Southern Culture On The Skids Headlines The Return Of Riverpoints

By Tim Roberts

What better way to break in a lush, wide patch of turf in the city's newest urban recreation area than to have a rock concert on it, headlined by a band that eroticizes fried chicken, snack foods and banana pudding? The Great Lawn at Louisville's Waterfront Park clearly survived - as did producers John Grantz and John Allgeier - the opening show of the Powertel Rockin' at Riverpoints Concert Series on Friday, May 15, featuring Louisville's 100 Acre Wood, Blue Mountain, from Oxford, Mississippi, and the frenetic celebration of all things twangy from Southern Culture on the Skids (affectionately abbreviated as SCOTS).

It was a perfect evening for the debut concert. While the early evening sun burned through thinning clouds, temperatures held within the "almost need a jacket" range. Lines formed at the beer stands and, just as quickly, in front of the portable restrooms. There was the constant scent of cooking oil and grilled meat, which seems to permeate the entire city from Derbytime to the St. James Court Art Fair in October. Festival Season in Louisville is has returned, determined to force you back to your treadmills and stair-climbers.

The series returns after a year's hiatus caused by a lack of sponsorship. Many of the original sponsors from the 1997 series either pulled out or weren't able to come through with the needed funds last year. However, this year the series has a primary sponsor, Powertel PCS Wireless Services, along with others, including city and county governments.

In addition, there was a slight change of venue. The 1997 series took place on the downtown wharf, a steep and narrow wedge of concrete close to where the Belle of Louisville and the Star of Louisville dock. This series was moved about a hundred yards east to the Great Lawn of Waterfront Park, a massive patch of an interwoven grass hybrid that's as thick and resilient as a bouffant wig.

"It's the first time the park has been used for this kind of production," said series producer John Grantz, who managed to tamp down his high degree of pre-show anxiety. When asked how he felt to bring the series back, he replied, "Up to this point, before the first band, it's been exhausting. Like birthing a baby." Later that evening, before SCOTS began their performance, he said, "Now I feel a lot better. It's now time for my first beer."

Several organizations, including the sponsors, have helped Grantz in the series' return. "People from the city, the county and the Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation have been very cooperative," he said. Grantz also hopes the series will expose a cross section of Louisville's normally downtown-avoiding citizens to the new Waterfront Park.

The audience gradually built throughout the first two acts. The Great Lawn angles slightly toward the riverbank where the stage is, much like an amphitheater without seats, to give everyone a view. Many had brought blankets or lawn chairs from home. Plus it is large enough that some folks played catch or tossed Frisbees on the lawn's edge away from the crowd.

That urban pastoral scene changed shortly before 10 p.m., when Southern Culture on the Skids conquered the stage before playing a single note. The crowd compressed itself toward the stage to enjoy a ceaseless set of blazing hillbilly-fied rock. This was a triumphant return for the North Carolina-based quartet after an absence of nearly two years. They had headlined the second concert of the 1997 Riverpoints series, then returned later that year for a show at the Brewery.

Not much has changed for the band since then. Rick Miller still plays his guitar with warp-speed fingerpicking, beauty-parlor queen bassist Mary Huff and drummer David Hartman keep the rhythms constant, and keyboardist Chris Bess pounds out sweeping riffs.

The set mostly contained material from their last two releases (a long awaited third will soon be recorded, according to the band's website). Included was a song trilogy celebrating the trailer-park lifestyle: "White Trash,""My House Has Wheels," and the scrumptious "Banana Pudding," where Miller reminded us before the song that the pudding must be at least a day old so the vanilla wafers can soak it up and the pudding can work up a thin layer of skin.

SCOTS invited a number of audience members on stage to belly dance for "Dance for Me." Some dancers began stage diving throughout it and the following selection "Eight-Piece Box." Most stayed on stage for the finale, the SCOTS trademark anthem "Camel Walk." Hardly a single body in the audience stood still. To relieve the congestion forming on the stage, producers Grantz and Allgeier gently guided folks back into the audience. No one resisted. The mood was too fun to be spoiled with misbehavior. The band returned shortly for a four-song encore that included "Love-A-Rama" and "My Little Biscuit Eater."

It was a wild, entertaining, positive opening to the 1999 Powertel Rockin' at Riverpoints Concert Series. Four collections of folks need to be thanked: Johns Grantz and Allgeier and Media Events, all the sponsors, the three bands who performed, and the audience, whose members appears to be ready for a summer of music.

A reminder: The Powertel Rockin' and Riverpoints Concert Series will be held every Friday night through July 23, from 6 to 11 p.m. on the Great Lawn at Louisville's Waterfront Park. Admission is free. For more information and to see the lineups for the forthcoming shows, visit www.RockinAtRiverpoints.com or call 479-3300.