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Sleazefest '03: An appreciation 

"[In Nashville] we have Fanfair. You all have Sleazefest. You win."

----"Colonel" J.D. Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers

No matter what size it takes on, you just can't do all of Sleazefest.

At one time a love of hotrods, Bettie Page burlesque pictures, tattoos of flames and stripped-down rock 'n' roll was called "Custom Culture." How about "Rat Fink Kulture," after the model kits I assembled as a brat? When he's not leading the ho' down for Southern Culture on the Skids, Rick Miller appears to be morphing into "Big Daddy" Roth, the creator of '60s hot rods like The Outlaw and The Beatnik Bandit. Roth didn't accept cars the way Detroit made them and Sleazefest doesn't accept "popular music" the way it's made today, either. As host, Dave Robertson is our Ed Sullivan, presenting a "variety show" of music styles and entertainment.

On Friday, The Forty-Fives lubed my ears for The Paybacks. Dressed modishly, Wendy Case can remind you of Courtney Love's better vocals, but without the big bill for psychiatric services.

Jack Oblivian's project The Knaughty Knights were raw, unfinished and unfiltered. They looked like day laborers whose music collection is the one Standells album.

S.C.O.T.S. had songs from their upcoming album. What got me hot was Rick's renewed interest in surf guitar and Mary's cover of Irma Thomas' "You Ain't Hit Nothin'". Oooh-wee.

Saturday stuffed your noggin' with music like a kielbasa. I described Bleed last week as "embraces '50s and '60s rock 'n' roll." But they're not some museum act. Maybe someday we can consider "60s rock 'n' roll" the same way we say "Asian cuisine?"

Dexter Romweber keeps getting better. I know his sound was so stripped down to begin with. But I've never seen him so self-assured and interested in the material at the same time. I saw more possibilities for Dexter that night than anyone's ever given him credit for.

The Woggles have played every Sleazefest. They do so this year without guitarist George Montague Holton III. We mock death when we rock with the Woggles.

Sunday was hot. When I stepped in on The Dynamite Brothers doing their love songs to a retina-throbbing psychedelic light show, I knew I came here to feed my head. The girls dancing in the cage were perfect. Nice enough to take home to mother, sleazy enough toÉ well, dance in a cage, right? And this DJ Honey Machine. This is a family paper, but this guy is the shit. He curates funk and soul and spins dusty grooves like "Buzz Saw." 'Nuff said!

The "other entertainment" was the post-modern burlesque of The Rebelles on Sunday. I thnk I saw some feminists in the audience; how cool is that? Yes, we saw tassles fly and pasties shine. Together.

The "surprise guest" was James Mathus and His Knock Down Society. Just off the road, they choogled a down-and-dirty North Mississippi-Leadbelly blues rock kind of sound that you can dance to. There's no choice. It's the way the drummer uses a tambourine to slam his tom-tom.

Dagnabbit, I didn't even hit The Cave until Sunday. Mondo Topless was putting in a swirling Vox organ-splattered set of tingly dementia. Then there's Hellion----three attractive women in fantasy gear. The Easy Student on piano, the Catholic School Girl on bass 'n' trumpet and The Lingerie Model on harp. What's with the guy on the drum? It was, at best, like some kind of avant-garde in-joke. The Lingerie harpist was so charming and funny in her chatter that I'll take the advice of Groucho Marx and come back again to see what develops...

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