GONERFEST 15 is shaping up to be an extraordinary festival. And just writing this is awfully redundant because every single one of them since the first one in 2005 has showcased the very best rock ‘n roll performers who are revered not just around the US, but also across the entire world. Pretty deep. I’m saying this not as someone who is an OG Memphis pilgrim, but as someone who has gone yearly since 2015 and has admired the label’s appetite for raw rock ‘n roll (garage/punk) for as long as KLYAM has been around. Describing GONERFEST to those who are entirely unfamiliar always makes for interesting conversation. Picture a music festival that draws people from Denmark, Australia, Los Angeles, you name it. But imagine the headlining shows at a 400 capacity venue and the afterparties (which can go well past 4 AM) at a tiny dive bar packed with crowds more than ready to continue the live music party. Giorgio Murderer closing out the weekend at Murphy’s. You can’t really top that. Anyway, here is who I am particularly excited to see:
CARBONAS – Who knew recommending a band in 2010 could be so incendiary? I know I made so many people mad on Terminal Boredom for liking contemporary 2010 bands (aw shucks being only a toddler in ’93). Well the haters can stay at home and listen to their obscure, limited press color 45s while I jam out to Carbonas at The Hi-Tone on Saturday night. No ‘pausing, extra lean straight-ahead move-out-of-the-way rock ‘n roll. I always connected with this, but thought seeing them live was out of the question considering their lengthy time not releasing new music. But with an album like Carbonas (released by Goner), it makes perfect sense to stop there…in a good way.
OBLIVIANS – It seems like I must’ve seen Oblivians, but nope this will be the first time. Seen Jack O, seen Reigning Sound, seen Greg, but the greatest group of the bunch that also features Goner owner Eric O? That will be Friday night at the Hi-Tone. I can’t really add much original thought to the highly influential legacy of this Memphis band. Super catchy AND super raw and noisy. I’m still angry that I left a CD copy of Best of the Worst bought from Bobby Hussy in Madison, Wisconsin in a Rent-A-Car in Chicago. Hopefully someone found it and started a band.
COBRA MAN – My Cobra Man obsession took on new heights this winter as I found myself playing their New Driveway Soundtrack almost daily. I think their charm is similar to the charm that gets me going when I listen to DEVO and the B-52’s, but this Cobra Man I tell ya is a bit more showy, club-ready (and still quite nerdy). The production is so crisp with really thick groovy basslines that shine through and bring these songs to the penthouse when they could have easily stayed in the basement bedroom or garage. I saw them play at Murphy’s during the daytime Saturday Blowout (amazing), but am even more excited to see this duo light up the darkened walls of the Hi-Tone on Friday night.
GENTLEMEN JESSE – Woah is me. The first band to really hurt my eardrums back when I was relatively new to going to loud rock and roll shows was Gentlemen Jesse and His Men. 2009 opening for Black Lips at Middle East Down (in case you’re keeping track). Now, Jesse will be performing a solo set at Memphis Made. To go back to the previous point – the hurt eardrums wasn’t a bad thing. I enjoyed the music greatly. Pop rock, or power-pop they might call it. But not so super wimpy as those two words might make a purist weep or some bullshit like that.
NOTS – Goner mainstays and KLYAM favorites. Time Warp Weekends, too. Want a band that wastes no time with what they’re doing? Shouted, repetitive lyrics, with the kind of dynamic instrumentation that for lack of a better phrase is as if we’ve been blessed with the Greatest Hits of the Goner label all packed into one band. Take a minute for that. They’ll be playing Saturday night at the Hi-Tone.
SICK THOUGHTS – Like Oblivians, like Carbonas, Sick Thoughts just knows how to write a banger of a raw rock ‘n roll song without wasting any time. Album after album. Single after single. Put on any Sick Thoughts and you can be guaranteed you will start to immediately do whatever your signature “I’m really feeling this song” move is. Catch ’em right before Oblivians on Friday night.
HARLAN T. BOBO – Not going to lie, do I know much about Harlan T. Bobo? Very little and I am talking about his music. Apparently he is fairly mysterious as well, but Goner has lent their full support to what I am only guessing is a Memphis legend. I don’t know where to start, but maybe his Thursday night Hi-Tone show may be just the right kind of live introduction?
MORE TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!!