybe you’ll catch a fat drumstick (of the musical or the edible variety).
Regardless of what incidentals take place, one thing is always guaranteed at a Southern Culture on the Skids concert: you’re going to see the only band in the world that can engage in antics such as these and sing songs about abundance with “Too Much Pork for Just One Fork” and “8 Piece Box,” infatuation with “Liquored up and Lacquered Down” and highfalutin lifestyles on “House of Bamboo” and not sound stupid in doing so.
That’s because with more than three decades of its quirky career in its rearview, the North Carolina trio known colloquially as SCOTS combines this ribald tomfoolery with serious musicianship.
Guitarist/singer Rick Miller is about eight parts Link Wray and two parts Jimi Hendrix—a psychedelic, six-string surfer man who occasionally punctuates his fat, beachy riffs with feedback, lightning-fast runs up and down his neck and heaping helpings of tremolo bar.
To his right is drummer Dave Hartman, holding things together with big sounds from his tiny kit that’s emblazoned with iconography from the band’s 2016 LP, the Electric Pinecones.
And to Miller’s left is bassist and singer Mary Huff – a show unto herself. With a big yellow flower in her big red bouffant, Huff, with matching yellow, 45-rpm adaptors for earrings, clamored on stage carrying two bags, from which she occasionally pulled a compact and brush for preening. She sipped Diet Coke soda from a can with a straw, chugged a bottle or two of 5-hour ENERGY shots and placed a wad of gum on the pegboard of her bass as if it were a cigarette.
For nearly two hours on May 9 inside the sweaty and enthusiastic confines of Skully’s Music-Diner, SCOTS did what they do best, running through a career-spanning set and entertaining their fans as only this band does.
Audience members did “The Camel Walk.” They sung the praises of “Banana Puddin’.” And they frolicked to the strains of “Put Your Teeth up on the Window Sill,” a song about Miller’s grandparents’ regular Sunday, after-church rendezvous, as the singer wished everyone a successful 2017 mating season.
These shenanigans would come off as gimmicky if Miller, Hartman and Huff weren’t such incredible players.
Kicking off the proceedings with the instrumental “Skullbucket,” Southern Culture on the Skids established their musical bona fides early and did so often throughout the show. Miller abused his guitar—which, judging from the electrical tape holding the bridge and pick guard in place, has seen plenty of abuse over the years—while rifling off sterling riffs as his elastic body movements conveyed the joy he gets out of playing. Hartman smashed away at stage right, leaving just the right amount of silence between beats and driving the music with more cow bell than is normally heard at a cattle call. When she wasn’t singing lead, Huff held down the bottom end, accentuating songs with tuneful yells, trills and other celebratory vocal sounds that sent audience members into a tizzy.
Relatively serious numbers like “Grey Skies” and “Dirt Road” (both with Huff on lead vocals) served as a counterbalance to tracks such as “Pig Pickin’” and “Freak Flag” and proved Southern Culture on the Skids could be a “normal” band if they wanted to be.
But then they wouldn’t be Southern Culture on the Skids.
And that would be sad.