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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Snow can't stop S.P.I.T.T.L.E.

SPITTLE Fest 2000 The Brewery, Raleigh, N.C. Jan. 27-29, 2000

By Andy Turner

RALEIGH, NC - A huge, 20-inch snowstorm may have stranded the Montreal Canadians in town, but the deluge could not stop the Brewery's Southern Plunge into Trailer Trash Leisure & Entertainment (S.P.I.T.T.L.E.) 2000.

The annual three-day festival celebrates the pleasures of twang, rock, all-you-can-eat barbecue and cheap beer (Pabst Blue Ribbon was a sponsor, according to local wrestler/MC for the evening Major DeBeers).

Night one got started with the Chicken Wire Gang, who managed to perform a fairly lively set despite the sparse early crowd. Boasting accordion and organ, the quartet offered an eclectic mix of music that at times sounded like everyone from They Might Be Giants to the Texas Tornadoes.

Greensboro, N.C.'s True Brothers Jacky and Roger hit the stage in shiny pink coats. Bizarrely corny, the True Brothers played guitar and sang along to prerecorded music of country classics like Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here" and Ernest Tubb's "Walking the Floor Over You." With Roger as the straight man, Jacky pretended like there was a band playing behind him, talking to the "players" when it was time for steel guitar and fiddle parts of songs. But in between the bad jokes and semi-bad karaoke, Jacky showed an encyclopedic knowledge of country music, noting recording dates and record labels and explaining the history behind the songs. Good? No. Interesting? Certainly.

After the True Brothers drove a good part of the crowd away to seek barbecue or distance from their music, Athens, Ga.'s Star Room Boys brought the audience back. Minus guitarist Philip McArdle, missing in action because of the snow, the Boys still played a perfect set of hard honky tonk, featuring mostly songs from the highly-praised "Why Do Lonely Men and Women Want to Break Each Other's Hearts?" Added bonuses were the band's only prison song, "Bars and Stone" and a couple of covers, including lead singer Dave Marr's superb rendition of Moe Bandy's "Don't Anyone Make Love at Home Anymore."

Chapel Hill, N.C.'s Two Dollar Pistols, also missing a member, concluded the evening. Led by John Howie Jr., the Pistols sound somewhat similar to the Star Room Boys, but on this night, the Georgia boys outdid their Tar Heel friends. However, Marr and Howie each performed songs with the other's bands, including a furious take on Lefty Frizzell's "She Gone, Gone, Gone."

Big Dixie kicked off night two, but refused to act like an opening act. The Wilmington/Raleigh band play rowdy, unapologetic outlaw country rock. Highlights included covers of Steve Earle's "Mercenary Song" and a hell-raising honky tonk version of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls" that incorporated "Amazing Grace," "I Saw the Light" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

Up next and not to be confused was Big Joe. Getting the crowd on their side from the beginning by handing out oversized foam purple cowboy hats, Big Joe displayed lots of loud guitars and enough smoke effects to choke Great White.

The Accelerators were a late addition to the lineup. The local legends, masters of power pop and roots-rock since the early 80's, have a new CD on Yep Roc due soon. In addition to playing songs from that new release, the Accelerators offered up band classics like "Ooh-Wee."

Proving their good live reputation is well earned, the Ex-Husbands backed up their confident swagger with plenty of good music country or otherwise. The band with the perfect country name has a lead singer with a perfect country voice, Anders Thomsen, who shakes his ass and everything else as much as or more than Dwight Yoakam much to the enjoyment of many crowd members. The Husbands ended their set with covers of "War Pigs" and a New York Dolls-inspired version of Bo Diddley's "Pills," before launching into their own "I'm a Honky."

So, after a full night of rowdy and raunchy men, sweet-voiced Tift Merritt and the Carbines ended night two with a quiet and subtle set. Wearing a red dress, Merritt seemed shy and reserved whenever she spoke to the audience, but belted out song after a song with an amazing voice that shows why Sugar Hill Records is interested in signing her. Despite the recently released duets CD Merritt did with Howie and The Two Dollar Pistols, they didn't perform together even though on night one Jacky of the True Brothers kept insisting that "Tiffie" Merritt and the Pistols were coming on next. But it was not to be. Night three: reviewer split town as approaching second storm made him fear he would end up like professional hockey team. The Stelle Group, Phil Lee and the Sly Dogs, Duane Jarvis, Drive By Trickers, Trailer Bride, and The Backsliders were slated to perform.