GSO, no hope rock ‘n’ roll
The year 2020 sees the return of GSO as the rock ‘n’ roll four-piece blow up from under the rubble for a show with Distant Future, Speak N’ Eye, and Toothsome at the Flat Iron on Jan. 18.
A band not to be confused for the postal shorthand, GSO is “rock ‘n’ roll from Greensboro, naturally,” who expels a certain hometown pride, despite the notion getting dismissed by guitarist and ringleader, Mike Duehring.
“It was easy to spell,” Duehring noted of the three-digit moniker, though his prior outfit, the Piedmontsmen, likewise harkened a titular nod to location. “We live in both places,” he added to downplay attachment to the area. “It just defines our gigging radius. We all drive clunkers.“
Duehring is a self-proclaimed “pessimistic nihilist,” with a smart mouth. A straight-face, but not-exactly no-nonsense, sort of dude. GSO’s bio ends with ”your move, slick.” Attitude is part of the package.
“I don’t believe in development,“ Duehring stated, noting his lack of hopes, plans and dreams. However, he does have a new distortion pedal and drummer, Lonnie Richardson, got a new kit—gear being Duehring’s most striking difference within the band since their last spurt of activity around 2018. “I hear The Price Is Right is coming to town in April,” he added of differences within the city.
Game shows aside, Duehring, on-brand, holds little hope for the GSO, the town. Good thing “hope” is irrelevant for GSO, the band. As their bios read: “These hardscrabble jams soak the listener in the overtness of being overlooked — man, if no one is listening, they sure as shit should be.”
A prickly-pear of a person, and a solid musician, it’s hard to tell where Duehring’s sarcasm stops. But that doesn’t matter. GSO is rock ‘n’ roll, regardless, supported by a cast that rounds with Jason Kennedy on bass, and Lee Wallace on guitar. They’re preachers still preaching “a mish-mash of hillbilly soul-country and rock ‘n’ roll with no misconceptions about what it wants to be.” A southern rock ’n’ roll drawl wedged comfortably between Boston and the MC5.
“We’ve always been here before,” Duehring quipped hyperbolically. To the onlooker, GSO cropped up around 2014, as the Piedmontsmen drifted in the background. “We are Greensboro,” he continued, “we’ve been in every band.”
“Every” band is a stretch, but GSO’s got history—playing with some heavy-hitters such as Pipe and Cracker in 2018. “That shit ruled,” Duehring said of opening for the ‘90s-stoner-anthem rockers. “It was like being in high-school, only we’re old.”
GSO connections and relationships have naturally woven along the way. “They cool,” Duehring said of his bill mates on the upcoming show, booked by Joe Garrigan for his new group, Distant Future. Garrigan’s organizing-partner in Still the Days Fest, Eric Mann, is on the bill as part of Toothsome (who started as a Cure cover band.) Wallace, a talent in his own right—who Duehring claimed knows Bernadette Peters—has rocked some of the best Robert Smith impressions the area has seen, during Garrigan’s defunct “Cover Explosion” charity concert series (he also does a mean Joe Strummer).
It’s all connected.
“We know them because Greensboro,” Duehring said. Regarding the upcoming show, he’s uncharacteristically “stoked.” Turns out, getting back in the GSO saddle has been “funner than hell,” even for nihilists.
Turning attention to the venue, “everyone there is super nice, and it sounds great inside,” Duehring said of the new incarnation of the old dive. “I’ve played there with a few different bands, going back about 10 or 12 years, it was probably the last venue where I smoked a cigarette on stage.” Though he misses the Jimmy Carter tip jar, Duehring noted the improved sound and lighting.
“Every show I’ve seen thus far has sounded great.“
Greensboro as a city rocks and rolls with peaks and valleys. And as a band, GSO seems to as well. “We’re doing a small East Coast tour: starting in Greensboro, then to Raleigh, and finishing off back in Greensboro,” Duehring joked of their general plans, with no albums in the works. Their 2016 release “pronounced G-S-O,” (which they recorded themselves in a frigid “metal shack at the end of an airplane runway”) serves mostly “as a demo to get gigs.”
For GSO, rock ‘n’ roll is best served live. “These whiskey-soaked, heavily medicated jams grew through darkness,” the band noted. “The light you bring is your own.”
“There are no boring towns just boring people,“ Duehring explained with a Grinchey-hint of civic pride. “Until you bring it, GSO’s just going to keep rocking.”
GSO returns with Distant Future, Toothsome, and Speak N’ Eye on Jan. 18 at the Flat Iron in downtown Greensboro.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that plays like a mixtape of bands touring NC, from 5:30-7 p.m. on WUAG 103.1 FM.