I already said and wrote a few permutations of all the accolades I could throw at Fred Cole over this past weekend. So in lieu of repeating myself and risk diluting the sentiment, I’m just going to post some photos I got of Fred and Toody from Gonerfest 13 (2016).
It’s all been said better by others already anyway.
Over the past decade+, I was lucky to catch Dead Moon, Pierced Arrows, and the Fred and Toody set below.
The Dead Moon show I saw at Horizontal Action's 2006 Blackout remains one of the best shows I have ever seen. The others were fantastic too, but that first one was a major game-changer for a 22-year-old idiot, such as I was.
Whole perspective on shit = changed.
TO SUPPORT TOODY COLE:
Please order records, shirts, whatever through DeadMoonUSA.com.
Fred + Toody
I'm not going to write a whole thing about Gonerfest this year.
Okay, I will:
It was neat. All the bands ripped.
I wasted all my words over the past few days, so I wouldn't do it justice anyway.
So... pictures, 1k words, etc.
Just below is a gallery of some of the ones I like most.
Below that are links to all the bands' photos.
To see them grouped by day, lookit.
I'm in the homestretch of completing the photos from Gonerfest 14/XIV/2017, so in preparation for that, I'm going to pull last year's Gonerfest review out of the archives and post that.
I'd clean up and edit the piece before posting it, but I feel like I'd never run out of edits and corrections, so the text is presented in toto.
To read it with captioned photos and embedded samples of some of the bands listed, go to the Razorcake page. [Yeah, I linked it twice. What.]
Links to additional photos of the bands at Gonerfest 13:
- Aquarian Blood
- Black Lips
- Blind Shake
- Bloodshot Bill
- Chook Race
- Control Freaks
- Counter Intuits
- Fred and Toody
- Hash Redactor
- Iron Head
- Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds
- Midnite Snaxxx
- Oh Boland
- Opposite Sex
- Reigning Sound
- Spray Paint
- Useless Eaters
- Rev. John Wilkins
So here, and so there:
In 2005, a couple of friends and I skipped out on college for a week to drive from upstate New York down to Memphis for Gonerfest II.
This year, I went again.
Pulling into the hotel lot after six-or-so hours of driving from one end of Tennessee to the other, I felt flashes of recognition as my surroundings aligned and overlapped with memories lying dormant, the distant cousin to déjà vu commonly referred to as, “remembering something.”
I drove past the outdoor pool, vividly recalling it as the place my comrades tried to baptize themselves back to sanity after a night of paranoia and hallucination wrought by their decision to partake in an impromptu fungal communion shared at the Armory after-party while Kajun SS and Evil Army performed.
We had the bright idea to spend that night sleeping in the van in order to save money on hotel rooms, but in lieu of wiggling our toes in the quicksands of dreamland, these guys had to sleepwalk through their own respective psilocybin nightmares while I clung to the grass and tried to let my equilibrium catch up to the way the world was spinning.
This time around, I was here to photograph, try to lock some things up in my long term memory for later use, and my only vices would be caffeinated beverages and late-night Taco Bell.
On Thursday afternoon, I got to the Goner Records store just in time to get manacled with a weekend pass wristband and given a Gonerfest XIII bag along with a seven-inch (with “Blood on the Line” by Aquarian Blood on one side, and “Demarche Fauve” by Couteau Latex on the other). I briefly peeped into the bargain bin where I had found a copy of a friend’s band’s LP when I had last come through. Months before, I was in the Goner store at the ass end of a road trip out West. I’d found two copies, told him as much via text while in the store, and he immediately replied with a plea that I buy them so he wouldn’t have to see them there when he came down next. I’d bought one. The other was still there.
Once outside the store and on the corner of Cooper and Young, I had enough time to switch out lenses, second guess myself, rearrange them on the camera bodies, and repeat the act once more. To an outside observer, I imagine it looked a bit like a cup-and-ball trick in which I played the part of both magician and mystified audience.
Zac Ives gave a brief and endearing introduction expressing his pride in witnessing the trajectory Nots have taken thus far.
I’m not sure if I have ever seen a band rock a gazebo before, but if I have, none could touch the near-lethal dose of vigor and vim with which Nots did so. The only thing that might come close would not be a result of this hypothetical band’s talent or performance, but the delight I would find in finding an ample excuse to use the portmanteau, ‘shoegazebo.’
Natalie Hoffman is a killer. Though I couldn’t focus 100% on the performance itself while I was arranging things inside the frame of a little rectangle through my camera, looking back through the photos from the afternoon, I’m able to see the late September evening breeze in concert with Hoffman’s movements, sweeping her hair between shots from L’Oréal advertisements to Cousin Itt screen tests.
Similarly, Charlotte Watson is damned heroic on the drums. When I first heard Nots’ first album, We Are Nots, my first impression was that I loved the drums: steady, cymbal-sparse, and heavy on the floor tom. What I hadn’t anticipated was how animated Watson was while playing live. Her head and hair disembodied into their own independent entity, in constant motion except for when she needed to provide backup vocals, at which point she’d localize her movements for long enough to aim her mouth at her microphone. She moved in physical space with the dynamism of the statistical probability of an electron cloud.
Again, seeing photographs as she was sliced out of motion, it was like capturing paranormal activity that the naked eye can’t observe. Her eyes rolled back behind their lids to reveal only pearls of sclera in the interstices of brunette tendrils mid-whip, reminiscent of demonic possession or some psychic commune with ancient worlds that only Roky Erickson could understand.
After Nots finished, Goner-goers trickled in and out of surrounding establishments for sustenance and socializing until it was time for the post-prandial events. Having driven to and parked in the lot behind Hi-Tone with an excess of time and a lack of things to do, I decided to explore the surrounding area. When I got out of the car, I heard Reigning Sound soundchecking inside with “You Got Me Hummin’.”
Walking toward the rear entrance, I saw the back of a figure with blazing white hair that seemed to blend into the two fur pelts hanging from a leather vest that hung down past the knees, much like a cape or trenchcoat with none of the nonsense (or all of it, depending on one’s perspective). I briefly wondered if I had just spied a glimpse of Ric Flair, and if a Wrestlemania was taking place nearby.
It took a second for me to realize that was the back of the night’s MC, and should any trouble rear its head this evening, Jim Dandy would be there to the rescue.
Next I saw him, the leonine Dandy and his fierce white mane were on the Hi-Tone stage, introducing the first evening band, Hash Redactor. Returning from her earlier set with Nots was Meredith Lones on bass.
As much as I was aware of Lones’ talent while watching her with Nots, I was better able to see how much she was doing when she played in Hash Redactor. Unfortunately, either the set (or just the final song) ended prematurely when the singer’s guitar, amp, pedals, or some combination thereof, suffered some communication breakdown in the signal’s path to the speaker, and they stopped.
The second band of the night was the Australian trio, Chook Race, the first of several antipodean bands to be featured this year. It was a shift to a sweeter, slower pace, the dulcet combination of Carloyn Hawkins’ and Matthew Liveradis’ voices are reminiscent of the Vaselines (which might be a lazy comparison on my part). They were a great act to coax the audience forward into the night.
Thus far into the post-Gonerfest doldrum haze of ordinary life, they are the band I most often listen to and always among the first I recommend to friends. They have nestled deep inside the marsupial pouch of my heart.
Just as Chook Race became the band heaviest in rotation after Gonerfest, the next band was definitely the one I listened to most in the days preceding the fest.
I was looking forward to the Counter Intuits because my only exposure to them had been listening to their albums. At the time, I had pictured a snotty twenty-something with a stupid/smart sense of humor. I was pleased and surprised to see it was a fifty-something dude who, to me, resembled an alternate reality in the multiverse in which Darby Crash never got lost in heroin nor strayed from the tried and true routes of beer, weed, and burritos.
This, of course, was Ron House of Great Plains, Psandwich, and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, among others. The other main Counter Intuit is Jared Phillips of Times New Viking, a band I have also enjoyed but failed to keep tabs on over the years for no other reason than I’d just forgotten to.
Upon my first listen to Counter Intuits, I went nuts for the guitar parts that seemed straight out of the old Country Teasers’ playbook. I was glad to see they played a few of my favorite tracks from Monosyllabilly including, “Dementia/Dementia,” “Sunglasses After Death,” and “Password (Is Password).”
At one point, House seemed to forget his own words, so he pulled out a pair of black frame glasses and a seemingly swamp-assed sheet of paper with lyrics scrawled out on it, which was legitimately charming.
Useless Eaters easily were the tightest, most together band to play the Hi-Tone on Thursday night. They were absolutely the most intense. Seth Sutton was economical in his movements, but like a boxer adept at conserving and distributing their weight for doling out a knockout, the guy just spewed power. Lise Sutter provided additional textures of noise, and both Sutter and Sutton would return to the stage as a duo on Saturday to open the Hi-Tone show as Couteau Latex.
As I waited in my spot by the stage, I saw someone bring out two black folding chairs with the letters T and F spray-painted in dripping red on the backrests. I began to dream up iterations of a logo that would combine the two letters into one, not unlike the ambiguous letter that indecisive grade-schoolers use when filling in a blank on a True/False quiz, hoping to invoke a sort of Schrödinger’s Cat duality where the answer exists as both sides of the coin and the grader will be hypnotized into seeing the answer that is meant to be there.
When Fred and Toody came onstage, the audience welcomed them with all the warmth, reverence, and appreciation that they deserve.
When I saw Dead Moon in 2006, Fred and Toody were joined by the late Andrew Loomis on drums. The drums were pulled to the edge of the stage to where the three of them were on an equal front, a staggered triumvirate of sound.
With only Fred and Toody onstage, their sound more resembled the production of their records. Whereas Dead Moon in a live setting was pounding and powerful, most of the recordings seemed to shift attention to the treble end of things, with the famed Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” mono lathe playing some part in making the bass drum almost a figment of the listener’s imagination. It was an easy transition to hear the songs performed this way, in an acoustic/unplugged-type of arrangement, while still being completely electric and plugged in.
(Disclaimer: I feel the need to restrain myself for this one, or rein it in, so to speak.) Reigning Sound has been one of my favorite bands since I discovered them in 2005. Greg Cartwright is one of my favorite living songwriters, and I can’t help but nerd out when he comes up in conversation or his bands are hitting my earholes.
Through mutual friends, I have come to understand that people expressing such sentiments to his face sometimes make him uncomfortable. Because I know that, should it occur, my meeting the guy would result in unavoidably effusive and one-sided fanfare on my part, I can’t do it. Back when I used to partake in socially lubricative beverages, I would calm my nerves and grease the jaw with a little libation if I felt like I needed to express my adoration or appreciation for some artists or another. Sometimes I’d overshoot the mark. After a particularly awkward and slurred conversation with Dale Crover after a Melvins show, I learned my lesson and began to give a wide berth when any artist I loved came through.
I’ve seen Reigning Sound more often than any other band (with the possible exception of bands consisting of people I’m friends with). The first time I saw them was back in 2005 at the second Gonerfest, and by that time the lineup consisted of Lance Wille on drums and David Wayne Gay on bass. I had the chance to see them several times over the next ten years or so, including once with Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las, which was another occasion I oozed adulation onto a performer. Mary Weiss is a gracious, kind, and patient person. (At least she was for the amount of time that I was confessing my love to her, which is all I need and more than I deserve.)
I knew the original Reigning Sound lineup had been playing shows here and there, and I wanted to see them, but I couldn’t make it work until now. Drummer Greg Roberson employed a bit of an unorthodox technique by donning one white glove on his left hand, gripping a drumstick, then mummifying it all in a layer of duct-tape. I’d heard of people doing this when they have a break or sprain and need to play a show, but I think it was just to ensure the stick wouldn’t go flying when things got sweaty. Bassist Jeremy Scott played the role of the most animated person onstage, seeming to have to most fun playing the Reigning Sound songs of yore (though everyone was, both onstage and off, clearly enjoying themselves and seemed happy to be there).
Friday began with a daytime show at Memphis Made Brewing Company, the brewery that crafted and canned an IPA in recognition of Gonerfest.
Since my drinking days are over a half decade behind me, I don’t have any opinion to offer on the taste and quality of a beer, but even if I were still a tippler, I have never claimed to have the most refined palate in the world.
However, since my occasional Indiana Jones golden-idol/bag-of-sand switcheroo for a pint of PBR is a fistful of burrito while watching a band (both are more or less cylindrical and housed in aluminum to some degree, so it works out fine), in lieu of a beer review, I offer that of a Hot Mess burrito instead:
I chose the chicken burrito with habanero, the spiciest of available sauces, which I anticipated to be more painful than flavorful. Due to a lingering sinus infection, I treated the meal as a therapeutic remedy as well as a nutritious and delicious respite from the early evening sun. Though I assumed I was going to suffer through a painful experience for the sake of culinary-cum-medicinal exploration, capsaicin is no panacea, but it inflicted a sufficient rout-like retreat of symptoms that had been making me feel like I was turning into Rocky Dennis with quantum singularities tucked deep inside my tear ducts.
It was delicious. 10/10.
The most memorable set of the daytime show was by the Canadian band, Pity. Balaclava-clad and wearing black, they ripped into a set that seemed to pack a half hour worth of borderline powerviolence into probably fifteen or so songs that all collectively fell into around ten minutes.
I was reminded, both visually and aurally, of Henry Fiat’s Open Sore. Since I love that band and have never seen them in the flesh, this was probably the closest possible thing, as well as a band and performance that I appreciate and enjoyed as their own entity, independent of my associations with a likely defunct ensemble of masked and monikered Swedes.
Pity’s singer’s guitar suffered a double dose of immolation, first being lit on fire while still on his person before being tossed in the air. The band tore back into song, and again the guitar was lit, flung, and then it fell back to the ground. As Aristotle posited of gravity, being not completely wrong yet not completely right, things move toward their natural place. The guitar seemed to feel its proper place was on the ground. At least one fourth of Pity disagreed, possibly feeling it should be condemned to the fires of the sun, considering its intended trajectory and flaming head start.
The first band on Friday night at the Hi-Tone was Opposite Sex from New Zealand. They started with a song in which the guitarist and drummer began, while Lucy Hunter jumped up and down in front of her bass. It might have just been some pre-performance calisthenics overlapping into the show, but I imagined that she was conjuring up vibrations from her feet hitting the stage floor, then being soaked up by her bass and letting the strings ring out in an almost inaudible hum, sort of priming her instrument with resonance like a finger riding on the rim of a wine glass just before it sings.
Hunter began sing/speaking into the microphone while the drums and guitar carried on. When she picked up her bass, her playing became the pulse of the music, allowing the guitar to reel off into twangy noise. Her voice sounded both innocent and beyond her years.
The best surprise of the night, if not the entire weekend, came from the Australian band, Power. The first thing they did was clear everything superfluous from the floor and push the single microphone stand to the edge of the stage. (This might seem like an inconsequential detail, but I only noticed because some bands leave extra stands where they are, which can be a bit of a hurdle to overcome when trying to get good photos without blurry black bars running through them.)
When the band started playing, their energy filled that open space in such a way that made it feel like they had packed up and transported their entire practice space all the way to Memphis from Melbourne. (It calls to mind the haiku from didn’t-know-it-poet Garth Algar: “I mean, we’re looking/ Down on Wayne’s basement; only/ That’s not Wayne’s basement.”)
Power’s frontman looks like the sort of bully from the ‘80s movies who you secretly root for over the cloyingly innocent protagonist. While the mullet hairstyle might commonly referred to as being business in the front, party in the back, this was neither party nor business. It was 100% irony-free, no-nonsense, kick-your-dick-in-the-dirt for real.
They’re the kind of band who couldn’t give a shit less if you like them, but that won’t stop them from giving it their all when they play, because that’s the only way they know how to do it. I like to imagine they have only ever listened to AC/DC, Motorhead, and the only Metallica they’ll put up with is Kill ‘Em All. That might all have more to do with their look than their sound because as good as it was, the only thing I knew for certain is that they were awesome at being loud. Either way, if I had to ballpark the math, I’d be willing to drive between 5 and 10 hours just to see them play again, even if it was for fifteen minutes.
Buck Biloxi and the Fucks played next, which included the return of Nots’ Charlotte Watson on drums. The crowd went apeshit for them, despite Robert Watson Craig III growing mildly frustrated as roughly half the songs just collapsed and dissolved rather than meeting their intended endings. The more they fucked up, the more the crowd loved it.
The Blind Shake brought the most controlled form of chaos to the stage. The brothers Blaha were both dressed in black, bald or shorn, and both played MPLS guitars (Mike with a baritone, Jim with a regular six-string). They sang the same words, at the same time, providing a visual and aural stereo union before retreating from the mic stands to explode into their own respective forms of animation, Jim wrangling his guitar like a junebug on a string and choreographed faux-smash movements that looked potentially lethal to the instrument until he swept it back up and out of harm’s way at the last moment.
Black Lips were the last Friday act on the Hi-Tone stage, and it was their first Gonerfest since the very first one in January of 2005. Coincidentally, my old college friend, Zumi Rosow, plays saxophone for them now. I got to speak her briefly while she set up before the show, and we reminisced about the time I wrote a 10-page paper on Eraserhead for her in exchange for a few beers, or when I convinced two thirds of [what would later become] Mean Jeans to form a one-off black metal band and shoot a video of my sacrificing her with a six foot sword, and a moving death scene performance on her part as she writhed in basement dirt and A1 steak sauce for blood.
Black Lips were easily the wildest show of the weekend, as far as communal artist/audience participation weas concerned. They played a good deal off of Underneath the Rainbow, as well as some old favorites from Let It Bloom, and they played at least one new song off their forthcoming album. Between songs, Cole Alexander encouraged everyone to go to Murphy’s to see Tommy Wright III.
After their set ended, Zumi wanted to introduce me to Cole because we share a deep affection for GG Allin. After talking for a bit, Cole reiterated the importance of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see local legend Tommy Wright III perform. I had no idea who that was, but I was revved up on caffeine and didn’t feel like crashing yet, so I went.
Though it wasn’t part of Gonerfest proper, most of the same faces were present at Murphy’s after the Black Lips set. When I got there, Manateees were playing. Fronted by Abe White, their earlier recordings fall more under the umbrella of garage punk (I think), but when I saw them play, they seemed almost like a tight thrash metal band. They were great. I stuck around for a couple of songs by Tommy Wright III, but considering my pineal gland was still an hour in the future and operating according to Eastern Daylight Time, I finally opted to go rest up at the hotel.
Saturday’s festivities began at 1 PM at Murphy’s, alternating shows between the indoor and outdoor stages. I had been looking forward to seeing and hearing Iron Head from New Orleans, featuring King Louie on guitar. I love a lot of King Louie’s oeuvre. When I came to Gonerfest in September of 2005, his one man band rang in the weekend’s opening ceremony from the rear of the Goner store. I don’t remember what songs he played, but between numbers, he answered a cell phone call from Quintron and got the crowd to shout out a hello to him. Louie told a story about enduring Hurricane Katrina by grabbing hold of a soda machine as it floated by and boogie-boarding it through the river-flooded streets to greener pastures.
Iron Head was a spectacular mess, highlighted by solos and riffs that crashed and burned immediately upon departure, but that didn’t stop Bankston from going for each and every one with renewed faith and vigor in his fingertips each time. Between songs, Bankston and Drew Owen (on drums and vocals) debated over which one had played the previous song right. Bassist Jheri Macgillicuddy remained neutral and refrained from throwing his two cents in, but I got the impression he knew who was right and, as a matter of habit, just preferred to wait out the squall.
Oh Boland was by far the most charming bunch of the day. Their positivity was infectious, endearing, and unrivaled. It was clear they were thankful and happy to be there, a sentiment that was clearly reciprocated by the audience. The first song began and the singer, Bile Bunton (né Niall Murphy) approached the microphone bent over because the stand was raised only about three-fourths of a Danny Devito in height. I wondered for a moment if this was a sort of anti-Lemmy singing posture, but before I could entertain the thought much further, someone raised the stand height for him mid-song. It was a small thing, but it seemed a testament to their willingness to roll with whatever and embrace the situation at hand with high spirits and good humor.
Between songs, the drummer mentioned that they would need to sell their instruments before flying back to Ireland, so anyone interested should inquire further at their merch table. Murphy haggled himself down to offering his guitar to anyone who asked for it after the show.
The act I was most looking forward to on Saturday was Bloodshot Bill. I first heard him in the late-aughts and was bummed to find that he was forbidden from playing in the states at that time. I finally got to see him in Atlanta this past July, and I couldn’t wait to see him again.
Aside from being the best and most engaging one man band I have heard and/or seen, his vocal acrobatics incorporate grunts, hiccups, screeches, cry breaks, and a sort of ersatz Tuvan throat-singing that sounds at times like Charlie Feathers mud-wrestling a Tibetan monk with a menagerie of hogs, frogs, and barn owls cheering from the sidelines.
Following Bloodshot Bill was Control Freaks, featuring Friday night’s MC, Greg Lowery. The energy was high from the outset, and following a request from the festival organizers to keep on schedule by cutting the set short, the intensity maintained, though the vibe shifted from, “Let’s do this,” to, “Fuck it.”
Any restraint that might have tempered the release was then unfettered, and while the songs sounded great, the focus was more directed towards letting loose every ounce of their reserves, at least as much as possible within the confines of the time constraints.
The cocktail of excitement, anticipation, and frustration felt a bit like trying to cram as many shots into your mouth to get you sufficiently blitzkrieg drunk between the time a bar announces last call and when they forcibly remove you from the premises and lock the door behind you.
Preparing for the pinnacle of the weekend with Saturday’s final act, Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, I found a spot at the front of the stage as it cleared up between bands. While I prepared my photo gear for what I could guess would be the best combination of lenses and cameras for the show, a young guy approached me, said hi, and showed me two album covers he brought with him, one Death Party by Gun Club, the other Psychedelic Jungle by the Cramps. One or both of them had signatures on them. Throughout the show, he either placed them venerably on the edge of the stage while he drifted into the crowd, or he clutched them affectionately to his side. His excitement rubbed off on me, and I drifted from mulling over technical details with my cameras to getting pumped to see Kid Congo Powers play two feet in front of me.
Tom Scharpling introduced Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, and the lights were dimmed to a low red glow. Powers slipped effortlessly into the role of a curandero, bridging the gap between worlds with one foot dangling off into the ether and one firmly entrenched in the muck of the corporeal. He said a few words throughout the set, each phrase a small performance in and of itself. With his eyes perpetually focused off to some nowhere up and off to his right, each word he sang and spoke seemed directed toward some apparition in the upper corner of the room. It was as though his line of sight was some conduit of communion with his muse, and bringing his immediate attention to anyone in particular would break the spell.
Sunday afternoon, Rev. John Wilkins performed in the Cooper Young Gazebo. The weather was immaculate. Occasionally Wilkins’ daughter would take the lead and belt out her amazing voice while she drifted out into the crowd and engaged with the audience. Rev. Wilkins said a few words about his father, Robert Wilkins, and ended with a rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a befittingly annular theme for a closing hymn, considering our return to the (more or less circular) gazebo at the end of the fest.
Before I began the trek back home to Chattanooga, I made a couple of stops around Memphis. I went in the general direction of Graceland, since whenever I pass through Memphis, I consider going but end up spending a couple of hours in the Goner store instead. Considering I’d been getting gone all weekend long, I figured it might be the only time I felt like going.
I had intended to check out the area and assess whether I felt like going in, but before I knew it, I was paying for parking, got the up-sell on a tour I had to wait over an hour for, and then elbowing through fellow Graceland-goers while I fought for space to pretend I was William Eggleston and photograph crannies of rooms and details of decor.
Meanwhile, my tour-mates had iPads slung from their neck and bobbing on their bellies while John Stamos’ disembodied voice piped through their provided pairs of headphones, rendering their spatial awareness a notch below their own normal levels, which might not have been great to begin with.
My heart went out to the angry woman in the bottom of the main house whose sole job seemed to be to remind each cluster of visitors that they shouldn’t sit on the bright yellow barstools. A large sign also indicated that they shouldn’t sit on the bright yellow barstools. Without fail, about one out of every five people who came into the room disobeyed and sat on the bright yellow barstools. I wondered if this exercise in futility was some exercise in karmic debt for the poor woman, or if the tamest circle of hell overlapped with our realm and was located in Elvis’ basement. Only past-life serial killers deserve such a fate.
Nearing the end, there was a line to stand in front of Elvis’ grave and take a picture of it, which I skipped. The whole Graceland experience was more meaningful to me when I was a Presley-obsessed ten-year-old kid and I went with my dad.
He couldn’t have given a shit less about Elvis, but he suffered through it just because it meant something to his weird-looking kid who spritzed his hair off the Moh’s scale with hairspray into the most generous definition of a pompadour, and who demanded that the silk bomber jacket with a gold-glitter Elvis on the back was not for old ladies, but actually meant for a ten-year-old dude who would unknowingly leave an indelible golden sparkle on everything he leaned against.
My last stop before leaving town was a short visit to Jay Reatard’s gravesite. I can’t claim I ever knew the guy, but I was lucky enough to have the chance to see the Reatards, Angry Angles, Final Solutions, the Persuaders, et cetera. The last time was when I got to catch some friends opening for his solo outfit in Chattanooga in 2008. I didn’t stay in the cemetery long, as I felt strange being nothing but a tourist, but I felt like if there was ever a time where it might be an appropriate time to do it, this was it. I saw that someone had left a green guitar pick as well as a devotional candle with Jay’s face on the angel’s body.
Only two days after Gonerfest ended, I had the chance to ride out the last ripples of the weekend and see two Gonerfest XIII veterans, Nots and The World, play with locals Coma Vigil in Chattanooga. I was glad I could see Nots again, this time not through a lens and without having to creep around surreptitiously with a camera pressed against my face. They killed it, as usual. I bought one of their special editions of Cosmetic that comes with a screenprinted cover, a small compact mirror, and some additional artwork bound up in cardboard and a rubber band.
In the time since the fest ended, I have been listening to the full-album playlist of over four hundred songs that I made in preparation for Gonerfest XIII, albeit now with new context and ancillary memories to reinform the way I hear it all now. I still struggle to find content by bands that are either not well-known, they don’t have many or any recordings available, or their names make it particularly difficult to narrow searches down to their specific material (e.g., Power, The World, Pity, et cetera).
I can only hope that I don’t wait another eleven years to attend Gonerfest XIV in 2027, though I hope both I and it are still around for that one as well.
For a more judicious selection of images (~20 instead of the ~100 below), go to my main photo site, ericcharlespeterson.com. It's currently the most recent blog post, first thing you'll see if you follow the link. (If that changes in the future, click the following link to go to the post itself.)
I first discovered the Insane Clown Posse in 1998, probably in Hit Parader or Revolver or something. I bought a couple of albums, then I moved on. (Probably due to the summer my buddy Wes turned me on to Eyehategod, etc.)
I never went to a show or painted my face, but I have put corpsepaint on for the sake of Black Metal, and that's really not any different.
. . .
On September 16th, 2017, I photographed the Insane Clown Posse's March of the Juggalos and the following concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The protest regards their designation as a "gang" by the FBI.
Being a fan, going to a concert, having a sticker on your car, etc., has led to people losing their kids and their jobs.
The "Family" compare themselves to Deadheads, rather than a gang. This is an entirely appropriate analogy. They were all sweet, welcoming, ridiculous people who like some music and like hanging out and meeting one another.
The struggalo is real.
Rummaging through the nether reaches of my digital graveyard, I came across the old laptop that served me well through a few years in college and a bit beyond. I was going through old photographs on its hard drive when I found a few images from part of a project I had done during my senior year.
I had been taking a class on the role of nationalism in 19th century chamber music, which was just the kind of class one should expect to find at a liberal arts college such as my alma mater.
Half of the lecture period was allotted to discussing the historical context and importance of certain musical pieces, and the other half was spent listening to our four professors, the women comprising the Colorado Quartet, who would then play the pieces onstage in a small lecture hall.
When it came time to choose our projects for the semester, I decided to do mine on nationalism and the history of Scandinavian black metal. I was in the midst of a full-fledged black metal obsession, fueled in part by having recently read Lords of Chaos, but in the previous semester, I had also taken a class on the image of evil in art history as well as a literature class in which we studied heroes and epics, including The Sagas of Icelanders, Táin Bó Cúailnge, The Song of Roland, well as the Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda.
I was familiar with some facets of black metal, but I hadn't yet heard the full story. I had loved Emperor since I discovered them in high school, and I liked Mayhem, but I didn’t know the whole story about Euronymous, Varg Vikernes, Dead, the stave church burnings, et cetera, until my buddy Christian gave me the abridged version one night over a few beers.
My introduction to black metal came about in a roundabout and very uncool way. I saw the Mortiis album, The Stargate, in a record store, and thought it looked like it would be ridiculous and heavy as hell. I bought it and took it home. It was a bit more of the former than the latter.
It was only after investigating the story behind my regretful purchase that I discovered that Mortiis was in a nascent form of Emperor. Having heard a bit of their catalog, I was sold. For my 16-year-old ears, I could get a better grip on the later stuff with clear production.
I was relatively certain that I was going to have a unique subject to cover for the class, but it turned out that another guy had the same idea, so it was proposed that we collaborate and either cover different aspects of the topic, or present together. The guy and I liked each other, but we were both solitary creatures, so we didn’t make any major effort to work together. Birds of a feather, just not flocking together.
I did my paper and prepared a presentation. The day came when we were supposed to present, and the other guy went first. I watched him give a great presentation, but halfway through, I realized I couldn’t go up and give my presentation immediately after him because not only was it all the same information, but he was smarter than I was, and he had done a much better job.
When it came time for my part, I deflected by taking one fourth of the professorial quartet aside and telling her that I had been distracted by a death of a friend of mine that had occurred a few days before. (This was true, but also admittedly a bit of a cheap move. I had done the work, but I had been on autopilot and a bit despondent, so I didn’t give the presentation as much thought as I could have. It would have been fine if I was the only one covering the topic, but no dice. I figured my friend wouldn’t mind if I invoked their passing as an opportunity to save my own ass, at least just this once.)
Granted the grace of an extra two days before I was supposed to give my end of the presentation, I concocted a plan. My then-girlfriend had rented out a video camera for part of an installation she was making for her senior show. My friends Christian and Paul and I were in a band, and though it was far from black metal (we had our own songs, but fleshed out most shows by playing covers by the Oblivians, Reatards, Persuaders, and Reigning Sound), I knew Christian could play black metal riffs and I knew Paul could whip up some blast beats in a pinch.
Some friends of ours had a basement that regularly housed off-campus shows, and it looked “necro” enough to pass as something befitting early incarnations of Mayhem or Emperor.
It wasn't sepulchral and brutal. It was just broke-ass and borderline asbestic.
I remembered there was an old, unwanted dresser down there. This would be my altar. My friend Zumi (who plays (or has played) saxophone with Black Lips, K-Holes, GØGGS) was always down to do something weird, especially if it involved some form of audience.
When I asked her if I could sacrifice her, she didn’t need to know why. She just said yes.
That night, Christian’s high school buddy, Richard, came into town. He was also always someone who loved doing something interesting and/or idiotic as long as it wasn't boring. When I asked him if he would put on corpsepaint and play black metal in a basement for about fifteen minutes, he was all about it.
(In retrospect, Greg Fox and Tyler Dusenberry, who both went to our college and later ended up in Liturgy, would have been perfect. I don't think I was aware they were black metal fiends at that time. I'm not even sure if I'd met them by that point.)
I went into a halloween store and got black and white makeup along with a sufficient amount of ingredients for fake blood. I paid my friends in beer for letting me do this to them, and for them being gracious enough to do this for me.
There was a party going on in the upper part of the house, so while spirits were high and helping hands were in abundance, at some point Christian got to the point of inebriation where you’re not fully blacked out, but your brain shuts the door on your short term memory for a little while. A number of times, he asked me why the fuck I was having my girlfriend put makeup on his face. If he started getting impatient and saying he was totally over looking like he was in a bad Kiss cover band, I'd just placate him with another beer. I knew that if I got him down to the basement and put a guitar in his hands, he’d be good to go.
With all four of us decked out in corpsepaint, the three dudes who would have to be playing instruments went down and started getting themselves in the right frame of mind. We didn’t have any real songs, original or otherwise, so I just told Paul to play drums as fast as he could. With the reverberative power of the cement walls in the basement, he didn’t even have to try to play loud. The wash of the cymbals and the speed of the blast beats would blend into a sort of white noise, if all went right. Christian would play all the black metal riffs he could think of. And just to simplify things, we didn’t plug Richard’s bass in. He was mostly there because I knew he had perfected the art of the windmill headbang. If everything went well, the music would be distorted through the low-quality video microphone, and it would sound almost legitimate.
When it came time for my presentation in the chamber music class, I went through about ten minutes of additional information about nationalism in black metal not covered by the other guy, such as its roots in classical music, borrowing imagery from their Nordic heritage, as well as the church burnings. Then I rolled out the television and hit play.
I watched the screen as my friends and I all summoned our sonic berserkers. Occasionally I would shift my attention to the bemused cadre of classically-trained musicians/professors and a room full of my peers as we all watched my dumb ass scream nonsense about Yggdrasil and Valhalla into a microphone and swing a giant fake sword at my victim on the altar that clearly was formerly used to hold underwear and socks and stuff.
The whole thing was ridiculous at the outset, but somehow Zumi turned it into something almost genuine. If it weren't for her, it would have been a videotape of me and my friends being idiots in a basement. Not atypical for a weeknight, except for maybe the makeup.
The video ends with feedback as she writhes on a dusty basement floor, putting on a legitimately devoted death scene, my girlfriend zooming in on her freshly cooling corpse caked in sticky, rust-colored, corn syrup blood.
My professors and classmates were amused and confused. The guy who had done the other presentation on black metal was in the front row, laughing his ass off. He loved it. Of the four professors, my favorite of the bunch smiled through the whole thing and came up afterward to tell me she thought it was great. The others weren't quite as enthusiastic, but they at least seemed to appreciate the deviation from protocol.
I don't know what happened to the tape itself. Evidently, at some point I decided to point a camera at the video while it played on a TV. As far as I know, that's all that remains of it now. The music didn't sound all that different from early Emperor or Mayhem demos. It was only any good because I was surrounded by supremely talented friends who didn't mind (for the most part) doing something loud, messy, and dumb.
I got a B+ on the project, and an A in the class.