Southern Culture on a Friday afternoon


brian_clareyby Brian Clarey

Scotty, shirtless and barefoot, allowed his big toe to bleed out for just a minute before daubing the fresh wound with cocktail napkins, squeezing it shut and cinching it tight with good duct tape.

Things can get slow at the Blind Tiger in the early Friday afternoons, not like the old days on Walker Avenue, when Doc could open the place at 3 p.m. during the first round of the NCAA Tournament and have the stools full before he made it back behind the bar.

Today, Scotty hosed the blood off the patio concrete before Southern Culture on the Skids began to load in their gear at the Blind Tiger to an empty room.

It’s got to be the hundredth time they’ve played Doc’s club, under its different venues and ownership structures. The band’s been touring relentlessly and uninterruptedly for almost 30 years on this circuit — I swear I caught them the first time back in 1989 at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, playing with a trio from Philly called Baby Flame Heads. Their lead singer was an ethereal woman who played a tiny toy upright piano. I remember my roommate bought the T-shirt, remarkably stupid even for the standards of the day, and wore it all the time.

I was relatively new to the South, and I probably dug into their fetishization of its most cherished icons — banana pudding, sweet tea, trailer parks, bouffants — for all the wrong reasons. After the show, 19 and wild-eyed drunk, I asked Rick Miller about the genesis of the song “Eight Piece Box.”

“Finger-lickin’ good!” I believe was his reply.

Almost 10 years later, I would be pelted in the eye with a piece of fried chicken during a SCOTS show at the Howlin’ Wolf, also in New Orleans, while they played a rendition of that very same song.

Drummer Dave Hartman, sitting now at the bar at the Tiger, doesn’t really want to talk about the chicken. He wants to talk about “Weird” Al Yankovic, who was set to direct a video for a song called “House of Bamboo” off the band’s 1997 album Plastic Seat Sweat.

“Did you know [‘Weird’ Al]’s had the same guys in his band from Day 1?” Hartman asked in amazement.

The video was to be a parody of “Gilligan’s Island,” Hartman said, with Miller as Gilligan and bassist Mary Huff as Ginger. They cut the album in September 1996, set the budget in December. But the plan did not survive a January 1997 head-cutting at their record label, Geffen, after which nobody left at the company seemed to have heard of them.

Hartman shrugs it off. That was years ago. Since then, he reminds, the Pixies have gotten back together and then broken up again.

He takes the stage and the band works a soundcheck, running through three songs for the empty room.

After 30 years, SCOTS is still playing on Doc’s stage. And though the industry has become unrecognizable, the players come and gone, their sound remains the same.

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