Southern Culture on the Skids

What are you thinking about doing this weekend? Some live music? Maybe something different for a change? How about a band that’s been around since 1983? Or one that aims to combine high and low culture (moonshine martini, anyone…)? Or one that plays swamp pop? Or surf? Or R & B? Or rockabilly? Or a crazy combo of all those styles with a punk edge?

How about a show that Rolling Stone magazine calls “a hell-raising rock & roll party”? Or a show where, if you are quick, you can catch some fried chicken thrown from the stage?  Or maybe you’d like to go to an outdoor show because the weather is so beautiful?  Maybe you need a family-friendly event where the children can run around blowing bubbles while you laze next to your dream date?

Or maybe you’d like to see a band whose current LP has something to do with zombies? Or maybe one whose music has been featured in a hit movie like Beavis and Butt-head Do America?  Or a band that will let you dance on stage and share their bounty of banana pudding when your energy starts to flag?

Of course I am now going to tell you how to get all that and more.*  I’m not a tease.

Southern Culture on the Skids.  Saturday at Kemper Park in Boonville.

The show is part of the Pedaler’s Jamboree line-up.  Those not riding on the Jamboree can attend the show by getting tickets ($20) at Kemper Park starting at 3 pm on Saturday.  I’ll be there dressed in orange, a perfect target for some chicken.

SCOTS, as we like to call the band, consists of Rick Miller (guitar, vocals), Mary Huff (bass guitar, vocals), and Dave Hartman (drums).  I spoke to Drummer Dave about everything but music.  Here is some of that conversation:

How did you come to discover that “the people want chicken”?

We were in Harrisonburg, VA, playing near the front door of a tiny club to eleven disinterested people.  A guy wandered in off the street and stole our chicken dinner from the side of the stage while we were playing.  We looked over and saw him dancing with a piece of chicken in his mouth. Rick said, “If you’re gonna dance with our chicken, you need to be on stage.” Suddenly the eleven people became interested, and the rest is a Trivial Pursuit answer (really – Pop Culture Edition).

How’s the chicken cannon coming along?

Still in development. We’re modeling it after the design of the Go-Nuts Snack-A-Pult™. Really.

Who would portray the band members in SCOTS: The Movie?

Harry Dean StantonNed Beatty, and Katey Sagal.

If Elvis were alive, what SCOTS song would he cover?

Carve that Possum.

Have you actually roasted a pig on stage or is that just a dream?

Are you kidding? That takes 24 hours and the hardest part isn’t staying awake – it’s not getting too drunk to eat.

If SCOTS threw Jello along with the chicken and banana pudding, what flavor would it be?

Lime flavor with 7-Up, just like at the family reunions.

What advice would you give your younger band self?

No Little Debbie snack cakes or leftover chicken after 2 am!

Ever play a bicycle event?  How do you feel about Spandex?

Don’t know anything about Spandex, but Rick’s down with the Sans-A-Belt™.  Now, if they’d invent a product called “Spam-dex”….

*The more that I promised?  It’s Hella Go-Go, because it isn’t a dance party without Hella Go-Go!  Not only do these gals wear awesome dresses, they get down in the crowd and boogie.  If anyone is up to the challenge of getting tired cyclists to get up and shake it, it’s Hella Go-Go.

The entire Kemper Park main stage line-up: Carry Nation & The Speakeasy (6:15), The Hipnecks (7:30), Burn Circus (8:45), Southern Culture on the Skids with Hella Go-Go (9:00), The Wildcat Daddies (10:45–acoustic).  See you there!

Dirtfoot: Coming to CoMo

Off Track Events is bringing the gypsy punk country grumble boogie band Dirtfoot to town for the Pedaler’s Jamboree on May 26th and 27th.  The word on the street and the trail is that this is the one band not to miss.  They expect audience interaction, even handing out homemade bean cans to round out the band members’ guitar, banjo, bass, saxophone, drums and miscellaneous percussion instruments.

Dirtfoot is winning awards left and right.  They will be playing two shows at the Jamboree, and I plan to get there early to get my bean can.

Dirtfoot’s J Bratlie spoke with me from Shreveport, Lousiana:

Gypsy punk country grumble boogie? It sounds like all the odd people in my high school class got together and formed a cult.

Gypsy Punk Country Grumble Boogie was coined by a local writer who did one of our first reviews. He managed to sum up our sound so well that it stuck, and we’ve been running with it ever since. It’s not an intentional sound; we don’t try to write for a certain genre.  It just comes out purely primal, from the gut. Everyone says we sound familiar, but not like any other band or any style. We’ve been called Alt Country, Swamp Rock…hell, Les Claypool said we sound like a Southern version of Gogol Bordello, but not so Eastern European.

The story goes that God brought the first two band members together with one of His acts on one of His special days. Do you feel like you would be letting Him down if you didn’t continue to make music?

We do feel that a tornado, which brought myself and Matt together, is a fitting backdrop for the beginnings of the band. We formed on the same front porch of the reconstructed house, with numerous musicians sitting in and playing. Cool thing was, we weren’t trying to form a band, we just liked jamming, and if we really liked what somebody brought, they became permanent.

Was the house rebuilt while the band was forming?

The house was rebuilt by Matt and his family. They came out from west TX, and in a few weekends the house was better than ever. This happened in April 2000. Matt and I met right after the storm and basically started jamming immediately. The banjo I ended up playing was actually sitting in the corner of his house, and I saw it for the first time while examining the damage.

What’s with the bean cans?

The bean cans were a happy accident. We had a junk percussion player before we had a drummer, and homemade shakers were part of the rig. It seems like every show we were passing out the percussion to the folks, and it just kinda stuck. Now it really does help the crowd become the 7th member of the band.

Speaking of unusual instruments, how does one play a rubber chicken?

Ah, the rubber chicken… It is but one of our many accents that our percussionist, Daniel Breithaupt, has at his disposal. It was heavily featured in our song “Break My Bones” until, unfortunately, the chicken lost its voice a year or so ago. We’ve also had squealing pigs, horns, sirens and other fun things to make the necessary noises.

Is Dirtfoot acoustic or plugged in?

We are mostly acoustic. Our bassist plays his upright through an amp and does alternate with an electric bass. Matt and I both run our instruments through pedals to “play” with the sounds. Matt has also added an electric guitar recently, so you never know how it will morph and change.

 

You shot your video for “Cast My Plans” at the Wade Correctional Facility in Homer, LA, and it is fantastic! How did that project come about?

Well, that actually started with a music video.  We were approached by Jonathan Rothell, a film editor from California who wanted to make a music video of our song “Cast My Plans.”  He had the whole basic concept of the video: we are all thugs and you see us committing our crimes and getting caught. At the end of the video, the band forms in prison and we play in front of the inmates.

It seemed easier to actually go to a prison for the filming rather than attempting to build sets, costumes, etc, so we contacted the local prisons for help. Wade Correctional was very interested. We quickly decided that if we are going to go to a real prison and shoot ourselves in front of real inmates, then we should actually play a show. And if we’re going to play a show and we have cameras available, we should record that.

Then we reached out to our friend William Sadler, who we met playing a wrap party for the movie The Mist, to play our warden. At this point the buzz began to build about the project, and we had a whole crew of people who actually work for the movie industry in Shreveport volunteering for our video.

We then had a documentary crew put together to film the whole process, making the video, recording the live performance and put it all together in a sweet documentary “Making of the Cast My Plans Video.”  Of course the project had ballooned out of our small budget quickly. We decided to use a 35mm film camera to shoot the video to give it that “look,” which of course meant the extra expense of film processing. We also had to get Mr Sadler from New York to Louisiana for the shooting. We decided we had to come up with a way to fund this project, so we set up a Kickstarter campaign.

We set out to raise $10,000 in 30 days and spread the word mainly online: facebook, website, etc.  Well, we were very surprised by the quick response and actually hit our goal in 20 days.  So, after a little prodding from some of our die hards, we decided to up our goal. If we hit $15,000, we would print a special run of vinyl as well. On day 30, we had raised $16,200 and were blown away by the response.  So, needless to say, we spent all the money on making the best album, DVD and vinyl that we could. We have at least 175 people to thank for that one!

 

I’ve read that your audiences should expect an “aerobic workout of their bodies and ears” at every show. You sound like the perfect band for bicyclists. Have you ever played a bicycling event?

The Pedaler’s Jamboree is our first bicycling event. We’ve played many shows with folks riding around on bikes, but never for a bike-specific event. We are really looking forward to the shows, and we have good friends in Columbia too. It’ll be like a mini vacation.

If Dirtfoot were a meal, what dish would each member be?

Hmm…not sure what meal we’d be.  Being from Louisiana, a lot of folks compare us to a gumbo: lots of different flavors blended together to make something new.

I guess individual members:
Daniel – Spice. He definitely gives the music some zing.
Scotty – The sauce.
Nathan – Mystery spice. He gives that flavor that can’t be identified but rides underneath everything else.
Lane – Vegetables, good and hearty.
J – Some type of meat, like crawfish and sausage.
Matt – Meat. With a little gristle.

**Photographs curtesy of Dirtfoot.

CoMo Music: A Conversation with The Hipnecks

The Hipnecks, a Columbia-based band that has been around in one form or another since 2004, is playing a Pedaler’s Jamboree kick-off concert tonight at the Blue Note. I cornered one Hipneck, Pat Kay (banjo, harmonica, guitar, vocals), for a conversation this week. 

Photo by Kevin Dingman, 2011.

 You call your sound jambalya?

A reporter once called it “jambalaya” because of all the influences we gave her when describing our music. There are lots of ingredients, some seemingly dislike, that all seem to come together just how we want it. I think we may have overwhelmed her when listing the ‘ingredients’ of our sound.

‘Sound.’ Ours has changed quite a bit since then…but not too far. Lately I only feel a minor degree of difficulty explaining that we’re not what most folks would call a rock band because we tote around mandolins, banjos, fiddles, harmonicas, etc. However, we’re not a bluegrass band either. We have drums, driving electric guitar, keys…and we’re pretty loud. You can call it an attempt to avoid being labeled a country band, if you like…but to be honest we feel that we’re all of those, and yet none of those at the same time. I overheard someone call it “country-fried rock & roll” one time…and I think that serves us pretty well.

I like “country-fried rock & roll”. I think that you should go with that. I like “trash can Americana” too, but the country-fried term describes it better.  Since we are using cooking terms to describe music…imagine that The Hipnecks is a meal…what would each member be?

Ooh –thats’ a good one… I’ll have to ‘digest’ that for a while to answer that in a way that’s insightful to everyone’s contributions, musically.

I would be a rib eye steak (with too much salt).
Harrison would be BBQ ribs.

Danny would be a sirloin steak.
Bryan would be a BBQ pork steak.

Molly would be apples and brie.
We would guest musician in a loaded baked potato for a show.

It doesn’t work… but it works.


That’s a lot of meat! I like Molly best, for sure.  The Hipnecks is a great name. Did you really let an audience choose it?


True story. “Hipneck” was a term former Hipnecks vocalist/guitarist Scott Anderson and I coined one night to agree to disagree on the description of a friend of ours.  Scott said, “He’s a total hippie.” I said, “No way dude, he’s a redneck through and through.” We argued about as long as it took us to reach the end of the driveway at the old band house, and I finally said, “Fine, he’s a… hipneck.” Oddly, we both said “hipneck” in unison. The name kinda stuck in my head after that.

We were in the process of changing the name before we released our first album, Just Another Fine Day, because our name at the time was ‘Farmhouse’ (a tip of the hat to the farm my family owns outside of California, Missouri, where we currently host our annual shindig called ‘Barnout’). Unbeknownst to me at the time of choosing that name, it is also the name of a popular Phish song and a college fraternity as well. To minimize confusion, we decided it was best to land firmly on a new name, because after the album released we were going to be stuck with it forever. We narrowed it down to “The Hipnecks,” “Farmacy,” and another I can’t recall at the moment.

We were unable to agree on which. I decided it was best to leave it up to our current fans at the final show preceding the album release. It was at The Tap Room, in Fulton, Missouri, where we played our first show and maintained a regular weekly residency for years. Armed with a human applause-o-meter (our friend Peter), we let the crowd vote by applause before we started our final set of the night, thus starting the show under one name and ending under another.

Are there any impending decisions that this Friday’s audience can help you with? Anyone need to name a baby?

Haha–no.  Not yet anyway.

The rest of The Hipnecks are:  Zach Harrison (guitar, vocals), Danny Carroll (drums, sinks, trashcans & other household items, vocals), Bryan Kay (bass, vocals), and Molly Healey (fiddle, cello, vocals). 

You can catch them tonight at the Blue Note and/or the last weekend of May at the Pedaler’s Jamboree.

CoMo Music: Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three

Not everyone has enough idle time to check out all of Columbia’s upcoming performers on YouTube. That’s where I come in, and that’s how I discovered the music of Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. They are bringing their music to Mojo’s on Friday night.Pokey’s music is hard to put into a box with a label on it. When I asked him to do so, he described it as “Western Swing without fiddle and lap steel (instead slide guitar) and small combo jazz without horns (instead harmonica and kazoo). A string band who plays country swing and ragtime blues.”

 
And gets people up dancing. When I listen to Pokey’s music, I feel as if I’m transported back to some good ol’ day when everyone dressed nicely and all was right in the world. Pokey’s music makes me happy. I cannot listen to it without a grin erupting across my face (even on that one day when my youngest called me a hag and got the dictionary to prove the definition fit).

 
For years, Pokey’s been traveling the country and lands far away, sharing his unique blend of music. Audiences everywhere are responding enthusiastically. There is something pure and alive in the music. Bob Boilen of NPR aptly calls it, “fresh, fun, and altogether outstanding.”

 
Mojo’s is the perfect place to experience it. It won’t be long before he is exclusively gracing larger stages. Right now we can still catch him on a small stage and pester him with questions:

 
Your lyrics are pretty entertaining all on their own. What inspires your writing?
I write lyrics that I would want to read or hear. Strong imagery is important or any other twist on how to say the same things people have been saying for centuries.


You have said that you learned to sing loudly when you were hitching around the country performing on the streets. Did you acquire any other interesting skills during your busking days?
Showmanship and stage presence and desperation to perform well.


What instruments would you add to your current ensemble to create your ideal band?
I wouldn’t change what the guys do. I would maybe just add a couple fellas or gals that play clarinet, trumpet, stride piano, swing/jazz fiddle and lap steel.


You are off on a tour of Ireland, Britain, and Europe soon. How is performing in foreign lands different than performing here? What do you gain from your visits? What do you hope to bring to those audiences?
People in the states know how to respond or involve themselves in the show. Probably because we’re more exposed to this kind of music or that it’s a part of our culture. That’s not to say that Europeans are removed from this music. There has been great amounts of American music over there since the Jazz age – Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker – and some Europeans are very knowledgeable about our music. However, I want to point out that we play American music, I’m proud of that and I want people everywhere to experience the joy of music.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three.  Friday, February 17, at Mojo’s.

CoMusic: Johnny Cash Tribute

I grew up watching Elvis impersonators croon and swagger, so when I headed to the Blue Note to see One More Round, a Johnny Cash tribute band, I had low expectations. I thought that I might see an amusing show and hear my favorite Cash tunes. One More Round had something else to offer though: Four extremely talented musicians who put on a great show from start to finish. They are returning to the Blue Note on February 11th to do it again.

One More Round consists of Bill Forness as Johnny Cash, Tara Schmittgens as June Carter, Brandon Jacoby as Luther Perkins (guitar), Matt Davis as Marshall Grant (bass), and Benet Schaeffer as W.S. Holland (drums). At their show on December 9th, they played thirty songs, a full two hours. Forness, who has a mother named June, talked with me after the show.

Did your mother like June Carter and follow her music?

She did not. But my grandmother and grandfather did. My mother did like old country, and I grew up around it. My step-grandfather was a picker, and my uncle actually lives in Nashville and was a singer/songwriter for Tree Publishing House for many, many years. He wrote songs for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton and different people. I’ve been a singer/songwriter for 25 years and have been playing and writing songs. I started doing cover songs, doing it as a living.

All Johnny?

At first it was an array, like four hour cover shows, just me and the guitar. But the more that I’d do Johnny Cash, the more people would come up and say, “Would you please do this one or that one?” So I started to learn more, and it was being received very, very well. Then there was a breaking point in a restaurant when a guy came up and said, “I’ve been coming to see you play for a while, but I’ve brought my girlfriend. Will you play Ring of Fire tonight?” When I started to play it, he sat her down in front of me and proposed. He said that it was the closest thing to Johnny Cash that he could get. That’s when I said, “I’m going to do this and see if I can make people happy.”

The crowd at the Blue Note was happy the night of the show. Two hard-core Cash fans, one with a large Johnny Cash tattoo on his arm, stood front and center enjoying the show and waiting for their favorite songs: Ring of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues. Seven-year-old Danny O’Toole attended the show with his father Tom, who saw Cash perform years ago in St Louis. Danny’s favorite song is Jackson, a duet that Cash did with his wife June. The band’s June was not able to make it that night. Not only did they manage without her, it turned out to be the song that brought the house down.

You pulled up an audience member to sing that song with you. Do you often do that?

That was the first time. The first time anyone has ever said “I’ll get up there and do it!” It was a blast. It was complete spontaneity.

The band plays well together, and Forness has a great stage presence. They covered all of Johnny Cash’s best known songs and threw in some trivia here and there. I learned that Cash did covers also, and One More Round played some of those: Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt, Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus, and Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage. They nailed them all, but Rusty Cage, the final song of the night, was one of the best songs that I have experienced live.

Johnny Cash himself once performed on the Blue Note stage. Owner Richard King said in an interview recently that it was his favorite show at the club.

How did it feel to play on the same stage as Johnny Cash?

I was very humbled to perform on the same stage as Johnny Cash and June Carter; that was the first stage I have performed on that they performed on. There was a moment on stage when I felt a calm wash over me, as if I was in the right place, doing the right songs, at the right time. It felt amazing!

I posed a tough question to each band member before we left: If you could only play three Johnny Cash songs for the rest of your life what would they be?

25 Minutes to Go…um…probably “Hurt”, which wasn’t his. Oh, man, there’s just so many that I really like! Probably Ring of Fire.—Bill Forness

I like to keep things peppy, so they’d probably be “Folsom Prison Blues”, “Ring of Fire”, and probably “Get Rhythm”.—Brandon Jacoby

That’s a hard question. One’s got to be “Ring of Fire”. One that we don’t do that I like: “The Ballad of Ira Hays”. My last one would be “Home of the Blues”.—Matt Davis

“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down…Green”, “Green Grass of Home”. They’re all really heart-wrenchers. “Five Feet High and Rising”; I’ll tell you why: The thing about the chickens sleeping in the willow trees…it cracks me up every time.—Benet Schaeffer

One More Round: A Tribute to Johnny Cash. Saturday Feb. 11th, The Blue Note. Doors open at 8; Show starts at 9.