Friday, May 26, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The First Time We Played With Southern Culture On The Skids

I had become aware of Southern Culture on the Skids when we played a show at the Penguin Pub in Youngstown in the early 90s.  1992 maybe?  Keith, the soundman and booking agent, was playing a band out of the PA I had never heard before but instantly made my heard turn and ask “Who is THAT?”.  At this point I had assumed that the Cowslingers were in a void making American roots music updated to our time and with our own voice.  Most of the bands we knew about at this time were from a generation before us and were gone.  Jason and the Scorchers, the Blasters, X and the Beat Farmers had given us the blueprint.  The four of us in the Cowslingers couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t obvious to everyone that these were the coolest bands on the planet.  We thought we were alone.  Yet, here was evidence to the contrary.

The music coming out of the speakers was Southern Culture on the Skids first full length “Too Much Pork For Just One Fork”.  It was this absolutely perfect stew of swamp rock, CCR, surf, rockabilly, and skewed hillbilly observations.  It sounded familiar and yet totally new.  Holy shit.  Someone else thinks the way we do.  Keith then mentioned in passing they were coming to town in 6 weeks.  “Keith!  You have to let us open!  I have to see these guys!”  No one wants to deal with a sweaty guy in a polyester cowboy shirt begging to play a gig with a band from North Carolina no one has heard of either at your shithole bar.  We got the gig.

We were still sort of finding our way back then and played a set of tentative originals mixed in with a few of our “hits” like “The Burro Show” and “Bad Booze Rodeo”.  We still did a ton of covers from our hero bands too just to make sure audiences didn’t forget that we wanted to be Jason and the Scorchers.  It was a good crowd at the Penguin Pub that night.  For those too young to remember the Penguin Pub, it was noteworthy as a place that GG Allin was welcome to shit on the floor and toss it around the club.  The sound of gunshots in the nearby neighborhoods was common on load outs.  Johnny Thunders showed up at the Pub to discover no one knew where to score heroin, so he drove home to New York to get some, and then drove back to the club to play.  Sure the show started at 1:15 am, but he got there!  Now I am pretty sure the GG Allin story is true.  I want to Johnny Thunders story to be true.  The one thing I know for sure is that at the Penguin Pub that night Southern Culture played the best show most people in that club had ever seen in Youngstown. 

I became a fan that night and bought what I believe to be the single best 7 inch of The Great Age of the Indie Rock Seven Inch Single (1992-1996) in the “Santo Sings!” SCOTS 4 song EP.  Dave sold it to me at the edge of the stage for three bucks.  Three songs that are still in regular rotation in a Southern Culture on the Skids set list are on that little record.  I may have spun that seven inch 134,765 times at my squalid apartment.  More importantly we struck up friendships with the band that night that endure to this day.  Damn, we have known them a long time.  There have been some incidents…

There was the time we got delayed in traffic driving to Louisville and the promoter wouldn’t let us set up and play as we had “missed load in”.  It turned out the second band on the bill (The Silos, who I still can’t listen to) decided they didn’t want to slide their amps back 18 inches to let us set up.  We had driven 8.5 hours for nothing.  The bar let us backstage so we drank all our beer, The Silos beer, and then SCOTS beer.  We could be a handful.  The Silos steered clear of us, but SCOTS were good humored about it.  We all went to a bar later where an extremely intoxicated Bobby got amorous with a woman that looked like “Do YA Think I’m Sexy” era Rod Stewart in the back of a minivan.  Dave Hartman has never let Bobby forget that night.

There were all those Sleazefest gigs in Chapel Hill where SCOTS assembled all the misfit bands like them into one three-day weekend of Bar-b-que, beer, and loud sloppy rock.  I almost killed the occupants of the Local 506 when I blew up a piñata filled with cigarettes with an M-200.  The explosion was so forceful that it knocked over a grill and a member of the Subsonics who were on the roof of the club at the time.  After a Mad Dog snow cone from Cousin Crispy, all was forgiven.  I think that was the night that Dave Robertson ran out on the street naked in his German army helmet.  Those Sleazefests all sort of blur together.

Sugar’s first gig with the Daredevils was with Southern Culture in Milwaukee at Turner Hall.  She was nervous but it all worked out fine.  Thank God she didn’t know that Mary would have given her a handful of muscle relaxers to help her “relax” before the show had she known.  Mary is such a nice Southern belle in that respect.  We all went out for tiki drinks at Rick’s favorite tiki bar, “The Foundation Tiki Bar” and later took our picture at the oddly diminutive statue of Henry Winkler as The Fonz by the waterfront.  I did not feel my best in Madison the next night. 

We used to play with them at Mabel’s in Champaign IL as often as Sasha could get the bill together.  I remember one night when they were tired from a Rolling Stone photo shoot earlier as their “Dirt Track Date” record was gaining steam.  It was odd to have someone you know involved in a Rolling Stone photo shoot.  We tried out our new twisted cover of “Sweet Emotion” that night to great success, and I lit a monstrous string of firecrackers off during “Strip Bars Liquor and Fireworks” that filled the room with sulfur smoke.  This was before Great White killed all their fans with their “flaming wheel of fireworks next to a velvet curtain trick”, so folks were more forgiving of that type of foolishness.  I remember Rick leaning his head out the dressing room door and shaking his head saying “Awright… Awright… Ya’ll gonna make us work hard tonight.”  They then effortlessly crushed the room as I recall.

I am so happy that they are still making records I want to listen to, like their new one.  It’s not easy pushing boundaries and keeping the fan base engaged.  People want to hear the songs they are familiar with more than anything new.  Let’s face it.  At a shed show, if Tom Petty says “here’s a new one”, he might as well say “Here’s a good time to hit the men’s room and get a beer”.  I hope the SCOTS faithful like the new “Electric Pinecones” record as much as I do.  For me, the more psychedelic they went on it, the better.  “Waiting On You” is so great when it kicks into the psychedelic freakout section.  If you haven’t picked it up, get on board.

We are playing Sunday June 4th at the Rex Theater with Southern Culture.  It is hard to believe that in 1992 that Penguin Pub bill would happen again, but this time in a large theater.  25 years later and we are all still doing it.  It seems like once again we are making this twisted country punk rockabilly shit we do in a bit of a void.  They say everything is cyclical.  Hopefully we are Jason and the Scorchers to someone else and Southern Culture on the Skids is X.  You do what you do and let history sort out the rest.  

See you at the Rex.   


At May 26, 2017 at 8:22:00 PM EDT , Blogger Frank said...

Ahhh... finally will see them. I've been patient for many years. And for a good reason it now seems. See you there.

At May 26, 2017 at 9:08:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

Pretty much one of the few things in not just my life, but any quality life in general, is associated with catching this show at least once every year. Many thanks to both of yins!

At May 26, 2017 at 10:54:00 PM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

You will be pleased.

At May 27, 2017 at 11:08:00 AM EDT , Blogger The Enabler said...

I recall that we met at Mabel's at a Southern Culture show. The Cowslingers played the night before and you guys stuck around to see them the next night. Your show kicked ass and I thought it was pretty cool you stuck around. I remember that ill fated night at Mabel's where you let off the firecrackers too. I was just returning to the show after helping a fellow record store employee find his happy place after eating too many appetizers... I also went to Sleazefest with you guys one year and we stayed at Rick Miller's, as I recall I pulled the head Cheetah move by scoring the guest bedroom--sorry gazelles (not sorry). When Rick was telling us how to get to the venue he kept telling us to turn left at the Food Lion, and we all roared and made that paw swiping gesture. After getting interrupted a couple of times by that he made the gesture and said, "Raaawhrrrr, ya'll." Good times, good times....


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