The years' annual gathering of wild rapscallions in Memphis is upon us starting today in the form of Goner Fest 5, and with such a stupendous lineup of great new bands, it seems to be a triumph before it even begins. As with each passing year, it becomes clear that these guys are doing the best job possible with the whole "fest" headache, and you've gotta hand it to Eric and Zac, they picked out a fine assortment of differentiating, yet relevant new bands that need to be seen by the masses. And with the whole weekend wrapped in the slow-roasted Memphis charm, it turns into an inescapable vortex of staggering, perilous good times that everyone should experience at least once.
Kicking off with a ping-pong tournament, and the prerequisite visit from that ol' crazy donk, King Louie, today's line up consists of some knockouts you can't miss. Hometown boys, The Limes are still way underrated and after their mesmerizing debut 7" on Solid Sex Lovie Doll years back, they've kept their slow-burn punk grind in top form. One of San Francisco's greatest bands going is up next, and as quite a few of their best jams chug along the Oblivians pipeline, Thee Oh Sees are guaranteed to deliver a captivating set, and should be one of the best performances of the whole weekend. With their heavenly emphatic oddly-layered vocals curdling your mind into a frappe, the primal sounds they pull off reek of only the truest caveman-in-love authenticity. Just the fact that this fest is bringing this band out to the Midwest is reason enough for rejoicing, so whatever it is keeping you hanging out in the parking lot behind the Hi-Tone, don't miss Thee Oh Sees or you'll sadly regret it. Keeping up the misanthropic tone, and riding on the crest of ten-too-many good records, Dan Melchior und Das Menace takes the stage next, drilling their aggravation right into your wavering bones. Followed by French punk explorers Crusaders of Love, and Jack Oblivian's Tearjerkers, it's a very wise booking arrangement I'm noticing here, and these kinda things are important to prevent premature fest burnout. Sealing the deal on the first night are the formidable spirits known as Sic Alps, one of theother great San Francisco bands, and a mind-expanding duo with a knockout new LP, US E.Z. on Siltbreeze, just out last month, which is closely gunning for one of the year's best platters. To miss this would be quite the Goner Fest crime on a fine night like this, so no matter what it is going on back in that parking lot, or how tired you feel, Sic Alps are worth the whole price of admission.
Friday should start out just fine if you've played your cards right, so head over to Paynes' for a sandwich and check out Sun Studios, Stax/Volt Museum or any of the other attractions before the always-too-early daytime shows at Light Year's Vintage get rolling. All four bands, Dead Trends, Eric & Happy Thoughts, Touch-Me-Nots, and Perfect Fits are worth checking out if you haven't already, so after you've gone back to lay around for an hour, get over there and check it out. Later on, back at the Hi-Tone, Cola Freaks from Denmark will ransack the joint with spit-laden punk scuzz, screamed and beaten to pieces, and tortuously delivered like only crazed Dutch people can. Black Time are up next, and back in the states from the UK, it's yet another great band to have roaming around the Midwest, and their stark, dark agenda only comes across better in a live setting, as you'll see. Vivian Girls assume the position next and bringing their massively impressive wall of sound, combined with those other-worldly angelic voices is almost too good to be true, but they can pull it off live like you wouldn't believe. Australia's Ooga Boogas are up next and won't disappoint either, as they drag you through their guttural underwear sound and prime your pump for a walloping pop blasting from Cheap Time, followed by a tender moment or two by Msr. Jeffrey Evans & his Southern Aces. After this kind of an aural beating, you're probably gonna be really drunk, and that's okay, just keep going, because there's an after party at Odessa that may be unofficial but still looks like a winner. You get to see Eat Skull, Psychedelic Horseshit, Girls of the Gravitron, and Indian Jewelry with keg beer included for only $8? One of the best deals of the weekend, if you can stay awake, but don't blow your wad just yet, because there's one long day left. The day you can see the wear in every one's eyes, and hear the tears in every one's voices, especially if you've been up all night. Yep, keep yourself in check, you still have to live through Saturday.
Saturday morning will always come way too soon, but with any luck, you're still feeling okay and can see straight enough to make it over to Murphy's for an outdoor/indoor afternoon show with highlights such as Sector Zero, Oscars, Wizzard Sleeve, Barbaras, and Eat Skull, among several other great bands that should test the limits of your physical exhaustion. Doing a few shots between the afternoon shows and the Hi-Tone might be a good idea to preserve your drive and help get your auto pilot primed for takeover when necessary. With less than two hours until Box Elders start up, you probably won't have much time to do much else, but missing Box Elders kick off the last night of the weekend would be a Goner Fest foul that I wouldn't wish on anybody. Pick up a copy of their debut 7" while you still can, and look for a release on Goner soon as well. Up next, Static Static ride in on a bent light beam and taze the dazed with their humming apocalyptic laser-punk, which should send a jolt of refreshing electricity into your withered frame. Followed by the triple crown performances of TVK (formerly Tyvek), Mouserocket, and the always impressive sound of The Intelligence, the last night closes off with Fred and Toody Cole's new post-Dead Moon band, Pierced Arrows, which should slay like everything else they've done. Ok, are you still standing? Congratulations, you're one tough toenail, and a rock'n'roll soldier that demands respect!
Sunday may come early as well, so don't forget about the Goner Store closing ceremonies, complete with Bloody Marys and Thomas Function playing a live set that should invigorate your soul, and wash away at least most of the sins of the weekend and set everyone back on track to sanity before heading home. Chalk it up to the Goner boys for doing it right, and do everything you can to try to make it next year.
Sic Alps in Chicago 2007: