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SCOTS at the Flying Anvil make for a good Plan B

by Amy Kingsley

Brian Crean of the Flying Anvil is busy tonight. Both he and Pete Schroth have abandoned their usual posts front of house to pull beers and pour wine behind the bar.

I’m watching them from my position queued up behind a rotund fellow in a polo shirt cinched by the waistband of his khaki shorts. Beer, I figure, will blunt the dark mood I alone seem to have carried into the much-anticipated Southern Culture on the Skids show.

Although I did one-and-a-half solid years in the ‘“Paris of the Piedmont’” as a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, I never familiarized myself with the artistic works of its most famous native sons (and daughter). So it is not fandom that has brought me here tonight. It is desperation.

So far this weekend, I have been stood up by zombies and misled by abolitionist reenactors. I rolled back to my house Sunday evening defeated and sans backup plan. The general tendency of Triad establishments to shutter on Sundays didn’t help matters. I had 12 hours until deadline and no story.

So here I am palming a beer in front of a band that has over its two-decade existence launched thousands of column inches. And me? I don’t even have an angle, just a lingering cold and the threat of professional embarassment.

Despite the imminence of the workweek, hundreds have come out to the Anvil to see Southern Culture do its thing. As far as crowds go, it’s a diverse one. The women, by and large, have opted for outfits of either gingham or leather. Cowboy hats abound, much to the consternation of those of us toward the back of the crowd.

But for all the costuming, the crowd revealed by overhead lights appears heavily skewed toward post-college. Which is not to say that respectability is necessarily in oversupply. Fortunately, a beaming woman steers through the crowd with a basket of condoms and candy, although the couple smooching behind me ignores her. The bottle blond and her gray-haired companion have taken up a position at the threshold between the stage and bar areas.

Not 20 feet away another couple sweetly holds hands. It is difficult to estimate how many in the crowd have come with their eye on hooking up. It is one of the things that will become clearer when Southern Culture on the Skids takes the stage.

If indeed Southern culture is on the skids, it is appropriate that it stopped at the Flying Anvil tonight, a place wedged between neglected antique shops and the railroad tracks. The band takes the stage around 10 p.m. dressed like tweaked variations of Southern caricatures. Guitarist Rick Miller wears the lush, snowy facial hair and heavy-rimmed glasses of a Col. Sanders impersonator. Bassist Mary Huff is the image of 1970’s sitcom namesake ‘“Alice’” if that character had yearned for a psychobilly musical career instead of a gig singing in Hollywood. I half expect her to sidle up to audience members with an order pad.

Thematically, Southern Culture’s songs trade in typical lower-class Southern iconography: big hair, corn liquor and trailer parks. The songwriter then takes a topic and transforms it into something of an anthem. I haven’t seen so many fists raised in sing-along since my younger days as a pop punker.

What their lyrics lack in subtlety, the band compensates for in instrumentation. Miller is a self-described guitar geek. His facility with a fretboard testifies to the chrysalis qualities of the adolescent bedroom, where members of his ilk most often hone their craft before emerging onstage.

Huff’s no-nonsense persona translates to a solid bass sound, big and flashy in all the right places. Drummer Dave Hartman rounds out the trio with a monster surf beat.

The band opens the show in fifth gear, and hips all around the venue start to gyrate. The scene starts to lift me out of my bad mood. I’m enjoying the spectacle of a man to my left alternate between air guitar and drums. Even more elating than his joy is the fact that his bulk is blocking the view of the visored fellow behind him.

I’m trying, but tonight the only joy I can muster is schadenfreude

As the band churns through their set list, the spectacle increases. Miller extends an invitation to the ladies in the audience that is enthusiastically accepted. Soon, about a half-dozen sylphs strut their stuff onstage. A mysterious breeze originating from somewhere around the front row helpfully flutters the dancers’ hair, a scene ripped straight from the scripts of beer commercials everywhere.

Miller cedes chicken-hurling responsibilities to the women. Each selects their projectile from a greasy box of KFC, and one dancer in a moment of confusion begins to eat her prop. Once the directions have been clarified, the chicken sails mercifully close to the stage and serves as an adieu from Southern Culture on the Skids.

The crowd, like gremlins created from a cocktail of beer, meat and skin, is having none of it. So as the band returns for another round I gather my bad mood, trash my empty beer cup and head for the door, the beginnings of a story forming in my head.

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

Brian Crean of the Flying Anvil is busy tonight. Both he and Pete Schroth have abandoned their usual posts front of house to pull beers and pour wine behind the bar.

I’m watching them from my position queued up behind a rotund fellow in a polo shirt cinched by the waistband of his khaki shorts. Beer, I figure, will blunt the dark mood I alone seem to have carried into the much-anticipated Southern Culture on the Skids show.

Although I did one-and-a-half solid years in the ‘“Paris of the Piedmont’” as a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, I never familiarized myself with the artistic works of its most famous native sons (and daughter). So it is not fandom that has brought me here tonight. It is desperation.

So far this weekend, I have been stood up by zombies and misled by abolitionist reenactors. I rolled back to my house Sunday evening defeated and sans backup plan. The general tendency of Triad establishments to shutter on Sundays didn’t help matters. I had 12 hours until deadline and no story.

So here I am palming a beer in front of a band that has over its two-decade existence launched thousands of column inches. And me? I don’t even have an angle, just a lingering cold and the threat of professional embarassment.

Despite the imminence of the workweek, hundreds have come out to the Anvil to see Southern Culture do its thing. As far as crowds go, it’s a diverse one. The women, by and large, have opted for outfits of either gingham or leather. Cowboy hats abound, much to the consternation of those of us toward the back of the crowd.

But for all the costuming, the crowd revealed by overhead lights appears heavily skewed toward post-college. Which is not to say that respectability is necessarily in oversupply. Fortunately, a beaming woman steers through the crowd with a basket of condoms and candy, although the couple smooching behind me ignores her. The bottle blond and her gray-haired companion have taken up a position at the threshold between the stage and bar areas.

Not 20 feet away another couple sweetly holds hands. It is difficult to estimate how many in the crowd have come with their eye on hooking up. It is one of the things that will become clearer when Southern Culture on the Skids takes the stage.

If indeed Southern culture is on the skids, it is appropriate that it stopped at the Flying Anvil tonight, a place wedged between neglected antique shops and the railroad tracks. The band takes the stage around 10 p.m. dressed like tweaked variations of Southern caricatures. Guitarist Rick Miller wears the lush, snowy facial hair and heavy-rimmed glasses of a Col. Sanders impersonator. Bassist Mary Huff is the image of 1970’s sitcom namesake ‘“Alice’” if that character had yearned for a psychobilly musical career instead of a gig singing in Hollywood. I half expect her to sidle up to audience members with an order pad.

Thematically, Southern Culture’s songs trade in typical lower-class Southern iconography: big hair, corn liquor and trailer parks. The songwriter then takes a topic and transforms it into something of an anthem. I haven’t seen so many fists raised in sing-along since my younger days as a pop punker.

What their lyrics lack in subtlety, the band compensates for in instrumentation. Miller is a self-described guitar geek. His facility with a fretboard testifies to the chrysalis qualities of the adolescent bedroom, where members of his ilk most often hone their craft before emerging onstage.

Huff’s no-nonsense persona translates to a solid bass sound, big and flashy in all the right places. Drummer Dave Hartman rounds out the trio with a monster surf beat.

The band opens the show in fifth gear, and hips all around the venue start to gyrate. The scene starts to lift me out of my bad mood. I’m enjoying the spectacle of a man to my left alternate between air guitar and drums. Even more elating than his joy is the fact that his bulk is blocking the view of the visored fellow behind him.

I’m trying, but tonight the only joy I can muster is schadenfreude

As the band churns through their set list, the spectacle increases. Miller extends an invitation to the ladies in the audience that is enthusiastically accepted. Soon, about a half-dozen sylphs strut their stuff onstage. A mysterious breeze originating from somewhere around the front row helpfully flutters the dancers’ hair, a scene ripped straight from the scripts of beer commercials everywhere.

Miller cedes chicken-hurling responsibilities to the women. Each selects their projectile from a greasy box of KFC, and one dancer in a moment of confusion begins to eat her prop. Once the directions have been clarified, the chicken sails mercifully close to the stage and serves as an adieu from Southern Culture on the Skids.

The crowd, like gremlins created from a cocktail of beer, meat and skin, is having none of it. So as the band returns for another round I gather my bad mood, trash my empty beer cup and head for the door, the beginnings of a story forming in my head.

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

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