Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Sorry, friends! My nonstop life of career in information for public affairs, booking shows for KDVS Presents, being chief cook 'n bottle-washer for The Hub, criss-crossing Northern California to check out other live shows, trying and evaluating new taquerias, community freeform radio, and these here xxxtreme-blogging exploits finally caught up to me between vacations to Nevada/Idaho/Washington/Oregon and Memphis and a mysterious coughy/congestive late-summer bug that's been going around. Something had to give, and it was the xxxtreme-blogging part. I have enjoyed picking and playing music for you on AFS every week and sharing my top picks, and I will continue to do so now that summer is over and life is getting back to normal (almost).
So, I've been getting around this summer, and the clincher was indeed the grand finalé of the summer music festival season, Gonerfest 7 in Memphis, Tennessee. It was the 2nd consecutive Gonerfest for Melissa and me--we decided we were going to #7 about halfway through day two of #6--and we had a blast again! Gonerfest is a benchmark for multi-day/multi-venue festivals; somehow, the Goner gang manages to run a tight, efficient ship so the order of events flows smoothly and predictably, and yet there's tons of mayhem, revelry, and spontaneity. And the city of Memphis is just a fantastic destination for its history, unique flavors, friendly people, and...well...every necessary element to encourage late-night mayhem, revelry, and spontaneity. Beer and booze flowing 'til 3:00am, perfect late-night weather, cops pre-occupied by the potential of real crime happening elsewhere in the city. It's really a great city to visit. And with stately 2800 square-foot homes such as these in our home price comfort zone, it kinda makes us wonder what it might be like to live there. Could I really trade Sacto tacos, tortas, y burritos for Memphis BBQ? Will my veins explode or collapse first? Kings for Grizzlies? Neither team's making the playoffs yet. But, really...It's certainly become one of our favorite cities.
Gonerfest started a day earlier this year on a Wednesday with Spider Bags. The highlights of this night were Italy's Vermillion Sands and King Louie's Missing Monuments. The Italians overcame TermBo user: Clint's under-his-breath murmuring of barbs such as "I dunno...This seems ridiculously French Canadian to me" to make him oddly quiet by mid-set, by which time they'd won over everyone else with their rollicky jangle-punk with cartoonish lead-guitarist antics, relentless shuffling rhythms, and charming front-lady who I reckon could've won a lotta fans 200 miles east at the Grand Ol' Opry. Maybe Clint didn't know what kinda Vermillion Sands fanboy I am. I've got every record they've made yet. And they didn't disappoint one bit...well...maybe they could've played one slower song to show off the emotional depth of their singer's voice. And speaking of charming...King Louie was a hoot to watch play, and his Missing Monuments hit the mark for the kinda melodic, poppy punk I like. Useless Eaters were dazzling at their best, too, but I think they need to vary their pacing a little bit. They play all-manic all-the-time and can't afford the slightest lapse of concentration on their fretboard action, thereby kinda stunting their stage persona. What a talent they are, though. I walked in too late on Spider Bags and walked out too early--jetlagged, and possibly still in a Gus's Fried Chicken foodcoma--on Msr. Jeffrey Evans, but they sounded pretty good while I was there.
Gus's was great again. I love the spice of their batter, and I can't get over how cheap it is for a place that touts itself as "world famous" and knows it's true. It's listed prominently in most Memphis travel guides and has been on TV many times, so they trap a lotta tourists who are only too ready to be fleeced by opportunistic tourist-oriented businesses. I saved room for pecan pie...pretty good!
Day two started with a hug and kiss from our hostess at Alcenia's, where I had the most delectable breaded pork chops which also blew away my South Sac fave, the "Iowa-style pork chops" at Original Perry's. I'm not sure I'll ever be as satisfied spending $10.09 plus tax and tip at Original Perry's now that I've eaten Alcenia's pork chops. And washed 'em down with what they call "Ghetto-Aid", which is especially-highly-sweetened Kool Aid. I was afraid it'd make my teeth shudder, but it wasn't that sweet, really. Plenty refreshing, though. Green beans and cornbread was just fine, but the bacony black-eyed peas were especially BOMB! Now I feel like I've finally had black-eyed peas the way they were meant to be enjoyed.
"Opening ceremonies" at the Goner Records store kicked off in the outdoor public gazebo next door with a set by Thee Oh Sees which went down sublimely as I felt sweat trickling down my back. That song they've been ending their set with is so splendid, I can't wait to hear it on record with the Woodhouse magic sprinkled on it. It's got a killer groovey riff that rather reminds me of "Crash Course in Brain Surgery" by Budgie...like it was reverse-engineered by removal of that little chug that makes it heavy metal. That will be a great roadtrip record, I reckon. The band was goaded into an encore and ended with an appropos rendition of their epic "Warm Slime" which was the best ever rendition I've heard besides the one they played at KDVS presents Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom XII in June 2009 with Woodhouse on 2nd drumkit (which is, of course, an unfair comparison).
We didn't really have an appetite yet for dinner, but we knew we'd be screwed if we waited 'til after the main event, so we joined some new friends from Canada and Australia for a Soul Fish sesh. This has been a hot new restaurant in the Cooper-Young area since it opened last year, but we beat the rush and only had to wait 10 minutes for a table. I got a Cuban sandwich because it was mentioned as a noteworthy specialty in the best-of-the-city issue of the Memphis Flyer alt-weekly that was current while we were there. It was okay. Nothing to write home about. But everyone else's food looked really great, and they were raving aplenty.
Once again in foodcoma mode, we lumbered over to the Hi-Tone for Thursday's main event featuring Ty Segall, Haunted George, So Cow, Destruction Unit, and Super Wild Horses. The Aussie ladies were pretty good. I think they'll translate a little better to our decidedly less punk crowd at ORMF X fest in the outdoor backyard environment of Plainfield Station. But like I said...I was kinda saddled with foodcoma and sat out most of these sets in the back lot of the Hi-Tone. I'd check in from time to time and catch the show from the way, way back. Ty's energy transmitted all the way to the back. That dude's on a roll right now...He's flanked by a really great band! That drummer seemed kinda tepid the first couple times I saw her play, including at SMMR BMMR 2009 in Portland. She was replaced by a much more determined drummer dude at Gonerfest 6, which up to that point was Ty's best performance I'd seen besides the times I'd seen him playing in bands such as Traditional Fools, Epsilons, and Party Fowl. But now that she's back, she's greatly improved and just nails it so hard. She took as large a leap into rulingdom as I've seen anyone take in so short a time. If you've been believing the hype backlash (which all smacks of silly jealousy now) and sleeping on Ty Segall, you need to get over it 'cos you're missing an outstanding band.
On Friday, we checked out Graceland. I'd seen it when I was 9 back when they had less area roped off and you had a tour guide follow your group around. But despite being pretty expensive and not nearly as interactive as it once was, it was fun, and I'd still recommend it....but only after you check out the Stax Museum. Our visit there last year has still left an impression on me.
We skipped breakfast 'cos headLamp Monty treated us to pork shoulder sandwiches at Payne's Bar-BQ for lunch. The stark ambience of the former mechanic shop was delightful, and so was the pork. Too bad they slap that pork between two of the weakest soft white buns available. These are what you grab as an afterthought when you're late to a company picnic where frugality and quantity counts infinitely more than quality. The fluorescent green-yellow slaw was a trip, though. It's a must-see more than a must-taste.
The daytime event at The Buccaneer was hampered a little bit by some big raindrops, but we ducked inside just in time to catch Eric Davidson reading from his "gunk-punk" memoir, We Never Learn. I'm halfway through that book and dig some of the stories, but I hate a lot of the ridiculous alliteration. I mean...there's like four words starting with "V" in a row somewhere in there. I'd give Mark E. Smith a pass if he did that, but this dude sang for the New Bomb Turks, so I want low-brow if any brow. He did crack some fun jokes at the expense of Little Steven's satellite radio show and the Chesterfield Kings which had me laughing and forgetting about what I've found annoying about the book so far. The Golden Boys were the best band back there, but their vocals were too high in the mix, and the sweet spot for the sound was in the way, way back where you couldn't see anything. Good thing that the backyard at Murphy's is such an excellent spot to see and hear live music, so the next day's afternoon blow-out had plenty of promise.
We'd named our own price on Priceline for our 2½-star hotel, so they stuck us way out near the eastside Memphis 'burb of Bartlett. It was pretty far from all the Gonerfest action and other city-centered attractions, and there wasn't a whole lot closeby. But we did do some exploring of the other easterly 'burbs to the south, which led us to our 2nd BBQ of the day at the Germantown Commissary. Germantown seemed rather upscale...sorta like Roseville and Rocklin 'round our homebase of Sacto. And from the outside, I was thinking this place looked like it might be something of a put-on...like it was a recreation of a rustic outpost in the middle of Tuscanized mini-malls. But no! It was a genuinely historic place, dating back to the early 20th century when it was the general store for the then-tiny hamlet of Germantown. And its BBQ mopped the floor with Payne's...FANTASTIC! I wanted to make an apples-to-apples comparison, so I made it another pork sandwich w/ slaw, beans, and deviled egg. The pork was tenderer, the sauce zingier and more brilliantly complex, and the slaw was the best I'd ever had. It actually tasted like really fresh vegetables much more than drippy mayonnaise. The sandwich wasn't served in some kinda boozhey artisanal bread, but it compared to the buns at Payne's this was like Orowheat versus Rainbo white bread. Melissa's big salad was what the doctor ordered; the proprietary Thousand Island was like none we'd ever tasted, and it was topped with BBQ chicken that was superbly smoky. I saved enough room for the banana pudding, and it completely erased any respect I had for the banana pudding I've been eating at J & J's Fish & Chicken in South Sacramento. This place is worth the drive out...and it's actually not that far, really.
The main event on Friday had many highlights, but the main ones by far for me were the Guinea Worms and the Oblivians. Back in their heyday, I tried to see the Oblivians three times, and was twice thwarted because their van broke down, and once because I wasn't 21 yet and no amount of begging and pleading could get me in the door. Of any band I've tried like hell to see and failed everytime, this is the only time I've seen such a band in reunion form totally deliver on my lofty expectations. Great fucking show! At first, I had the misfortune of being squished into a corner where I couldn't see anything, but it was kinda perfect 'cos for the first 4-5 songs, I was experiencing the Oblivians much like I would have if I was let in the backdoor at that bar when I was underage. It was a privilege just to be there, getting showered with Pabst from the charged crowd that had waited 'til this moment to cut totally loose. Before long, I had a great view and room to move, and I mixed it up with Lutzko who was having such a time that he'd drawn the ire of the only unfun dude in the whole room, that collegiate-looking mosh-cop who was giving beards a bad image.
But the Guinea Worms...WOW...what a pleasure to witness this band! The drumlines and basslines flexed like A Frames at their best, and their angularisms drawled out like the Country Teasers. But hasn't enough has been said about that in other blogs' coverage of the Guinea Worms? It's not until you're actually basking in that sound blaring from the stage so immaculately that you really know this band's uncommon power. And then there's Will Foster of the shirtless, hirsute torso, with such an anachronistic helmet of Dirty Harry hair and a face that looks like Clint Eastwood and Steve Nash had a brother from another mother; and he's mad-dogging the audience with crazy eyes, bulging with every especially emphatic enunciation (eat that, Eric Davidson!) of what are usually lesser-stressed syllables...sometimes even the schwas! He was just as cool and awesome as I'd imagined him, but so much more commanding, charismatic, and weird...even transgressive! Quite possibly my favorite set of the entire festival!
It was a pleasure to see the Strapping Fieldhands, too, but they were not as strange as I thought they'd be, and I was distracted too often by these haters who were standing up front to ensure they'd have a great place to stand for the Oblivians. They must've thought the Fieldhands played for two hours the way they went from tsks and eye-rolling to seething to vocally complaining "THIS SUUUUUCCCKKKKSSSS!!!" and "Does anyone like this shit? I mean...seriously!?!"
On Saturday morning, we rose a little too late to get out the door in time to eat breakfast at the highly recommended Bryant's, but on the previous night's cruising to find an all-night grocer, I'd seen the 24-hour Pancake Shop and remembered that it was just up the street. So, we brunched there on some pancakes, chicken fried steak, and eggs. The wait staff was a real hoot, spinning the folksiest of phrases with the drawliest of drawls, but the food was not so great. Ultra-filling might be the best compliment we could pay it. I'd only recommend this place for middle-of-the-night munchies and afterparty B.A.C. cooldowns.
The Saturday Afternoon Blowout at Murphy's was superb from top to bottom, with The Lamps, Total Control, and Red Mass ruling the indoors (especially Total Control!), and Touch Me Nots the backyard highlight (I got there too late to see the Outdoorsmen). It was too much stimulation following that goopy brunch, so we took a nap back at the hotel and woke just in time to grab a quick bite at Kwik Check (muffaleta is never bad, but I have had slightly better at the Nugget Markets in Davis, Woodland, and Sacto) before catching the Saturday main event most of the way into John Wesley Coleman's set. Girls at Dawn were snooze-worthy, so we ditched 'em for backyard hobnobbing...or trying to, anyway! Our new friend approached Tom Scharpling of The Best Show on WFMU and got rebuffed quite economically as Tom uttered "Don't talk to me" while turning to walk back to the company of some pretty ladies. Oh snap!
Saturday night belonged to UV Race, who overcame a keyboard failure to convert everyone in the room short of Nashville's chapter of Turbojugend who looked stoic or glazed in their pristine jackets festooned so fastidiously like an Eagle Scout's uniform with neat patches as they waited for their far-past-prime heroes' even-further-past-prime labelmates to play. WTF? You gotta be an enemy of all things primal and fun to be so bored when Australia's UV Race are on. I shouldn't have just handed world's-best-saxophone-rock to Druid Perfume last month without mentioning UV Race in the same breath. They are a balanced band (even hormonally) with the shock of a creative dual-guitar attack and surly beats and vocals cushioned by seductive keyboards and sax. Lead-singer Marcus stripped to his skivvies and soaked the front row as he pulled the best dance move of the entire festival with a sorta side-to-side skiing-down-moguls maneuver.
The Saturday afterparty was a house-show featuring Cheap Time and Ty Segall. It didn't even break off 'til 4:00 a.m., and crazier than that was the bowing and bucking hardwood floor in that living room....It must've had about eight inches of travel in the middle! It was like a trampoline, and that's hardly an exaggeration. The mic stands were wobbling so much that the mics were smacking the band members in the mouth as they tried to sing. The show was all fun and friendly, but it seemed rather dangerous as I imagined the entire room fulla partiers crashing through the floor. The same house had hosted an early-evening show the day before for Evil Army, Wild Thing, and Total Control. I can only imagine that show feeling even more dangerous. Cheap Time ruled as usual, and Ty slayed on borrowed equipment despite the lack of fuzz or distortion. It was a real trip hearing Ty's band covering "Paranoid" so cleanly...yet still blistering! Ty said "I think that's the last time we play that" as his band packed into our backseat to return to the Red Roof Inn.
Rising late again to sleep off the extra-late afterparty, we hit up the Blue Plate Cafe on Sunday for brunch. Mine was a blackened catfish with creamy mac 'n cheese and more black-eyed peas, and Melissa got a crab benedict with grits. Pretty decent! We didn't leave overly stuffed, so it was no problem enjoying myself at the Gonerfest closing ceremonies featuring a Ty Segall one-man-band set at the Goner store. Ty ruled again.
We had a couple hours to kill before returning our rental car to the airport, so we drove around the southwest Memphis 'burbs and just kept driving further and further down U.S. Route 51 until we were into Mississippi. A Mexican food cart in a Citgo gas and minimart parking lot got me curious to try a couple tacos. If we're really gonna give anywhere besides California a little bit more thought as a more permanent destination, I gotta find some Mexican food worth coming back to. And while Taqueria Familia Reyes, parked on Church Road W at U.S. 51, was no mindblower for me, I was certain impressed enough. I ordered two tacos al pastor. What I got was grilled pork with no hint of spice...certainly not al pastor...but I soaked it in their spicy red salsa, and it was plenty good!
And that concluded our Gonerfest 7 trip. Thanks to Eric and the Goner gang for making for bringing together so many rad bands. Thanks to Alcenia's and Germantown Commissary for the best meals we had. Thanks to the Fairfield Inn by Marriott on Macon Cove for the clean, comfortable room, friendly and professional staff, and unobtrusive cleaning crew that didn't get started 'til the afternoon. And thanks for the late check-out time. If I had to do it all over again, though, I'd certainly have liked to stay closer to the action. Thanks to whoever had to clean up after the show everynight at the Hi-Tone. That was no enviable task. The place was a disaster every night. Thanks to the bands that ruled, Monty for Payne's lunch (we got you covered for Germantown Commissary if we find ourselves there for #8!), all our friends we met, and the city of Memphis. Five days flies by too fast when you're having that much fun. Thanks also to the photographers and videographers (please get in touch so I can credit you).
It's no five-day bash, but we at KDVS Presents are excited to bring you an all-day outdoor musical funbash this Saturday with our milestone tenth Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom. That's Roman numeral X. We have put together a strong lineup, and I'm especially stoked to guest on drums for Wounded Lion because Monty will be elsewhere with The Lamps. Andrew of G. Green will play the Monty guitar parts, too. This is one of our utmost favorite bands, so we kinda feel like we're going to Fantasy Band Camp!
Super Wild Horses
Buk Buk Bigups
Big Black Cloud
At historic Plainfield Station (23944 Road 98 Between Woodland and Davis California).
October 2nd 2010
Cheap Beer and Grill, along with Various Local Art vendors.
$10 at the door- $8 Pre-sale
Remember to bring:
a blanket for spreading on the lawn
2-3 sensible layers (weather should be good, though...86 hi, still 70 when this gets over with)
bathing suit for post-ORMF pool/hot-tub raid across the many apartment complexes of Davis
For you Bay Areans, all you need to enjoy an Indian Summer is to drive the 70-80 miles out here and bring that bathing suit for the pool/hot-tub raid afterpartying. Lodging accommodations are easy enough. You can even AmTrak it to Davis and ride a bike the rest of the way, or AmTrak it, and walk to the free shuttle destinations on campus (~10 blocks).
Driving directions from the Bay...
1. Drive I-80 East toward Sacto
2. As you pass through town of Dixon, get into the right lane
3. Take the Hwy 113 North cut-off toward Woodland
4. ~3 minutes later, exit at Road 29 and turn right at end of exit
5. Turn right at 2nd stop sign onto Road 98...and there it is...easy parking across the street or along Road 98.
Posted by DJ Rick at 5:15 PM