Stuart’s Opera House, Nelsonville, Ohio
Sept. 9, 2016
Things you can expect at a Southern Culture on the Skids concert: Santo, a shirtless, mask-wearing faux pro wrassler stalking the stage, harassing the musicians and commandeering the mic during “Viva del Santo!”
People pogo-ing pointedly in the pit. Fans invited onstage to dance during “Jack the Ripper” and to toss Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies into the audience during “Camel Walk.” And much, much more.
Amid all this tomfoolery at SCOTS’ 100-minute performance Friday before a small but enthused crowd at Stuart’s Opera House was the most important thing about a rock ‘n’ roll concert: impeccable musicianship and sharp harmonies.
Some guitarists play behind their back. Rick Miller, in rolled-up, torn blue jeans and a T-shirt from a fried-chicken joint, mimics Hendrix at Monterey before sitting on his axe and coaxing feedback from his ass while playing in a style that recalls everyone from Link Wray to Robin Trower.
At stage left, drummer Dave Hartman stands behind and abuses his small kit with red-and-white sticks while making as much rhythmic racket as Neil Peart and giving enough cowbell to sate even Christopher Walken on “Saturday Night Live.”
And at stage right is bassist/singer/heartbreaker Mary Huff – a show unto herself – pausing occasionally to apply makeup, walking like a zombie and flashing facial expressions that elicit laughter by themselves. With a big flower tucked into her big bouffant, big sunglasses over her eyes, big bracelets on her wrists and big earrings hanging just over her big shoulders, Huff, black button-down buttoned down to her big cleavage, lays down a fat groove and boasts a big – ginormous, even – singing voice and sounds as good singing relatively straight songs like “House of Bamboo” as it does when she’s firing off operatic ad libs or trilling exuberant olé’s.
This is a band that’s as much fun to watch as to listen to.
But music is what it’s really about and the music was infectious as the trio from North Carolina, now in its 33rd year, offered up tracks from across its long career including “Too Much Pork for Just One Fork” (1991), “Dirt Track Date” (1995), “Liquored Up and Lacquered Down” (2000) and “Grey Skies” from the soon-to-be-released The Electric Pinecones LP. The songs are as entertaining as their titles suggest are delivered in a garage-rock package of surf-punk-rockabilly-country virtuosity whose quality matches the humor note for note.
It was a sweaty, laughter-filled, head-banging affair with little stage banter but lots of onstage mugging as Huff and Miller played face-to-face and back-to-back and sometimes swayed together this way and that. Their voices wrapped around each other to give songs like “Zombified” and “Banana Puddin'” an air of seriousness – but not too much – as they sung about scraping the skin off their favorite dessert.