by Chris McCoy
Gonerfest Saturday is a test of endurance, a great time to discover new music, and one of my favorite Memphis events. The afternoon shows at Murphy's feature two stages, one indoor and one outdoor, where bands alternate sets for six hours of nonstop rock. It's usually where the up-and-coming bands are featured, and some of the most memorable performances of the weekend happen here.
My biggest discovery of this year's festival was the first band I saw at Murphy's. White Mystery is the sister and brother duo of Alex and Francis White — and unlike the White Stripes who used to falsely claim to be brother and sister, you just have to take one look at their hair to know that they're related. Caution: extreme volume:
Alex tore up the stage, and then, for a finale, tore up her guitar. ("It's OK," she said to me as she left the venue. "I can fix it.")
Outdoors there was a once-in-a-decade reunion of a short-lived band from the turn of the (21st) century that was originally called the Legs but has now evolved into the AAAA New Memphis Legs. Goner founder Eric Oblivian, Texas garage rocker James Arthur (of Manhunt), and Forrest Hewes of Oxford, Mississippi's, late, lamented Neckbones got back together for an appropriately loose and rocking set. Eric Oblivian said from the stage that they had one practice in 10 years, but apparently they don't need to practice.
The coveted sunset slot went to Tuscon, Arizona's, Legunas Largas, who turned in an impressively varied set of of melodic and shambolic garage punk.
There's a second song from Legunas Largas on my YouTube channel.
Action moved to the Hi-Tone, where the final night this year was absolutely huge. It was the biggest crowd I have ever seen in the Poplar Avenue club. The first band was Ottawa, Canada, power poppers White Wires, whose exquisitely crafted songs sounded at times like a second coming of the Romantics.
After the set, I accosted the band's singer/guitarist Ian Manhire for an interview.
Next up was my most anticipated band of the festival, Memphis' own Ex-Cult, who started off a little tight but soon relaxed into a performance that had the crowd transfixed.
As the night wore on, things got progressively more unhinged, as many attendees had been rocking for three days at that point. As someone said to me, "I've been seeing the same people since Thursday, but now they've all got these glazed looks on their faces." After raucous performances from New Orleans' Persuaders, with Gonerfest fave King Louis at the controls, and former Corbonas singer GG King, the floor was so crowded and chaotic I was no longer able to get down front to film. I was helping Live From Memphis' Christopher Reyes out by filming from a riser next to the sound board, and I was pretty much confined to that space for the rest of the evening. This is what it looked like from my perspective when Australian guitar legend John "Mad Macka" McKeering took his shirt off and shit got real.
Yes, I was running two cameras at once, 'cause I'm bad like that.
Gonerfest's ultimate band, perhaps in more ways than one, was the Spits, whose psychedelic party punk costume chicanery had 'em dancing all the way back to the epically long bathroom lines. This video doesn't really do the whole experience justice, but if you missed the show last night and ever get a chance to see them, take it.
Gonerfest 9 was, by all accounts, a tremendous success. It's one of Memphis' foremost cultural offerings and an outpost of the true chaotic party spirit of rock-and-roll. I'll see you next year.