For lovers of rock & roll, especially the more DIY punk variety, Gonerfest is one of the great weekends of the year. Set against the backdrop of Memphis, Tennessee, it’s an annual pilgrimage for many. Not only is it typically an A+ lineup, but there is often little correlation with the standard festival circuit. It feels much more curated and based on what the folks at Goner Records want to present. With the exception of The Black Lips and perhaps Nots, most of the bands are relatively cult/fringe, or at least not selling out auditoriums or playing Coachella.
Here are my highlights of Gonerfest 13:
This Columbus band features veteran frontman Ron House and members of Times New Viking. They play Midwest punk rock that could easily fit in on a Killed By Death comp. The band had great live presence and was an early highlight of the weekend.
Fred & Toody
Fred and Toody Cole have been the heartbeat of a number of bands over the years, including Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows. They are DIY rock & roll lifers who go back to the 1960s. There is a lot of history to this music and it’s performed with great intensity and a lot of soul and sincerity. I think they were the loudest band of the weekend, which is remarkable considering their instrumentation was only guitar and bass.
Reigning Sound is essentially what I wish every “bar band” actually sounded like. The band plays a great mix of rock & roll and R&B that is highly influenced by the legacy of Memphis music. The writing is on par with the best of them. The original lineup from the early 2000s played. This version of the band had some great harmonies and interplay and performed on some of their best known material.
I’ve seen this band several times now and they are always great. A vaguely psychedelic take on the kind of punk one has come to expect from Goner Records. Very anthemic and driving, often times reminiscent of Lost Sounds…owing a bit to that band’s synthy, dark sound and vocal style.
A great band with a simple formula, Power stole the fest for a lot of people. These Australians definitely have a 70’s throwback sound that could be placed somewhere between Motorhead, AC/DC and Hawkwind. A winning combination if you ask me. Along with Counter Intuits, Sick Thoughts and Control Freaks, they had one of the most magnetic stage presences.
The Blind Shake
This is a super tight Midwest punk band that puts on an insanely great live show every time. I’ve written about them here before, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Archie and the Bunkers
These teenagers from Cleveland seemed to be one of the more highly anticipated bands of the festival. I could hardly get in the room to see them. They are a synth and drums duo that couldn’t have been more obvious about their love for The Damned (and by that I mean one of them dressed up like Captain Sensible and they also covered “Neat Neat Neat”). Very hard to argue with their sound, which was an equal part 90’s Mummies-esque Garage Rock and first wave Punk.
Rooted in post punk and experimental indie rock, The World stood out as one of the more unique sounding bands at Gonerfest. Sort of funky with echoes of Kleenex or an unpolished B-52’s without Fred Schneider. Great interplay among the different instruments, including sax and timbales.
As an Austinite, I’m no stranger to Spray Paint. They are one of the city’s most prolific and distinctive bands; certainly one of my favorites. They’ve achieved a fair amount of recognition for their sound which features discordant, repetitive guitars parts, dual vocals with abstract and weirdly clever lyrics, and drums that are primitive in spirit but complicated enough to keep you on edge. Somehow it’s very catchy in spite of virtually nothing in the formula pointing to that.
Rip Off Records owner Greg Lowery (also of Supercharger, The Rip Offs and Zodiac Killers) fronts this band alongside Natalie Sweet. They had the best stage banter of any band (closest competition was King Louie and DD Owen’s Iron Head). If you’re familiar with Rip Off Records, you probably have a decent idea of Control Freaks’ sound: straight up, unpretentious garage rock that isn’t concerned with what you think. It’s very fun to watch.
Other greats from the weekend: Buck Biloxi, Chook Race, Trampoline Team, Couteau Latex, Sick Thoughts, Oh Boland, Kool 100s, MC Tom Sharpling
– Submitted by Justin Main, Music Design