Back in 2005 Eric Friedl and Zac Ives of Memphis’ Goner Records were planning an album release for one of their artists, The King Khan & BBQ Show. They intended to book a small show at the Buccaneer Lounge, but so many people asked to play on the bill, the one-night concert grew into four days of music featuring more than a dozen bands. They dubbed this accidental festival “Gonerfest.”The festival — presented by the Cooper-Young-based record label and retail store — would go on to become one of the Bluff City’s unique and perennial cultural events. Seventeen years and 18 events later — there were actually two separate fests in year one — Gonerfest is still going strong. This year’s edition looks to be a particularly memorable one, with the festival inaugurators The King Khan & BBQ Show returning to perform.Here’s what you need to know before you go to Gonerfest 2022.
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Over the years, Gonerfest has become a signature Memphis event that draws hundreds of fans from around the world. Musically, the event has grown and morphed, expanding beyond its trash and garage rock roots. It’s also gained the support and sponsorship of companies ranging from FedEx to Apple Music while retaining its singular artistic spirit and communal vibe.
The last two years have marked a major logistical shift for Gonerfest in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 festival was held as a streaming/online-only event. In 2021, Gonerfest returned as an in-person event, while also being streamed — an option available again this year.Historically Gonerfest’s main nightly bills had taken place indoors at Hi-Tone Café. But given the pandemic, Ives and Friedl elected to find a new outdoor venue in Midtown’s Railgarten, which will again host all the festivities in 2022, including daytime/evening concert bills from Sept. 22-25.
The year’s headliners include Bay Area garage/soul combo Shannon & the Clams, the aforementioned international R&B rockers The King Khan & BBQ Show, and the pre-Oblivians/Reigning Sound Memphis group, Compulsive Gamblers.A host of other national acts — including Alabama’s Fred Lane & His Disheveled Monkeybiters, Minneapolis psych-rockers Green/Blue, Chicago indie rockers Mint Mile and Philly psych strummer Rosali — are also set to appear.This year’s festival will see the return of a strong international contingent led by Australian acts Gee Tee, Michael Beach, Partner Look, Screensaver and Research Reactor Corp, along with Swiss artist Leopardo, UK synth outfit Freak Genes and Montreal punks Retail Simps.On the local side, Memphis post-punks Ibex Clone and Unapologetic label hip-hop artist A Weirdo From Memphis (AWFM) will perform, along with the Magic Kids’ Bennett Foster who is making a return to the stage with a new solo project.Highlights from the festival’s four days include the following:Thursday: Gonerfest’s opening night — starting at 5 p.m. — will feature a powerful headlining duo, with The King Khan & BBQ Show and Shannon and the Clams set to perform. Sydney’s Research Reactor Corp also looks to be a highlight, with the Aussie band making its Memphis debut.
Friday: The day/night festivities kick off at noon Friday and run until 11 p.m. More than a dozen acts are scheduled to perform, with anticipated sets from the UK’s Freak Genes, Memphis noiseniks Aquarian Blood and Nashville’s Snooper, among others.
Saturday: Another long day of music on Saturday will kick off with Austin’s OD-EX and culminate with headliners the Compulsive Gamblers. Another dozen acts will play in between, with sets from local garage great Monsieur Jeff Evans, Melbourne’s Michael Beach and a double shot of Detroit rock from Negative Approach and Tyvek.
Sunday: Sunday’s closeout daytime bill will feature an appearance by Mississippi bluesman RL Boyce and a performance by The Falsestarts, an all-star combo featuring Memphis musician Tim Prudhomme, Tripp Lamkins of The Grifters and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth.
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This year’s roster of event MCs and DJs offers another exciting facet to Gonerfest. Thursday’s opening ceremonies will be hosted by Memphis trash-rock legend Ross Johnson, while Goner TV’s Billups Allen will also help compere, along with Drew Owen of Sick Thoughts.Festival DJ sets will see music spun by a selection of notables including veteran music critic and author Byron Coley, Timmy Vulgar of Clone Defects and Human Eye, Australian radio host Annaliese Replica, and Memphis music maven and WYXR program manager Jared “Jay B.” Boyd.
A handful of Gonerfest golden passes — which provide entry to all events — are available for $100. A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door at Railgarten each day. Cost is $30 for Thursday and $40 for Friday and Saturday shows. Admission to Sunday’s show is free.For those who can’t travel to Memphis to attend or wish to watch from the comfort of their own homes, Goner will do a livestream of all the performances. Viewing tickets for that are $20.Live and streaming tickets can be purchased at Gonerfest.com.
Sept. 22-25 at Railgarten, 2166 Central Ave.
For a full schedule or to purchase tickets, go to Gonerfest.com.