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Southern Culture on the Skids & White Lightning Burlesque

June 11, 2010

The 2010 International Biscuit Festival kicked-off its festivities on Friday, June 4 with a concert at the Square Room, a musical venue directly off of Market Square in back of Cafe 4. It seemed like an odd pairing, aging southern rockabilly rockers and a burlesque show in the mostly conservative south. Even though I had never been to a burlesque show before, I understood the purpose of the performers in their flaunting, which is more than most of the crowd could gather.

Having some time after I grabbed a bite to eat and a few bourbon and gingers – needed after ten hours in a car – at Latitude 35 – note the line about the trance music playing in this guy’s article; there was no trance while I was there – I wandered around the square and found a quaint little side garden/pathway, which doubled as a semi-concealed area for smokers to gather and watch patrons in the adjacent restaurant eat, to grab a seat and people watch as I waited for the doors to open and the show to begin. It was warm outside, but not oppressive, and everyone was dressed for a Friday night in the south. Many of the gentlemen passing wore khaki shorts of some kind, most were cut above the knee, and some sort of collared shirt – for that captain and crew look. Ladies, mostly, wore very loose fitting dresses, ranging in length from crop duster to needing only a whisper in the wind. The crowd was overly white, an observation which became even more apparent as the weekend progressed. I smoked a few cigarettes and kept my creepiness to a minimum observing the young and old, babies and puppies, the lost and the veterens.

I wasn’t in any hurry to get in the line forming at the Square Room’s backdoor off the garden/pathway. With only about ten people leaning against the ramp railing, I figured  I would be able to find a seat or a quiet corner in which to post myself for the shows. What I didn’t  know was that the Square Room was more like the Handlebar venue in Greenville, SC, sporting a raised stage with limited seating – or at least the purveyors chose to remove the seating based on the number of tickets sold.

I found myself reaching for my wallet earlier, and with signs for $2 PBR 16 oz cans, I figured I could have a few more after the bourbons and I needed something to kill the time. As people filed in, I kept wandering what I was doing at this event. I was certain that I looked older than I am because of my gnarly beard, but I felt no where near at home with the crowd that initially filled the venue. I knew the band had been bigger in the eighties and nineties, but I didn’t think a forty-something crowd would be too interested in a burlesque show. Maybe, just maybe, I thought this would be a direct expression of the Mary Anne front, Queen Anne behind that I have heard applied to certain aspects of southern culture and society.

Burlesque, as I understand it, is a form of strip-tease entertainment, humorous and a celebration of the body. I could be completely off base here, but I think I’m on the right track. White Lightning Burlesque tamed their show on a recommendation from the Biscuit Festival’s organizers, so they opted out of performing with pasties and should have opted for some new MCs to help organize the down time between acts. The kitschy characters who desperately tried to provide some entertainment during set changes really killed any energy that may have been created from the actual performances.

The highlight of the evening had to be when the MC called a bachelor up from his bachelor party to the stage and asked him a question I can’t remember, but to which the bachelor replied, oh, my wife don’t have any biscuits in either spot. Thus, I guess the question was regarding his wife’s biscuits – a big hardy, har, har, throughout the festival. But even more hilarious, during the next performer – probably one of the more attractive performers of the night – the bachelor thought it would be a good idea to get on stage and try to dance with her. The performer promptly confronted him and told him (loudly) to get the F off her stage, that she was performing. It was obvious that the event remained under her skin for the rest of her performance.

The end of the performance ended in two of the performers shaking “their biscuits” to, I believe, Dueling Banjos. They must employ the use of quite a bit of duct tape throughout their careers.

Southern Culture on the Skids wasted little time to hit the stage, and in about a cigarette and half a beer, they sauntered on to the stage with Mary Huff and her signature hair bouffant and Rick Miller and Dave Hartman in some signature looking hats. From that point forward, the crowd grew extremely receptive. The band played many of their classic hits, including Soul City, Camel Walk, and Voodoo Cadillac as well as engaging in some fried chicken throwing and an impromptu dance party toward the end of the set.

Overall, it was quite an interesting show, albeit, aided by the PBR that was like an IV drip from the get-go.The beer was cold. There was an element of sexuality surfacing through the crowd, which did include a younger subset after everything started rolling. I found myself looking at people’s shoes throughout the evening, trying to get a grasp of who these people were, who these white people were in their tennis shoes and flip flops, their platforms and heels, but more importantly, who it is that attends a biscuit festival and if I was the only one excited to drive (in stages) from Wyoming to feast on biscuits and witness the phenomenon.

Beginning of the show and the crowd has gathered.
Toward the end of the show, and as you can see, the dance party is in full force.
A Friday night at Market Square, pre Biscuit Festival, pre Farmers’ Market.

[NOTE: I began this post with the idea that I would only write about one photo so that I did not sit at the computer for more than an hour writing. I have failed.]

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