The term "20 and 10" may evoke images of burly power forwards for some — Grizzlies All-Star Zach Randolph is synonymous with the phrase, even if his scoring has fallen well short of the "20" mark this season — but it has particular meaning in 2013 for Memphis music institution Goner Records, which is celebrating its 20th year as a label and, in September, will hold the 10th edition of its annual Gonerfest event.
Long a primary hub of action on the local rock scene, Goner's fingerprints are on a lot of things at the moment. A few highlights:
Shows: Goner has long booked shows in town for friends and label-connected bands but has formalized this process a little bit lately in response to the recent closure of the Hi-Tone Café, now presenting shows under the "Goner Presents" banner.
"There were shows we still wanted to come to town [after the Hi-Tone closed], and we were capable of going to the Buccaneer and Murphy's. We started booking shows in a more professional way than before, because we have to," says Goner publicist Madison Farmer, citing "Goner Presents" shows that might have previously booked at the Hi-Tone and that required guarantees for the bands.
A smaller "Goner Presents" show Saturday, April 13th, at the Buccaneer will feature Washington, D.C., punk band the Shirks alongside Goner co-owner Zac Ives' Sharp Balloons and Mississippi-based Goner band the Overnight Lows. Showtime is 9 p.m. Future "Goner Presents" shows are set to include the Men later this month and Total Control and Parquet Courts in May.
But two other shows this week — featuring NYC indie-rock bands Widowspeak and Beach Fossils — are Goner-connected without being official Goner bookings, with Farmer booking the shows via her friendship with the bands.
"It was going to happen, whether it was at my house or at a bar," Farmer says. "Those bands had played Oxford in the past but wanted to come to Memphis."
The Tacoma-via-Brooklyn Widowspeak play darkly pretty and quasi-folkish rock built around the daydream vocals of singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton. In Memphis, they'll make an interesting contrast with the two other bands on the bill: Puerto Rican garage-rockers Los Vigilantes and Las Ardillas, both connected to Gonerfest faves Davila 666.
"Those were two bands that Jonathan [Kiersky, Hi-Tone owner] booked, and we added Widowspeak to the bill because we didn't want to have two shows booked at the same time," says Farmer, who also partners with Kiersky in the touring and public relations firm Ping-Pong Booking.
Widowspeak, Los Vigilantes, and Las Ardillas will play the Buccaneer on Thursday, April 11th. Showtime is 9 p.m.
Farmer's other show this week brings Beach Fossils, whose more familiar indie-pop sound is captured on the band's recently released second album, Clash the Truth, to Murphy's on Monday, April 15th, where they'll be paired with locals NOTS (featuring members of the now-defunct Bake Sale) and Warm Girls.
Releases: Goner's own 2013 release schedule kicked off in February with two pairs of seven-inch singles from local bands, three of them staff-connected. On February 5th, the label released "Newgate"/"Ties" from Toxie, Farmer's newish local band with singer Alex Burden and Magic Kids' Will McEllroy and Ben Bauermeister. Farmer and McEllroy lace guitar and keyboard hooks into Burden's prettily affectless vocals. The same day, the label released "Cat Food"/"Treehouse" from punk trio the Manatees, led by singer Abe White. Lo-fi, energetic, and irreverent, the "A" side has White impersonating a house pet, yowling "I want my cat food/I need it ... now/Bring me my cat food/Meow." On the flip, punk is posited as a place to hide out — "Wake up in the morning and I don't know what to do/I don't want to work and I don't want to go to school."
Two weeks later, the label released "Black Astrologers"/"I Can See But You Don't Know" from True Sons of Thunder, a noise-rock project involving Goner co-owner Eric Friedl. Here, rantings about important matters give way to a liberating burst of tribal-punk shoo-bop-de-bop. Released the same day, "Guitar Attack"/"Hiding in My Car" from Sector Zero captures the late Jay Reatard playing drums behind both Friedl and Ives. Both tracks were recorded at Reatard's house.
Goner's release schedule picks up this month, starting with the label's second Record Store Day single from "Ty Rex" — garage-rock stalwart Ty Segall covering '70s glam-rockers T. Rex. The single will be available in the Goner shop on Saturday, April 20th. On April 30th, Goner will release its first full-length album of the year, 4: Into the Unknown, a grungy, swaggering pysch-rock collection from the Detroit-based Human Eye, which splits the somewhat narrow stylistic difference between hometown proto-punk legends the Stooges and Ziggy Stardust.
Gonerfest: The label's signature event — scheduled for September 26th through 29th — is still a ways away, but the long-rumored headliner is now official, with Seattle post-punk band Mudhoney announcing it themselves last week. The band that helped launch both the "grunge" scene and Seattle indie label Sub Pop — they pre-dated Nirvana and Pearl Jam — has reunited and released a new album, Vanishing Point, last week. The rest of the Gonerfest schedule is expected to be announced this month. Location, given the uncertainty about the opening date of the new Hi-Tone space on Cleveland, remains unknown, at least publicly.