Just over one week ago, the legendary Oblivians, with the Gories in tow, reunited to burn Memphis to the ground and I was there to bother the shit out of them.
Despite having broken up in 1999, the Oblivians remain a representation of Rock & Roll at its most fundamental. These cretins and lowlifes are often said to be progenitors of the garage-punk movement. And true as that may be, it does not do justice. The Oblivians are best described as a gospel band. Not only because they covered traditional gospel songs, but rather on account of how they embraced the unapologetic soul of that music. The Oblivians are among the best bands to realize the spirit of Rock & Roll is a thing belonging to the black and Baptist. Hell, the Oblivians are among the best bands, period.
A gospel-punk band probably sounds like a disaster. And in the hands of anyone else, it probably would be. But gospel music is purposed for setting the spirit loose in Holy release. Traditionally, this has been done in the name of the Lord. The Oblivians, inspired by that pure, powerful music, took what began as a joke band, and started a Rock & Roll religion exalting drugs, sex, violence, and yes, the Lord. The Oblivians rip with a baseness and honesty that is truly a thing to behold. Greg and co. might be getting really old, but they haven’t aged. The Brothers-O shouted about faggots and sex and drugs and hitting women like it was the first time. This was not a reunion, it was a revival.
And seeing the Gories GO OFF just made the whole weekend that much better! We met our new friend the Ice Cream Man at the show and ate his ice cream. He gets WEIRD for the Gories! And his camera guys were actually allowed to go inside the Hi-Tone without harassing Eric O.! Ice Cream Man’s got you covered on those Gories.
My spirit has been lifted:
Now, I would like to take a moment to air my grievances with several members of the Oblivians’ audience. I say the following with the understanding that I am the dick with the camera. But I am this sort of dick for a productive purpose. And I really do try to stay out of the way. Given that the dude who normally operates the second camera couldn’t make it to Memphis, I was stuck with a tough shoot. Most of the audience actually helped me out, but the following idiots BLOW:
1: He-who-blots-out-the-sun. You know the nine-foot tall dumb ass that decides someone with his dimensions should be RIGHT AT THE FRONT OF THE STAGE? He’s gotten worse. Now he has a huge afro and looks like the mongoloid from Coheed and Cambria. And just in case someone, somewhere, could see around his titatnic ass, he constantly shook his retarded fro back n’ forth for good measure.
2: Shirtless e-freak. You can see him rolling in, oh, ALL of my shots. On account of no one wanting to get anywhere near him, this slimy wiener had a ton of stage-side real estate to keep touching himself in. He spent the rest of his time scutteling on stage like a desperate lizard to guzzle whatever beer was left in Eric O.’s discarded bottles. You’re a freak. Take your pills at home and stay there.
3: White girl dreads. If there was one thing I thought I could avoid at an Oblivians show, it was white girl dreads. No luck there. I got slapped in the face by some of these garbage ropes and the stink still won’t come out. That isn’t hair, sister; it’s a putrid, yellow disease.
4: Rock-a-billy pervert: I have no idea why this elderly-looking guy was humping a table when he thought no one was watching. Yes, it looked just like it sounds.
5: Will-call tickets: So, the first night, Vishal was explaining to me the merits of will-call tickets. He’s a dork and so I tuned out. We got up to the front of the line and guess what? Yep– “NO VISHAL ON THE LIST, SIR!” Guess, what happened the next night with my lady’s ticket? Guess who had to go to the A.T.M for another 23 big ones? Oblivians/Gories Shakedown ’09!! WOO!!!
Now with that out of the way, let’s rap about Greg Cartwright and the Oblivians.
I was stoked to be interviewing Greg Cartwright. He is an artist whose work I very much admire. In all seriousness, this man is a contender for best musician working. He is also a terribly nice guy. No matter the band, Cartwright’s music is unflinchingly honest and always spiritual. You would be hard-pressed to see the performance of a musician more connected with his own work. The Reigning Sound begs on bended knees and the Oblivians fuck you all night long, but it’s always Greg Cartwright doin’ his thang. And with his heroes mostly dead, there is no one doing it better.
In person, Greg Cartwright is a lot like his songs. He’s modest, laughs frequently, and is stoic as a western. When I met up with Greg at Goner records, he was wearing shorts and old man sandals while listening intently to records in a corner. Just after saying hello, the family man received a call from his wife. I heard the apologetic stutters and saw the fear of God in his eyes and knew this was going to be a brief interview. He had to hang out with his grandma, you see. By our count, Greg’s grandma cannot be less than 142 years old.
After the interview, homeboy dropped nearly $700 on vinyl, like a damn rapper. “It’s a disease!” he says. In addition to the two rooms in his home already filled with discs, Greg has had to build an additional garage to support his habit. No wonder Mrs. Cartwright is pissed. His taxman helps him write the addiction off. “Research!” he says.
Digging information out of Greg is a chore (he doesn’t remember what songs are on his upcoming albums– or the release date), but I can tell you that his current band, the great Reigning Sound, is releasing Love And Curses on In The Red Records come August 11th. If you’re not an idiot, you will buy it. He also let slip that the Reigning Sound has an acoustic album in the works. He didn’t know any of the songs on that one either.
I should also spend a few words on Eric Friedl and Jack-O. Eric Oblivian, who owns and operates Goner Records, is probably too nice a guy. I pestered this dude something fierce. But I don’t feel bad about it, because he’s from Hawaii which is kind of weird. Eric’s record shop is everything a music store should be. The dudes working there are friendly and were actively rushing about helping customers like it was a damn Wal-Mart. It’s nice to know that one of the best record stores still going is run by guys who aren’t dicks. I guess it should be expected from the fellow who wrote “Guitar Shop Asshole.”
I can also report that Jack-O. is as bomb as I suspected him to be. This Oblivian was carting around a hot little thing that couldn’t be half his age. He also got the hell away from me. Smart man. You still need to buy his latest record, The Disco Outlaw.
Hopefully, I can catch up with both Greg Cartwright and Jack-O. this September when a reunited Compulsive Gamblers play Goner Fest.
Until then, you should buy the web-only, Oblivians live LP, Barristers Ninetyfive. It was recorded in 1995 and kills the rest of your crappy records. You can probably find it here. Garage-punk labels seem to prefer their sites looking like anglefire and tripod web-fossils. Sell all the buttons and denim and buy a web-designer, dorks. You too, Eric O.
If you’re a filthy, undeserving European, you can still see the Oblivians and Gories here:
03-Jul El Sol – Madrid Spain
04-Jul Kafe Antzokia – Bilboa Spain
05-Jul Venue tba -Barcelona Spain
06-Jul BT59- Bordeaux France
07-Jul Maroquineri -Paris France
08-Jul Vera – Groningen Netherlands
09-Jul Brussel or Gent Belgium
10-Jul Blast Off- Nottingham UK
11-Jul Paradiso – Amsterdam
12-Jul Sjock – Gierle Belgium
14-Jul Gleis 22 – Munster Germany
15-Jul Festsaal – Berlin Germany
16-Jul 59 to 1- Munchen Germany
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