Sunday, September 29, 2019

Gonerfest 16 Recap: Saturday

Posted By on Sun, Sep 29, 2019 at 3:55 PM

“It’s crazy,” says Johnny, the doorman at Murphy’s on Madison, the afternoon venue for Gonerfest 16’s Saturday performances. “It’s never sold out before.”


The gold passes have sold out in years past, but this year, weeks before Goner Records’ annual festival of punk, alternative, no wave, and all music left of the dial, individual passes to Friday and Saturday night were sold out. The sea of people inside and outside Murphy’s makes it hard to believe the daytime show hasn’t sold out as well. But, up walks a woman without a wristband. She balks at the cover charge and asks Johnny what’s going on.


Gonerfest is going on, and I’ve never seen so many people at Murphy’s before.

click to enlarge The Resonars - KANDI COOK
  • Kandi Cook
  • The Resonars

Out back, New Orleans’ Total Hell rips through a heavy set. They’re all guttural vocals and crunchy guitars as the audience bakes in the Memphis autumn sun. In the crowd, I can spot folks who seem to have come directly from Memphis Pride Festival, with rainbow stickers and other accoutrements.

click to enlarge Aquarian Blood played to a packed house at Murphy's during Gonerfest 16. - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • Aquarian Blood played to a packed house at Murphy's during Gonerfest 16.


Heading back inside in a (failed) attempt to secure a good spot close to the stage for locals Aquarian Blood’s set, I bump into Frank McLallen of Model Zero, the Sheiks, and the Tennessee Screamers. Like so many of the attendees, he’s got that Gonerfest glow  a sheen that could be sweat or sprayed beer and a happily dazed expression. “As a working local, I was able to make it out on Friday,” McLallen says of the festival so far. “It was nice to see the Oblivians and Quintron. It was a heroic set. Later than night, I played a show with Model Zero at DKDC for the late night [show]. It was a wild scene. We opened for Quintron’s Shitty Stones, a shitty Rolling Stones cover band from New Orleans, and it inspired us to get all ’70s glammed out. The scene was just wild and wonderful.”

I ask McLallen if he’ll be at the festivities later that evening, and, if so, what he’s most looking forward to seeing. “I want to see the Mummies,” he says. “I’m looking forward to seeing them. It seems like a circus.”


Inside, Memphis’ own Aquarian Blood starts up the first song of their set. It’s haunting, with slightly overdriven acoustic guitar, just enough to give the tone some texture. Their second song begins with drum machine and acoustic guitar. It’s got a mellow groove, with tasteful bends on the acoustic. I stand near the bathroom, as close as I can get, and listen. Murphy’s is a sea of people, all transfixed by Aquarian Blood.

click to enlarge The Resonars - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • The Resonars


The Resonars from Tucson, Arizona, play outside. They’re a band of Fender-wielding guitarists with a tight rhythm section and driving, thrumming bass. An ex-Arizonan, I detect a whiff of the desert in their Southern sound with a slight power-pop vibe.


click to enlarge Michael Beach & the Artists - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • Michael Beach & the Artists

Michael Beach & the Artists begin their set with a steady beat on the floor tom and guitar chords left to ring out. It’s not unlike the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” at least, that is, before the Melbourne-based band really leans into the performance and dials the energy up to 11.

That night, as I walk into the Hi Tone, Parsnip has just begun their set. They have a lo-fi sound with peppy garage-rock cheerleader backup vocals and some nice keyboard action. It’s my kind of music, without a doubt, and stuck in the back again, I let myself get lost in the sounds of the Aussie rockers. It’s worth noting that the shows at Gonerfest start on time. The heat, the tinnitus-inducing volume, the Gonerbrau (Memphis Made’s commemorative cream ale) all seem to conspire against the performances going so smoothly, but somehow, in the schedule, if not on stage, a strict sanity prevails. That leaves all the madness, happily, to the performers and the audience.


click to enlarge Giorgio Murderer plays to a sold-out audience at the Hi Tone. - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • Giorgio Murderer plays to a sold-out audience at the Hi Tone.

Giorgio Murderer from New Orleans brings a set of urgently-strummed guitar. It’s classic punk, classic rock-and-roll, hitting every downbeat, with attitude to spare. It’s stripped down, gnarly, and totally at home at Gonerfest.


Next, Memphis-based Hash Redactor makes their appearance with squealing, squalling guitars. Listening to their first song is like being sucked down the drain, with descending riffs and bending guitar strings. The second song kicks off with a bang and ends with a warble. With their third song, they settle into the dark, spooky side they do so well. With members of NOTS and Ex-Cult in the lineup, Hash Redactor is a Goner Records supergroup of sorts, and they were in full form at Gonerfest 16. As I wrote in a review of their Drecksound album, “The guitars alone are worth the price of admission.”

click to enlarge The Mummies - COURTNEY FLY
  • Courtney Fly
  • The Mummies

It’s fitting that in Memphis' alternative rock festival, the Mummies close out the night. As Gonerfest attendees pack themselves into the Hi Tone, it’s readily apparent that Gonerfest 16 sold out. I’m loathe to be a broken record, but these performances were absolutely packed. The Mummies earn every second of the audience’s rapt attention. Clad in tattered “bandages,” the band powers through a dynamite performance. The keyboard player lifts his instrument over his head and onto his back. They’re so obviously in lock-step with each other, the tempo and changes so ingrained, that they play with a ghoulish intensity. They change to double-time for the end of a song, all as easy as second nature. And the musicianship is only a fraction of the show. The humor and stage presence are top-notch as well. After some banter about “the sign-up sheet for the human sacrifice,” a Mummy says, “It seems like we’re wasting time, but this is for your benefit.” Another band mate chimes in with lightning-fast reflexes, “We’re waiting for the suppositories to kick in.”

Later, the band gets a laugh by “confusing” Tennessee’s two music towns: “It’s great to be here in Nashville,” a Mummy quips. “Great to be at the Grand Ole Opry.” All in all, the Mummies made an excellent cap to the Goner festivities — a mix of humor, wild energy, and air-tight song craftsmanship. After the Mummies, well, that's a wrap.

click to enlarge The Mummies - COURTNEY FLY
  • Courtney Fly
  • The Mummies



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