Take a couple of crazy pop culture visionaries working out of Local 506, add lots of bands that fill the spectrum from roots music to the totally bizarre, throw in some 1950s burlesque videos and then bake for three days and nights every August.
That's Sleazefest. This is the one event all year that puts on a pedestal what many consider a seriously overlooked attribute of rock'n'roll: the sleazy part, my friend. Not sleazy business, but something higher. Sleazy art.
A Sleazefest Primer
Because he's so tall, I consider Rick Miller the chief hillbilly of Southern Culture on the Skids (S.C.O.T.S.). He has a talent that rarely gets mentioned: The man has a great eye and ear for bands that are worth listening to. The other great curator of cool is Dave Robertson, who owned Local 506 for many years. They've worked together on putting together Sleazefests over the years, as a party that would appeal to both fussy listeners and folks who like to drink a lot of beer and rock their asses off.
This year ther are some changes. Says Robertson: "There's no second stage at The Sports Bar. Rick (Miller) and Mary (Huff) wanted to scale it back. It's more like the way it was originally, 10 years ago,"he says. "Besides, we're getting too old to book 50 bands to play over three days." Robertson's odometer is turning 40 this year.
Of this, Jimmy Ray of Jimmy & The Teasers says, "Sleaze has no age limit. In fact, the older you get, the easier it is to be sleazy." Greg Miller of The Cowslingers adds, "It may not really be him at Sleazefest. Maybe it's a wax replica?"
Here's a listing of the returning bands and new blood rolling into town to get sleazy one more time.
Friday, Aug. 15
Breaking with tradition, S.C.O.T.S. will not be headlining, but will go on stage right before Detroit's Dirtbombs. "They wanted to enjoy The Dirtbombs," says Robertson. The Dirtbombs have a new album, Dangerous Magical Noise (In The Red Records).
Will fried chicken, banana pudding and rubber love dolls fly through the air during Southern Culture's set? If the pictures posted at their website is any indication, I'd say "yes" (www.scots.com).
The Forty-Fives from Atlanta describe themselves as "a mix of Chuck Berry-style guitar, British Invasion-era hooks and explosive live delivery of bands like the Who and the MC5." More trashy garage rock will be served up by a Jack Oblivian project called The Knaughty Knights. This Memphis group has been known to do covers of Between The Buttons-era Stones songs. The White Stripes, a Detroit band you might've heard of, seems to be getting lumped in a lot with The Paybacks, fronted by blonde moptop Wendy Case. While The White Stripes have been "discovered" by the MTV crowd, The Paybacks get to keep it real----this is a great opportunity for music fans who want to get their stuff unfiltered. By the way, The Paybacks are driving down from the Motor City, fresh from opening for Iggy Pop. Jimmy and The Teasers make a triumphant return to their fifth or sixth Sleazefest. High school friends in Atlanta formed The Black Lips. Listen to their raucousness at www.bomp.com/BlackLips.html. Driving down from Richmond is another group of 'fest veterans, Dragstrip Syndicate, who put on a tight, three-guitar "rock and soul" attack.
The eight-band line-up for Friday averages out to a $3.12 cover charge per band----and that doesn't include using your wrist band to go to The Cave.
Saturday, Aug. 16
Another great night. First wave punk/indie rock/new wave fans will applaud the rare appearance of The Real Kids from Boston. They're grounded in the same roots that gave us Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers. Still reeling from the untimely death of guitarist George Montague Holton III, The Woggles carry on in his honor with Jeff Walls (Guadalcanal Diary). They have a new album out with George's great guitar all over it called Ragged But Right (Telstar). And you haven't heard crooning until you've been soothed by the charms of Chapel Hill's Dexter Romweber.
Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune wrote, "The Legendary Shack Shakerswere [the} single scariest band with an X-rated set fueled by whiskey, repressed memories of schoolyard beatings and rockabilly." Another new name on the bill is Bleed. This trio embraces '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll; you can hear their .mp3s at www.bleedonline.net. Powered by their first album in five years, A Lot To Forget (Slovenly Recordings), The Subsonics' influences include Voidoids, Bo Diddley, Wilson Pickett, Ike & Tina Turner, Little Richard, Phil Spector, and the Velvet Underground. Also returning are The Cowslingers, who've been readying their new release, Cowslinger Deluxe (Shake It). They have a flair for mixing parts of rockabilly, punk, country and garage rock into their own "cowpunkabilly sound." Regular 'fest goers also know Mondo Topless, the Farfisa-powered Philly combo that took its name from a Russ Meyer movie. New kids Little Killers are a trio from Brooklyn that have been voted "Best garage punk band in the USA" by blankgeneration.com.
Sunday, Aug. 17
Described as a 10th Anniversary Party, Robertson adds a detail, "We wanted a party atmosphere to chill and be together," he says. " DJ Honey Machine plays a lot of imports, Malaysian garage and French ya-ya music. We'll have the Dynamite Brothers and then The Rebelles to put on a burlesque show. Oh, and we'll also have a top-secret surprise ready too." So far, my investigation has turned up that the "surprise" does not include S.C.O.T.S. --but who knows what Robertson has hidden inside his Eric Von Zipper German army helmet?
There is a very busy nation-wide revival of burlesque theatre and performance in effect, nearly all of it started and directed by women. The Rebelles (www.therebelles.com) sprung out of a vibrant club scene in Asheville, NC. The 16 members of the troupe have stage names like Betty Cocker, Allison Wonderpants, Tequila Mockingbird, Kitty Coming and Frau Lippenstift. Free of pleasing what was once a traditionally male market, these modern-day strippers work in skits and musical bits that reflect how they as women feel about sexuality, pop-culture and gender. Traditionalists don't be dismayed--there's a lot of good old-fashioned naughty fun to be had, too.
More Sleazefest underground at the Cave
The Cave (452 1/2 Franklin Street) will also host three nights of Sleazefest. Personally, it's great for walking off a beer buzz, down Franklin Street from Local 506. The smaller grotto-with-Xmas lights atmosphere is a great place to chill and check out music on a more intimate scale. Say "hi" to Mr. Mouse behind the bar.
Here's how Robertson describes Friday night at The Cave, "The Dynamite Brothers. Now they've got that three-piece blues influence from Chapel Hill. Then there's The Ghost Writer from Austin Texas; he's a solo act, kind of like that Bob Log thing, but without Bob's weirdness, only his own. The Moaners is Melissa Swingle from Trailer Bride paired up with Laura King from Grand National----they're doing a mod thing. And The Man, that's Kevin (Clark) from Snatches (of Pink). Get ready for his alter-ego, like Iggy Pop."
Saturday gives you another chance to see Dragstrip Syndicate, as well as The Forty Fives. The Spinns, formerly known as The Clones, will pound out their Eric Burdon & The Animals style of garage rock----all this before the ever-green and always relevant Snatches Of Pink headline. They should have a new release called Hyena coming out soon, too.
The Subsonics return on Sunday, while The Pink Slips, an all-girl group from Pittsboro, does Runaways covers, 'nuff said! Hellion, as sketched by Robertson is, "Not your typical Sleazefest band. Punk and arty in their own way, with a lead harp player in her underwear." That's "harp" as in orchestra, not blues harmonica.