Southern Culture on Speed

By Paul Moffett

Steady touring has its effects: bands frequently refine and hone their material and stage act plus they usually improve their chops on the road. Acts with many CDs under their belt often condense their hits to very short versions sans instrumental breaks, in order to include as many fan-pleasers as possible.

Like sharpening a knife, however, it's easy to go to far with the condensation/refinement, especially in the latter stages of a tour. Southern Culture On The Skids demonstrated just that at their full house show at Headliners on November 22. In their case, it was playing too fast - way too fast, outrunning the pocket like a bootlegger losing the cops.

Sorry, the Southren stereotypes just fall out of the sky. Don't get me wrong - I was eager to see this show, as I have been a fan for some while and admire their solid musical chops and Rick Miller's writing style, but the opening act, BR 549, put S.C.O.T.S. in the shade: Nashville's retro honky-tonk heroes played a crisp set of material from their various albums, slipping from swing to rock to honky-tonk country with without losing a step or a dancer in the process. Wearing those trim little Ike jackets and mid-Fifties hats, they warmed up the crowd as an opener should, getting everybody up and dancing, in the mood and in the groove for the headliners. Unfortunately, the contrast between BR 549's hip-twitching, in-the-pocket rhythms and the frenetic - albeit perfect - pickin' of S.C.O.T.S. was marked by a lack of dancing in the crowd, punctuated only by the requisite cheers and bottle-raising when a well-known tune cropped up, e.g. "Soul City."

Sigh. I was ready to party but must not have been drunk enough to appreciate the high-speed, best-of stage act, mixed with the occasional new tune. A looming deadline and thoughts of the possible damage down to the house by a new and rowdy puppy kept burbling to the front of my thoughts; I soon noticed that my date was likewise feeling more itchy than twitchy, so we made our way to the door, where a few others were also beginning to trail out. It was past midnight for a show scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m., with a week's work just ended. I's tarred. Mebbe next time.