Gonerfest 17 Fires Up Its Engines For A Virtual (And Global) Weekend


Cheater Slicks, ca. 1990 - COURTESY GONER RECORDS
  • courtesy Goner Records
  • Cheater Slicks, ca. 1990
As reliably as today's fall equinox, the end of September brings Gonerfest, and this year is no different. Of course, this being 2020, everything's topsy turvy, but, this being Goner Records, that's sure to bring some topsy turvy magic as well. With COVID-19 still scratching at our doors, Goner has opted for the safest approach and put the entire festival online. I chased down co-owner Eric Friedl to get some of the details on this year's virtual Gonerfest 17, which goes down this Friday - Sunday. 

Memphis Flyer: I guess the headliners are not really highlighted in the announcement you've posted. Who would you say are the biggest shows?

Eric Friedl: You know, it is sort of a weird mix. When you put on these things, you need the bands that feel bigger, so it's kind of oriented towards them, even if, in the end, the ones people remember the most are the ones they don't know. I think the Cheater Slicks, Jack Oblivian and Quintron & Miss Pussycat are probably the biggest bands that people know. But there are so many bands there that are gonna just catch people's attention. 
Cheater Slicks, 2020 - COURTESY GONER RECORDS
  • courtesy Goner Records
  • Cheater Slicks, 2020

It's such a crap shoot doing things either live stream or pre-recorded. It's so hard to get any kind of energy through the screen. But you know, really my litmus test, or the proof that it could be done, was the Reigning Sound show. I thought that was fun to watch and people really enjoyed it. It kind of gave us the model. If you get people on the chats that are having fun it can be a good thing. I'm sure there's people online that know all this stuff, but I don't participate in that stuff that much. So that was a good signal to me that this could work.

And the sound was done beautifully by Joe Holland at the B-Side for that show.

Yeah, that's another thing that's hard to figure out. That's a variable with different bands and venues and download speeds and internet connections. It's mind boggling. So we're literally learning something every day, either how to do this or why you shouldn't do this. And we're gonna make it happen one way or another.

Any band live-streaming from B-Side?

No, we're not doing any from B-Side. Though they were pioneers in getting all that stuff down. True Sons of Thunder are gonna be out of the Hi-Tone. And we've got a few people in the Goner shop. And some other surprises.

So I suppose most bands are streaming videos from their home locations?

Yeah. Except for the Archaeas. They're gonna be doing it out of the store again. They liked the experience when they played for Goner TV. They liked how it sounded, and we sorta know how to make that work. So, they were up for doing it.

So some shows will be live streamed and some will be pre-recorded?

Yeah, it's a mix. Our first idea was, everything should be live streamed. And there's a certain excitement with that, and also a certain amount of folly in trying to do it. So once we had people in time zones that are 18 hours apart, it's just not possible. It is possible, but you don't get someone's best performance when they're playing at seven in the morning on a Tuesday. The way it worked out was, we're opening up and going to a stage in Auckland, and there's five bands playing in Auckland on Friday afternoon. And it's mid morning, but New Zealand just opened up completely. So they can have people in the bar.

So it can be a real show. Even if they're playing at noon, they have a real show going on. So that was lucky. We asked around there because they are open, and it seems like in other places, bands can't even get together to play a live-stream.

We've got a couple other things to add to the schedule. Robert Gordon is doing a talk about It Came From Memphis, the new version published by Third Man. And J.B. Horrell's doing a discussion about The Invaders movie, and the soundtrack for that. So there's a little more Memphis stuff thrown in there too.

I interviewed King Khan for a bit of that promotional footage for The Invaders.

King Khan is quite a character!

It's nice you're carrying on the cinematic side of Gonerfest. Like when you screened The Sore Losers at Gonerfest 15.

Yeah, this seemed like a natural thing. And the Country Teasers, I had approached them about that movie, This Film Should Not Exist. It's a film about the Country Teasers and [bandleader] Ben Wallers, who performs as The Rebel now. He's doing a live thing on Saturday afternoon. We're gonna get some extra footage from them, probably just the Oblivians. 'Cos there's a lot of Oblivians stuff in there too. They basically followed us around on tour for a couple weeks in, like, 1994. So there's some really good Oblivians footage in there. So, that's a U.S. premiere for that film. 
Jack Oblivian
  • Jack Oblivian

What will you do for the opening and closing ceremonies, which are usually held at the Cooper-Young gazebo?

I guess our closing ceremony is our alley shot. It's kind of a tradition. And we're gonna try to figure out how to do that as a group internet experience. So many details are being worked out as we speak.

The way it is now, it seems like you could encourage people to come out and participate a little bit. But it didn't seem like that was the way things were going, so we shied away from that. It seemed irresponsible. People wanted to come and have shows and things, and we were just like, "No, we can't do that." So we've tried to put it all online. Once we made that decision, that's what we ran with.

Gonerfest 17 takes place Friday, September 25 - Sunday, September 27. Click here for more details. Featured bands will include:

QUINTRON & MISS PUSSYCAT with Sam Yoger on drums (New Orleans, LA)
  • Quintron
MELENAS (Pamplona, Spain)
THE REBEL (London, UK)
GEE TEE (Sydney, Australia)
ARCHAEAS (Louisville, KY)
EN ATTENDANT ANA (Paris, France)
BLOODBAGS (Auckland, NZ)
DAVID NANCE (Omaha, Nebraska)
SABA LOU (Berlin, Germany)
NA NOISE (Auckland, NZ)
DICK MOVE (Auckland, NZ)
OH! BOLAND (Galway, Ireland)
OUNCE (Auckland, NZ)
BELLA & THE BIZARRE (Berlin, Germany)
THIGH MASTER (Toowoomba, Australia)
TOADS (San Francisco, CA)
MICHAEL BEACH (Melbourne, Australia)
EXBATS (Tucson, AZ)
OPTIC SINK (Memphis, TN)
LOUSY SUE (Indianapolis, IN)
ZERODENT (Perth, Australia)
BIG CLOWN (Memphis, TN)

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