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SHOW REVIEW: Southern Culture on the Skids/The Exotics
Trax, Charlottesville, VA (September 20, 1997)

By: Melanie Campbell

'Well, Mabel, set the table, after the men-folk git back from the hog-callin' contest, they'll be hankerin' for some mighty fine vittles....'

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you crossed the B-52's and the Cramps with some Carl Perkins, some CCR and the Beverly Hillbillies?? Why, you'd get that swamp-thang known as Southern Culture on the Skids, of course. Lissen up, mah little corn-fritters, this is one band that you don't wanna miss. If that big old white bus, complete with 'Fried Chicken and Gasoline', a red-necked truck-driver lookin' fella by the name of Chris with his jeans slung way below that Texas-sized beer gut, and his WWF hat perched on top of his self-syled haircut, and Mary Huff's mama comes to your neck of the woods, get thee a ticket to the show IMMEDIATELY!! Southern Culture on the Skids, affectionately known as SCOTS to the already-converted; Rick Miller on lead guitar, Mary Huff on bass, and Dave Hartman on drums, along with the aforementioned Chris, (we think that was his name, and we never caught a last name), a recent addition to flesh out the sound with some of that cheesy Farfisa keyboard-type noodling-serves up some of the tastiest retro-surf-blues-twang-punk-a-billy rock-n-roll that you'll ever be likely to see and hear in the next several lifetimes. Miller, resplendent in his Oshkosh bib overalls and his 'Briggs and Stratton' hat, had the all-ages crowd in this joint jumpin' with some of the smokin-est cranked-up-git-down-fuzztone-whammy-bar-skronk that yours truly has seen played in many a moon. From the opening riffs of 'White Trash', a slam through 'Deja Varroom', 'Greenback Fly' and some new tunes from the bands' latest release, 'Plastic Seat Sweat', most notably '40 Miles to Vegas', Miller-who'll probably kinda make you think of Jim Varney with that sly-ass grin of his-had the teeny-boppers AND the jaded and cynical oldsters alike eatin' right outta his hand. Well, why not? You couldn't help but jump around to songs like 'Shotgun', 'Dance For Me', 'Chicken Shit Farmer' and 'Skunk', not if you had any SOUL in your bloodstream. Speaking of soul, if 'Soul City' doesn't make your feet stomp and your arms wave around in some manic derivative morph of 'the Swim' and good old fashioned 'Pogo', well, then you might just as well disconnect the life-support and put yerself out of yer misery once and for all!! And lemme just mention here that I may NEVER eat 'Banana Puddin' again, after hearing Miller's intro about eating it '5-days old, with a crust on top, washed down with some fine Schlitz Malt Liquor'-we're talkin' major hurlage here, though the song itself was loads o'fun!! Oh, and can we talk about Mary Huff for a moment?? Imagine Jeanne C. Riley with some modern-day sensibilities, chuggin' out some fine walkin'-the-dawg low-end thump. This gal's a talent in her own right-not just another pretty face, window-dressing, girl-bass player (though she has got some awesome BIG HAIR, and some fabulous 'tres-trailer-park-chic' fashion sense, chuckle chuckle), she can play that 4-string thing like nobody's business, it was very obvious that she knew what she was doin' with it. And she's got a voice that'll make you wonder what woulda happened to country music if Music Row hadn't sanitized the shit out of it, and someone like Huff could have gotten a hold of a song like 'Satin Sheets'... 'Daddy Was a Preacher, But Mama Was a Go-Go Girl' is an old, old tune from way back, done once upon a time by a lady named Jo Anna Neel, who probably woulda had some hit records if Nashville, not known in the sixties for bein' color blind, had ever given her a fair shot, and Huff just takes this Cadillac of a gem and blows the doors right off of it. And during that tune, her mama joined the fray onstage. Yep, you read that right. And Mama was a spunky one her own self, guess maybe she keeps an eye on her little girl while the band is on the road, it probably helps to keep the howlin' drunken yahoos away from her, or somethin'. Though Mama Huff looked like a fine southern belle, very demure and acting lady-like, dancing around onstage in her two-piece 'Kathie Lee' coordinate, she also didn't seem like the kind of woman you'd wanna piss off in a pool-hall, bet she'd probably just as soon whup yer ass with a pool cue as shoot a rack with ya! Meanwhile, Hartman gave SCOTS all its' righteous thump in the rhythym department, he just kept grinning like a pervert and thrashin' along, keeping the backbeat solid all the way, through 'Earthmover', 'Whole Lotta Things' and 'Biscuit Eater'. And that jumbo cowboy hat NEVER MOVED from his head the whole time he was playing. That says something, though we still aren't sure exactly what it is. And Chris? We have no doubt he was a badass keyboard player-unfortunately, he was kind of hard to hear, what with all the whoopin' and hollerin' and feedback and what-not going on. But he must have been giving 150%, 'cause he was just beet-red in the face by the end of the set! Of course, no SCOTS show would be complete without 'audience participation'. You know how you can usually tell during a show, when the band tries to get the audience into it, that it's totally contrived, and whoever's doing the talking on stage sounds like they're reading from a Tele-prompter, or something?? Not here, uh-uh, nosiree, Bubba. All the women-folk down front were invited center-stage to share in a bucket of barnyard pimp during '8-Piece Box'; of course, they had to promise to sling the bones at the audience after they ate it all, and they stuck around to do the 'Camel Walk' as well. Boy Howdy, this is the American South at it's finest, ladies and gentleman. Southern Culture on the Skids makes R.E.M. look like Lawrence Welk, dont'cha know. Yee-haw! And by the way, let us pray tell, if you can't fathom what kind of band would be brave enough to warm up for a bunch like SCOTS, open up your imagination, if you will, to The Exotics. This gang of four is from Milwaukee, and one would suppose that if you hailed from there, you too would spend your life dreaming only of blonde beach bunnies, palm trees and surfboards while listening to the Surfaris, Jan and Dean, and the Ventures! Don't ask these guys to do 'Wipe Out', though, they lean toward the more obscure gems from the surf era. Not just another retro knock-off, The Exotics wear matching suits and the baddest wing-tipped shoes you ever saw (hell, just for fun, I kept imagining that Tom Hanks was gonna show up, hustle them off the stage, and introduce the Oneders, titter-snort) and they are really dedicated to keeping the surf-rock genre front and center. They did a damn fine job, too, and they went over real well- now mind you, this was a college-town crowd in a club with Pavement and Helmet posters adorning the walls, located in the foothills of Virginia's Shenandoah range, of all places. The Exotics had a whole bunch of people diggin' on stuff like 'Latin Lupe Lu' and 'Let's Go-Go', doin' the Watusi, and even tryin' to TANGO, as well! You haven't really lived until you've heard a surf version of 'Hernando's Hideaway', folks. I caught up with their bass player, Jon Ziegler after the show, who told me that the band loves to play the truly unappreciated songs from that era, true surf classics from the likes of the Lively Ones, the Centurions, and, of course, the legendary Dick Dale. But the Exotics aren't just a cover band, they have some originals of their own, as well, notably 'Go Go Guitars' and a nifty little number called 'Sandoway', which can be found on their new CD, titled 'Go Go Guitars'. It's out now, on Tiki-Tone Records, and they sell at all their gigs. It's definitely worth the price of admission. And we should know, 'cause not only did we pick one up, we probably heard the whole thing during their set, as SCOTS apparently got lost trying to find the local KFC, and hadda settle for some Food Lion deli-fried bird-after all, what would '8-Piece Box' be without the chicken, fer cryin' out loud?- making them a tad late for their entrance. The Exotics ended up playing for damn near 90 minutes. You read that right,, where else are you gonna get this kind of bang for your buck?? If you'll allow me the liberty of stealing a line from another critic, ahem... 'Joe Bob Mellster says Check 'Em Out'....both of 'em! Yeah,, y'all will have to excuse me, whilst I go-go and wax mah mo-bile-home...(singing) 'You better duck, when I show up, the goo-goo muck' ouWHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

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