Tuesday, September 29, 2009

AFS v. 238 ~ Gonerfest 6 Recap

After Gonerfest 6, I'm terribly jetlagged from the flight back home from Memphis, a city where people take time to say hello and chat up total strangers. It's not so much that people there are lazy, but in the muggy metropolis by the Mississippi, moving fast or vigorously will only get you soaked in sweat, and when you've got a nice buzz on and a belly fulla BBQ brisket, it's better to just be cool and make friends with strangers. The festival was sonically superb, the partying was epic, and the food lived up to legend. Midway through day two, we were already making plans to return for Gonerfest 7. Who's playing? Doesn't matter...we wanna go (and bring a big Sacto/Davis contingent maybe) 'cos surely it'll rule! I'll tell you all about it below this week's playlist, but right about now, I want you to know one thing...if you're within half a day's drive to Sacramento or Davis, you should come out to KDVS presents...Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom VIII fest on Saturday, October 3, from 2-10pm at Plainfield Station in the boonies between Davis and Woodland. I guarantee it'll be at least a 200% return on the cheap admission dollar rate!

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CHEATER SLICKS | I've Been Had | On Your Knees | Gawdawful 1989
CIRCLE PIT | Everybody Left | Everybody Left 7" | R.I.P. Society *new
KITCHEN'S FLOOR | Twenty-Two | Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress | R.I.P. Society *new
GIBSON BROS | Sugartail Rock | Big Pine Boogie | Okra 1987
BASSHOLES | Fear and a Hand Full of Sand | Haunted Hill | In the Red 1995
BASSHOLES | Hey O.J. | Hey O.J. 7" | In the Red 1995
MOM | Monkey's Smuckle | Smells Like Dirty Dog Dicks 7" | Grotesque Modern *new
GARY PANTER + JAY COTTON | God Save the Queen | One Hell Soundwich | Savage Pencil 1989
STREETS OF RAGE | I'm Gone | Beat Your Kids CDR | no label *new
THE PENS | Networking | Hey Friend! What You Doing | De Stijl *new
NITWITS | Captain America | split 7" w/ Mohinder | Unleaded/Stinky Feet 1994
VILE NATION | A3 | No Exit 7" | Even Worse 2008
IDOL PUNCH | Dried Nasal Mucus/Milk & Sugar | Culture Market 7" | MCR 2000
GENBAKU ONANIES | Nanni Mo Nai | Forward Command Post 7" | Public Bath 1991
RED MASS | Ghosts | Scars CS | Campaign for Infinity *new
BLACK FEELINGS | Eternal Bad Trip | self-titled | Alien8 *new
SUN MANTRA | Garden Sounds | self-titled CDR | no label *new
DAN MELCHIOR UND DAS MENACE | Visiting/Strange Exchanges | Obscured by Fuzz | Topplers *new
MIRRORS | Hands in My Pockets | Something That Would Never Do | Violet Times/Hovercraft 2009 (orig 1975)
MICHAEL PSYCHO | Decent Setups | Think | Black Hole 1990
MATT K. SHRUGG | Climbing the Air | Instant Images CDR | Guiness Book of World Records *new
THE MANTLES | Burden | Burden 7" | Dulc-i-Tone 2007
NOTHING PEOPLE | Late Night [Syd Barrett] | Late Night | SS Records 2009
PROBLEMIST | Overcame/Slapping | 9 Times Sanity | Sordide Sentimental 1984
COREPHALLISM | Speaking in Tongues | self-titled 3" CD | Apop/Lascivious Aesthetics *new
GHOST MOTH | Hamas Movements 1 & 2 | v/a: Tarantismo Summit Vol. #1 | Rampage *new
CACAW | Cacti in the Dark | Get a Brain | Permanent 2009 *request
EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN | Haus der Lüge | Strategies Against Architecture II | Mute/Elektra 1991 (orig 1984)
BILLY BAO | Auxilio | I Am Going to Kill All the Rich Man CS | Badmaster *new
ULTRATHIN | Break-In | split CS w/ Twin Crystals | Campaign for Infinity *new
CHEVEU | Rupture Movement 1 & 2 | Cheveau | Permanent *new

Before I dish the highlights of my Gonerfest vacation, lemme shine a light on a fantastic new CDR of garagepunk with a really rad penchant for dynamism, striking that rare balance between punchy bombastic riffage, hookiness, and cool textural atmospherics. Self-Titled by Sun Mantra is no awkward demo-stage ugly duckling; it may just be a couple of mastering tweaks away from joining my short list of 2009's most adoptable vinyl orphans. Ostensibly a one-man-project by Matt Ojala from Seattle, Sun Mantra's twin guitar attack is beachy bliss backed up with appreciable power. Ojala likes to weave shimmery ribbons of surfadelic tube-bounce reverb-drenched melody which seem to surf atop the rolling, crashing waves of full-bodied rhythm guitar. The pacing is nicely varied: "Cousin", "Pockets Pull (in so Many Ways)", and "Stomp Feet" go cowabunga-crazy with the rapid charge and frenetic jangle; "Question the Tropics" starts with an Abe Vigoda-like calypso-punk flirtation; the "Garden Sounds" you hear tonight swings a heavy lumber and is a very patient heavy-hitter; some purposeful naturalistic and instro interludes round out a very listenable, largely filler-free journey. If this really is all Matt (with only drum help courtesy of Travis Coster of The Last Slice of Butter), then he's also doing an unusually fine job of harmonizing multiple tracks of his own vocals, and he's not afraid to deploy his rather appealing falsetto. If he can build a magical band like Ryan of Ganglians did, look out...this band is a contender for Boss of the Beach. The sound here is on the lithe and lanky side...not so fuzzy and chunky...and that's not necessarily a bad thing given the glut of bands mining that sound today.

Here's my Gonerfest vacation recap...

Day Zero/Wed 9/23....I hadn't driven in a city with an interstate beltway in forever, so after I merged onto I-240 north of the airport, I got disoriented and exited onto Lamar Avenue going the wrong direction, away from the Artisan Hotel. Gee...there sure are a lotta Family Dollar and beauty supply stores in Memphis! Luckily, I did pass a little fish hut called Semmes which was packed to the gills with neighborhood folks on a rather janky edge of town. I knew it had to be good, so I filed it quickly as a future dining destination. But for tonight, I figured we'd dine for our health just one last time before partaking in the sinful local delights such as BBQ, fried chicken, and platter-sized omelets. I'd referred to Yelp earlier for tips on a locavore- and vegetarian-friendly spot and found Cafe Eclectic which seemed to be popular with the Rhodes College crowd. It was decent enough, I guess, but too much like the "new American bistro"-type spots which have proliferated throughout California so much. Next, we checked into the Artisan, where we gawked at the splendorous lobby which lived up to the hotel's name. Once we entered our room on the sixth floor, however, any semblance of a fancy hotel was completely dashed. We walked to the pre-Gonerfest show at Nocturnal where The Reatards would be performing take one of their reunion revue. The one-woman-band from Arizona, Becky Lee Drunkfoot, got the festivities rolling after the worst jukebox in America had its plug pulled. She sang beautifully and nailed some cool riffs, but a lotta her songs prattled on too long. A young local hardcore/thrash band revved it to the limit next. Vile Nation had an authentic real-deal sound and were a lot more fun-sounding than their record which is dominated by a humorless meanstreak. Their posse of about eight underagers plus one ill-fitting hippie moshed alone in the pit area at the foot of the stage. Behind this 12-feet-deep pit area was a six-inch drop-off to an area where people sat at tables. At first, the kids moshed dangerously close to the edge, where a concussion or spinal injury might've awaited them. But once they wised up, it was hilarious to watch them take turns stepping up to the stage with so much vim and vigor before launching off with the pussiest lit'l stagedives right into the laps of their friends. Cheap Time was up next and were the highlight of the night for me. The new hesher drummer fit right in. Ladies in the crowd were dancing and singing the refrains of the hits from last year's self-titled album on In the Red, but then the moshers came rallying back and made the ladies scatter. Eventually, these boys'll get tired of being alone, right? I saw Jay Reatard tell the pony-tailed soundman to crank certain levels all the way to the right before The Reatards took the stage. All three warm-up bands enjoyed excellent sound, but this fuckophonic advice was indeed way too over-the-top to make the reunion listenable on any level. To his credit, Jay was in fine bile-spewing form. I think that he mighta been trying to completely undo the "he's-gone-soft" consensus, and he probably succeeded halfway through the first verse he shouted. But it was so unlistenable that we left after they ripped through maybe 9-10 songs, including a poorly rendered "I Love Livin' in the City". It was raining cats n' dogs as we left, so we ducked into the Piggly Wiggly next door for a while hoping the rain would subside. A man without an eye tried to set us up to give him change on the way out. He was friendly enough, but what really tugged at our heart-strings was a friendly-lookin' old fella with cloudy cataract-addled eyes who asked for our help in reading the expiration dates on the milk so that he could find the freshest jug possible. This was also our crash course in making sense of heavily-drawled speech, but we made it work. I got a little depressed just thinking about the nutrition of people in Memphis after trying to no avail to find any fresh-squeezed juice in a container under 96 fluid ounces. I circled the whole store and found absolutely zero. But I did find ready-to-eat meals of delectable-lookin' fried foods served with cole slaw and peach cobbler for $2! I was hungry enough, but rooms at the Artisan were without microwaves, so no dice. The rain was still coming down as we left, but it felt kinda like Hawaii, so the rain just felt sublime, as if it was evaporating on our skin the moment it touched us. "Oh, this isn't bad at all!" we remarked, but five blocks later, my beloved Mayyors t-shirt was completely soaked and sticking to me, and my shoes and socks were also wet all the way through. Fortunately, the one luxury of our room was a blow dryer. We sunk into our king-size bed which seemed to have been flattened in the middle by an extreme obese bed-ridden person who didn't get out for weeks or months. This was the worst gripe about our stay. Our sleep was certainly not refreshing enough. But we were excited for the next day.

Day One/Thu 9/24....Due to reverse-jetlag, we woke up way too late to do anything, so we hit the showers quickly and got dressed to scope out the lay of the "Midtown" and "Cooper-Young" areas where all the Gonerfest action would be happening the next three days and nights. I'd also circled breakfast at Brother Juniper's in the East area by the University of Memphis as a must-eat thanks to seeing it on television and reviewed glowingly on Yelp. But, alas...it closed at 1:00 p.m. while we were flipping through bins and boxes of new and used records at the enviable Goner Records store. My best scores included a beautiful copy of Jedda by the Sea by 17 Pygmies for pretty cheap. It's a fairly essential record for any big fan of Savage Republic. Man, would I love to see a record store even half as good as this open in Sacto someday! With our first choice of breakfasts closed, we circled back toward the Goner store to check out some neighborhood eats. We brunched at Casablanca, where I enjoyed a lamb shawarma despite the sauce which was based on thousand island dressing (spiked with paprika, I presume). Sure, the sauce was laughably unauthentic and completely unlike what I'd expected, but it tasted plenty good, actually. We checked out the Sun Studio's gift-shop for the possibility of salt and pepper shakers (no dice!) but split before taking the tour due to too many people appearing ahead of us. Then we checked out the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, but left due to lack of time before their closing hours, so we returned to the Goner store, but a bit too late to assume the front-and-center position for the kick-off set by King Louie. It sounded pretty sweet as we mingled among the throngs of folks from all over the world who had assembled there. We ran out to that janky fish place called Semmes Fish & Hot Wings where we were greeted so sweetly by the cook and his daughter. I love a place where the cook is so proud of his food that he's telling you "After you try my fish, I know you gonna be back everytime!" The next customer looked at us at first like he couldn't believe there were some white folks there, but he also joined the welcome party and promised us we'd come to the right place. He ordered 75 of something, but I don't they were wings....I think they were deep-friend fish throats! The place had no tables, so we took it back to the room and loved every bite of it. At the main event at the Hi-Tone that night, I finally got to see the Fresh & Onlys play, and they were indeed pretty good. I rather enjoyed the coolness of the singer's stage presence which was aloof in the most delightful way. Cococoma rocked a lot harder than I'd expected and ratcheted up the dance fever in the room. King Louie's Loose Diamonds were good, but a little too precious for me at that moment, so I tested the backyard, and the air was a bit cooler back there (finally!). I ran next door to Circle K for a NOS energy drink recharge, and I was all set for The Magnetix, who were delivered probably the most stunning set of the night. I knew from their split 10" with Digger & the Pussycats that they were a two-piece band, but hearing their new album this year, I figured that they'd expanded because that sound was too thick and burly. But, they were indeed still a two-piece with the guitar amped stereo through two amps. It was like if Dial M-era Pussy Galore appropriated that Mayyors-level thick guitar tone and also approached Brainbombs-like sinister psychopathy. Ty Segall was also really outstanding on-stage and was flanked by caveman Robbie from Photobooth on drums which seemed to enhance Ty's attack quite a bit. The Reatards reunited again at the end, and they played better than the previous night as a band, but Jay as a personality was far more obnoxious and dark, challenging Ty Segall to a fight due to something he read in Spin magazine about Ty being a threat to Jay. There was also a babbling tirade against Vice magazine "co-opting our scene" which included several nonsensical turns of phrase. I walked out early again to beat the rush to the swimming pool, where we got the party started with some young ladies from Ottawa, Ontario, who were the first to dip into the water. Before long, there were dozens of people thronging there, and several acting a total fool with biggest splash contests and a fellow who jumped off the second floor into the shallow end. Good times!

Day Two/Fri 9/25...We got up a bit earlier and made it out to Brother Juniper's, which actually seemed more like a place you might find out here in the West Coast with all the variations of benedicts and spinach florentine. The one thing was defintely down home about it was the cheese grits, which I quite enjoyed. Afterward, we made it out to the Civil Rights Museum where we were overcome by sadness, anger, and white guilt. It kinda made me shudder standing about three feet from the precise location where Dr. Martin Luther King's lifeless body bled out before the ambulance came. Later, we walked by the wall of hope at the end of the first building's self-guided tour which restored some good feelings with a chronological exhibit of achievements of the Civil Rights Movement and an outline of the legacy of the movement. We crossed Mulberry Street into the second building, which was the boarding house where James Earl Ray was presumed to have shot Dr. King from a bathroom window. The exhibit focused on the crime and its investigation as well as its alternate theories which are all presented for maximum plausibility. It would surely be recommendable for any fan of the newfangled police dramas, but for me, this exhibit was kinda overkill, and it made me leave with a lot more questions than I thought I could ever have. Still, I recommend this museum especially for the first building. You can spend about three hours in there reading everything and gawking at photos, film clips, diaramas, and life-size walk-through exhibits. There was a woman outside by the parking lot protesting the museum with signs decrying it for being too costly and desecrating the memory of King. Another sign targeted gentrification in the immediate area, and the sharpest and perhaps most thought-provoking sign said "Stop worshipping the past...Live the dream today." I pondered that one quite a bit as we drove back down McLemore Avenue to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. That southside area was the scene of some of the worst and most abject poverty that I've seen, and it was 180° different than the attractive Midtown and Cooper-Young neighborhoods. There were no supermarkets...just corner stores and liquor stores. Cars on blocks. Rampant vandalism. Roofs caving in. Almost nothing was tidy and neat. People walking the sidewalks all seemed to be malnourished or obese. People in Sacramento talk about South Sac like it's scary down there, and I know that there's some saddening statistics down there, but it's nothing as bad as what I saw there. It had me thinking about that lady's boycott of the museum like it was perfectly justified. Where had all the hope from that achievements and legacy wall gone? We continued back to the Gonerfest action which began on this day in the backyard of Buccaneer's. We made it in time to see Thomas Function and The Mantles. Both bands played well, but this was the only music staging area which had dodgy sound. I had bad sightlines for T-Funk, but I got up close to see Mantles. We broke for some BBQ afterward and crossed the river to West Memphis for Willie Mae's. West Memphis was also really depressing, but we perked up when we met Willie Mae's son-in-law who took a break from his truck-driving day-job to help out around the kitchen and cash register. We talked about music and the impact that country music had on black audiences and musicians, which prepared me for some of the revelations revealed at the Stax Museum the following day. The food was okay. The sauce was tasty, but I gotta feeling that I ate the kinda meat that's available only after the dinner rush has swept through. If I go back for another try, I'll be sure to go earlier next time. We crossed back over to see the main event at the Hi-Tone, which began with a flat set by Yussuf Jerusalem, which was the only real disappointment of any band I saw throughout the whole fest. Earthmen & Strangers were plucky and sharp. The Intelligence played great, as usual! New guitarist is a unique dresser who seems to have stepped outta Leon Redbone's band. Kind of a WTF kinda double-take thing with the eyes, but the ears will hear him play the songs spot-on. I've seen them end with the finalé of Wounded Lion's infectious "Pony People" song so many times now, but that time was like seeing it again for the first time. Boffo crazy fun, that was! Then Davila 666 sent the fun party vibe into the stratoshere. I mean...WOW! This band immediately stepped into my ultimate pantheon of funnest live bands on the planet today. Six singers singing...Anglos in the crowd trying to sing along, too! Really engaging. Puerto Rican flags waving everywhere. Thee Oh Sees sneak attacked from the floor, and I got assed out for a good place to stand while meeting some new friends in the backyard. They did play much more "to the crowd" than usual with the rip-roarin' party vibe, but of course, this band is surely in the pantheon of live greatness, and they're awesome at whatever they do. If you had a good place to stand, I'm sure you were outta your mind with bliss. I missed the Compulsive Gamblers while yapping outside with more new friends.

Day Three/Sat 9/26...Rose late again, but just in time to enjoy a bite of Gus's Fried Chicken downtown. Yeah, it was pretty great. Then we walked along the touristy section of Beale Street figuring on finding those elusive salt and pepper shakers. But again, no dice! Worst of all, the live music emanating from every bar and grill was just so incredibly half-baked and whitebread that it made all the great pioneers of Memphis music history simultaneously roll over in their graves. Even the ones who hadn't died yet! I heard the absolutely wackest cover of "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" coming from the courtyard of Silky O'Sullivans. It made me wanna go strangle any khaki-clad 'nilla wafer in my sight. At this very moment, I was suffering more white guilt than in all the time I was at the Civil Rights Museum! Surely, a visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music was in order! So away we went, and damn if that's not the best music museum in the world! Just go there! I wouldn't be surprised if this experience completely changes the way I shop for used records and reissues now. When I lived in Arkansas and most of our friends were black, I enjoyed so much of this music, and that all came roaring back for me. If I hadn't already spent so much the last few days, I surely woulda just sprung for that entire Stax singles boxed-set. But I'll just put it on the list of must-haves for now. Really, it was just a tremendous time, and there was the one place where I saw the beacon of hope in that forlorn community along E. McLemore. Watching those kids emerge from classes at the Stax Academy, you could see 'em beaming. We hurried over to the afternoon Gonerfest activities at Murphy's in time to see River City Tanlines, but it was too smoky in the bar, so I stayed in the backyard to stake out a perfect position to view A Burning Bus, featuring Don Howland of so many rad bands of the last 22 years such as Gibson Bros, Bassholes, Ego Summit, etc. This might've been my favorite band of the whole sh'bang! Resplendent in sarcastic old-guy bile, Don was in fine form, as was his phalanx of killer guitarists who took turns peeling off the most brilliant yet economical guitar leads. I may wanna lose weight to get back to being something more like my old athletic self, but surely, after seeing this band, I'm not afraid to get older. Nor being pissed off at all the problems of the world. There's a lotta constructive ways to spew, y'know. And this was some of the best spew I'd seen. If only some of the people who were born after 1980 woulda paid more attention to these masters of grizzled magic. This was the number one band at Gonerfest for people to take for granted. Great going, kids! I didn't go inside for Hunx even though I'm dying to see him. He started playing before Howland and co. were done stewing, and I just had to lap up those last drops! Tirefire were the token metallers who played out the afternoon show. They ripped decently and were totally unfazed by all the firecrackers which people were hurling around willy-nilly. I needed to get the quickest Q possible and found it at Tops. I know that there's probably several places that are better for BBQ, but I wanted it fast and to-go, and Tops on Union Avenue was on the money for $4.99. I got served within seconds, it was a full meal, and it was better than merely passable in the taste department. I took Melissa to Petra for her dinner, and we were amazed by this Korean-meets-Greek cuisine place with the unusual reclaimed fuel-stop/mechanic-shop setting. She got a tofu bibimbap which was plenty tasty and could hold its own on the West Coast. I had several satisfying tastes of it. We got eaten alive by mosquitoes, though. We made it too late to the night show to see Magic Kids, but White Wires sounded pretty good even though we were outside most of the time. Sonic Chicken 4 and Box Elders were off-the-charts hilarious and fun. Steve MacDonald of Red Kross even joined the Box Elders on-stage to play along with their cover of "S&M Party". NoBunny was fraught with the only bad case of technical mishaps, and he apologized for it too effusively. It wasn't his fault after all. He still provided some great laffs and moments, such as when he showed us where bunny turds come from and then poked the mic in there. Later, that mic was passing around along the front of the crowd, and it was like none of them saw where it had gone. Was I wrong to laugh? Could I care, though? The only person at Gonerfest more annoying than Jay-Reatard-in-a-tirade was that kid who wore that Crass shirt all weekend-long and kept jumping on and off the stage. It was like he took "Mess Me Up" too much to heart and sought to literally mess up NoBunny's set. And sadly, NoBunny took it pretty hard, feeling as if he failed. I wanted to run after him and console him because all the problems were beyond his control, and people still had fun. Later, I saw him back at the Hi-Tone in good spirits, so it was all good. Finally, Cheater Slicks closed it out after half the crowd (again, mostly the people born in the 80s) ditched. It started kinda wonky, but then the old guys found their groove, and they were like a steamroller of hate and despair. Cheater Slicks were the number two band at Gonerfest for people to take for granted. The people who were front and center were having the time of their lives, though. We left during the second encore despite the fact they seemed to have just found another gear right then. We had to wake up at 6:00 a.m. to make it to our flight, so I justified leaving before the very end. I'll only be bummed if someone tells me that they nailed "Possession" after we left.


Goner Records said...

Glad you could make it, Rick! Yes to the Stax Museum! Amazing.

Cheater Slicks never did "Possession." They ended with Go Go Gorilla, which was perfect!

Robert said...

DJ Rick, Thanks for bringing your tourist dollars to Memphis (we need them) but next time leave your superior attitude at home (we don't need that). California ain't exactly the high water mark of civilization either.

Anonymous said...

i think this is the first time that anyone ever said rick had a superior attitude. (still don't see why)