Sporting Mexican wrestler masks and suits, it would be easy to assume Los Straitjackets is a rock band direct from south of the border. They are, if you’re talking about the Kentucky border. Formed in 1988 in Tennessee, Los Straitjackets is an instrumental surf band comprised of two original members, Danny Amis and Eddie Angel on guitar, plus later additions Pete Curry on bass and Jason “Teen Beat” Smay on drums. With their unique headgear and quirky stage show, Los Straitjackets have a cult following that was helped by the revival of surf music brought on by the 1994 film “Pulp Fiction.” The band produced music for the 2000 film “Psycho Beach Party,” an offbeat parody of 1950s beach/horror films, and has performed with well-known musicians such as Tom Petty, Reverend Horton Heat and Link Wray and lesser-known musicians like Big Sandy (of rockabilly group The Fly Rite Boys) and The Trashmen.
An Internet search turns up quite a few videos of the band performing live in various venues and gives an idea of the guitar skills of Amis and Angel. The band’s official Web site, www.straitjackets.com, makes a reference to a performance of “My Heart Will Go On,” the love theme from the movie “Titanic,” during one of the group’s numerous appearances on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.” Unable to resist finding that one, I searched YouTube and found a clip of the band performing the song at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Ore. Amazingly, Angel manages to imitate each and every line on his guitar and give some temporary coolness to a song most of us never want to hear again. That same YouTube search turned up clips of Los Straitjackets performing the surf standard “Sleepwalk” as well as renditions of the themes from the TV show “The Munsters” and the movie “The Magnificent Seven,” the teen angst theme “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the Benny Goodman swing classic “Sing Sing Sing.” Hearing a good surf guitar group is energetic and exciting on its own, but there’s something extra fun when the band tosses around familiar tunes in their own echoing, twangy style.
Performing with Los Straitjackets will be Southern Culture on the Skids, often referred to as SCOTS. Self-described as “countrypolitan,” Southern Culture on the Skids was formed in 1983 in Chapel Hill, N.C., playing what the group’s Web site calls a mix of Americana, surf, R&B, rockabilly and swamp pop, also described as “toe sucking geek rock - kinda weird, but it feels good when you’re doing it.” The band is fronted by Rick Miller on guitar and vocals, supported by Dave Hartman on percussion and Mary Huff on vocals and bass guitar. The group’s debut album in 1985 was titled “Voodoo Beach Party” and SCOTS has also appeared numerous times on Conan O’Brien’s show (are we seeing a trend here?). Again searching for performance clips online, seeing SCOTS play is reminiscent of local trash-talkin’ rockers The Saddle Tramps. By their own description, SCOTS writes songs about dancing, sex and fried chicken. As proof, check out such song titles as “Daddy Was a Preacher, Mommy Was a GoGo Girl,” “8 Piece Box,” “Dirt Track Date,” “The Wet Spot” and “I Learned to Dance in Mississippi.”
For amateur videographers, SCOTS permits videotaping of their concerts (within certain guidelines, see www.scots.com/ tourdates/taping.htm). However, bring a plastic sleeve for the camera, as there is a rumor that the band likes to throw banana pudding (also the name of one of their songs) on the audience.
Miller confirms a part of that rumor as truth.
“Every once in a while a zealous fan, god bless ‘em, will prepare some banana pudding and sometimes there’s enough spoons for everyone and sometimes there’s not,” Miller said.
Ticket prices for Los Straitjackets with Southern Culture on the Skids are $22 for reserved and $25 for the dance floor (no seats, standing room only). You must purchase a $25 ticket to be admitted to the dance floor. For tickets, go to www.janugget.com or call 800-648-1177.