GONERFEST II: Sept. 22-24, Memphis, TN
After a week of scrambling to find a car that could get me and a few friends to Memphis, everything fell into place the day before we planned on leaving. Mikey and Grosso drove down to Bloomington after they punched the clocks on Wednesday. I got off around 10pm that night, and Mikey and Grosso were already at my house ready to hit the road. After a couple goodbyes to roommates and girlfriend we set off towards Memphis, for a long weekend of gettin’ loose and rocking.
Ah, driving down an Indiana state road on a September night with a head full of wind…it was actually kind of unnerving. IN-46 South twists all over the place; there’s absolutely no light and for some reason it was foggy as hell. Besides that, the twenty some miles we spent on IN-46 took over an hour to drive! But whatever, we made it to the interstate and from there on out it was smooth sailing. The drive took around 8 hours, but during that time my mind was occupied with images of bbq’d pork sandwiches (sliced and chopped), ribs, baked beans, fried meats, and beers, keeping me distracted from the tediousness of the interstate and focused on our destination.
We rolled into Memphis a few minutes after 6:00 on Thursday morning. The streets were desolate. I was ready to sleep. We were staying with our friends Drew and Elaine for the weekend. They moved to Memphis from Indiana the week before Gonerfest II with the intention of housing us for the weekend. That, and Elaine got a really good job at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. As we pulled up to their house, Elaine was getting ready to go to work, so it was just the guys for the morning. All I wanted was to drink a beer and pass out. I was pushing 24 hours with only a little sleep in the car and I knew I’d be going at it hard that night. Well, as those things usually go, we drank a twelve pack, waited for the convenience store to open and bought a couple more. Some other Hoosiers showed up and joined in on the early session, and by the time noon rolled around, we were all pretty lit up. Mikey, Grosso and I hadn’t bought our passes ahead of time, so the gang walked up to the Goner store to do some quick browsing and get our passes.
I had not been to the Goner store, but had been to Legba (Greg O’s old store at the same location) a couple times. If I remember correctly, the lay out was about the same, but for some reason Goner seemed a little bigger. I don’t know, by this point in the day I was sleep-deprived and drunk. I grabbed a couple records quickly, paid for them, bought my pass and was back at Drew’s place in less than half an hour. Everybody crashed out before King Louie One Man Band officially kicked off the Gonerfestivities.
DAY 1: And we’re off!
After being roused from my much needed sleep, we headed back to the Goner Store to catch the opening ceremonies. King Louie One Man Band was set to start off Gonerfest proper. The store was fairly crowded when we got there. A couple groups of people were hanging around in front of the store and more had posted themselves up inside. The crowd was thin enough that we had no trouble getting near the spot where Louie had set up his rig, complete with steer horns on top of the bass drum. I cracked a beer open and waited. Within minutes Louie took a seat, strapped on his flying V, Eric O passed out a few bottles of champagne (How’s that for class?), Gonerfest MC Joe Pestilence gave a rousing introduction and Gonerfest was under way. I have to say, for the first couple KLOMB songs I was a little preoccupied with trying to uncork one of the aforementioned champagne bottles passed out by Eric. My morning of fun had left me weak. I was getting the cold sweats, and I could not uncork that damn bottle! It took the efforts of three different people to get the bubbly flowing, but oh how sweet it tasted. After conquering the champagne cork, I settled in for the sounds of KLOMB.
Louie sounded good. He played a mix of songs from the “Jesus loves my…” album and the recently released “Chinese Crawfish” record on Goner. Watching Louie do his thing reminded me of the late, great Hasil Adkins whom I had the pleasure of seeing twice. Louie’s charisma and humor add a lot to his performance, much like the Haze, which makes up for the difficulty of physically rocking out while playing multiple instruments at the same time. How many other bands can get away with taking a phone call on stage—even if it was Mr. Quintron calling? Besides Louie’s humor, the songs were rock solid and energetic making for a great opening to what was to be a great weekend.
After fortifying mind and body back at home base, we headed to the Hi-Tone for the night show. The Hi-Tone is a decent sized club with a 3 foot stage, high ceilings, bar at the back and a couple window air conditioners on the wall perpendicular to the stage. As we came in San Fran’s Killer’s Kiss were setting up. I had time to grab a beer (only $2 for PBR and High Life), and KK were plugged in—right on schedule. I think KK were the loudest band of the weekend, just brutally loud. Two punishing guitars, steady bass thump, pounding drums topped off with an organ garnish. Whereas their single didn’t do much for me, live they sounded great. Some straight-forward garage-y rockers played a little looser than the recordings with some good flares of guitar weirdness over repeated riffs. At one point in the set, both guitar players, bassist, and organist were lined up across the stage like a chorus line, and a fan was blowing the organ player’s hair as the band rocked back and forth. Totally epic! My only complaint is that sometimes (other times the level was fine) the organ was buried under the guitars, and that girl can play, but that’s a minor thing. Other than that the sound levels were great all weekend. I enjoyed KK much more than I thought I would. Check ‘em out live.
Next up was CoCoComa, a last minute replacement for New Orleans’ Detonations. I knew nothing of this boy/girl duo prior to Gonerfest, and what a lovely surprise they were. CCC are a drum and guitar two piece from Chicago. The guy does the drumming and most of the lead vocals, and the girl (also in Headache City) plays guitar, sings some lead and does some dum-dum backing vocals. They have a teetering, open chord sound, played at a decent clip with catchy vocal interplay. The drummer doesn’t always play the predictable beats either and I appreciate that. Really enjoyable. Word is they got a single coming out on Shit Sandwich, so keep your peepers peeled.
Tokyo Electron was slated to play next. This was one of the bands that I was most looking forward to seeing at GFII. The Hi-Tone crowd had filled out considerably, but I was able to get near enough to the stage that I could see TE’s set list. “Make me Bleed” was scrawled at the top of the paper. That got me pretty jazzed because that’s my favorite song from the super great Solid Sex Lovie Doll single. I prepared myself for the expected explosion of the song’s opening riff…and it didn’t happen. The song was toned down, and slowed down like the LP version. Still a great song, but it didn’t kick me in the head like I wanted it too. But, the energy picked up with the second song, the band found their rhythm and the set ended up being excellent and intense. Ryan Wong threw in some between song banter en Espanol, and the bass player sang one in the same language. It was a very multicultural experience and my favorite set of the night.
After Tokyo Electron’s aural assault instrumentalists Impala got on stage. For me, bands without vocals are something that I rarely get into, and when I do, I have to be in a particular mood. With that being said, I spent most of Impala’s set outside cooling off (the Hi-Tone and Memphis in general were really hot all weekend) and smoking. What I did catch sounded great--clear, warm tones, played loud and extremely well. I’m sure Impala fans were not at all disappointed.
The headliner for night one was the Knaughty Knights. Knaughty Knights consists partly of Jack O and Rich from Lost Sounds. I had seen them play at the Blackout in ’04 and this set was pretty similar minus the “Yoouuu guysss are assshooolesss” crowd baiting. Knaughty Knights serve up some garage-pop with some bluesy Stones stuff thrown. Some of it I really liked, mainly the trashier stuff ala the Solid Sex single, while other songs sounded flat and left me cold. I watched the whole set, so they definitely held my attention, but nothing about it really turned my head.
DAY 2: Maintaining
After the Thurday night show, the gang and I went back to Drew and Elaine’s to crash. Friday night was the big one. Carbonas, Lamps, Persuaders, Reatards, and Human Eye are some of my favorite past and current bands. I forewent the Friday afternoon hot dog party and pre-show show at the Goner Store and instead ate at Payne’s (Awesome! They never disappoint), shot pool and drank happy hour beers at the Young Ave. Deli. We rolled back up to the Hi-Tone a few minutes before nine to start night two of the party.
First up for Friday were the Overnight Lows. OL are a three piece punk rock outfit from Jackson, MS and they were my second pleasant surprise of the weekend. Like CoCoComa, I didn’t know anything about OL, but they were great! They reminded me of a slowed-down Krunchies (not just because of the gal bass player) with a touch of Red Kross. Their songs were solid, short blasts of punk rock—nothing too dangerous or serious, just good songs. People will dig these guys once they start getting their shit out there.
Carbonas played next. I didn’t think their now disowned first album was particularly horrible, but since then they have gotten 600% better. Like the Overnight Lows, they write great songs and therefore are a great band. As one internet message board jerkoff wrote, “There’s nothing kookoobanas about the Carbonas.” Well-put. So the Carbonas did their thing by playing super-tight, catchy, and (gasp) melodic punk rock and did it flawlessly. They did quite a few numbers off their newer two singles (get them—one’s on Douchemaster the other on Shattered) and a few off the never-to-be-released second full length. So far Friday night was 2 for 2.
The Lamps occupied slot 3. I believe they were the tallest band of the fest. As expected, the Lamps delivered the goods. Their songs are powered by hypnotic bass and primitive drumming while the guitar slashes, stops and slides at your ear drums. The bass player had some hot moves which consisted of flipping the bass around at the end of songs, some shoulder shimmies and a big ass smile. He looked like he was enjoying himself as much as I was. They closed their set with “Rototiller,” the opener off their In the Red full-length, which capped off the performance nicely.
After the Lamps it was time for another dose of King Louie, this time in the company of the Persuaders. This was another band I was really looking forward to seeing and I’d like to thank F.M.E.A. (Federal Musical Enstrument Association) for making it possible. The Persuaders tore into “Total Reject” to begin the set, and they never let up. Bang! Bang! Bang! Just like that. I think Louie flipped off every member in the audience individually. Any chance he had, the bird flew free. Highlights included hearing the originators of “Heart of Chrome” play said song and all (I think) of the Rock Bottom single. Great songs, great set, great band.
Keeping up with the balls-to-the-wall style of the Persuaders, next came the Reatards. The Reatards are one of my favorite bands from the 90s without a doubt. I took the opportunity to see them at the ’04 Blackout and they owned the show. I hoped for a similar experience this time. Jay and crew were on stage shortly after the Persuaders wrapped it up (the scheduling, set up times etc. were perfect for the entire shindig). Jay tossed a beer bottle towards the back of the crowd. The chatter in the audience all but stopped as the bottle arced through the air and shattered on the floor. The Reatards tore into their set. Jay screamed and jerked through some of the classics, that one about a teenage cum dumpster, “Break down,” and so on. Jay put down the guitar after a while and the band performed a rousing rendition of “Bummer Bitch” and the set ended with a bit of a pile on to the tune of “No One Stands Me” which Jay wrapped up nearly a capella.
Human Eye headlined Friday night. It was everything one would expect. Human Eye’s stage set-up consisted of a lot of silver tubing, attached to a cpr dummy as well as some other weirdness. Every time I see this band it amazes me how tight they are with all the different noises bouncing around. Each song flowed into the next. It was like running into a wall of phaser vocals, cacophonous guitar, and brain damaging bass, drums and synth for 40 minutes--a total mind fuck. Keeping with the sea creature theme of their Blackout set, Timmy played the last couple songs sitting down with a giant fish head stuck on his head stock. After the last song he stood up and whipped the head onto the stage. Friday was an amazing show with a giant fish head exclamation point at the end of it.
After the show we headed (in the back of a pick up) to a house where Kajun SS played. I didn’t see the set, but it sounded decent from outside. Thanks to Punk Rock Pat for the ride!
DAY 3: All Day Rock-a-thon
We got back to home base early Saturday morning. There was a stellar matinee show scheduled for 2pm at the Buccaneer, so we got up, had a delicious breakfast of pork chops and eggs and got ready for the long haul—almost 12 hours of music.
Red coat oppressors, Dirty Ho, were wrapping up as I walked into the Buccaneer. I just missed ‘em, but I did some hardcore investigating for the sake of my article and found the general consensus to be that they were “pretty good.” Take that for what it’s worth.
The Porch Honkees followed Dirty Ho. If you frequent any message board, you’re bound to have read a post by Porch Honkees front man, trash can punk producer, and floor installer Brad X. Brad’s cut off plaid shorts, and way too small Functional Blackouts t-shirt ensemble reminded me of Francis from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” and Brad’s wife, Amber, looked like a cross between a 1920s bank robber and a whorehouse proprietor. Musically they had a trashy, Rip Off Records sound, but with some blistering solos and plenty of backing vocals. They played a great cover of DEVO’s “Mongoloid,” and were entertaining to say the least.
Next was Jay Reatard and Alex Lid’s new project Angry Angles. This was their first show. If you haven’t heard them before, Angry Angles have a fairly simple, Urinals-esque sound (they even cover “Black Hole”) with boy/girl vocals. The sound is toned down from Jay’s other projects and not as trashed out as the Lids, but the tunes are that much more infectious. “You Call it Love” is particularly catchy. Due to an injury, they cut the set short which was a shame. I’m looking forward to hearing more, but until then get their single on Shattered. It’s great!
Digital Leather played after Angry Angles. They were another band that I was psyched to see. They seem to have flown under most people’s radar, especially considering how synth bands blew up there for a second. Well Digital Leather are the real thing. Their dark, minimalist sounds creep in and out without being overstated. They’re subdued, but not boring and I think they impressed quite a few first time listeners at the Buc with their “get you in the guts” synthesizer attack.
The family affair known as the Rat Traps brought the show back around to the trashy punk rock. Joe, April and Jeff played their scuzzy, Reatard/Persuader rock at a break neck speed and included a Dutch Masters cover AND a Queers cover. This was the second time I had seen them and they were totally solid and they’re nice people to boot. Look out for their single coming on Your Permanent Records and something on the Shattered imprint. Total.
Wrapping up the matinee was Memphis’ own Final Solutions. The KBD destruction of Rat Traps drifted over to KBD weirdness as the Final Solutions started. They powered through their set, and apparently Jay wasn’t too hindered by his injury to push those tempos as Zac and the rest of the crew spazzed out to some of the known and unknown hits. As Final Solutions finished up, we ducked out to hit Payne’s for a second time before it closed and to get ready for the final night at the Hi-Tone.
Jenny Jeans had just started as we walked into the Hi-Tone. Apparently this was their last show as the bass player, Talbot, is leaving the band. Jenny Jeans was a four piece and each member sang a couple songs during the set. I’m betting that the member who was singing each song was the member responsible for writing that song. That being said, Jenny Jeans had a wider mix of sounds than most other Gonerfest bands. At times they had a poppier Real Kids feel, Tyler Keith’s songs were a little more rocking, and then, during another song, I would be reminded of the Fells more straight ahead stuff. They played mid-tempo and the backing vocals abounded. Hopefully they’ll do a posthumous release, because like the Overnight Lows, I don’t think too many people outside the south have had the chance to hear them.
The Golden Boys played next. I’m not a die-hard James Arthur fan like some people, but his drumming was what I enjoyed most about the Golden Boys’ set. Arthur hits hard and his playing is inconspicuous, but once you start paying attention to it, it can really draw you in. As far as the Golden Boys as a whole, they were obviously fucked up and enjoying themselves with one guitarist spending equal time on his knees and feet. Not really my thing, but I could appreciate their enthusiasm.
Demon’s Claws were the first Canadian band of the night. There’s a lot of contention over Demon’s Claws. Some people love the album, others don’t. Many of the album haters love the live show. Some like both. I’m personally a big fan of the live show and I thought Demon’s Claws ran off with it Saturday night. They function perfectly as a band. Ysael’s rock steady bass playing gives Serge the chance to slip and stutter a little, while Jeff can fuck around over Pat’s guitar reverb, feedback and slide. They were firing on all cylinders with lots of head shaking and spitting drawl from Jeff. Their set reinvigorated me. I was feeling good. My only regret was that they didn’t play their cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” that drives all the kids crazy.
After Demon’s Claw’s amazing performance came rock veteran Don Howland and His Burning Bush. Don’s backing band was comprised of the Labiators who aren’t too shabby of a band, so I was interested to see what this was going to be like. It ended up being disappointed. Although Don and Co. looked great in their suits, the music came off pretty bland and straightforward. I hoped for some Bassholes fucked-upness, but got nothing but slow, drawn-out, middle-aged songs. I sat for most of this performance and then ran to the gas station to get a Sparks before the Leather Uppers got started.
It seems like the Leather Uppers have a little cult of fervent fans going. I know Eric O is one of them. I hadn’t heard this Toronto two piece before Gonerfest, so naturally I was interested. As the Leather Uppers kicked off, the crowd had thinned out from earlier, but they were non-stop energy with their jumping, shimmying and jerking. After 4 songs they had won the crowd over. The music was spastic and the lyrics dumb, but packed played at full tilt. And this wasn’t a band that freaks out for their first 2 songs, stops and then picks it up for the closer, they were non-stop action! The Leather Uppers were so great that they inspired one audience member to jump off the stage, regrettably to no support from the crowd, but that’s besides the point! Their stupid songs moved people! Oh yea, half way through the set drummer and guitarist switched instruments and continued the fun seamlessly. I’m a fan.
The closer for Friday night and Gonerfest II as a whole was the magnificent Reigning Sound. I love Reigning Sound and have seen them with both the old and new lineup and I like both, although the shows are quite a bit different. Without the organ it Greg relies more on the rocking numbers than the ballads and by 1am Saturday morning who was I to argue. Reigning Sound played a few and then opened up to requests. Whereas at the Blackout some dopes were bitching about them playing for too long, at Gonerfest it seemed like they were done much too soon. Still, Greg’s crooning and the overall greatness of his songs made the end of Gonerfest just right. It only seems fitting that one of Memphis’s favorite sons would wrap up the weekend.
So if you’ve made it all the way through this, I congratulate and thank you. I’d also like to thank Zac and Eric for running Gonerfest II (and the whole Goner entity in general) flawlessly, Drew and Elaine for the floor to crash on, Mikey and Grosso for driving down with me, anybody who gave me anything, Payne’s BBQ, and also to say “hi” to everyone I met and re-met (Harry, Joe and the Novaks, Demon’s Claws, people in the restroom line, etc.) The weekend was great and if you’ve never been to Memphis, make a trip of it sometime. You won’t be disappointed. Catch ya on the flip,
-Lane H. (destroyerfriend-at-hotmail.com)
Pics by Sherry Cardino
Terminal Boredom would like to apologize for the delay in getting this article out there. There were some MP3s Lane sent to accompany the article, but due to the editor's dragging ass the links to them are now dead. Sorry.
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