Since starting in 2007, Rock for Love has gone from one night of music at the old Hi-Tone to a full-fledged local music festival, one that brings together many different types of bands and musicians in the name of love.
The majority of this year's Rock for Love festival will take place in the Crosstown neighborhood, with bands playing at the Hi-Tone, Amurica, the Church Health Center bay space (the future home of the Church Health Center at Crosstown), Crosstown Arts, and on an outdoor stage in front of Visible Music School. The three-day festival will also make use of the Levitt Shell, the Hattiloo Theatre, and the Overton Square Tower Courtyard.
Festival organizer and Flyer contributor J.D. Reager said that involving the future neighborhood of the Church Health Center was key to this year's festival.
"We wanted to make an impact on that neighborhood now, not in four years when the building is ready for us to move in," Reager says. "We are all very invested in Crosstown and we wanted to have that neighborhood be the center of the festival this year. Throwing a block party is a new look for us, and we are really excited to help rejuvenate the neighborhood with a little bit of something for everyone."
One thing that hasn't changed about Rock for Love is the all-local lineup, and Reager points out that this year's schedule of bands might be the strongest yet.
"I think we have as good of a lineup this year as we've ever had. Between the Grifters, Impala, and Black Oak Arkansas, we've got some local legends on the bill."
But what about the local bands that are still legends in the making? With over 30 acts set to play this weekend, we've highlighted some acts that we think are the weekend's "must see" performances. Read on for the Flyer's official guide to Rock for Love 8.
Friday, September 5th, at Amurica, 6 p.m.: Mason Jar Fireflies
Since starting in 2012, Mason Jar Fireflies have become a name that fans of local country music recognize. Led by longtime local musician Greg Carmack, the Fireflies play what they call "country soul" with lead singer Kyndle McMahan belting out soulful songs overtop of Carmack's impressive guitar work. Since releasing their eponymous debut album this summer, the Mason Jar Fireflies have been picking up steam, so don't expect to see this band in the opener's slot for much longer.
Friday, September 5th, at the Hi-Tone, 11 p.m.: James and the Ultrasounds
James Godwin is one of those local musicians who seems like he's played with everyone. He's done time in the New Mary Jane, Crippled Nation, Richard James and the Special Riders, Jack Oblivian's Tearjerkers, and, most recently, his own project: James and the Ultrasounds. Mixing the best elements of Memphis garage rock bands like the Oblivians and a lot of the early Goner Records catalog, James and the Ultrasounds can definitely be considered the current torchbearers of the sound that's put so many bands from Memphis (past and present) on the map.
Friday, September 5th, at the Hi-Tone, midnight: Dirty Streets
Dirty Streets have gone from house party favorites to one of the biggest rock bands in Memphis, releasing records on prominent indie labels like Alive Recordings and most recently the Scion A/V record label. With loud amps, high energy, and riffs for days, Dirty Streets seem to be living in a world where James Gang and MC5 are the biggest bands on the planet, which honestly sounds like a pretty cool place. This will be the only Dirty Streets performance before the band heads to Brooklyn for Uninvited Fest.
Saturday, September 6th, Overton Square Tower Courtyard, 7 p.m.: River City Tanlines
The River City Tanlines are one of the longest-running garage punk bands in Memphis, having been around for nearly a decade. Led by Alicja Trout of the Lost Sounds, the Clears, Destruction Unit, Mouserocket, and about a dozen other bands, River City Tanlines should be a starting point for anyone who's looking to dive into the Memphis garage rock scene. As the direct support for Black Oak Arkansas, River City Tanlines should have the crowd fired up after blazing through their set of powerful garage rock-and-roll.
Saturday, September 6th, Overton Square Tower Courtyard, 8 p.m.: Black Oak Arkansas
The kings of "Raunch 'n' Roll" don't need much of an introduction, but, in case you're unfamiliar, this group of hillbillies from (you guessed it) Black Oak, Arkansas, has been causing trouble and tearing up stages since 1970, when they were discovered by Atco Records, a division of Atlantic. Since releasing Back Thar N' Over Yonder last year on Atlantic Records, the band has played a few local shows, including the memorable set they recently played at the Young Avenue Deli opening up for Black Flag. Those who consider Black Oak Arkansas just another reunion act are in for a surprise, as front man Jim Dandy's antics are still intact and wilder than ever.
Saturday, September 6th, Hattiloo Theatre, 11 p.m.: Hip-Hop Revue
The first annual Rock for Love Hip-Hop Revue boasts some impressive local rappers, including Revue host Al Kapone. Performers for the night also include the Iron Mic Coalition, Snipes, Ify, Cool Courtney, Michael Royal, Tori Who Dat, and DJ Witnesse. While each rapper will have a chance to showcase their skills, we recommend getting there in time to see Tori Who Dat, a female rapper who nearly brought the house down when she opened for Da Mafia 6ix earlier this year. Set times haven't been announced yet, so make plans to be there at 11 p.m.
Sunday, September 7th, The Levitt Shell, 7 p.m.: Impala and the Grifters
The last show of Rock for Love 8 might be the festival's biggest show to date, as it pairs two local legends at the city's nicest outdoor venue. Since the early '90s, Impala embodied what it meant to be a local Memphis band during that time. The band signed to West Coast label Estrus Records shortly after forming and then hit the highway to show the rest of the country how Memphis got down.
And then there's the Grifters. While older fans of Memphis music need no introduction to the Grifters, young music enthusiasts might be surprised to find out that the Memphis music scene in the '90s was exploding with talent. Between the Oblivians, the Grifters, and Impala, Memphis was a hotbed of original rock-and-roll during that time, and Sunday's show at the Shell serves as a testament to that.
For a full lineup with set times, visit www.rockforlove.org