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Rude Street Peters

Friday, April 21, 10 p.m.

Patrick Sullivan's Saloon

Don't Try This at Home

Rude Street Peters' explosive mix of country and punk

by John Sewell

Not many people would have seen the similarity 20 years ago, but punk rock and country music really have a lot in common. Both forms rely on the standard vocals, guitar, bass, and drums configuration, attitude is often favored over technical virtuosity, and both styles are allegedly played by and for the common man. This correlation is even more evident when you face the unavoidable truth that (like it or not) punk rock, like country music, is a traditional style with an established subculture and dress code. So cross pollination between the two camps was inevitable, especially here in Appalachia.

That's where Knoxville's Rude Street Peters come into the picture. Formed over a decade ago, the band is basically a bunch of punk-rock beer-drinkin' buddies who like to get together and jam just for the sheer hell of it. Through the years, the 'Peters have acquired a reputation of being the rowdiest partiers in town. And though the party angle is still as important as ever, their garage approach to punk and country sounds has solidified into quite a competent and entertaining unit. It's as if Hank Williams, Jr.'s "Family Tradition" has come to life in the punk-rock slums of redneck Knoxville.

Singer Mike Mull and guitarist Beau Wadsworth are the Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious (or Waylon and Willie if you prefer) of the band. The duo has played together for over 15 years, first in a scary little punk combo called The Screaming Hawthornes. Once the Hawthornes had run their course, Wadsworth and Mull continued playing together, eventually morphing into the Rude Street Peters. They are abetted in the band by bassist Rick Shelton, guitarist Steve Mull (Mike's brother) and "new" drummer Scott Davis. With the exception of Davis, who has been in the band for two years, the original lineup of the band is intact.

"Scott's the only person in the band that wasn't there from the very beginning," explains Wadsworth. "That's as new as it gets."

"I can't really say when the band started because I can't put a finger on exactly when we became a band," says Mull. "For a long time we were just messing around. Somebody would come by and play, then somebody else. And the next thing you know there was enough of us to be a band. I think we were doing some crap as early as 1988, but it wasn't really a band."

Mull says that the addition of Davis on drums is key to the band's newfound musical stability. "Scott's cool, and he's really helped out a lot," says Mull. "Carl [the former drummer] just had to quit—it's not like we ever would have asked him to quit. Hell, if talent was what they were looking for in this band, I'd be the first one to go. It ain't got nothing to do with that, but it's nice having a really good drummer now. I don't have to worry as much."

In their decade as a unit, the 'Peters have released a seven-inch record and a number of cassettes. Presently, their music can be heard on the website. The band's voice of reason and chief cerebral presence, Wadsworth serves as webmaster for the site, which is constantly updated.

Now a family man with two kids and his own business, Wadsworth says that, for him, the party angle of the band has abated somewhat. "I'm married, I'm older, I definitely don't party as hard as I used to," he says. "For me it's more about playing music and having a good time. If everybody that comes to the show gets drunk as a skunk and has a great time, that's fine."

Mull, on the other hand, has not slowed his alcohol and substance intake one iota. "I'm not slowing down one bit," he says. "I mean, the audience comes and they get all f—-ed up, and we have to get all f—-ed up too so we'll be on the same wavelength. So when we play, we may screw up. But everybody still hollers and likes it and crap like that.

"I mean, alcohol is definitely a huge, huge part of it for me," Mull continues. "I don't know if I could continue in the band if, for some medical reason or whatever, I had to stop drinking. You show up, it's a party and it's fun. I mean, shit..."

Rude Street Peters shows are as much of a bacchanal as a musical performance. And sometimes fans can get a little bit carried away. Performances are often punctuated by spilled beer, slam dancing and even nudity by audience members.

"I think playing with GG Allin was probably one of the weirdest shows we ever did," says Mull. "I mean, I was up there making fun of him and all he did was throw a lemon at me. I was making up these lyrics about him and, next thing you know, a lemon comes flying down from his dressing room. In retrospect, I think it was pretty good that it was just a lemon. I think he was saving up the good stuff for his show.

"Another time Roblyn [an infamous post-op transsexual hereabouts] took off all her clothes 'cause she wanted me to wear her dress," Mull continues, laughing. "I wadded it up and threw it in the back and she had to walk through there butt-naked, hunting for her dress. that was pretty funny. I mean, if it ain't a little bit crazy at our shows, I get disappointed. But I can't think of anything that's ever happened that was that goddamn nutty.

"We played at the Tomato Head one time, and David Chambers came out and said, 'Man, there's some old people in here. This is gonna be so funny—they'll hear you guys and they're gonna shit.' So I go in there and it was my parents!"

March 30, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 13
© 2000 Metro Pulse