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International Biscuit Festival: White Lightning Burlesque & Southern Culture on the Skids

June 19, 2010

[I just realized I have already written about this event. Consider this an exercise in rewriting. But, there are videos in this post!]

On June 4 & 5 under a full-blue sky and deep shadows in and around Krutch Park in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Market Square District Association hosted the first International Biscuit Festival, featuring various local businesses and their biscuit creations as well as live entertainment, a Mr. or Miss Biscuit Pageant, and various biscuit-related cooking competitions.

Kicking off the festival on Friday night were performances by White Lightning Burlesque, Knoxville’s own burlesque troupe, and the hillbilly rockers, Southern Culture on the Skids. Doors opened around 8:00 at the Square Room behind (or through) Cafe 4 on Market Square. The venue featured a raised stage and a mostly-open floor because of such a large number of ticket sales. As the crowd began shuffling in and purchasing $2 PBR 16 oz cans and plastic cups of wine, it became apparent that the festival had reached an older crowd, a crowd full of flip flops and sandals wearing their sunglasses as neck accessories.

And there was White Lightning Burlesque, who opened the show, demonstrating that middle-class southern folks did not understand what a burlesque show was much better than I did. There was little crowd involvement when the likes of Miz Kitty, Sassy Frass, and Cherry Delight donned the stage, a disconnect of sort between shock and entertainment. People were making odd faces at each other in response to the performances. Women were cocking their heads in disbelief at the outfits and moves the ladies were making. Men, well, they were mostly acting like men: gawking and craning their necks, considering the scene, cautious to hoot or holler – especially the one’s with wives or girlfriends – which was my understanding of what was supposed to happen. It was a crowd, for most of the performance anyway, more confused than entertained, a crowd that seemed to me to be saying there is no way I would be dressed like that if I looked like that, nor making those moves, and the occasional, wonder if my wife would ever do that for me smirk.

Just imagine the kind of performance below, but with more aprons and biscuits and stereotypical southern themes. Also, they were asked to leave the pasties at home for the performance because of its “family-oriented” nature.

But, when Southern Culture on the Skids took the stage, it became obvious there were fans in the audience and that the environment was much more familiar, and honestly, they really rocked. It was quirky and sometimes god-awfully hokey, but they made it work. It was the embodiement of “toe sucking geek rock – kinda weird, but [music that] feels good when you’re doing it.” I don’t know if it was all the PBR and spritzers everyone was consuming, but the crowd came to life and helped the festival to a very encouraging opening night. It’s hard to go wrong with a band that encourages people, females mostly, on stage to dance and tosses cold fried chicken to its audience during their song “Eight Piece Box.”

The following clip is apparently one of their most famous songs. They played it at the Square Room and people went bananas. It is something like the B-52s had a love child with a slow, chord-playing Dick Dale.

At the end of the night, it was an enjoyable jaunt down toward the World’s Fair Park and my hotel, the whole time wondering why I became so concerned with the shoes everyone was wearing and glad I got to watch the (apparently) impromptu gathering of hula hoopers in Market Square in between sets, and a little disappointed WLB didn’t bust out the pasties anyway and that I did not snag a piece of fried chicken.

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