Among the rednecks

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This highbrow-on-the-low-road schtick is starting to take a toll on the word nymph you see before you. It's become all too apparent that my plastic wit and bottle blond tufts are just vain attempts at burying the truth, which is this: I, ladies and gentlemen, am a redneck.

Check the facts: My first concert was Charlie Daniels, my first memory was hunting squirrels, and I know all of the words to the "Kenny and Dolly Once Upon a Christmas" album, even today. When nobody's watching I'm a fetal-position rag doll who finds meaning in the paeans of CMT. Hell, I'm even dating an ex-football player from the mountains of northwest Georgia. I am a redneck cheerleader. Please kill me.

Fitting, then, that I should find myself early to the grand redneck debacle of the "Billy Raye Circus" at Eight Seconds on this glorious Sunday afternoon. The beau in tow is already asking whether or not he should "kick somebody's ass" should they approach my curious frame, while I'm literally whistling "Dixie" in my white-trash, mint-julep stumble.

Almost up the river and sort of through the woods, Jim Faherty meets me at the gate and sneaks me, tellingly, through the back door.

"Golly Jim, your hair looks grayer than usual."

"I'm old," he grunts. "And I'm bitter."

Not me. For the moment I'm still a cheerleader, even though some startling memories of when this place might or might not have been The Edge (and I might or might not have been hallucinogenically upturned, chewing on other peoples shoulders and barking like a dog) are starting to flatten my hair. No worries, though. I'm a redneck now.

Initially I walk around looking for my sister, Irony. Only, she's nowhere to be found. Instead an urban-cowboy ethic of 10-gallon hats, beer guts and rebel-flag cell phones prevails, as does a palpable sense of powder-keg aggression that leads from the front door all the way to the pulled-pork booths in the back. So with all of the elegance of a deer in crosshairs, I shift away to the upstairs corner recess of the venue for a distant gaze at the Hindu Cowboys' set.

Faherty, competing with the pulled pork for ham value, creeps up to the stage to deliver a message. Then he creeps away again.

"Our good friend Jim Faherty wants to hear 'Folsom Prison Blues'," twangs Hindu Joseph Martens. "Some of you might know why. I wouldn't want him to go up the river without hearing it. He's been humming it a lot lately."

Predictable? Sure. But nonetheless very Orlando. As are Jessy and Melissa Raye, the pint-sized follow-up duo that is being somewhat suspiciously endorsed by Real Radio's Monsters of the Mid-day. One plays the fiddle while wearing plastic heels, the other smudges her best Shania over rote boogie-lite. And her thong is popping up over the sides of her jeans, a fact not lost on myself and my snide clique of cheerleader friends slowly gathering to sneer.

"This song is about what's going on right now," they introduce, before laying into a self-empowering chorus that goes, "That's life, hold on to what you got."

No. This is death. Run!

The "Fiddlin' Boobs," as one friend calls them, are being videotaped by no less than four cameras in the possession of some scary men, something no doubt inspired by the extremely fickle Bubba "Whoop-Ass" Wilson's appraisal of the Rayes as "the next big thing out of Orlando." Ahem. Maybe I'm just jealous.

I creep down to their merch table, where Jessy and Missy are signing photos and smiling.

"Great show!" I lie through my grinding teeth.

"What?" purrs Jessy, oblivious. "You want a picture?"

"Um, no." I smile. I want a life.

Which is precisely why I amble outside in avoidance of Bubba's moonlighting gig as a country crooner. Two songs in and it's already gay epithets a-ringing, presumably in an inclusive gesture. Something about letting homosexuals love homosexuals pours from the speaker. "Fuck the homosexuals," spits a belly just two seats away. Oh take me!

A Doors cover follows, as a depressing gaggle of stringy-haired belt buckles gathers at the front of the stage to sing along: "I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer." By now, Irony has arrived in the form of Orlando's downtown haircut elite, most of which are waiting for the return appearance of the unintentionally funny Hank Williams III. Having been fortunate enough to exchange sundry expletives with said offspring just last week -- for just this paper -- you might say that I've had my fill of ol' Hank. Still, I stick around to see if maybe, just maybe, Hank can catalyze my true redneck reconversion. Or at least to see if he's as cute as his picture.

"Fuck Curb Records" reads the banner overhead, trying a bit too hard. Rebellion is rarely buoyed by pre-ordered overstatement. But on stage Hank's a charming cutout of his grandfather, all piss and vinegar, proclaiming his drunkenness for effect. In other words, I love him.

"Let's go!" I order my date. I'm redneck enough. You want my picture?

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