It was one of the hottest days of the year so far when Flying Dog Brewery opened it’s grounds once more for the annual Gonzofest celebration. Gonzofest is a birthday party of sorts, paying homage to the late and great Good Doctor, Hunter S. Thompson. The past five events have featured Flying Dog beer, live music, and more recently specialty food trucks.
This year’s Gonzofest did bring some changes however. Gone was the separated food and beer court from last year, a slightly slimmer selection of food trucks were integrated in the far end of the yard amongst a smattering of beer stations, picnic tables, and merch tables. Gone were the antics of “Jackass” like stunt performers and the Hunter S Thompson look a like contest. All that remained of side entertainment were a few spirited festival goers and a sincere salute to the Good Doctor by owner Jim Caruso. Also, gone was the 6 hour event format with bands for every finger on one hand. It’s easy to tell this year’s event was much more modest than in years past, but what Gonzofest 2013 lacked in size, it certainly made up for in quality and in addition, ticket prices were a bit cheaper! Gonzofest featured only two bands this year, but it was still the best live music opportunity for any local resident that weekend. Instead of the array of up and coming local metro area bands, Flying Dog dropped the big bucks on the two decade long rock icons, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (JSBX) and their part time touring companions We Are Hex.
Both bands were energetic on stage despite the high heat index. Front woman, Jill Weiss of We Are Hex had great stage conviction and captivated the sonically unsure while they warmed up to We Are Hex’s noisy raucous “swampy death rock”. Weiss’s performance was probably not a fluke either, the mild mannered Midwesterner seems to be quite use to unleashing her inner hellish banshee self on stage. As a whole We Are Hex is a tight live band despite the fact everyone’s got their own intricate and diverse roles to play. Interestingly, Jon Spencer produced the bands most recent 7”, Lewd Nudie Animals and the band sported tracks from that record at Gonzofest. We Are Hex’s collaboration with Jon Spencer seems to be paying off as proof that sonically Lewd Nudie Animals has those juicy melodic rhythms that gives you something to hold onto amongst the wild energy and edginess, a dynamic very common in JSBX tunes.
The JSBX took stage just as the heat of the day was breaking and during the fan induced encore lightning flickered in the distance as cymbals crashed and electric guitars wailed on stage. It was quite poetic actually and I took a solitude spot near the sound board to enjoy the moment after all the photo’s were taken and notes were written. It’s hard to recall the exact set list from a band with such a deep discography and whose songs flow into one another to create more of a whole “experience” than a track listening session, but I’m positive the JSBX played tunes from Meat and Bone and new songs from an upcoming unnamed album currently in the works. If you haven’t given Meat and Bone a spin yet, I highly recommend it as an album that will appeal to modern and older rock fans. Somewhere in the process of keeping it raw and stripped down (haha, I think I get the reason for the album title now besides the fact that it also contains a track called Meat and Bone), it took on a timeless rock and roll quality. Check out the opening track and single, Black Mold and tell me that this song wouldn’t fit into your Bass Drums Of Death or Diarrhea Planet playlist or on the opposite spectrum, Stooges. Heck, even Pitchfork gave Meat and Bone a 7.3 score.
If you made it out to Gonzofest this year, kudo’s on your good decision. If by some tragic reason you were forced to miss the event, you can check out my photo recap and Meat and Bone probably somewhere on one of those fancy streaming music websites. Hey, and as an added bonus Bucket Of Rock snagged an interview with Russell Simins of JSBX for your extra music nerdiness reading pleasure!