Friday, September 28, 2007

Memphis - Punk Rock Capital of the USA?

Andria Lisle, the outrageously talented writer and Memphis native reports on Goner Fest 4 and local punk rock action in her Mojo blog that's available on Yahoo and the verdict is: YEAH... Memphis has a place at the punk rock table.

Ever since Goner Fest became a regular event, the profile of the whole Goner culture has been lifted so mainstream eyes can see just how enduring this punk rock thing is.

I'll say this every day - THANK YOU SEX PISTOLS for always mouthing off about everything you do! That they are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of their only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks really elevates the game and brings new eyes to old skool punk rock.

Shunning most recently the celebration of their induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, in 1978, the Pistols also shunned one of the largest and most populous cities in the USA - Los Angeles, playing their last US show in San Francisco instead. Of course, all the LA punks drove up to San Francisco to see them. Most of us made it a day trip... a very long day trip. This time around, however, the Pistols are playing Los Angeles... at the very intimate Roxy on the Sunset Strip.

Actually, the show in Los Angeles at the Roxy is a treat for fans and the radio station Indie 103.1 is making that possible. Sex Pistol Steve Jones is a DJ on Indie 103, host of Jonesy's Jukebox, which is always a laugh riot when his punk rock friends come on and they reminisce about the old days.

But what they never talk about is how on their final date in the USA on that tour, The Sex Pistols phoned it in. Johnny Rotten knew it in San Francisco - he left the stage asking the not-so-rhetorical question, "do you feel like you've been cheated?" I like to think of their reunion tours not so much as Filthy Lucre but of the Sex Pistols making it up to the USA...




However -- I've never seen a Memphis punk band phone it in. Jay Reatard whether up front or way in the back on drums is the new standard bearer for punk rock energy.

Before Jay Reatard made his splash, however, Memphis punk rock legends The Oblivians gave the city a new flag on the map (not that it could ever ever be dismissed... the city that brought you Elvis is the King of Rock n Roll Cities, full stop).

Originally from the West Coast, Eric Oblivian has been in Memphis for a long time and is one-half of the Goner store , Goner Records and Goner Fest... the other half is Zac Ives who fronts the punk rock band Final Solutions (featuring Jay Reatard, the hardest working young man in Memphis). Eric slings his guitar in True Sons of Thunder and other bands around town... that also include Jay Reatard.

Then there's Jack Oblivian, pictured at the left with Memphis Mike, the drummer of hardcore Man With Gun Lives Here. Jack's been in Memphis for probably 20 years, making music non stop. Memphis Mike is now a New Yorker...


Greg Oblivian now calls North Carolina home but is back at Goner Fest, having ushered it in with an acoustic set at the store last night that was so well attended, there were people spilling out on to the street. At Goner Fest 2, Greg stopped by to listen to Harlan T Bobo's in-store set on a Sunday afternoon that fell on the heels of Hurricane Rita, which followed her wrathful sister Katrina by a month. The electricity in the Cooper Young part of town, where the store is located kept going on and off in a strangely synchronized movement with Greg's walking in and out of the Goner Store.... how's that for a guy who recorded a spectacular cover of the garage rock chestnut, Stormy Weather? Greg and Jack first got on my radar as The Compulsive Gamblers and then, as the Oblivians. The Oblivians song No Reason To Live is about as punk rock as it gets in any decade.



Memphis music is alive and well as it has ever been since the days of Sam Phillips and Sun Records and Elvis and The Killer. The punk rock flag has been flown high and proud by the three men of the Oblivians who are carrying the Memphis rock n soul legacy into the 21st Century with a twist of punk rock.

While the SUN still shines in Memphis, there's now Goner carrying on the record shop legacy of Legba in the same location. For those who don't know, the Goner label itself was a DIY effort by the Oblivians to release their own cassette (a split with Impala)!

Years later, the label now has a deep catalog of the best in underground punk and garage rock, as well as some unusual for them but totally ready for prime time music such as that of Harlan T Bobo. And the young local punk rock legend who released his first recorded efforts on the Goner label, the ubiquitous Jay Reatard is in fact being wooed by the big time major labels.

In Memphis, a city rich in culture, history and all things music, it seems all kinds of music thrive but what gets noted most are the Sun Records and Stax accomplishments. Could be why Memphis music is so rich, when you think of it... magic has always been made there. Required reading is that link to Andria's Mojo blog... for a little history lesson on the Memphis all girl punk band, The Klitz and a recap about the greatness of Tav Falco and Panther Burns. When it gets back online after the weekend festivities, a thorough perusing of the Goner Records online store should be your next required reading... catch up on some new releases that just might be under your radar. And the food ain't bad either...

MM good!
Aron and Zac Ives enjoy Gus's Fried Chicken

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