French Kiss-Off

SFKS bids adieu.

They came. They saw. They broke up. And now they're back... for one night, anyway. After disbanding several months ago, the Secret French Kissing Societyis regrouping for a final reunion — a farewell to the band's main man, Stavros Polentas, who's moving to New York City on July 1. From the time the band formed in early 2004 to the time it unraveled at the end of 2005, SFKS earned itself a sizable fanbase, most notably theHoneycomb.com's Steve Rullman and Purple Skunk Records, which released the band's 2005 full-length album, First Blood. The final show will feature the band's original lineup of Polentas, bassist Jessie Steele, and drummer Chuck Britzmayr.

Outtakes:So why are you moving to New York? Is it purely music-related?

Polentas:I was going to move there several years ago but ended up going to Athens, Greece, instead; that's where my family lives. New York's a lot like Athens, as far as the big-city aspect of it, and I'm really into urban life. I figure if I want to try to play in the big leagues, I'll try my luck in the Big Apple. Also, aesthetically, I'll be happy. I'm pretty miserable living in South Florida, in the suburbs.

"No! Sleep! Till Brooklyn!"
"No! Sleep! Till Brooklyn!"
"When's NASCAR come on?"
"When's NASCAR come on?"
Mike Gorman

So you lived in Greece for a while?

I lived there a lot as a kid growing up. I moved to the States around the time I started middle school. I moved back to Greece in 2000, then moved back here in November 2003. Most of the songs on our album I wrote when I was living in Greece. I did home demos when I was out there. I had a group in Greece, so when I moved back here, I started looking for a new band immediately.

What was it like playing in Greece?

Everyone's more interested in things they haven't heard before. In the States, it's hard to get people to give you a chance if you're new. But in Athens, they're always looking for something new. It's not like here, where half the place is noisy and rowdy, drinking beer, and trying to pick up chicks. People go to see the bands play.

Are you planning to form a new band?

For the first time in a while, I'm not sure if I want to tie myself to a band. I think I'd rather make a record on my own. It's easiest to go to New York counting on just myself. I could always meet some kids up there to play bass and drums, so I can form a new group. But I've been listening to records by songwriters lately — Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Daniel Johnston. I'd like to make a record in that vein.

What are your plans, musically, once you hit NYC?

I have a bunch of new songs I'm really excited about. I'm really dying to make a new record. One thing I really want to do is, I've been talking to [Mark] Kramer, who is a pretty big producer — he produced Daniel Johnston, Galaxy 500, Lou Reed, Urge Overkill, the Butthole Surfers. He runs the Shimmy-Disc label. Anyway, he sent me an e-mail saying we should make a record together. We've been talking back and forth a lot. I'm really hoping something with that pans out. Other than that, I have some friends in New York who play in bands, so I'm hoping to plug myself into the network up there.

There's got to be some stuff you'll miss about South Florida, right?

I've met a lot of really cool people in the music scene down here — kids who come to shows, other bands, promoters. That's why I always liked playing here. At a certain point, I stopped seeing local shows as getting me anywhere. I realized, "This will be it." It's more about having a good time, seeing friendly faces. I'm sure I'll be back in town sometime. I've been back to Greece, and I'm sure I'll be back here sometime — to play shows with all my old friends. Jason Budjinski

Secret French Kissing Society performs its final reunion show Thursday, June 29, at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Admission costs $5. Call 561-832-9999, or visit www.respectablestreet.com.Redneck Renaissance

Don't look now, but in Nashville, there's a new moon (pie) on the rise. The big-city glitz and suburban kitchen-sink melodrama of Shania Twain and all those sensitive hot-tub and sippy-cup milquetoast wusses are out, and rollicking tunes about Busch beer, four-wheeling down at the mudhole in your honkin' new Chevy 4X4, and dipping Copenhagen are in.

Or so the bevy of redneck-themed songs on the charts would lead one to believe. And it all got jump-started when Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" hit the charts like a two-ton pickup truck.

Country is no longer about domestic, suburban tranquility, as it was just a couple of years ago. Today, it's all hard-drinking women and no-bullshit men. And no longer are rednecks painted as villains, as they often were in such 1970s songs as "Redneck Mother," or as critters to be tolerated only when they were modified somehow — by the fact that they had long hair or smoked pot, say — as they were in 1970s classics by Charlie Daniels, Hank Jr., and David Allan Coe.

Though rednecks have been a stock figure of country music since at least 1970 — and there was a peak of Redneck Chic around the time Jimmy Carter was president and Burt Reynolds was still a matinee idol — they have never truly been celebrated just as they are, in all their barefoot, Mountain Dew-swilling, NASCAR-watching glory.

Or at least that's the way the people who write these songs would have you believe rednecks are. Some are better at it than others. "Boondocks" — the super-smarmy Little Big Town hit — is God-awful. It's a standard "I'm proud of where I come from" statement, but it's absolutely rife with clichés — there's "muddy water in my veins," a midnight train, fishin' in the crawfish hole, a tin roof, a gravel road, and, of course, a front porch. Gretchen Wilson, on the other hand, nailed it on "Redneck Woman" — right down to claiming an encyclopedic knowledge of Tanya Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Hank Jr. Likewise, her delivery is convincing and infectious. And that's because Wilson was, in fact, raised as a redneck, just like she sang in the song.

Wilson speaks for many a Southern gal when she sings, "No, I can't swig that sweet champagne/I'd rather drink beer all night." Perhaps you can relate — guys too. John Nova Lomax

Gretchen Wilson performs with the Shannon Lawson Trio and Jimmy Barret on Thursday, June 29, at the Hard Rock Live, 5747 Seminole Way, Hollywood. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $50 to $100. Call 954-523-3309, or visit www.ticketmaster.com.

Tweedy Cutlet

Once upon a time, guys like Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons blended the earthy honesty of country with the electric dynamics of rock. In the process, they created a genre that has (with few exceptions) stood the test of time.

The '90s saw a revival, led by Uncle Tupelo. When Tupelo disbanded, thanks undoubtedly to the megalithic egos of those involved, one ego went on to form Wilco. The other ego, Jay Farrar, spawned his own equally uninteresting band, Son Volt.

But where Farrar faded into the obscurity he so richly deserved, Wilco has grown with each increasingly dull release to become one of the most popular purveyors of indie rock in the land.

As its albums get progressively sillier and more "artistic," Wilco's popularity grows exponentially in inverse proportion to its musical value. How does a band that excels at so little mean so much to so many?

In Wilco's documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Jeff Tweedy's insurmountable arrogance exposes itself, as he tells Jay Bennett (who has since left the band) that they should hold back on guitar solos because they "aren't really that important" anymore. Tweedy's is the land of sappy pop, mindless noodling, and pretentious "experiments" that are really, at heart, nothing more than the work of a marginally interesting artist. And that's on a good day.

If Tweedy got little or no airplay in college-radio circles, this would be superfluous. But the band is a darling of soul-patchers and chain-walleters everywhere. It's the mysterious adoration of Tweedy's every flatulent outburst that finds the rest of us flailing, razor in hand, at the engorged heart of this sacred cow. To the slaughterhouse with you, Wilco! John Cramer

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