Vinyl Word: Escape to Gonerfest rekindles fire for GB music scene

By Tom Smith

Because of circumstances beyond my control, I am forced to throw you, the readers of the Vinyl Word column, yet another curve ball this month.

I won’t be reviewing an album released on vinyl, but rather two different albums released on cassette (my favorite format before I got a turntable).

But first, I have good news — my faith in Rock and Roll has been restored by the aforementioned circumstances — namely an escape to Memphis, Tenn. to attend Gonerfest 19.

The upshot will be an influx of great up-and-coming musical artists coming to play Green Bay.
Allow me to explain.

I have been setting up bands in Green Bay since 1986, and it’s always been a labor of love – something that I had much enthusiasm for – until the pandemic.

I must admit that global scourge broke my spirit when it came to booking and promoting shows.
Now I’m back to booking shows, but something was missing.

The bands are great (Mad Mojo Jett from Minneapolis on Saturday Nov. 19 at the Lyric Room is a great example of that), but I just didn’t have the fire I had in me circa 1995-2000.

I started to think the ember had burned out forever.

Turns out I was wrong.

Enter Gonerfest 19
I made the wise decision to take my first vacation in 38 months to attend Gonerfest 19 on Sept. 22-25 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Gonerfest is an annual music festival set up by Goner Records, which is both a record store and a record label that also releases some of the world’s best garage punk rock, garage blues and other great items (including books).

It’s one of the best record stores and record labels in the world.

I have attended all the heavyweights in the music festival world, from Estrus Record’s Garageshock in Bellingham, Wash. and Austin, Tex. to Horizontal Action’s the Blackout in Chicago to the Deep Blues Festival in Bayport, Minn.

Gonerfest is easily one of the best I’ve ever been to.

It has totally re-energized me and re-ignited the spark.

For the first time in a long time, I’m inspired and excited to book and promote bands in Green Bay.
Gonerfest 19 literally reconfirmed my faith in Rock N Roll, so watch out, Green Bay.

There are so many great bands out there who are not playing Green Bay, and we (the bands, promoters, clubs, and fans of RNR in GB) together are going to fix that.

The Satanic Togas and Snooper
The two bands I’m reviewing on cassette are two of the many bands that totally blew me away at Gonerfest 19.

First up, the Satanic Togas — self titled on Wartt-Mann Inc. — Timebomb rating 666 out of 666 stars.
They hail from Sydney, Australia and played the best aftershow of Gonerfest 19 at a club called the Hi Tone — it’s the exact moment my faith in RNR was restored.

The cassette contains 12 Lo Fi surfy garage punk songs that are guaranteed to get your Converse tennis shoes tapping.

My favorite songs are “Chain Reaction,” “Panic Room,” “No Luck” and “Itchin’”.

The singer of the Satanic Togas is also in the group Research Reactor Corp, who stole the show on opening night.

When these two bands return to America, I vow to book them in Green Bay.

The second cassette I’m reviewing is Snooper: Compilation of the… Hits which is self-released by the band, Timebomb rating 13 out of 13.

Snooper is from Nashville, Tenn. and has been around for less than two years.

One of their first shows ever was at Gonerfest 18.

Talking to people at Gonerfest 19, I was told the Snooper show was great last year and folks loved them, but everyone was freaking out about how much they have progressed in a year.

With my own ears and eyes I saw them turn in a totally blistering 30-minute set with so much energy I had to ask myself, did Snooper steal Gonerfest 19?


The Snooper cassette is Lo Fi garage punk with some New Wave in the mix.

The cassette appears to feature just two members (they currently have five), and to be honest, the cassette doesn’t do justice to their ferocious live show.

But it’s still a super fun listen and I recommend you track it down.

My favorite songs are “Music for Spies,” “Fitness,” “Defect,” “Microbe” and their cover of “Don’t Bring Me Down” by Electric Light Orchestra.

Is Snooper currently the world’s best band?

Gonna say yes!

Snooper is another band I promise to bring to Green Bay.

Live, Long, and Snooper rules.

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