ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 6, 2003
By Steve Newton
Bands like Nashville Pussy and Southern Culture on the Skids came to prominence pushing the white-trash, hicks-from-hell angle, but there’s a new batch of inbreds in town, and they’re called White Cowbell Oklahoma. These Toronto-based hooligans have a shot at taking over the world of trailer-park boogie-rock, mainly because there’s so many of them—at last count the lineup boasted 10 members.
And—as a phone call to WCO spokesman Clem reveals—their live show is a mite crazier than the competition’s.
“It’s more than a rock ’n’ roll performance!” declares Clem from the group’s van in Edmonton. “It’s more like something to do with a religious enlightenment! It’s sort of like getting assaulted in your mind and in your senses and in your groin, and it creates this effect with the audience and they just can’t help themselves—they go hog wild! They start drinkin’, they start drug-takin’, they start fornicatin’—right there on the floor, right in front of the stage. They start takin’ their clothes off on the stage, they throw their clothes at us—hopefully they’re women’s clothes. It’s crazy! This is not no rock ’n’ roll performance, this is a battle, this is a war of attrition against boredom and shit!”
According to the ensemble’s current bio, a Cowbell show includes wet–T-shirt contests, fried chicken, fire breathing, livestock, and a “Mexican midget henchman”. Wait a sec…better scratch that last entry.
“He passed away, sadly,” explains Clem downheartedly. “It was in a bizarre go-cartin’ accident, a go-cart designed and manufactured by our drummer, who’s actually got a kind of funny side to him, so I think it was a funny little joke. Anyways, the poor little guy, he blew up all over the track, and it ruined a lotta little kids’ day. But we had a good laugh.”
Clem asserts that the Cowbell experience is infectious, and that it has already ensnared several notable Canadian rockers—if you can call the Barenaked Ladies rockers.
“A couple of them have actually performed with us, bangin’ the cowbell, because they envied our phallic magnificence,” he proclaims. “And [Tragically Hip drummer] Johnny Fay also coveted our manliness and our just magnificent, uh, repetitive, rhythmic, um, just magnificence. I like that word today.” What about Hip vocalist Gordon Downie? “I think he was around,” notes Clem, “but he’s a bit too intellectual for us. We are not into that. We are the antidote to intellectualism, we’re into pure primal expression and uh, uh, exaltation.”
Interested parties (aka freaks) can check out the band when it plays the Royal on Friday (February 7) and Studebaker’s on Saturday (February 8). And if you really like WCO, you can head on down to Austin, Texas, in mid-March when it plays the South by Southwest conference and festival with rude-rock cohorts Nashville Pussy.
“We like what they do, but we do it better,” shouts Clem, “because we got the numbers, and we are not afraid to die in our war of attrition against useless nonsense.”
It doesn’t hurt its cause that the Cowbell can station nine guitarists on-stage, as opposed to the Pussy’s scant two.
“That’s six more than Skynyrd,” brags Clem, “and they keep comin’—it’s an assault. We ain’t gonna give up till we’ve destroyed everything, and there’s just cinders lyin’ around, and you just hear a toot-toot-toot of that cowbell as it just keeps on thumpin’.”
Consider yourself warned.