Southern Culture on the Skids
with Woolly Bushmen
The Social, Orlando FL • December 7, 2012
Carl F Gauze
While we may not be too old to rock and roll, there are more than a few gray hairs and faux-leopard-clad cougars in tonight’s audience. The relaxed crowd was drinking and chatting as the Orlando’s Woolly Bushmen tuned up. They barely looked old enough to get into The Social, but they played a solid set of surf and rockabilly tunes with no introduction or repartee with the audience. That is to say, I have no idea what any of the songs were. Up front was curly-haired Simon Palombi, playing a cheesy sounding vintage keyboard that sounded damn good. In back was his brother Julian on drums; he’s not an inspiring drummer but he has that “Where the Boys Are” drum sound down solid. Sometimes they sounded like The Surfaris, sometimes like Dick Dale, but whomever they draw their inspiration from, they have all the Lego blocks of that vintage sound, and they sound like they can build anything.
Next door at The Beacham some other band was pounding along. Occasionally there was a huge crowd cheer, but no one could identify them. That’s one weird aspect of this job. In the back of your mind, no matter how good your assigned show is, there might just possibly be a better one you could have hit. Oh well. As the Woolly’s broke down their gear, we all hung out, and I chatted with two women down from Daytona concerned they might get shot when they leave the club. I pointed out that the shooting they read about was many blocks away and they weren’t in “the Bad Parts of Town” on Orange Avenue.
Another beer down, and it was time for Southern Culture’s Rick Miller to stride out in an old shirt and beat-up straw hat. A riff from him and a cheer from us brought out drummer Dave Hartman, whose drum set wasn’t tucked way in back, but set right up front so we could see him. The biggest cheer came for Mary Huff, singer, bass player, and band icon. Her hair was at least 18-inches high and nailed down tight, her spangled tights were ripped at the knee, and her little white cowgirl boots said: “Don’t mess with me, unless you mean it.” I think the crowd meant it.
This is a band that delivers value for the beer drunk. They laid out a solid 90-minute set with hits like “Dirt Tack Date,” “Lacquered down and Liquored up,” “Banana Pudding,” “House of Bamboo,” you name it. Mr. Miller did a waste-stream themed set with “White Trash,” “My Neighbor Burns Trash,” and “Trash.” While no one was actually dancing, the crowd bounced up and down on the concrete in the pit, and at some point an attractive young woman wordlessly took my camera and got right up on stage for some shots. Too bad they were too blurry to use, but that just shows how friendly everyone was. As a signature move, the band tossed fried chicken into the crowd during “Eight Piece Box,” with enough velocity on those thighs to nail a bartender or two.
The band slipped backstage, and we stamped our feet and flashed our cell phones until they came back for the mandatory encore. A volunteer muscle boy came onstage for “Viva del Santo!,” Mr. Miller did a nice cover of “Pipeline,” and a member of The Hatebombs jumped up to close out the set.
Being a school night and all, I slipped out into the foggy mean streets of Orlando to find my car, which was right where I had left it. No attempted assassinations, just a jumping scene of multi-ethnic clubs and cops closing down the streets so the drunks wouldn’t get run over by pedicabs. I hope my two acquaintances made it home, there were no police reports the next day.