Twang, Women `N Chicken:

Southern Culture On The Skids At Headliners

By Tim Roberts

It could not have been any more surreal if it had been filmed by David Lynch, a segment from Blue Velvet or Wild at Heart left on the cutting room floor.

Photo of Rick Miller and Mary Huff of S.C.O.T.S. at Headliners
Photo By Laura Roberts
Rick Miller and Mary Huff of S.C.O.T.S. at Headliners
A dozen or more women from the audience gyrated onstage to the band's music while pieces of fried chicken were hurled into the audience. Down in the crowd around the stage, a damp-spotted white box containing a bowl of banana pudding was being passed around. The song the band played during all this was "Eight-Piece Box," where snacking on fried chicken is a thin metaphor for sex.

But for Southern Culture on the Skids and the several hundred fans who came to see them at Headliners Music Hall on November 12, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS) is part trailer-park theatrics, part audience involvement and all wrapped in a music where high-powered hillbilly twang is stitched through with lyrics that celebrate all things Southern. Not the quaint elegance of rolling lawns and ranches and pecan rolls at Interstate off-ramp gift shops. Instead, the band's songs are all about spending a Friday evening at the dirt track races, mixing up biscuit dough with a little bit of spit, Little Debbie oatmeal pies, a 1969 El Camino (which guitarist Rick Miller called "the mullet of the muscle car world"): the world of white trash.

Consisting of guitarist Miller, bassist Mary Huff and drummer David Hartman, the Chapel Hill-based Southern Culture on the Skids has been a local favorite since they started visiting the city nearly two decades ago. As part of their shows, each member dresses as a trashy southern persona: Miller is the Lord of the Trailer Park in his seersucker jacket and matching shorts, Huff is his bouffanted lady friend in a nylon mini-skirt, thick mascara and false eyelashes long enough to fan a lounging sheik and Hartman as the third-wheel buddy in his horn-rimmed glasses, t-shirt and ball cap. But their personae belie some extraordinary playing: Miller's fingerwork is precise and hotter than a blast furnace, Huff keeps up on a steady, driving bass and Harman's energetic drumming generates enough power to light up a city block.

The band blasted into its opening number, their rendition of a Link Wray instrumental, then followed up with some selections from their latest release, Mojo Box, including the title track and "'69 El Camino." Throughout the performance, their sound was loud yet balanced, bass-heavy yet clear. Their songs were played faster than they sound on their recordings and listening to them was like speeding down two miles of raw road in a rusty 1970s Pontiac with a trio of clowns escaped from the circus. All you can do is hang on and laugh.

The climax of the show came when Miller invited women from the audience onto the stage for a dance contest to the song "Daddy Was a Preacher, Momma was a Go-Go Girl," which was followed by "Eight Piece Box," where the women kept dancing while pieces of chicken were catapulted into the crowd.

And as they always do, the band finished their set with their signature song "Camel Walk." The crowed knew what was coming when Miller plucked that first note anchored in reverb and said, "Baby, would you eat that there snack cracker in your special outfit for me, pleeeeze?" The audience roared, many hoisted bottles of beer or plastic cups filled with liquor. The women on the stage kept dancing.

Louisville's roots rock superstars Bodeco was the opening act for the SCOTS show. Unfortunately, this reviewer did not arrive at Headliners until minutes before SCOTS took the stage. However, Bodeco's sound is the perfect match for SCOTS, who say that Bodeco is one of their favorite bands. Doubtlessly, they helped the crowd get ready for the craziness that followed.