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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Rocking, mocking to a Southern beat

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Southern Culture on the Skids members are, from left, Rick Miller, Mary Huff, and Dave Hartman. Southern Culture on the Skids members are, from left, Rick Miller, Mary Huff, and Dave Hartman.
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Southern Culture on the Skids dares to put the fun back in rock and roll.

The North Carolina trio's live shows feature fried chicken - tossed into the audience and eaten - and it plays a joyously rollicking rock and roll with lots of tail-feather shaking as it famously celebrates: Southern culture.

Specifically, the band zeroes in on the kitschy aspects of its roots, never using the term "white trash" as an insult. Albums like "Too Much Pork for One Fork," "Plastic Seat Sweat," and "Liquored Up and Lacquered Down," revel in stereotypes like mobile homes, drinking too much, and generally acting up in a down-home fashion.

The band, which plays in Vamps Tuesday night, comes by it honestly.

"It would be one thing if we all were from northern Virginia, but all three of us grew up in that culture and have very legitimate roots in that," Southern Culture on the Skids drummer Dave Hartman said in a phone interview.

"I grew up with a single mom in a duplex. And Rick's dad built mobile homes for a living. And all you have to know about Mary is if you saw her front porch, you would not question her white-trash origin."

He referred to Rick Miller, the band's guitarist/singer, and Mary Huff, the bassist/singer. Miller is highly influential among guitarists, thanks to his Link Wray-like approach that combines rockabilly and surf-rock in a style that has been dubbed "psychobilly." Live, his guitar sounds like an angry monster and, along with the tight-locking rhythm section, the band is a lean, formidable unit that never lets up in its traditional rock approach.

Over its 20 years, Southern Culture on the Skids has formed a rabid cult following of fans who post recipes on the band's Web site and attend its live shows, which are captured on the band's new CD "Doublewide and Live," with a religious fervor.

"We try to make sure everyone walks out with a smile on their face and does some dancing and eats some fried chicken and sees some girls dancing on the stage," Hartman said.

Oh, yes, the fried chicken. In the band's formative years, it played a show in front of what the drummer estimated was "10 or 11 people," none of whom was paying much attention. The musicians had a box of fried chicken the club owner had given them for dinner, so they offered some to the audience members, who eagerly gobbled it up and actually started paying attention to the music.

Next thing you know, a tradition was born and no Southern Culture on the Skids show is complete without the band offering fried chicken to its audience.

"We tried to stop doing it for a while about 10 years ago and everyone got [angry] and revolted," Hartman said. "Instead of cheering for one more song at the encore, people were chanting 'We want chicken, we want chicken!'●"

The group is touring with Miller's wife and newborn baby in tow, something that Hartman said is a refreshing symbol of its independent status. When Southern Culture on the Skids was with a major label (the band was on Geffen in the mid-'90s; now it's with the indie Yep Rock), that wouldn't have been possible due to pressure from outside the band.

"We pretty much do everything ourselves and try to stay independent. And I think it's helping our longevity because we don't have a lot of people meddling in what we do, or saying, 'Oh, emo is big this week so you ought to try emo.'●"

Southern Culture on the Skids performs Tuesday night in Vamps, 910 Phillips Ave. Society's Ugly Son and E.J. Wells open the show. Tickets, $12 in advance, are available at Ramalama Records, Culture Clash, and Mad Hatter Music in Bowling Green. Tickets are $15 at the door. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6159.



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