Southern Culture on the Skids at Beachland Ballroom, 6/5/2011

photo by Shandi Rine, http://www.facebook.com/shuggabee

Southern Culture on the Skids

We pulled up to the sidewalk in front of Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom and Tavernafter following our outdated, unlicensed GPS navigator on a meandering path through town,

The sign says Beachland but we couldn't find the beach.

looking for a beach that we never found.  It was Sunday, known as the Lord’s Day to followers of traditional Christianity (no offense to our Seventh Day Adventist readers), and we arrived to find a sort of religious gathering already in progress.  A crowd had gathered around a makeshift patio comprised of picnic tables and caution tape to watch a matinee set by Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival.

Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival

The Gospel Revival consisted of two guys dressed in vintage polyester outfits that made them look like huckster preachers who had just stepped out of a Cadillac in the 1970s.  They played fuzzed out country blues with the vocals shouted into a CB receiver and pushed through a practice amp to give it that extra-lo-fi sound.  After the crazy little televangelist dude on guitar flinging himself all over the place, what you noticed first about USGR was their drumset, an apparently homemade mess of big, industrial cardboard tubes.  The drummer occasionally sang or talked into a contraption fastened to his face that sent his distorted words through a megaphone that poked out of his makeshift bass drum like the blower on a

One of Ohio's coolest drum kits.

hot-rod Camaro.  Later, the guy from Whiskey Daredevils would say of Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival, “The one practice they’ve had in the last sixteen months really paid off.”  It’s true that their sound was intentionally sloppy (a sheet of paper taped to the drum read “Lo-fi on a Jesus High”), and the music sometimes seemed to take a back seat to the goofball, faux-fundamentalist pageantry, but that’s exactly what made USGR so much fun.

Shandi and I, having emailed a link to this blog to Southern Culture on the Skids’ manager, were on the list for the show, so I felt a certain amount of pressure to scmooze the bands and come up with a really brilliant write-up.  We showed our IDs to the door guy and headed down a cool hallway where the merchandise tables (and a table with a petition to put the repeal of Senate Bill 5 on the ballot) were set up, leading to the ballroom.  The ballroom was an impressive auditorium, with fancy molding like an old-time movie theater, a big, open dancefloor and folk scenes painted on the walls.  This wasn’t a rotten punk bar; it was an honest to God concert venue.  Was I, then, ready to act like a real journalist?  I doubted it.  We headed to the bar in the back room for tall boys.

Whiskey Daredevils

The Whiskey Daredevils opened the show.  Their singer was a Garth Brooks-looking guy in a cowboy shirt who was given to Mussolini-esque dramatic gestures, and I’m pretty sure the guitar player was Wes Studi from Last of the Mohicans.  Sitting in the bar before the

No, he's not really that guy from Dances with Wolves

show, Shandi had read my horoscope, which advised me to seek love by buying a drink for a man with tight jeans a handlebar mustache.  I was surprised and a bit frightened to see exactly such a man seated behind the Whiskey Daredevils drum kit.  The front man informed the crowd that this show would be their bass player’s last gig with the band.

The Daredevils played a tight set that got the crowd moving, even if we were all anxious for them to finish up so that Southern Culture could come out.  Their sound reminded me of a slightly more rockabilly Beat Farmers without Country Dick.  The song 200 Miles to Wheeling appealed specifically to Columbus folks, which I appreciated.  Why should Memphis get to have a monopoly on all the good rockabilly songs?  For their last tune, they bid farewell to their former bassist and welcomed his replacement to the stage.  The new bass player turned out to be Sugar, of former Lords of the Highway fame, the well-known rock and roll scene queen who once scandalized reality television with her provocative cavorting on the upright bass.  sugar can always be counted on for a good show, and her appearance at the tail end of the Daredevils set brought the energy level up to where it needed to be as we all anticipated the advent of one of the coolest bands ever, S.C.O.T.S.

One of the coolest bands ever…  That sounds nonspecific and needlessly hyperbolic, but that’s a weakness I have in approaching this subject matter.  The truth is, I’ve just been a tremendously nerdy fan of Southern Culture on the Skids for years.  They’re the band I always go on to my friends about after I’ve had a few drinks.  For people who know me, Southern Culture is like Marxism, one of those things I carp about endlessly, so it’s better to wait until I run out of steam and not question me.  For the most part, my friends haven’t been interested.  Apparently no one in my age group is, either.  Most of the people packed into the Ballroom looked at least ten years older than me.  The thing with talking to older people at bars is they always want to make a big deal about how young you are.  Like, wow, you were born in the ’80s, you’re such a kid.  Now that I’m older than a lot of the kids, I’ve caught myself doing the exact same thing at punk shows and I wanted to die.

Rick Miller

Hardly anyone left the dancefloor when the Whiskey Daredevils finished up.  We all waited, trying to sidle into that spot closer to the stage, buzzing like excited atoms in a high school physics filmstrip.  A guy with sideburns saw me shimmy into the spot by the stage in front of him and looked peeved.  I turned the awkward moment into an opportunity to meet another older rock and roll guy and hear about how young I was.  The guy said Shandi and I reminded him of some couple from twenty years ago.  I talked to a couple dudes down front from Toledo and another guy who was really into ska.  We all shifted nervously, bumping into conversations that we were only half interested in as we watched the stage, waiting for something to happen.  Then, without any introduction, Rick Miller stepped out onto the stage and picked up a guitar.

The crowd exploded as, one by one, Dave Hartman, Mary Huff, and a fourth guy with his

Mary Huff

face covered in a red beard who I didn’t recognize but whose Danelectro guitar identified him as “Tim,” took the stage.  Suddenly, Mary was right in front of us, this shimmering pillar of tights and hair, smacking her lips and teasing her bass guitar.  The band broke into “Too Much Pork for Just One Fork,” and the Beachland Ballroom spent the next two hours shaking around to the drums, making air-guitar fingers, pouring sweat, and-the rarest thing of all in any bar in Ohio- smiling.

Dave's drums were set up way in the back of the stage, making it hard to get many good pictures.

Seriously, everyone’s face was stretched in a giant dipshit grin.  That’s the kind of show Southern Culture on the Skids puts on.  Their rock and roll, a goofy, irresistible blend of country, surf, rockabilly and an offbeat sense of lower-class pride, is powerful enough to make the tough guys stop acting hard, which, on a Sunday or in Cleveland, feels like a miracle.

I suppose sometimes people can get carried away.  When they brought out a big guy in an Elvis costume and luchador mask for a song, a guy from somewhere behind us got too excited, pushed his way to the front and practically started climbing over Kevin, from Toledo, who I had talked to before the show.  Toledo Kevin pushed him off, but the dude kept barging up to him, so desperate was he to slap hands with the luchador.  When the two started shoving each other I thought, great, this is just the type of situation where I always end up getting pummeled for no reason.  I tried to push them apart, which didn’t work, as it never does for me.  A different guy did the same thing I had tried, pushed the interloper away from Toledo and the scuffle finally ended, freeing us to enjoy the rest of the night.

Shandi ditch diggin' with SCOTS

Before they played “Ditch Diggin,'” Mary called for people to come on stage.  Shandi and I saw it as at least a good chance to get pictures from a few new angles and rushed up.  I missed the instructions on how to do the Ditch Diggin’ dance, so I had to fake it.  I felt like there was one step that I was missing, but it didn’t matter much.  By the second verse all of my fellow back-up dancers had given up doing the correct dance moves and the situation was devolving into a barely contained riot of women in their thirties.  Shandi was at the front of the stage boogieing with Rick while I stood back by the amps, doing the twist and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong with the digital camera.

Got an 8-piece box!

The time came to play “8-Piece Box,” which usually serves as a kind of climax to any SCOTS show.  It’s during this song that Rick invites another group of fans onstage to open a bucket of fried chicken, dance around and throw Original Recipe at the audience.  This time, when the song ended they kept one woman on the stage.  Her boyfriend came out

The happy couple

with what looked like a massive diamond ring and proposed marriage.  She said, “Hell yes,” and the couple shared an instrumental dance.  Afterward the husband to be got to introduce the song “Camel Walk” and practice for his honeymoon at the same time as he leaned into the mike and uttered the famous phrase, “Baby, would you eat that there snack cracker in your special outfit for me, please?”

After the encore, SCOTS closed with their own incomparable version of the old gospel tune “Great Atomic Power,” a fittingly religious ending for a Sunday night.  The joy and exhaustion we felt after letting the loud music and collective good time briefly relieve us of the considerable burden of our own egos, it was the same feeling as a pentecostal church service without all the self-indulgent wailing and confession of sins.  We didn’t stick around to talk to the band, but to me that doesn’t seem too important.  What some people have trouble grasping about rock and roll shows is that it isn’t about anything as trite as worshiping some gang of chemically dependent musicians.  It’s about freeing ourselves from our crusty, tiresome personalities and creating a space where we can enjoy ourselves for a change.

I haven’t been able to get the song out of my head.  Are you ready for that great atomic power, will you rise to meet your savior in the air?  Will you shout or will you cry when that fire comes rolling nigh, are you ready for that great atomic power?

Shit yeah.

 

Our upcoming reviews..

So this weekend we are lucky enough to have gotten ourselves on the guest list for a Southern Culture on the Skids show in Cleveland. I am unbelievably excited that we managed that and can’t wait to finally see the band live!

So look out for our review of that soon.. and in the meantime, leave us some suggestions for other shows this month in the Columbus area that we should check out to feature in our blog!

 

Shandi

The Queers at Carabar, 5/30/2011

The crowd during the Queers set.

Before we left for Monday night’s Queers show at Carabar, I fixed my self a tuna melt. Shandi had reminded me that Monday is dollar grilled cheese night at Carabar, and I didn’t want anything to tempt me into ordering one of those awful things. Caraber’s perverted imitation of a grilled cheese is a cold slice of American barely melted between two pieces of toast. It’s an affront to everything a grilled cheese is meant to be. Once we got to the bar I found another of the bar’s Monday night specials that I could be, and was tempted to order repeatedly. They sell a shot of whiskey and a PBR for three bucks. Cheaper than a burger and fries at Mcdonald’s.

Tori at the merch table.

I was downing my second cold mug of Pabst when Corey Baxter and Tapeworm Joe kicked into the bar like homoaffectionate, saddlesore cowboys in a movie, laid guitars on the bar floor and started sexually assaulting me. I had just run into my friend Megan, who told me that her band was opening for the Queers that night. I stammered, trying to remember whether or not I should have already known that, and before I had time for another thought Corey and Joe were flanking me in my barstool and trying to get their hands on my goodies.
Corey said, “We’re getting ready to tear the roof off this place,” and Joe promised to rock me so hard that my asshole would turn inside out. Then he said that they would rock so hard that they would turn everybody’s asshole inside out in the whole place. It was a thoroughly disgusting interaction, and I was glad that I was drunk enough to handle it.
It wouldn’t have comforted me any to know at the time, but I would find out in the course of the evening that their band was called Hound Phelator. The name must be a D&D reference or something, cause I don’t get it.

The guy from All Eyes Path

The first act of the night was All Eyes Path, a hip-hop group that took the stage to their deejay, DJ Self Help, spinning Wu Tang. Next he played the Batman theme song, which gave Don B something to do, but the chaotic musical intro made it hard to tell at first that there actually were rappers in the band and that a show was happening on stage. Eventually, the two MC’s, one a black guy named Michael and the other a long-haired white guy in a sequin vest and no shirt who would preen whenever Shandi pointed the camera at him. That was some real fun. Shandi started pretending to take his picture just to see what he would do.

Proving he’s more than just a sequin vest.

DJ Self Help offered up solid beats that got all the white kids dancing. The problem is I can never tell what anyone is saying in a live hip-hop show. The duo of MC’s rapped, and I have to assume that the things they were saying rhymed, but I’ll be damned if I can tell you what any of it was about. Occasionally I would catch snipets of something that sounded socially aware. It seemed All Eyes Path had something to say. But what?
I lassoed Michael Bridgmon out on the sidewalk after the set, and he suffered through my awkward questions politely enough, considering I was a half-tipsy punk in a Nelson Muntz vest impersonating a rock music journalist with no credentials. When I asked about the message that motivated his group’s music he

The other guys from All Eyes.

told me that they were influenced by the things they see on TV and read about what’s going on in the world. I couldn’t think of any more questions and Michael excused himself.
Brilliant interview. I felt like a dick and tried to avoid his gaze for the rest of the night, which wasn’t hard because there were a ton of bands waiting to play and an increasingly crowded bar full of punks to be insulted by.

Vacation

The kids enjoyed Vacation's set.

Next up was Vacation, a group of young looking guys with a shirtless drummer for a lead singer. They played melodic pop-punk of the Lagwagon variety with plenty of oohs and aahs in the background vocals. That kind of music tends to be better in the live show than on the CD, and vacation ended up rocking pretty hard. They plowed through their set with more balls than Blink 182 ever had and only slowed down briefly when their lead singer broke his drum peddle. Lead singer broke his drum peddle, even as I write it, it seems ridiculous.

I had fun, too

Meg from Now Sound rockin' out. The night's most effective use of hair.

Megan’s band, Thee Now Sound, was on next. I had talked to Meg a few times in the course of the night, and she each time she was exhibiting a sort of nervous confidence. She seemed ready and excited for the show, but it was like just under the surface she was certain that everything was about to go wrong.
I missed the first song because I was in the bathroom or buying drinks. For their second song, The Now Sound tore into the MC5 classic Kick Out the Jams. It was exactly the kind of fist-pumping, crowd-solidifying cover song that the night had been missing. I said, “Yeeeeah,” out loud and started bobbing my head. I looked at the dude next to me, and he was bobbing his head, too. Then I looked around and noticed heads bobbing all around the bar, everyone using non-verbal communication skills to say, “Hey, I know this song, and I appreciate this band playing it,” and, “I notice you like this song, too. You’re cool and so am I.”

The Now Sound in heroic wide shot

I made it to the stage where Shandi had already tucked into a nook in the stinky, sweaty part of the pit and was taking pictures. The crowd was getting livelier with each

Now Sound gets the pit going.

consecutive band. During The Now Sound’s set I had my beer dumped all over the house speaker and some gigantic blob with a face full of tattoos pummeled Shandi to the wall. Safe to say things were picking up.
From what I could tell, Meg nailed all of her bass fills and put on a hell of a show. The Now Sound’s singer was a guy with long hair and a beard who, I though, had a lot of nerve to be opening for a band whose signature song says “I don’t wanna be a granolahead.” He was a good guitar player, but it was hard for me to look at him and not turn against him for being a hippie. But why look at that guy anyway, when you could just look at Meg?
The Sound had some good songs, sometimes sounding like the Dead Kennedys, but also played some slower numbers that came off too BlitzRock-y for me.

Hound Phelator

Hound Phelator took to the stage with some seriously loud, evil guitar riffs and blazed through a short set of the kind of sleazy punk that ruins your outfit. After a band like

Joe on Geetar

Hound Phelator, you’re neither surprised nor particularly irritated when you discover that your clothes are sticky with beer and covered in filth. Corey, the singer, wore a headband with big, floppy dog ears and a massive chain around his neck. He rattled the cymbals with his chain and once jumped on the crowd. Their drummer was a guy who looked like he might have been your uncle or the dude from WKRP in Cincinatti, and he drummed his ass off.
The Phelator set was pushing the crowd into an orgy of violence, but their show was over in no time. They wouldn’t play the Dead Boys, no matter how many times I screamed at them. It wasn’t until after they left the stage that I realized the band had been made up almost entirely of longhairs. They seemed to be taking over. I was a bit ashamed for California punk hotshots like The Queers to see Columbus in such a sorry state of personal grooming. I imagined The Queers, who had once favored our fair city by recording a live album here, leaving the gig saying, “Jesus, is it just me or is Columbus rotten with greasy dirtheads and smelly beardos. I hate to get up on a soapbox here, but seriously, can we get some Robin Hood type to start terrorizing the hipster bars with a pair of Wuhl clippers?

The Queers are here

I’m trying to focus on the local stuff, but the final band of the night was, of course, The Queers. They wore the same kind of ballcaps that they wore in all their old videos. A girl was injured, trampled in the mosh pit , early in their set. To hear Shandi tell it (I was closing out the tab at the bar when it went down), she was on the ground, holding her head,

random crowd shot during the Queers set, notice the kid grimacing and the guy laughing at him.

and most of the fools around the stage didn’t notice her or weren’t bothered enough to stop dancing. Somebody had to tear her out of the crowd to safety by brute force, but by that time most of the kids were too caught up in the noise and the booze and the passion of a kick-ass Queers show to know what was going on. There was an ambulance outside when we left, so I hope she was ok.
The Queers played their songs and it was good. I wish I could offer more, but years and years of punk shows has taught me something: Turn the music up loud enough, and pack the floor with enough kids jostling and threatening on another, and you’re probably going to have a good time no matter what.

Your humble narrator and your beautiful photographer