The 9th annual Rock for Love festival benefitting the Church Health Center takes place this weekend at multiple venues across Midtown. Started in 1987 as a health-care provider for the working uninsured in Memphis, the Church Health Center now provides services to over 40,000 people annually. Rock for Love is the biggest fund-raiser for the Church Health Center, and last year's concert raised $50,000, while the concert series has raised over $250,000.
One of the coolest things about Rock for Love is that the performers are all local. Not many cities can boast a quality lineup of over 30 comedians and bands of all kinds plucked straight from it's own backyard. Another perk about Rock for Love is that most of the shows are free. The shows that are taking admission at the door are only $5, although other donations are encouraged. With so many great bands scheduled to perform over the weekend, we've selected 10 must-see Rock for Love acts. This list is by no means all-encompassing, and we encourage you to check out as many (or all) of the great shows happening around Crosstown.
Thursday, September 3rd
Chris Rex has been on the local comedy scene for a while, honing his deadpan delivery and off-kilter jokes at places like the P&H, the Hi-Tone and Rocket Science Audio. If awkward comedy is your thing, get to the Hi-Tone for the Don't Be Afraid to Laugh for Love event at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
Friday, September 4th
Mary Owens released her excellent debut album Sweet Soul earlier this year on the University of Memphis label Blue TOM Records and has been gaining momentum since the record came out. Owens combines classic southern R & B with pop country, and fans of locals Deering and Down should take note. Owens plays Amurica Studio at 6:45 p.m. on Friday.
Goner co-owner Zac Ives has been spinning records since before you were punk. The Midtown musician/record collector/DJ has an amazing monthly DJ-night at Bar DKDC in Cooper-Young, so bring your dancing shoes when Ives deejays Co-Motion Studio at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Here's where things get tricky: While Ives will be spinning wax at Co-Motion , >mancontrol<, one of the most interesting local bands to emerge in the past five years, will be playing at the same time (7:30 p.m.) at Crosstown Arts. With their crowd-controlled laser light show, >mancontrol< are a perfect way to turn up the heat early in the evening on Friday. Flip a coin, and decide your fate.
Kyndle McMahan of local bluegrass-fusion band Mason Jar Fireflies doesn't play solo often, so her concert at Midtown Crossing Grill on Friday should be one to remember. Like Owens, McMahan is affiliated with Blue TOM Records, and also like Owens, her versatile voice demands attention. McMahan plays Midtown Crossing (behind the Hi-Tone) at 8 p.m. on Friday.
James and the Ultrasounds' ability to craft two-to three-minute garage punk songs should be reason enough for you to catch their set at 10 p.m. at the Hi-Tone. While James Godwin has shined as a former member of the New Mary Jane and occasional bassist for Jack Oblivian, the Ultrasounds is definitely his main gig, and the bands' frantic live show is second to none.
Two issues ago I made the mistake of claiming that NOTS weren't playing locally again until Gonerfest 12, so fans of female-fronted post-punk will rejoice at the fact that the Memphis quartet is playing the Hi-Tone at 11 p.m. on Friday. By now, given the amount of local, regional, and national press that the band has received, NOTS should be on your radar. You know what to do.
At Midnight, Jack Oblivian ends an insane night of music with special guest Godwin on bass. Oblivian deserves the headlining spot for loads of different reasons, but the humble, yet legendary Memphis rocker would probably be content to play any slot on Rock for Love 9. That's just the type of guy he is. Stay up late and watch him close out the second night of Rock for Love. It'll definitely be a party.
Saturday, September 5th
While Friday is obviously the "main attraction" of Rock for Love 9, Saturday still has a lot to offer. All of Saturday's shows take place at Lafayette's Music Room in Overton Square, and admission is $5. While the show starts at 5:30 p.m., you'll want to make sure and be there by 9:30 p.m. when Deering and Down take the stage. Dreamy pop duo Lahna Deering and Neil Down have been working on their latest album for BAA Music Group, and if the single "You're the One" that they dropped earlier this year is any indication, the album should be a stunner.
Sunday, September 6th
Closing out Rock for Love 9 are the legendary North Mississippi Allstars. The Allstars don't play locally too often (probably because they are busy touring the world), but everyone knows that when the Dickinson brothers book a gig, it's best to be in attendance. The North Mississippi Allstars' latest project is the Word, a band comprised of Robert Randolph, John Medeski, and, of course, the Allstars. The group's album Soul Food was recently ranked the 17th best album of 2015 so far by Relix magazine, but we think it should have gotten No. 1.
For the complete schedule and more information, visit rockforlove.com.