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Memphis Tonight ~ The Takeover of Goner Fest Begins

Billed as the “Wildest Show on Earth,” Goner Fest probably held this title well before its sixth year this year. Fans from as far as Japan and Australia will have plenty of opportunity to see the best in Memphis rock and around the globe during the four day festival which begins tonight.

Today, I welcome Zac Ives, co-owner of Goner Records and co-coordinator of Goner Fest, to talk about this weekend’s Goner Fest and Memphis music in general. He’s been my source for local music and good music since he helped me with a project last year for my niece in Alabama to learn about life in Memphis. And since he is also a father of two beautiful kids being raised in Cooper-Young, I took the chance to ask about family in regards to Memphis and music too.

See the Q & A below.

It's an excuse to visit Memphis and see lots of cool bands. I think that's what makes it such a destination.
~ Zac Ives on Goner Fest's international attraction.
Goner Fest
How does the line-up get built and selected every year?

Eric {co-owner} and I do it. We pick bands we want to see, and pair them up with local bands we think people should see. We always try and vary the lineup from year-to-year - so it's a different experience each year. Obviously there's some overlap - but we try to avoid it when possible.

What band/musician have you wanted to come play Goner Fest and has not yet performed? Maybe fans can rally for them to play next year.
We've brought in lots of our own goofy heroes - The Leather Uppers, Head, and Donny Denim. We tried for two years to bring in The Clean - from New Zealand and thought it was going to work out this year - but it ultimately fell apart. So yeah, there are a few we haven't made happen yet. There's always next year!

Is this the first year a film showing {i.e. Cigarette Girl} has been linked to the festival?
We showed another film a couple years ago - a documentary by Ron Franklin about Mr. Jeffrey Evans called The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing. We always try and have something ancillary going on - we've done art exhibits, photo exhibits, and guest-star Sun Records tours. We try and keep our folks on their toes.

I have seen highlighted this year that Goner Fest is international with bands and fans from around the world. Because of that, I have researched to find whether there is another festival like this. I didn't really see anything like this anywhere. What exactly do you think is the distinctive features of Goner Fest to attract this international attention?
I think a lot of it has to do with Memphis. It's an excuse to visit Memphis and see lots of cool bands. I think that's what makes it such a destination.

When did the festival start seeing the attracting international fans?
We had people fly in from Europe and Japan for the very first one. but each year we see more people coming in from outside Memphis, both nationally and internationally. We love that.

How did they hear about it and what motivated them to travel that far to attend?
We've built a pretty big community through our website and on the board. Plus our label has grown, our online store has grown, and the festival has grown - and all of those things have given us more exposure - both in terms of press and otherwise. So I think all of those things kind of roll together.

Goner Fest Coordination
How many people are intensely involved to pull something like this off?
We've got a good crew of 10-15 volunteers that help pull it off every year. John Hoppe (our one full-time employee), Eric and I do most of the event management. But we also work with local screen printers, art directors, T-shirt makers, photographers, videographers, and audio techs to make everything happen. Plus, the staff and management at each of the venues, and sponsors. It takes everyone.

Attending Goner Fest
If you can only see one band, which one would it be? {Question via Kerry of the blog I love Memphis of the Memphis Visitor’s Bureau}
Depends on what you like!!! Right now the one I'm looking forward to most is Davila 666 from Puerto Rico. They always get compared to the Black Lips in the press - but there is way more of a South and Central American vibe going on in there stuff - more like Os Mutantes or Los Shakers or something like that. I can't wait!

My son Atticus loves live music. Are there any kid friendly day shows?
Not necessarily - we've talked about trying to add this though. Maybe next year we'll have something built just for kids. But the day shows at the shop might work - especially Sunday's show w/ Jeff Evans. I think my kids will be up on Thursday for King Louie. It'll just be really tight in there.

Goner Fest and Goner Records
Do all of the festival artists have albums available at Goner?
Most of them have either a single or an album up at the shop - so yeah!

Was the Goner label started with the store?
The label existed before the shop - actually - Eric ran a mail order biz and the label out of his house before we opened the shop together in February of 2004. Basically we put out records by bands we like and think people need to hear. It's a simple as that.

Memphis and Music and Family
What are some family friendly Memphis events you get them involved in? Is music a big part of your family and in raising the kids?

We've got some really great family friendly options here. Between Rock n Romp and the Shell - families can enjoy all sorts of different music. It's great. We've also set up a couple of successful neighborhood parties on our block that have been a lot of fun too. Both my kids seem to really like music. I haven't pushed them too much one way or another - but Anna will sing Nobunny and the Go-Betweens just as loudly as she sings Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift, and Aron's developed some pretty great full-body-shaking dances for his favorite jams. So we've got that going for us.

Do you have any music insider suggestions for good kid’s music? We haven’t been able to avoid Barney or the Wiggles (who I admit are actually good musicians).
Yeah - our favorite is the Luv Clowns - which is an all-star group of Memphis musicians (Tim Prudhomme, Harlan T Bobo, Doug Easley and Alex Greene) who recorded and played out some goofy self-penned kids songs a bit a couple years back. We hope to release an album from them at some point next year. We also listen to lots of Music for Aardvarks. Unfortunately, we can't avoid the Disney soundtracks and Demi and Taylor and Hannah and all that stuff either. Oh yeah - the old "Greasy Kids Stuff" show that used to be on WFMU is really great. All kinds of fun goofy stuff and they have downloadable archives!

Listen here. They may also have CDs for sale here.

Thanks Zac!
Opening Ceremonies starts tonight at 5:30pm at Goner Records
2152 Young Avenue in Cooper-Young
Ticket info here. / See the basic schedule below and full schedule in the official program here.

Sample Goner Fest music from Memphis Flyer’s Chris Herrington here.
Photos from Goner Records. Banner photos from Jim Hayes via Fallout Records {left of Memphis band The Reatards} and Bullcity Records {right of Puerto Rican band Davila 666}. Banner graphic layout by Sophorn McRae.

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