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How to Survive Gonerfest With Your Liver Intact

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Gonerfest 15 is this weekend, and, boy, is my liver already tired!

I was in my mid-30s when the garage-rock music festival — the brainchild of Goner Records co-founders Eric Friedl and Zac Ives — was started. In those early days, the promise of endless rounds of booze rivaled the guarantee of great musicianship, and there were pre-shows and post-shows galore, which led to drinking around the clock.

I vaguely remember tossing back a vodka and Kool-Aid concoction during an after-hours party in a trashed room at the beleaguered French Quarter Hotel at the corner of Cooper and Madison. Another year, I recall carrying a bottle of tequila into Evil Army's home base, the Armory, as dawn was breaking on a post-post-Gonerfest show. And at the very first Gonerfest, back in 2005, I pogoed inside the also-long-gone Buccaneer Lounge, spilling more Busch beer on the floor than I could pour into my mouth as the Black Lips caroused onstage.

Now I'm 49, and a little wiser about my drinking habits — particularly when it comes to maintaining the stamina required to make it through four days and nights of live music.

Ex-Cult - JAKE GILES NETTER
  • Jake Giles Netter
  • Ex-Cult

It was former Memphis Flyer music editor/Ex-Cult frontman Chris Shaw who stated that "if treating your body like a trashcan while thrashing around to high-energy bands is your idea of a good time, then consider Gonerfest the shit-head Olympics." Shaw coined the phrase for a Vice article, in which he chronicled Ty Segall baptizing the Hi-Tone audience with four bottles of champagne, amongst other liquor-fueled hijinks. As he sagely noted, Memphis' relatively lax drinking laws lure garage-rock boozehounds like moths to a flame. Seriously — I've clinked beer bottles and red Solo cups with people from Australia, New Zealand, all corners of Europe, and even Japan, who travel to Memphis for the weekend year after year.

Unfortunately, there are no open container provisions in Cooper-Young, so when the opening ceremonies begin in the gazebo on Thursday night, I'll be a teetotaler. Or, if I get a wild hair, I'll brown-bag a tall beer. Tecate, bought from the corner store, is a likely contender.

Even if garage rock means nothing to you, the crowd-watching during the Friday afternoon show at Memphis Made Brewing at 768 S. Cooper is sublime. This year, the brewery's tap room will be serving a time-honored favorite: a cream ale dubbed Gönerbraü, which has 4.5 percent ABV. It'll be a smooth component to the musical line-up at Memphis Made, which includes bands from Austin, New Orleans, and Chicago.

After a late night at the Hi-Tone on Friday — where I hope to stick to water after pre-gaming with a round of cocktails — I'll be ready for white wine (I'm no snob — the Barefoot Pinot Grigio, listed on the menu at $4.50 a glass, suits me just fine) or a beer at Murphy's on Saturday. The music, slated for indoor and outdoor stages, starts at noon and runs until 7 p.m., with the party moving back to the Hi-Tone at 8 p.m. My strategy includes sunglasses, plenty of shade, and a few healthy meals that will cushion whatever I decide to imbibe.

No matter which musical genre floats your boat, when attending festivals, moderation is key. Getting so wasted that you forget all the fun — or wind up acting like a total jackass — is an issue, but so is dehydration. Water is especially crucial if you're dancing, walking, or staking out your spot on the front row. Add in some Gatorade to replenish your electrolytes. Pace yourself. And for heaven's sake, don't drink and drive.

At concerts, I hate standing in line at the bar, so when I do buy drinks, I tend to purchase them two at a time. Sometimes I drink them both; more than likely, at Gonerfest, I'll run into a friend from halfway across the world and share. That kind of camaraderie is what the weekend is all about — and, along with the stellar music, it's what keeps me attending year after year.

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