The Memphis music scene is smokin' hot this summer, from the summer series at the Levitt Shell to nationally known artists rolling through local venues such as Minglewood Hall, the New Daisy, Live at the Garden, and the Hi-Tone, to name a few. Tons of Memphis artists are releasing new music this summer, and local labels like Goner, Archer, and BAA are putting out some of the best music the local scene has seen in years. It all adds up to a great summer of Memphis music.
Where To Rock
When Andria Brown stopped being a booking agent, she wanted to continue to throw shows but host them in an unconventional space. After a venue couldn't be secured for songwriter David Wilcox, Brown decided to just book him in her backyard.
"David playing in my yard was the start of it. Once that happened, more options came up, and suddenly I was booking shows in people's houses all over town," Brown said.
Folk All Y'all —the name of Brown's DIY booking company — usually takes place once a month in various private venues from East Memphis to downtown. Seating is limited and the shows are technically private, but anyone wanting in on the fun can join the Folk All Y'all email newsletter.
"We generally book shows all year. I planned on taking the summer off, but opportunities came up. We've got a few concerts happening, but I try to do only one show a month for my own sanity," Brown said.
The next Folk All Y'all event features Cory Branan on Sunday, July 10th, but as with every Folk All Y'all event, you must RSVP online to receive an invitation to the location.
The Memphis Slim House is another place hosting unconventional concerts, often times creating unlikely collaborations between musicians who are members of the clubhouse/organization. Organizer Tonya Dyson said that the shows at the Memphis Slim House serve a dual purpose.
"We give free entertainment to the neighborhood, but we also give an outlet for our members to share original work," Dyson said.
"A lot of the collaborations that happen here lead to musicians being on each other's albums, which is awesome to see happen in real-time."
Upcoming concerts at the Memphis Slim House include a performance by Adajyo on July 30th and a Brennan Villines show on Saturday, August 27th.
One of the newest additions to the "new" New Daisy is the creation of Daisyland, a late-night hot spot for fans of EDM and everything under the electronic music umbrella. Hosted by JJ Wilson and DJ Tree, Daisyland is much more than an excuse to show off the amazing sound and light system in the Daisy, as premiere EDM artists like Borgeous and NGHTMRE have stopped through the Beale Street venue. The next Daisyland event brings GETTER to town on Saturday, August 13th.
Who To See & What to Buy
If you were only going to go to one concert this summer, Southern Avenue would be the band to catch. Led by Ori Naftaly and the captivating voice of Tierinii Jackson, Southern Avenue is simply the best band in Memphis right now. Jackson commands the stage like a modern Tina Turner, Naftaly lays down soul riffs like he was born to play them, and the rhythm section of Daniel McKee and Tikyra Jackson supply the backbone for some of the coolest music to come out of Memphis in years. Shortly after playing two crowd-pleasing sets at Lafayette's Music Room last Thursday, Tierinii Jackson told me that the audience is what makes Southern Avenue shows so special.
"I just love playing at home. I don't know the audience personally — I recognize some faces — but they provide such a good vibe and give such a warm reception that it makes my performance so much better," Jackson said.
Like so many soul musicians, Tierinii and her sister Tikyra grew up playing music in church, honing their skills in praise bands before hitting the local music circuit.
"I'd say my biggest inspiration comes from church, but I also am really inspired by Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye. Really just any singer that's extremely soulful," Jackson said.
When Naftaly's former band was in its final stages, he approached Jackson about starting a new group. Both sisters were interested but said they wouldn't be able to do it without bass virtuoso McKee. Jackson said that McKee was reluctant to join at first, but he soon realized the potential the band had.
The notion that Southern Avenue is still unsigned is puzzling, but Jackson is confident things will change soon. After releasing an EP, Southern Avenue has been approached by a handful of label owners, so the band has decided to stop distributing the EP until they have financial backing from a label.
"We are in negotiations with a few different labels, and we're hoping to have a new album out sometime early next year," Jackson says.
Another band worth your attention this summer is NOTS, the all-female Memphis punk band that's taking the world by storm since releasing 2014's We Are NOTS on Goner Records. The band has toured Europe twice and played big-time festivals like Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, and, most recently, got a spot on the legendary Riot Fest in Chicago, performing on the same day as some guy called Morrissey.
NOTS have a new album coming in September, and you can bet that we are one of many publications eager to get an advance copy. The group plays the Hi-Tone Saturday, July 23rd on a bill with Hartle Road from Columbus, Mississippi. With NOTS' prolific tour schedule, it might be your only chance to check out the band locally for a while.
The University of Memphis doesn't have a reputation as a hotbed for local music, but don't tell that to the Band CAMINO, a group made up of U of M students that recently played Beale Street Music Fest. The band has been gaining buzz on the strength of their EP, My Thoughts on You, and a debut album is currently in production. Singer Jeffery Jordan has a voice that commands attention, and juggling being full-time rockers and full-time students might not be a problem for much longer, if the band's reach keeps growing.
Memphis Music Summer Releases
Summer is the prime time to release an album, EP, or single, and there is plenty of new music coming from some of the city's best acts. Here's a run down on the new tunes you need to blast harder than the air conditioning in your car.
Faith Evans Ruch is releasing a cover of the Nancy Sinatra classic "Bang Bang" on Friday, July 22nd, and drummer Ryan Peel joins Ruch on the track, marking the first of a few collaborations the duo have in store. Mark Edgar Stuart also has a new single coming out titled "Don't Blame Jesus," which becomes available Sunday, July 10th when Stuart plays a release show at Lafayette's Music Room.
Archer Records recently recorded a John Kilzer show at Otherlands, and that record should be available in multiple formats soon. Amy LaVere is currently working on a new album, and Chris Milam just wrapped up a Daytrotter session that should drop sometime this month. Faux Killas recently released the quirky Time in Between album, and Deering and Down are getting ready to drop Know Rhyme Know Reason on BAA Records, after teasing the release for nearly a year.
The Sheiks are currently mixing new tracks with local record engineer Andrew McCalla, and singer/heart-throb Brennan Villines is also dropping a single in August before he releases an EP this fall. In addition to all that, rapper Cities Aviv promises that new music is on the way, and newish band Mister Adams dropped the seemingly made-for-summer record, To Drift Is Human. Rapper Tyke T also recently finished his latest album C'est La Vie, and it'll drop at the end of August. Aquarian Blood also have a debut album coming on Goner Records, which means a lead-off single should be out in no time.
Shows and Festivals
The Levitt Shell Summer Series wraps up this month, but there are still plenty of shows worth checking out before the season ends, including Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings on Saturday, July 9th, and locals Snowglobe on Friday, July 29th.
The second annual FOMOfest is scheduled for Saturday, August 6th, and festival organizer James Sposto has a killer lineup planned, including Marcella & Her Lovers, Southern Avenue, Ex-Cult, Zigadoo Moneyclips, Devil Train, Frenchie, Brian Hawkins' Blues Party, the Incredible Hook, and Jack O and the Sheiks. That's a whole lot of local music in one place, not to mention the Fuel food truck and local beer. Sposto said the goal of the festival is to expose the audience to the many different genres of local music.
"FOMOfest is a celebration of local independent music designed to bring you up-and-coming as well as established acts tied to our fair city," Sposto said. "Our mission is to broaden exposure of the diverse talent emanating from and inspired by Memphis, and give Memphians a way to experience it all in one day, in one place."
Rock for Love is also right around the corner, and this year's headliners include Graham Winchester, Amy LaVere, Dead Soldiers, Jack Oblivian, and Star and Micey. A few weeks after that, the almighty Gonerfest returns, and this year's highlights include Power, the World, Savoy Motel, plus semi-locals Reigning Sound. Tickets are on sale now, but you've got plenty of time to purchase them as the festival takes place on the last weekend in September.
Keep your eyes and ears open, Memphis music fans. Summer's here, and the time is right.
Your Memphis Summer Playlist
13 Memphis classics to help you beat the heat.
Willie Mitchell — "Groovin" This Willie Mitchell classic is perfect for any summer occasion, and you might recognize it as a sample from the classic GZA album, Liquid Swords. GZA is cool and all, but this song screams Memphis, and I recommend listening to it at maximum volume while enjoying a cocktail. This is classy party music, not "how many beers can I shotgun before this song ends?" party music.
Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks — "La Chara" Crank this instant classic from Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks, and bust out that bottle of tequila. Graham Winchester wouldn't have it any other way. As I've written before, this is a late-night album for late-night freaks, so proceed with caution. I'm not responsible for the consequences.
Project Pat — "Gold Shine" This one is a no-brainer. Nothing says summer time like blasting Project Pat with the windows down, no matter what kind of car you're working with.
The Barbaras — "Summer Time Road" Another no-brainer, but this one should bring back memories of partying at the Buccaneer, specifically the insane fireworks displays and the after-hours shenanigans that took place. We miss the Barbaras, but they left us this perfect summer jammer before calling it quits.
Jay Reatard — "Don't Let Him Come Back" Jay Reatard wasn't exactly an upbeat songwriter, but this track oozes summer-time appeal. Originally by the Go-Betweens, this song is essential JR and should be turned up loud, because, let's admit it, Jay lived at full volume.
Three 6 Mafia — "Da Summa" If there is one song that you must listen to on this list, it's this Three 6 Mafia track. I'm not even going to tell you why. Just do it. Now.
Dog Police — "Dog Police" The perfect song for the dog park or the summer costume party. Better yet, blast it on the way to Hollywood Feed, and let your dog sing along.
Memphis Legs —"You Won't Get Me" Sing this classic from the Eric Oblivian catalog on your way out of the office on Friday afternoon. Most of the songs on this album are actually '60s garage classics, which might explain the bad-assness of that guitar riff. Memphis Legs might be on the obscure side, but track down this record and try to tell me that the whole thing doesn't rip.
King Louie and the Loose Diamonds — "Girl in the Holler" The riff on "Girl in the Holler" is classic Memphis twang, and one of King Louie's finest moments.
Chickasaw Mound — "Loneliness is Golden" I know, I know, I have been on team Chickasaw Mound for quite some time, but I'm going to drive the point home once again. Chickasaw Mound is a killer band. Jesse Davis has a killer voice. This song will make you cry tears of joy.
Cities Aviv — "Melanin Drop" This song marks a change in Cities Aviv's already complex sound, but it's also one of his strongest singles to date. One of the only songs from this artist that makes me think of summer. "Melanin Drop" is a beast of a song, and Pitchfork seems to agree, recently awarding the tune Best New Track.
Reigning Sound — "Never Coming Home" Reigning Sound could have had 10 tracks on this playlist, but that just wouldn't be fair. "Never Coming Home" is off their Merge Records debut, and while it's a pretty sad song, I recommend using the song title as motivation for when you drive to the beach, river, lake, or, um, bar? Nobody wants to leave once a vacation is over. Let this song make you more bummed out about returning to normal life.
Big Star — "September Gurls" We end this playlist with a song about the end of summer, but the party doesn't have to end, really. While it's one of Big Star's most-known hits, "September Gurls" is popular for a reason. Bonus points if you look up the Carbonas cover of this track — also well worth a listen.