Early in Thursday night's performance by an ad hoc acoustic quartet, of which he is ringleader, Country Dick Montana made a request of the audience at Solos, an acoustic-music showcase that otherwise is the main room of the Mandarin Coast Chinese restaurant in Solana Beach.
"For now, we're calling ourselves the Rebel Alliance Songwriting Consortium," boomed the basso Beat Farmer in a gesture familiar to long-time followers of Montana's extracurricular activities. "But, if you can think of a better name, just write it down on a napkin or something and pass it up to us."
Considering that the Consortium's lineup included the irrepressible Mojo Nixon, Paul Kamanski of Comanche Moon and fellow Farmer Joey Harris, and that the crowd packing the 130-capacity venue was tuned to the group's warped wavelength, Montana's announcement was an invitation to playground scatology and rude ribaldry.
Sure enough, slips of paper coursed to the stage for the next three hours, and as the band members read them aloud between songs, the place filled with hoots and groans. Like the names of over-the-line teams, most of the christenings were of the unprintable variety. The best of the tamer examples included the Sex Boogers, the Dingleberry Desperados and Hillbilly Vanilli.
Judging from the foursome's own interaction and its effect on the liquor-loosened house, however, the quartet might simply have lengthened its original moniker to the Rebel Alliance Songwriting Consortium and Libations Squad. The resulting acronym, RASCALS, would succinctly capture the group's character and its raison d'etre: to have fun making music away from the pressures of their respective obligations.
Just seeing the Rebels take their places on the tiny stage summoned a chuckle. Squeezed together shoulder to shoulder, they looked like the bass section in a seedy prison choir. Proximity to one another facilitated the kind of good-natured goosing and spontaneous high jinks audiences have come to expect from these musical miscreants.
For most of the casually paced concert, the level of subtlety rarely rose above that of a frat-house TGIF party, which suited the crowd just fine. With Montana playing kitchen percussion and accordion and the others strumming acoustic guitars, the Consortium sang saloon tunes, drinking ditties, X-rated shanties, and railroad reveries, and the audience most frequently jumped aboard the lowest-slung material.
They boisterously sang along on a new Nixon song, "Beer Ain't Drinkin'," and gamely joined in on the chorus of "She's All Liquored Up"--a wayward-wife song the Consortium wrote together at its inception three months ago.
Not all of the group's repertoire encouraged merry-making. With his quiet mien and his way with a heartfelt country-folk lament, Kamanski is the Zeppo of this troupe of scalawags. His own "Blue Chevrolet" and "Hollywood Hills"--both of which have been recorded by the Beat Farmers--tempered the concert's runaway rowdiness without dousing its gaiety. Likewise, Harris's rendition of Randy Newman's "A Wedding in Cherokee County" interjected a note of poignancy to the proceedings.
But this well-juiced caboose wasn't about to be derailed by a little sensitivity, especially when Solos' tight confines encourage a carousing camaraderie. At its most provocative, the Consortium creates the atmosphere of a bawdyhouse hootenanny. And they wouldn't have it any other way.
The Rebel Alliance Songwriting Consortium will perform on consecutive Thursdays, Aug . 22 and 29, at Solos, at 221 N . Highway 101 , Solana Beach. If you take Lomas Santa Fe west from I-5, go past the South Cedros Avenue turnoff that would take you to the Belly Up Tavern, continue over the train tracks, turn right on Highway 101, and look left for the Mandarin Coast Restaurant. Cover charge for this group is $5. Reservations are recommended. For more information, call 755-8259 before 6 p.m., and 755-4115 after 6 p.m.