Mystery Girls, ripping it up. Photos by Andy Junk.

The GBUFO Fest. What is it? Why is it?

Community Aug 18, 2023

by Tom Smith

The birth of an Annual Music Festival is happening in Green Bay and Algoma, from July 21st through July 23rd. This preview is to tell you what to expect musically from the festival—and how it came to be.

My name is Tom Smith, and I work at the Green Bay UFO Museum Gift Shop and Records, located at 2248 University Ave. (Please look us up on Instagram and Facebook). I have been working in record stores in Green Bay since 1984—getting my start at the Galaxy of Sound at the Port Plaza Mall in Green Bay and then the Green Bay location of The Exclusive Company from 1988 to the very end of the store’s existence in 2022. Losing my job at The Exclusive Company was rough, but lucky for me I landed like a cat on my feet by getting a job at the GBUFO. I enjoy working there more than The Exclusive Company. It’s a lot less stressful, and I prefer working 5 days a week as opposed to the 6 or 7 days a week like I did at The Exclusive Company.

I also have been setting up shows in Green Bay since 1986—you may remember the great run that the Concert Cafe had in the 90s and beginning of the 21st century. I was one of the folks setting up shows during that era. In 2017, I promoted a show for my 50th Birthday at Badger State Brewing Company, and plans were in the works for a Birthday show for my 55th birthday. I started planning that show pre- pandemic in 2019. The pandemic’s effects and temporary shutdown of live music made me apprehensive about flying in bands to play Green Bay until I felt it was safe for all involved. Plus, the thought of eating airfare for a band (or bands) wasn’t too appealing to me if things didn’t run. The decision was made to postpone to 2023 and make it my 56th Birthday show.

Well somethings happened in the meantime that made me decide to scrap this being a birthday show for me and make it the GBUFO Fest. The first thing that happened to start this chain of events in motion was the death of Mr. G—the owner, founder, and guiding light of the now-defunct The Exclusive Company. Those of you not familiar with The Exclusive Company, it was a chain of Record Stores in Wisconsin (7 at the time of Mr. G’s death and 11 at the chain’s peak) that served this state’s music buying habits with a legendary flare. When I first was informed that Mr. G’s family was going to liquidate the entire chain instead of keeping it going, I was at first crushed and shell shocked. When you work at the same location of company for 34 years, the thought of starting my career over was daunting.

I was very fortunate because a few months later one of my long-time employees Pierre Jacque decided to open the GBUFO and hire me. The Grand Opening the GBUFO was last Sept. 28th. The week before that I attended Gonerfest 19 in Memphis, Tennessee. Gonerfest had achieved way legendary status as a music fest a long time ago. I have many friends who have either played it or attended. I myself can’t believe it took me until Gonerfest 19 to finally get to it. I blame my work schedule as manager of the Green Bay location of The Exclusive Company for not ever going before last fall. So, with The Exclusive Company no longer around and my next job not open yet, I figured I had no excuse not to go.

How was Gonerfest 19? Everything I wanted it to be (or thought it would be)—and even more fun than I expected. I have been to some great festivals over the years: Estrus Records Garageshock in Bellingham, Washington and Gargeshock in Austin, Texas; The Blackout in Chicago; The Deep Blues Fest in Bayport, Minneapolis. To me, Gonnerfest 19 was the best aspects of those festivals combined. I also had the honor to MC an afternoon of the one of the days and got to introduce Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones (favorite sons of Algoma, Wisconsin). The whole experience was augmented by the cool satellite shows set up in a number of Memphis venues. If you are on vacation, the non-stop stream of bands was blast.

I came home back to Green Bay from Memphis recharged about setting up bands again. The pandemic had sapped a lot of my enthusiasm, but I was ready to put my all into it again. My first thought was it would be great to have something like Gonerfest in Northeastern Wisconsin—on a smaller scale—but still with lots of shows to attend. That is when I decided that I was going to take my birthday show that was planned for 2023 and expand it into multiple days, multiple shows, multiple venues, and in case of the GBUFO, multiple cities. I also thought to myself instead of promoting that I’m another year older (to some people) or that I still exist (to others), it was a better decision to promote the super cool record store I work at.

This was my first time planning a musical festival, and let me tell you, it was a learning process. If not waiting to hear from booking agents (or in some cases not hearing from booking agents) whether bands we had inquired about would be able to play the GBUFO Fest, it was an ownership change at one of the venues that forced the moving of two shows. Nonetheless, I’m very happy and proud of what the first GBUFO Fest will be.

Friday July 21st it kicks off at GBASO (Green Bay Action Sports Organization (2351 Holmgren Way Suite 102, Green Bay). This show is from 2pm to 9pm and is all ages and thanks to the generous sponsorship of Cheesesteak Rebellion (1301 S Broadway, Green Bay), this show is free. Headlining is the Crosses from Milwaukee and features Daniel Kubinski They do all material by his former band— the legendary Milwaukee hardcore band Die Kreuzen. The rest of the lineup is:

Proud Parents (Madison), Zissous (Salt Lake City-my daughter’s band), Retox A.D. (Appleton), Beach Patrol (Green Bay), Sh*thole (Green Bay), Impetuous Riff-Raft (Green Bay), and The French-Irish Coalition (Green Bay). Show 2 on July 21 is at Frets and Friends (2105 University Avenue, Green Bay). Starts at 10pm, 21+, and free. This show is sponsored by Astra Therapeutics & Bodywork. Bands playing are Strong Come Ons (Algoma and their first show in 15 years), Wesley & The Boys (Nashville), Baby Tyler (Madison), and George’s Bush (Green Bay).

Day 2 of the GBUFO Fest Saturday July 22nd is one show at Badger State Brewing Company from Noon to 1am. $19.99 in advance and $25 day of show. This show is sponsored by Alamo Pizzer1a (2229 University Avenue, Green Bay). Bands playing are Total Hell (New Orleans), Holy Shit! (Milwaukee), Fret Rattles (Minneapolis), Trash Pandas (Green Bay), Sick Thoughts (New Orleans), Mystery Girls (Green Bay-The Big reunion show), Guerrilla Teens (Portland—Scott Drake of The Humpers is their singer), Tyler Keith & The Revelations (Memphis—Tyler is the former singer of The Neckbones), Jeremy & The Drip Edges (Memphis—Jeremy Scott is the former bassist of the Reigning Sound), Zissous (Salt Lake City—my daughter sings and plays bass for them), Tim Schweiger and the Middle Men (Milwaukee), Brusier Queen (St.Louis), Toadskin (Milwaukee) and kicking it off the Florida Brothers Band (Milwaukee).

Day 3 show 1 is at the Green Bay UFO Museum Gift Shop and Records (2248 University Avenue) and is from 1pm to 5pm. All ages and free, but we are taking donations for Planned Parenthood. Bands playing are The Stinkeyes (hailing from the Depressed Midwest), Holly and The Nice Lions (Green Bay), Zissous (Salt Lake City), and Robits (Milwaukee), Day 3 Show 2 is in Algoma at Smashed on The Rocks Saloon (70 Church St. Algoma) and starts at 6:30. 21+, free, but we will be taking donations for the bands. Bands playing are Jinksie (Milwaukee), Hue Blancs Joyless Ones (Algoma), Zissous (Salt Lake City), and the Onions (Manitowoc).

Mystery Girls, ripping it up. Photos by Andy Junk.