Speaking of Punk Rock and River Cities…

True Sons of Thunder rocking it with a yoga-savvy mannequin

Memphis and music are synonymous, yes. But for many people, Memphis means motown and Stax or Elvis and Sun. About three decades ago, another sound—rawer and ruder—began to fester in the noxious, sun-blanched fumes of the Mississippi. And a dive called the Antenna Club—Memphis’s answer to CBGB’s—firmly pinned River City on the word-of-mouth-and-mail (wtf, long distance calls were expensive!) punk rock touring map. Now the legacy fuels Goner Records, Gonerfest and a slate of shows that, being three hours away and working a day job, I mostly miss. Big sad sigh.

The Antenna closed in 1995. I was too young, and even when I wasn’t, too square to pay much attention to burgeoning Memphis crustcore. I occasionally caught something at Young Avenue Deli or Hi-Tone, but I couldn’t tell you what. Mostly I was fascinated by how dirty the kids seemed—the dreads, the septum piercings, the fact that everyone drank beer and no one ate meat, then no one drank beer and everyone tattooed X’s inside their lips.

There was Panther Burns, the Klitz, the Compulsive Gamblers, the Oblivians. I finally started paying attention around the era of Jay Reatard/Lost Sounds and the Reigning Sound.

The Memphis punk cheat sheet goes something like this:

1980’s–The Antenna club booked acts like Suicidal Tendencies, the Minutemen, Mission of Burma, etc., etc., name your influential, informative band, etc…

1993—Eric Oblivian maybe founded Goner Records to release an album by the Japanese punk band Guitar Wolf (disclaimer—that came from Wikipedia!) or definitely founded Goner to release a cassette by his own band, the Oblivians.

All the murky in-between years: Jay Reatard played in every band that’s any band in Memphis, while the Oblivians officially scattered (1998) into solo careers (Jack Oblivian) and other bands (the Reigning Sound, True Sons of Thunder, and a dozen et ceteras).

2004—Eric Oblivian and The Final Solutions frontman Zac Ives purchase a record store, and Goner gained a physical home. Goner held the first annual Gonerfest, bringing underground punk to Memphis for a full week each September.

2011—Punk rockers are still defining their terms, the bands and the crowds are pretty much lifers (read—well past their twenties), and the eighth Gonerfest is scheduled for September.

But hey, Chris Davis covers the Antenna Club much better than I do, so check out his Memphis Flyer article.

And—what birthed my diatribe—since I happened to be in Memphis a few weeks ago (okay, Saturday, Jan. 29 to be precise), I caught a show at Murphy’s. The line-up was Black Black Evil Eye out of Columbus/Starkville, Miss. (featuring Jay Grumpy formerly of the Grumpies), the Overnight Lows out of Jackson, Miss. and distributed on Goner, The Bills out of New Orleans, and Memphis’s finest, True Sons of Thunder.

Here are the pics:

Black Black Evil Eye

Overnight Lows

The Bills

True Sons of Thunder

For more pics, go here.


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