A week after Memphis' Goner Records was named one of the nation's 25 best record stores by Rolling Stone, they're presenting one of the reasons why: the seventh annual Gonerfest, which will bring roughly 40 bands from around the globe to four local venues over five days, with most of the action taking place at the Hi-Tone Café.
"We've gone into a couple of these without any headliners. This year it's like all headliners," says Zac Ives, who co-owns the Goner empire alongside label founder Eric Friedl.
This year's fest boasts notable names from the mid-'90s punk scene that birthed the label — the Oblivians, Guitar Wolf, New Bomb Turks. But it also includes a roster of diverse and intriguing newer bands. Here's a short guide to some potential fest highlights that riffs on this year's past-and-future vibe:
Something "Old": The Strapping Fieldhands (Hi-Tone Café, Friday, midnight) are a ragged, '90s-era Philadelphia indie band whose lo-fi sound and cryptic songwriting connect them to scene standard-bearers such as Pavement and Guided by Voices, though the Fieldhands' music has more of a folk undercurrent. The band's second album, 1996's Wattle & Daub, was released on Sherman Willmott's Memphis indie Shangri-La. The band performed in town that year but hasn't played Memphis since. With Shangri-La this year reissuing the band's 1994 debut, Discus, Goner booked them for the festival, and the band has built a tour around the appearance, making this a nice union of the city's two thriving indie record store/labels.
Something New: Gonerfest has always had a rich international component, and this year is no different, with representatives from the United Kingdom, Italy, and Japan. But the most notable import is probably the trio of Australian bands making the trip. Goner's Australian connection was bolstered mightily when the Memphis label became the U.S. home of the terrific Aussie guitar band Eddy Current Suppression Ring, which has become one of Goner's best sellers.
The Eddy Current connection bears more fruit this year with Total Control (Murphy's, Saturday, 5:30 p.m.), a new synth-punk collaboration between Eddy Current guitarist Mikey Young and Dan Stewart of UV Race. Ives says he isn't sure if the duo has even played a live show in Australia yet. Stewart's UV Race (Hi-Tone Café, Saturday, 10:30 p.m.), a sextet that plays noisy, arty proto-punk in the Velvet Underground tradition, will also be on hand.
The most promising of the Australian bands at Gonerfest this year might be Super Wild Horses (Hi-Tone Café, Thursday, 9:45 p.m.), a two-woman, guitar-and-drum duo whose recently released debut album, Fifteen, is an enjoyable batch of sugary, fuzzy, bashed-out pop. Fifteen was recorded by Mikey Young.
"Almost all of this stuff is coming out of Melbourne," Ives says. "They're doing some interesting stuff. We're lucky they're all coming over."
Something "Old": Arguably the definitive Goner scene band, even if none of their official albums were released on the label, Memphis' The Oblivians (Hi-Tone Café, Friday, 1 a.m.) — featuring Friedl, Tearjerker Jack Yarber, and the Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright — don't need much explanation here.
Something New: Ireland's So Cow (Hi-Tone Café, Thursday, 11:15 p.m.) played a poorly attended show at the Hi-Tone earlier this year, but luckily for them — and for Memphis rock fans — Ives was among the handful in the house enjoying main man Brian Kelly's spiky, quirky pop music. "Barely anybody was there, but it was one of the best shows of the year," Ives remembers.
Something "Old": In the mid-'90s, Columbus, Ohio's New Bomb Turks (Hi-Tone Café, Saturday, midnight) were probably my favorite punk band that didn't include girls. Led by singer Eric Davidson and guitarist Jim Weber, the Turks looked the part of beer-swilling frat boys and submerged their English degrees in energetic, unpretentious noise.
The band hasn't been very active since their last album, in 2002, but Davidson published a book this summer, We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001, chronicling the scene he witnessed firsthand. He will do a presentation from the book from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday at the Buccaneer. With Davidson coming to promote the book, Goner was able to put together a rare Turks show.
Something New: San Francisco lo-fi savant Ty Segall released his second Goner album, Melted, this summer. He'll be playing the festival twice: in full-band mode (Hi-Tone Café, Thursday, 1 a.m.) and as a solo fest closer (Goner Store, Sunday, 2 p.m.).
Something "Old": Chaotic Japanese punk trio Guitar Wolf (Hi-Tone Café, Saturday, 1 a.m.) became something like honorary Memphians after Friedl released the band's debut on his Goner label in 1993. "We've been e-mailing them for years [about playing the festival]," Ives says. "And this year they were able to come over."
Something New: This year's festival boasts the Memphis debut of favorite son Greg Cartwright's new project, Parting Gifts (Hi-Tone Café, Friday, 9:45 p.m.), a collaboration with Coco Hames of the Los Angeles band the Ettes. Cartwright produced the Ettes' most recent album, Do You Want Power. Parting Gifts grew out of that, and the band's debut album, Strychnine Dandelion, released by In the Red next month, features 10 new Cartwright songs.
Gonerfest 7 Hi-Tone Café, The Buccaneer, Murphy's, Goner Records; Wednesday, September 22nd-Sunday, September 26th; Admission ranges $5-$18 depending on the time and location, or $60 for a full-fest pass. See Gonerfest.com for full schedule and details.