Reggie Sabatini’s Soup Du Jour, Palatka, FL • March 23, 1999
I need to provide two warnings to anyone venturing out to a Culinaries show. One, bring a healthy appetite. Two, don’t wear any sort of favorite garment.
The Culinaries come from a long tradition of bands that met at school. While colleges and art/architecture schools are fertile breeding grounds for more than a fair share of musical acts, the Culinaries — Chip, Chuck, and Stu — met at the Southwestern North Dakota Institute of Culinary Arts. Only Stu managed to finish and get his certificate from the school before the majors came a-callin’, but it’s safe to say that all three cook. Literally. The band’s big-budget stage show requires an impressive contract rider of professional-level kitchen equipment, and a grocery list that will cause problems in just about any town without a gourmet deli. Rather than fill up between-song spaces with chatter and tuning, the Culinaries devote their attention to the six-course meal they prepare over the span of their set.
Today’s performance started out with “Cooking with Tubes,” a reference to the Culinaries’ preferred method of heating their concoctions. By overdriving their vintage tube amps, Stu and Chip create a hot zone which they use to prepare and keep warm their on-stage creations. As the band careened through the chorus, Stu would flip delicious appetizers — small eggplant flans nestled in delicate Greek pastry shells — with a spatula attached to the head of his bass. The audience was most appreciative!
As the song ended, the band busied itself with its preparations. Chuck removed the lid from his combination floor-tom/stew-pot and stirred in what looked to be a fresh batch of lemon grass. Twisting a toggle, Chip flipped down the faceplate of his vintage Fender twin, revealing a loaf of basil-scented sourdough slowly rising amidst the orange glow within. Stu cleaned off the rest of the appetizer from the bass amp head, and before I knew it, the band was back in the swing of things with “I Knead You,” a slower number that could have been about a girl, or perhaps Chip’s grandmothers’ fabled sourdough starter, which rumor has it has been in the family since the Old Country.
Things progressed nicely from there. A large salad was prepared by placing exotic greens on a giant upside-down china crash. Not only did Chuck’s expert playing cause the contents rise in the air and settle back down in a nice toss, he was seasoning the concoction by beating on his drums with a pair of maracas that also seemed to dispense extra-virgin olive oil and wildberry-tarragon balsamic vinegar. The sourdough was ready at about this time, and in a single fluid move, Chip popped it out of the loaf pan and sliced it into perfectly even slabs by using it to play the lead on “Dough Don’t Mean Dinero.”
By the time the band wrapped up the night with “Shore Are Sweet” (and their signature Flaming Watermelon Balls, launched into the audience with Chip’s whammy bar), the crowd was torn between moshing up a frenzy and loosening their clothes and lying down. Everyone was smeared with missed lobs from the stage, but for every morsel that didn’t make a mouth, there were twenty that did. Don’t miss the Culinaries next time they hit your town — bring a date, and don’t forget to skip lunch.