Dear GSO, it’s Townie Christmastime!
By: Katei Cranford
GSOFest is back for 2018 and will feature 25 bands coming together over a killer weekend to shred faces and spread sweet party vibes across seven shows at six venues over three days starting April 27.
Conceived as a DIY music festival in the early ‘00s, GSOFest was resurrected from a four-year hiatus by a new group in 2017 who are bringing back another year of “Townie Christmas,” a moniker coined by photographer Donna Smith describing the jolly that floats around town come festival time.
As the traditional holiday season, GSOFest offers expats a good reason to make a trip home. Perhaps better than the holidays, GSOFest offers townies a reason to celebrate stickin’ around. A showtime staycation of sorts, or what Totally Slow’s Scott Hicks calls a “centering force” of a good time and a reminder of how sweet home can be.
GSOFest 2018 boasts some familiar faces and at least one fresh incarnation. The venerable “Joe G’s Cover Show Explosion” kicks things off Friday evening at The Blind Tiger (1819 Spring Garden St) with a fundraiser for SPCA of the Triad.
Saucer, a post-rock package (featuring members of Lebaron, Cucumbers and Ebon Shrike) make their debut during the later Friday show, a “sick and heavy” party at Corner Bar (1700 Spring Garden St.) alongside punkers Essex Muro and Dick Wolf with a closing-set from pedal-wizards, The Bronzed Chorus.
Saturday afternoon showcases a softer-side at Boxcar (120 W. Lewis St.) with Michael Joncas, Josh Crocker and Harrison Barrow. The evening rolls into a twang at OPOTW Studios (1333 Grove St.) with the Quarter Roys, Emily Stewart, Vaughn Aed, Bob Fleming and the Cambria Iron Company, and Old Heavy Hands. Beats then takeover Saturday late-night with an electro-dance party featuring WOWNOW, Tide Eyes, and Transport 77 at Bites and Pints (2503 Spring Garden St.)
The Sunday “Hangover Special” with Blueberry, Basement Life, Instant Regrets and Echo Courts promises to be a dreamy pop-punk sandwich of an afternoon at Westerwood (508 Guilford Ave.) Afterward, the fest says goodnight with Harrison Ford Mustang, Totally Slow and Ebon Shrike back at Corner Bar.
GSOFest aims to be a snapshot highlighting a few of the many beautiful music-families within the Gate City. It’s practically impossible to connect them all under one cohesive umbrella on the DIY-level. Attempts at inclusivity strike a hard balance against strains of actually making that happen on a shoestring budget of free time and barter-exchange. As a result, the fest largely breaks down to a string of local shows smashed into a party weekend.
But even that takes a surprising amount of collaboration.
Hosting shows is like herding cats. Multiply the herd by seven, and it becomes a chaotic effort to branch out, exploring beyond familiar circles of artists and streams becomes the biggest challenge.
At its core, GSOFest has traditionally been an underground endeavor. As Greensboro grows as a city in ways that smother DIY-culture (this the first year in memory without a house-show), folks have mentioned a need to further outreach beyond the punkier DIY circles; and that an event named “GSOFest” should encompass a wider-audience and genre spectrum. To accomplish this, an alignment with proper arts guilds and civic avenues has been suggested. More resources from established organizations inevitably make outreach easier. But that’ll be for next year’s wave of GSOFest organizers to develop.
For 2018, GSOFest remains mostly a sweaty lil’ rock ‘n’ roll freakfest. Though there are kid-friendly shows, the goal is a solid weekend dedicated to making the best vibes with your townie friends and share the joyful hum of day-drinking and amplifier-buzz. It’s a respite from adult life. It’s this town throwin’ down in the crazy ways we can.
A few of those crazy ways go toward good causes. Beyond the SPCA benefit kick-off event, each show will take donations for the Community Foundation’s East Greensboro Tornado Relief Fund; and there’ll be bins for hygiene products and shelf goods going to the Interactive Resource Center.
Cut the Music Prints will be screening T-shirts live at the Blind Tiger on April 27 and Westerwood on April 29.
If you’re bored around town, moved away and wanna rekindle your townie love, or haven’t ever really hung out in the ‘boro and wanna ditch your scene for a day or two, then GSOFest weekend is a helluva time to head to Greensboro.
Katei Cranford is a proud organizer of GSOFest. She chats up tunes and towns as hostess of Mostly Local Monday, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands playing NC the following week. You can catch her on WUAG 103.1FM every Monday from 5-7pm or via live stream at www.wuag.net.
GSOFest runs April 27 to 29 and most shows are free. For a full schedule visit: www.gsofest.com.