Hi-Tone Café owner Jonathan Kiersky announced on Facebook today that he's signed a lease at 412 and 414 N. Cleveland to open a new live-music venue to replace the former Hi-Tone on Popular, which closed last month.
This deal was in the works when we reported on the Hi-Tone's closure in a recent cover story, which outlined Kiersky's tentative plans for the new space:
Kiersky was approached by Chris Miner, co-founder of the nonprofit Crosstown Arts, about space available as part of a strip of storefronts on Cleveland that are being rehabbed as a component of the neighborhood's ambitious redevelopment as an arts district. The Cleveland locale already houses a gallery and exhibition space for Miner's organization. As of press time, Kiersky was close to signing a lease on two adjacent bays there.
If the deal goes through, Kiersky plans to knock out a wall separating the two bays to create one 4,500-square-foot space, with higher ceilings and much better HVAC.
"It will be about the same size as the [original] Hi-Tone, but, with the ability to remake the space, it's going to allow for a larger capacity," says Kiersky, estimating a 600-person capacity, which might allow for booking bands that had outgrown the Poplar location.
Kiersky is attracted to the idea of being able to design his own club.
"It just got to the point where the building itself was something I couldn't deal with," he says. "One of the exciting parts about this new space is we'll have a blank chalkboard. We can do whatever we want."
Along those lines, Kiersky envisions a slightly larger stage at the back of the club, rather than the Hi-Tone's odd small stage in the front corner. He imagines a bar in the middle of the room to reduce congestion. He plans on a separate smoking lounge to reduce in-and-out traffic and give patrons a place to watch a Grizzlies game even while bands are playing.
What he doesn't envision is a full-time kitchen — he says the new club would be called the Hi-Tone, sans "Café" — or booking bands every night. He sees the bar/lounge open every day, with the rest of the venue holding concerts four to five days a week. And he's excited about the potential for integration with other tenants, especially the Crosstown Arts space, which has already booked no-alcohol/all-ages shows with a 125- to 150-person capacity.
"There are a lot of bands that I really enjoy that in Memphis on a Tuesday might draw 30 people. Doing it in a 600-person room makes it look really dead to the band and to us," Kiersky says. "Having a smaller space that's a two-second walk down and still having the lounge space will be great."
Since being taken over by local media mogul Rachel Hurley, the talent booking at longstanding local watering hole The Poplar Lounge has noticeably become both more diverse and ambitious. The club has hosted a steady stream of regional and national touring acts on Hurley's watch, and there's been a greater frequency of all-local bills as well.
"For years I have been approached by musicians asking me to help them get gigs in Memphis," says Hurley. "We are booking national touring acts and local acts with an established following. That can mean anyone from Glossary or Little Tybee to the Bluff City Backsliders or Hope Clayburn. We also have some great residencies like our Thursday night shows with Kait Lawson and Mark Edgar Stuart, or our Songwriter Sundays with Star & Micey. I book the shows, so the music definitely leans toward my tastes, but I've made my entire career from sharing my taste in music with people and turning them on to things."
A prime example of Hurley's new vision for the club can be found in tomorrow night's (Friday, March 29) show featuring Austin, TX indie-rockers Quiet Company.
The five answers will draw from the inaugural class of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, which was announced last year and which includes both obvious names (Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Otis Redding) and less well-known contributors (Lucie Campbell, George Coleman, Jimmie Lunceford). I'm guessing the likes of W.T. McDaniel won't figure but if the good folks at Jeopardy! don't get an audio clue out of all of this material they're not really trying.
Jeopardy! airs locally at 3:30 p.m. on channel 3.
Maybe the Oscars folks are sending this out as a trial balloon to see what people think. If so, then the Timberlake Oscars show could become reality. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. (See E! Online, for example.)
And why not? Timberlake can sing, dance, tell jokes, act, play the straight man, ham it up, and hold the spotlight. He's got classy, squeaky clean looks for the oldsters, a devilish edge for the hipsters, and sex appeal and pop allure for the youngsters.
His appearances on Saturday Night Live, including a few weeks ago, when he was inducted into the "Five-Timers Club," is pretty good evidence that he could pull it off. Maybe even settle in to rotation hosting duties and put Billy Crystal out to pasture.
And maybe JT, the pride of Millington, brings along the Tennessee Kids, his backing band for his performances in support of his new album, The 20/20 Experience. Would this make Timberlake the first NBA owner to host the Oscars? Bob Hope didn't own a piece of the Rochester Royals, did he?
Following the unfunny, misogynistic — well, really, pan-offensive — hosting turned in by Seth MacFarlane this year, the Oscars need to go in another new direction. Timberlake would be a home run.
Tomorrow night (Saturday, March 23), local singer-songwriter Chris Milam will be a featured performer on the latest installment of the popular television series The Sun Sessions, which is filmed at the legendary Memphis recording facility Sun Studio and airs on PBS stations across the country. To celebrate, Milam is hosting a watch party at Newby's, where his band will be performing both before and after a public screening of the episode's local premiere at 11 p.m on WKNO-TV (Channel 10).
Milam, who also recently performed at Austin's South By Southwest music festival, spoke to the Flyer this week about The Sun Sessions and more.
Memphis Flyer: How did your appearance on The Sun Sessions come about?
Milam: I entered a singing competition in Tunica, haha. I heard about this contest and thought it could be fun. I was the only one in it playing and singing my own songs, and some folks with The Sun Sessions were judging. That started the relationship, and soon after they asked me to tape an episode.
When she was a little girl, Price would wake up in the middle of the night, sit straight up in the bed, and want to play the piano. She’d put on her clothes, including gloves if it was cold, then she’d wake her mom, and the two of them would play and sing until morning. The first song Price ever learned was a blues, and the husky-voiced storyteller never stopped singing them.
Price, who always credited her mom, and called her fans her babies, never lost her enthusiasm. In more recent years, she told a writer for Blues on Stage that the first thing she did in the morning was touch her piano to make sure it was still there. The second thing she did was sit down and practice.
Di Anne Price was easily one of Memphis’s most beloved performers. She played anywhere and everywhere. Her superb albums Wild Women, To Hell With Love, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, and Reekin' With Love, all showcase her smoky vocals, barrelhouse piano, and her fascination with a variety of blues and jazz styles from 1920s throwback to more contemporary arrangements.
In a feature profile, Price told The Flyer she was happiest when she was working. “You know,” she said. “When I’m in a bar, smoke-filled, you can smell the Jack Daniels all around, and I’m singing something that’s right just for the moment, that’s working just for that moment, and people are really listening, that’s everything I need.”
We'll share details about the memorial when available.
Tomorrow night, Saturday, March 2, the Young Avenue Deli will host the CD-release show for one of Memphis' best emerging bands, Dead Soldiers.
Dead Soldiers is a "supergroup" of sorts, combining members of well-regarded local bands such as the Unbeheld, Cremains, and the Memphis Dawls to form an Americana powerhouse that combines elements of outlaw country, bluegrass, and southern rock. The band cut its official debut effort, the forthcoming All the Things You Lose, with the help of local producer Scott Bomar, who recorded Dead Soldiers at his Electraphonic recording studio.
Co-founding members Ben Aviotti and Michael Jasud spoke to the Flyer this week about the band's history, the new record, and more.
Memphis Flyer: Most of the members of band were in metal bands before Dead Soldiers - what inspired you guys to start a country band?
Jasud: We like country! But honestly that was just kind of a starting point. I think I had just been listening to a lot of roots music and wanted to try something different. I randomly got really into bluegrass just looking for new music probably five or six years ago. Then I got into old-time country after getting into some more contemporary stuff and tracing it backwards.
Aviotti: Mike and I started writing some songs outside of our bands at the time and it got progressively more serious as time pressed on.