With 36 bands spread over four days and four venues — from the Texas/Tennessee summit meeting AAAA New Memphis Legs to Ottawa's White Wires — Gonerfest 9 will bring garage-punk bands, and fans, from around the country and across the globe to Memphis while also showing off Memphis' deep bench of related bands to the visiting congregation.
The former includes yet another strong contingent from Australia, home of breakout Goner band Eddy Current Suppression Ring (not on this year's bill), and from "parts unknown" in the form of theatrical headliners Nobunny and the Spits. The latter includes a strong field of 10 Memphis-connected acts that range from scene-starters (Jeffrey Evans, The Oblivians) to rising stars (Ex-Cult, Toxie).
Here, we sift through the packed schedule to pick out some potential highlights:
Monsieur Jeffrey Evans (Thursday, 5:30 p.m.,
The former frontman of '68 Comeback and the Gibson Bros. will emerge from his Mississippi redoubt to kick off Gonerfest 9 in the gazebo at the corner of Cooper and Young. M. Evans' brand of bluesified psychobilly has been a major influence on Memphis' garage-rock scene for more than 20 years, both as a performer and a producer. His always-memorable live shows mix songs from his extensive discography with half-remembered rock and blues gems, but where he is completely unequaled is as onstage storyteller. Expect glorious chaos, and you won't be disappointed.
— Chris McCoy
Slug Guts (Thursday, 10:30 p.m., Hi-Tone Café)
Slug Guts display two major influences on the modern garage-punk underground: late-'80s/early-'90s aggro noise-rock and Australia. Like many bands operating in the aforementioned sonic demographic, Slug Guts hail from the latter and give unmistakable nods to that continent's '80s and '90s standout contributions to post-punk and noise-rock, most notably the Scientists, the Birthday Party, and feedtime. Formed in Brisbane, Slug Guts were together less than a year when their 2009 debut album, Down On the Meat (Stained Circle Records) saw the light of day, and prolific stateside label Sacred Bones released the quartet's sophomore album, Howlin' Gang, in 2011. Slug Guts is the perfect representative of the blunt-force and sludgy side of Gonerfest that often gets overshadowed by more pop-savvy concerns.
— Andrew Earles
The Oblivians (Thursday, 1 a.m., Hi-Tone Café)
There's a case to be made that the Oblivians are the greatest Memphis music act of the post-Al Green/Big Star era. And though each of the trio — Goner founder Eric Friedl, Greg "Reigning Sound" Cartwright, and Jack "Tearjerkers" Yarber — has done tremendous things since the band's initial 1998 break-up, their collective chemistry is still a special thing. Good news, then, that the latest reunion is more than just a one-off show or tour. The band has been working on its first new studio album since 1997's The Oblivians Play 9 Songs with Mr. Quintron. With a deeper musicality and more charisma than most but with no loss of energy or attitude for it, they are legends in their scene for good reason.
— Chris Herrington
Toxie (Friday, 4 p.m., The Buccaneer)
Nots (Friday, 9 p.m., Hi-Tone Café)
Ex-Cult (Saturday, 9:45 p.m., Hi-Tone Café)
Here we have three local bands that are, well, most likely going to be the next three acts to make a mark outside the city limits. After a trip to the Bay Area to record their debut full-length (to be released on Goner in the coming months) with Ty Segall, Ex-Cult should be pulling out their A-game for Gonerfest, so here's a quick rundown for the uninitiated: Formerly Sex Cult (with a debut Goner single under that moniker), this quartet mixes the more shambling, psych-inspired post-punk of the first-wave British DIY movement (think Television Personalities) with the initial rumblings of the early-'80s, distinctly American punk/hardcore underground (think Germs or the Victims). Then we have Nots, which is three-fourths of the now-defunct but once quite promising Bake Sale carrying on in a more rocking, slightly Gun Club-ish trio format. The accomplished songwriting of Bake Sale is still present and even improved upon, and if someone isn't talking to these ladies about releasing a record, then such plans couldn't be that far off. Toxie is Will McElroy (guitar and synth) and Ben Bauermeister (drums) of Magic Kids with Madison Farmer (guitar and vocals) of Coasting and Alexandra Burden (bass and vocals). With an upcoming single on Goner and a Flying Nun-meets-'60s-girl-groups-meets-early-Pixies angle on things, Toxie have all things pointed in the right direction. — Andrew Earles
River City Tanlines (Friday, midnight, Hi-Tone Café)
For a few years now, the River City Tanlines has seemed to be the loud-and-fast outlet for Alicja Trout, the guitar-wielding rock ace who excels in arenas rough or smooth, traditional or progressive. But the band's new album, Coast to Coast — its third overall and first since 2006's I'm Your Negative — is a fuller portrait of Trout than anything the band had previously authored. It still rocks relentlessly but with poppier shadings that present more of Trout's arsenal. With the superb rhythm section of Terrence Bishop (bass) and John "Bubba" Bonds (drums) propelling Trout's songs, the Tanlines are even more of a sure thing live. — Chris Herrington
Nobunny (Friday, 1 a.m., Hi-Tone Café)
Friday night's headliner is Justin Champlin, aka Nobunny, an Oakland, California, native who makes the kind of deliciously loose garage-punk records for which Gonerfesters go nuts. And rightly so: His surprisingly sweet songwriting sensibilities combine pre-Beatles rock and pop, Velvet Underground psychedelia, surf, and first-generation punk into a stew that is fun, snotty, and clever — in a dumb kind of way. His second full-length, First Blood, is one of the best releases on the Goner label in recent years. Also, while onstage, he dresses like a psychotic bunny rabbit in a G-string, so he's got that going for him, too. — Chris McCoy
Mad Macka (Saturday, midnight, Hi-Tone Café)
I don't know what they're putting in the water in Australia, but whatever it is, the down-under continent has been producing some fine rock-and-roll in the 21st century. Every night at the Hi-Tone features one Australian band, and Saturday night it's Brisbane pub rocker John "Mad Macka" McKeering. The Macka just flat-out rocks in the same primal vein as Australia's foremost rock export, AC/DC, and the last time he was in Memphis, he played a rowdy, shirtless show that blew the roof off the Hi-Tone. As the penultimate performer on Saturday night, he's sure to bring a big-beat drunken riot of a set. — Chris McCoy
The Spits (Saturday, 1 a.m., Hi-Tone Café)
This trio — with an additional keyboard player of late — has been known to perform in hoods, prison jumpsuits, and Reagan masks, among other get-ups. But their fierce Ramones-style punk — often pulled in heavier or more psychedelic directions — comes through with equal strength. Recently touring with former Black Flag singer Keith Morris' OFF! Project and with a strong 2011 album (The Spits, same as their previous four albums) for venerable garage/punk label In the Red, the Spits hit Gonerfest as the Saturday-night headliner and on an upswing. — Chris Herrington
Rev. John Wilkins (Sunday, 3:30 p.m., Cooper-Young Gazebo)
The son of late blues and gospel great Robert Wilkins, north Mississippi's Rev. John Wilkins has continued his father's blend of country-blues and gospel, layering it with a more modern, electric hill-country blues sound. He introduced his sound to the wider world with his terrific 2011 album You Can't Hurry God. "Don't let the hearse be the first thing to take you to church," Wilkins pleads on an album that features soulful, spirited reworkings of blues and gospel standards such as "You Gotta Move," "Let the Redeemed Say So," and the elder Wilkins' trademark "Prodigal Son." Wilkins will provide Gonerfest with a Sunday-morning landing after three days of Saturday nights.
— Chris Herrington
Schedule for the three main nights at the Hi-Tone Café:
Thursday, September 27th
9 p.m. — Moving Finger (Memphis)
9:45 p.m. — Jack of Heart (France)
10:30 p.m. — Slug Guts (Australia)
11:15 p.m. — Heavy Times (Chicago)
Midnight — Golden Boys (Austin)
1 a.m. — The Oblivians (Memphis)
Friday, September 28th
9 p.m. — Nots (Memphis)
9:45 p.m. — Bad Sports (Denton, Texas)
10:30 p.m.— Gary Wrong Group (Mobile)
11:15 p.m.— Bits of Shit (Australia)
Midnight — River City Tanlines (Memphis)
1 a.m. — Nobunny (Rabbithole, U.S.A.)
Saturday, September 29th
9 p.m. — White Wires (Canada)
9:45 p.m.— Ex-Cult (Memphis)
10:30 p.m. — Persuaders (New Orleans)
11:15 p.m. — GG King (Atlanta)
Midnight — Mad Macka (Australia)
1 a.m. — The Spits (Outer Space)
Gonerfest 9 will open and close with free outdoor performances on Thursday and Sunday afternoons at the Goner Records location in Cooper-Young. There will also be day parties on Friday (at the Buccaneer) and Saturday (at Murphy's). Full festival passes are $60. Hi-Tone shows are $20 each. Murphy's day party is $10. Buccaneer day party is $5. For a full schedule, see gonerfest.com.