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Dear Diary: Bloodbags Top Ten Things In The USA

Dear Diary: Bloodbags Top Ten Things In The USA

Wednesday 16th November, 2016 12:20PM

Having recently returned from a successful trip through the good ol' US of A, which included an appearance at the annual garage rock throw down GonerFest in Memphis, Bloodbags frontman Andrew Tolley has shared some of the highlights of the band's jaunt through the Land of Opportunity...

Our first show in the United States of Murica, was with four other bands in LA, including this trio of leathered no-goods DIE GROUP. Nick, Eric and Reuben pretty much became our new best buds, and we were lucky to get to hang with them 3-4 nights whilst we were stateside. Wobbly drunk, non-stop nutty, heinously hilarious, stoopidly enthusiastic, what was not to like?? They helped break down any nerves we had, made us feel welcome strangers, and knew everybody… always a plus having cats like these in your corner...the band is like a cross between THE SPITS and early RED CROSS, loose goose punk roknrol...they were the last band we saw play GonerFest too…


Those who know me know that I'm an uncontrollable fool when it comes to anything Oblivians related, and of course it follows that includes Greg Oblivian/Cartwright, and his more trad roots rock n roll ensemble REIGNING SOUND, though that description is a lil’ unfair, these dudes have some pretty punked up numbers in their repertoire too. So not only were these guys playing the opening night of GonerFest along with Fred & Toody, the lineup was the original Memphis crew, who spat out the first three classic albums. It was a mission of exhaustion, since we jumped in our rental van straight after a show in Austin, Texas on the Wednesday night and drove the 12 hours to Memphis so we would not miss the unmissable on the following Thursday night. Huge rep must go to me bandmates Cam and Rapley, for summoning the concentration and stamina required to drive us the insanely long distance and time from Texas to Tennessee! The show was no letdown, as basically every hit got knocked out by Mister Cartwright and his gang, the Everly BROS weepers, the Jay Reatard engineered pounders, the melodious hooks and the hip-cracking dance inducers...stoopid grins on the faces of the assembled, testament to a crazy brilliant set....Memphis had slayed us on night one and there was still plenty more to come!

Photo courtesy of Alison Green


So night two of Memphis fer us, night two of GonerFest. We had found our sea legs after a solid night’s sleep, and mucked about mosta the day before getting outta the house. Fools us cuz we missed a bunch of awse GFest bands in the afternoon just down the road from where we were staying. By evening we had got our act together, and headed out to our first stop, to the Lamplighter Lounge, one of the recommended rundown drinking haunts to visit. Built in the 1930s this place oozed history, and had a real comfortable well-lived in vibe to it. You could bring your own booze for a nominal charge, and though we had missed the earlier range of food on offer, our friendly bartend scared up some hot dogs out the back of the bar. These did the trick of providing the fuel to run the night out on. Mostly wooden interior, lights shrouded in red lampshades, five-foot framed poster of Vampirella, a beaten up golden oldies jukebox, and one of them bar counters that seem to run the length of the room… we lost track of the time but then realised stuff was about to happen band-wise, so we got our asses up and out, and onto the Hi-Tone, where most of the night-time GonerFest activity was happening. As we arrived at the door entry, we noticed our bartender from the LAMPLIGHTER had somehow managed to get to the Hi-Tone before us. Being a local she musta known all the short cuts. We figgered that Memphis no doubt was a small collective as much as anywhere, so you gonna run into the same people a bunch. Well little did we know how much so. Two bands in, and then we all double taking, as our bartender was the monster drummer fer BUCK BILOXI & THE FUCKS, New Orleans’ answer to the SPITS. The early primitive ramamlam of the Ramones, a bit of herk-jerk rhythms of early demo DEVO, and a dirty take on early Damned. Hooks-a-plenty, and a most pummelling rhythm section. Basically our collective new favrit drummer! We learn later she's also the drummer for Memphis Goner band NOTS, and was/is the timekeeper fer slashnburn punks THE MANATEEES…


So the last gig we had in thee Amurikas was by no means a done deal til late in the day. Cam had been a roadie fer the White Stripes thru the US years back, and had got to know a number of the Third Man Records admin then too. On behalf of the band he'd hit them up to see if we could fandangle an in-store in the record shoppe in Nashville, or maybe even get on a bill in the main venue room. Not much word had come Cam's way until about a week or two out. Not only had we fandangled a spot on a bill in the main room, the gig was with KID CONGO & HIS PINK MONKEY BIRDS and solo DAN KROHA of GORIES repute!! I quietly thought we might have been too loud and sloppy fer such a bill, but me reservations were all unfounded. The in-house sound crew coped with me hotcake pedal spazzing out and got us all levelled and becalmed fer the show. We got shout outs from both Mister Kroha and Mister Powers during their sets, even got some crazee dance action in with Mister Kroha and his lovely missus whilst Kid Congo's crew cranked out their speed shuffle take on the ole Gun Club classic "Sex Beat"... and then to top it off we recorded a drunken gang vocal take with Mr Kroha on geetar, of the cover the GORIES did on their third LP, ‘There But For the Grace of God Go I’ in the old styled recording phone booth in the Third Man Rekkid store, with a single 6" acetate cut from said recording. Buzzing out? Most definitely...a superb way to end our lil tour of the USA


So fer those unfamiliar, fairly or unfairly, Baltimore teenager, recent New Orleans resident Drew Owens, has filled the vacuum left by Jay Reatard, running the gambit from early punk hook-ridden GG Allin styled rock n roll, to more catchy Blood Visions styled indie fuzz geetar pop..he's a prolific wee beastie and pumps out roughly 2-3 albums, 5-6 7"s a year… he's a regular at GonerFest, and made three appearances at GFest 13, in LSDogs, Iron Head with King Louie and leading his own long running punk destruction unit, SICK THOUGHTS. Day three of GonerFest involved an inside/outside running affair at Memphis bar Murphys, of which we were in the line up. We caught Iron Head outside, and me and Rapley bumped into Drew Owen skating in the car park out back, as we were dumping our own ramshackle bits of gear and merch back in the rental car. We both knew local boy ROY IRWIN had met and was mates with Drew, so we calmly dropped his name, and I gave Mister Owen a poster I had fer a BLOODBAGS and ROY IRWIN show at Golden Dawn, he was quite stoked. Later that eve at the Hi Tone, we caught Drew doing his SICK THOUGHTS kick, backed by New Orleans trio TRAMPOLINE TEAM, who I was bummed to miss the day before. A stellar teaming, Drew stalked the stage in a cocky Stiv Bators/Dead Boys manner, and the band absolutely ripped, nailing Drew's infectious tunes with an insane understanding of their power. DREW ended the show by charging at the drum kit/drummer which was hence cast asunder in a heap of strewn parts and piledriven muso... Rapley and his gal followed up their Memphis hit, after the rest of us bailed back to NZ, with a trip to New Orleans, where they caught Drew's trash metal outfit BLOODY MASTER, and befriended the whole TRAMPOLINE TEAM crew. Drew and his wife have since left to live in Finland of all places, but he expressed a keen interest to git down to NZ sometime soon!

Photo courtesy of Alison Green

6. The Irish/OH BOLAND

Whilst milling around jibber-jabbering with a multitude of folks who had come from all parts of the world to GonerFest, we bumped into this Irish trio, Niall, Eanna and Simon who were in a band called OH BOLAND, from the small Irish town of Tuam and who were playing Murphys, the Memphis pub, the same day as us. Props must probably go to fellow New Zilder Joss Colling and his missus Cate, who had made the effort to come to Memphis fer the fest, after a fair time in New Orleans and Nashville, for being the social glue that threw social paths together… Joss of course being probably most well known as part of local band BLACK SCIENCE, and now as the bassist fer ED GAINS & HIS HUMAN REMAINS. Our first two nights at the Hi-Tone involved much social banter with Eanna, he being a six foot plus man hisself, no doubt the reason why he gravitated towards the BBags, us being all six feet and all, and lest we not ferget Joss, he being of the six as well. We got the lowdown of the trials and tribulations of OH BOLAND's tour thru the USA, which kinda mirrored ours, but was (a) more of an East coast persuasion and (b) longer and seemingly littered with more erratic occurrences than what we had experienced. Bad shows, cheap guitars bought on murikin soil, and stoopidly long drives between gigs, with multiple side servings of getting lost. They had pitched their tune to dozens of rekkid labels worldwide to no response, till finally stateside label Volar Records heard wot no-one else had. Thusly, a tour in the USA followed to be ended with GonerFest. Gigs with fellow GFest participants, Aussie's Chook Race and Memphis legend Jack Oblivian were some amongst many that these lads got to play with. Whether it's an Irish thing or not, there were many tales, tall and/or true, that were peppered thru our conversations. I particularly recall one story Eanna told us of a local historical figure in Tuam, who had ended his own life due to the weight of shame he carried, having dressed up as a woman, so he would be one of the first on the lifeboats as the Titanic sank. When we finally got to see this trio of Celtic larrikins play outside at Murphys, they were a bundle of nerves that translated into an engaging hyperactive set of the jittery jangle trash pop that was their thing, which recalled a lot of early Flying Nun pop, but definitely had their own Irish mark stamped upon it. Niall gave away his cheep guitar at the end of their set to someone in the crowd, so they would have one less thing to carry home. Apparently the next day they needed to drive sumthin like a straight 19 hours to get their rental car back to New York on time.


GonerFest has had an ongoing OD love affair with Melbourne bands, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Ausmuteants, Bits of Shit, to name just a few, and this sees no sign of letting up, especially if the cultural epicentre of OZ keeps spitting out bands like POWER. Night two of the gathering, the only familiar act of the eve were the BLACK LIPS. We'd had our collective attention grabbed by BUCK BILOXI & THE FUCKS, but the act before were not exactly slouches in the attention grabbing department either. I'd checked out the various GONERFEST-helmed Soundcloud and Bandcamp tune smorgasbord selections, to try to get a handle on the bands I did not be fair it hadn't helped a heap, apart from figgering the styles of each band, but the age old thang of recordings really not matching the live shows of most bands was firmly in evidence....and none more so than POWER. This is not to say the recordings were bad, but really did not do the band the full justice of what they brought to the Hi-Tone stage. Maybe it was the weight of the big occasion that meant this trio pulled no punches, but me thinks a US tour, playing a bunch-a shows, was showing its worth - and these cats were more than honing their chops, they'd found a new gear, and new levels of attack and dynamic… and fer me these guys brought the history of OZ rock n roll without any hollow aping, it was an organic thing in all its the bassist and geetarist hit the stage sporting sleeveless denim jackets, the geetarist and drummer sporting well worn mullets, the drummer bedecked in an AFL shirt, the geetarist barechest showcasing a full torso snake yeah they looked the part, did they have the goods? Any fears were put to was an amalgam of all great gutter rock from the convict island...Rose Tattoo, AC/DC, X, Coloured Balls, Bored!, Powder Monkeys, feedtime, Splatterheads.....primitive boogie, snarling guitar, pummelling rhythm, street smart, wise-crack vocals...hues of both the faster ends of the Stooges and Sabbath repertoires...their records and t-shirts sold out, and you could tell the general consensus was sumthin' kick-ass just happened...hopefully this lot will git themselves here to NZ sometime soon… I figure they would co-bill most excellently with Wellington's VOMIT STORM, if those guys are still together, and would fit, no problem on a STICKY FILTH show.


After having played a pretty crazee night in San Antonio, we could take it pretty easy to Austin, Texas our next destination, it being no more than a three hour drive. The next port of call was the well known Beerland venue, a bit of an institution in Austin. The guy in Austin I had probably communicated the most with prior to actually meeting in the flesh, was well known muso, Rob Yaz. We were playing with his latest band the NAMELESS FRAMES, but Rob's rock n roll resume stretches back to the 90s, when his trashy-Real Kids inspired band THE FELLS pumped out numerous 7"s, and had an LP on Estrus Records, home to the Mummies, Supercharger, Teengenerate, Trashwomen to name a few. After arriving early enough in Austin to indulge in a river swim, a cracking BBQ sandwich feast, and a bit of record shopping at Waterloo Records, we descended upon Beerland to git a lay of the land. The bar lady was sooper friendly and the sound dude Max, a nice and helpful guy… after we stashed our gear odds and sods, the local musos started showing up. Got to meet Gerard Cosloy, co-founder of Homestead Records - this is the dude that helped put out early Big Black, Sonic Youth and Swans rekkids, now based in Austin working on his pretty stellar 12XU Record label, which is also littered with heavyweights...his solo act SPIDER SABICH opened the night, layered geetar scuzz, chattering and sizzling to great effect....Rob's NAMELESS FRAMES hit the second spot, and were a bundle of hyperactivity, a mad Buzzcocks/Wire cross of hooks and angles, stops and starts...meeting Rob in Austin and also having a lengthy chinwag in Memphis at GonerFest too, I discovered Rob was also a rock n roll librarian, so we bonded over the global crisis of the identity/relevance of libraries in the new world. Rob had actually visited NZ fer a conference a few years back but had only experienced the "delights" of BLOODBAGS probably played the loudest show of our tour in Austin, Rapley probably had access to the punchiest bass amp so far, so the rhythms were quite gnarly, the guitar amps maxxed out to compete with Matt's bass and whole lotta energy dispensed to steer thru the sonic maelstrom... we sold a buncha tees and 7"s that night, mainly to the other bands which is a heartening thing...the other two bands hit it out of the park....GOSPEL TRUTH, a 12XU label band, meshed a Joy Division meets Birthday Party by way of latter period Gun Club sound, creeping and caterwauling at one stage, racing and roaring in others....POPPER BURNS finished the night off, a cross dressing, vamped up psycho post-punk quartet, some unholy marriage between Wayne County and the Butthole Surfers?? The most wise-cracking outfit of the night, with the most attitude to burn. I figure Austin is drowning in pretty ace bands, and I think most locals would agree that the SXSW outta towners thing does very lil’ to acknowledge what local gems there are.

Nameless Frames

Popper Burns


So after driving straight after our second show in LA, staying in Palm Springs that night, then finishing the haul to Tempe, Arizona, we tracked down the next venue, the Time Out Lounge. This place was predominantly a pool hall, but with a decent not too high stage at one end to accommodate bands, kinda Lucha Lounge styles (God bless you, Karyn!) but bigger. As we arrived with a bit of time up our sleeves, we did a whole bunch of rekkid shopping at a pretty big book, record, music gear emporium two doors down from the venue, and ate some decent slabs of pizza at a joint with ginormous multi TV screens dedicated to the three big multi sport games going at any one time, which was sandwiched between the venue and the rekkid shoppe. So we didn't haveta haul ass much anywhere at all, just hang out in the parking lot between eating, drinking and shopping. Going back to the venue we met Westley who organised the show fer us, plus the others from his band THE PLAINFIELD BUTCHERS who were on the bill that night. Also Ward and his lovely partner Susie, who expressed a major interest in visiting NZ. Ward was the drummer in two piece SHOVEL, also in the line-up. Being a Sunday night and all, things kicked off pretty quick, the PLAINFIELD BUTCHERS hitting a pretty hectic groove straight off the bat, a kinda Eddie Cochran meets Doctor Feelgood, supercharged Chuck Berry geetar, with reverbed-to-hell vocals, and a chugging rhythm section. Rapley spotted a tune in their set, and realised he'd played one of their songs on the Dirtbag Radio show a month or so back, small world. Westley also ran his own radio show out of his living room… so more freakin like-mindedness abounded...we probably played one of the better shows of the tour, the venue just had a comfortable vibe, the gear we borrowed was solid, the people responsive… and it was just a hell-as fun show...musta been cuz we pulled out our BEEFHEART cover, ‘When It Blows its Stacks’ and we only do that when we havin a cool time. Two-piece SHOVEL ended the night, the aforementioned Ward a busy madmen on his ole sparkly drums and Dusty Rose comin’ across like a cross twixt Poison Ivy, Courtney Love and Lydia Lunch on guitar and vocals, the ole adage of a lotta glorious noise fer just the two players fit the bill here most apt, we was all most impressed. Maddie hustled a buncha tees and 7"s fer us, and we jibber-jabbed a bunch with the locals post show, and the night ended up being one of our most fun shows, even gassed a bit with the cool bar owner and the not so great fortunes of his favoured football get the feeling if you know where they are, there are 100 no-nonsense, cool-as venues like this across the States, and if you got the time, energy and money, it would not be hard to spend 3-4 months playing in the land of star-spangled banners.

Bloodbags in full swing in Tempe


So I'm normally not a fan of seeing other people's food shots littered on Facebook, that "look what I'm stuffing my face with and you're not" drives me a bit mental....then again to play Devil's Advocate, there's obviously that "this meal wuz so good, I kinda need to immortalise it, so I can vicariously return to the scene of the food crime whenever I want" I can see where other folks are coming from. So driving 5300 miles across America, you need to feast a bunch to keep the human fuel tank topped up... I would say we were pretty good at having several gallons of water with us at any time, knocked back a number of fruit smoothies wherever possible and tried to steer a healthy course of fruit as well... But the temptation of BBQ'd meat was all around us, numerous and varied, especially once we hit Texas and Tennessee… The art of the long and slow cook of meat was well practiced, and the number of joints we frequented all seemed to have it down pat. Pulled pork sandwiches, mountains of southern fried chicken, giant chicken burritos, stacked cups of refried beans and mash.....special mention must go to these fine establishments…
PAYNE'S BBQ, Memphis, Tennessee
FREEMAN'S, Austin, Texas


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