Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dead tribute raises awareness & donations for MIFA

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 9:16 AM

If there is a rule book for Memphis music, the following are surely included: Memphis bands share members, and they love tribute shows like nothing else.

From the recently released, Luther Dickinson-led Sun Records tribute, Red Hot: A Memphis Celebration of Sun Records to Graham Winchester’s “Memphis Does Bowie” show, to last year’s star-studded lineup for the Talking Heads tribute concert, musicians in the Bluff City usually jump at the chance to pay tribute to their heroes and legends — both the local and international varieties. And what else do all the aforementioned concerts and records have in common? They all raised money and awareness to benefit local charities. Proceeds from sales of Red Hot go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as did the proceeds from the Memphis Does Bowie benefit show. And the Talking Heads tribute benefitted the  National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
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So local psychedelic jammers Left Unsung will be honoring a Memphis tradition when they pay tribute to the Grateful Dead by accepting canned goods as admission, for use by the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA).

Left Unsung is John Day on guitar and vocals, L.J. Cates on guitar, Michael Shelton on drums and vocals, Chris Hardy on bass, and Nathan Powell on pedal steel. The members of the tribute group all play in other local bands; they met after a Dr. Brown show. “We all kind of share each other around here,” drummer Shelton says. They also share a passion for the Dead, and, as Memphis was somewhat lacking in the long-and-improvisational tribute band department, they set about to remedy what they saw as a serious deficit in the usually lush Memphis music landscape.

But the jam-heavy musicians are more interested in playing music than in earning a buck. The members of Left Unsung have day jobs and gigs in other Bluff City bands, and the Grateful Dead tribute project has more to do with a passion for the Dead than with a paycheck. “It’s never been about the money,” Shelton says. So, after their first two performances, Shelton and the group decided to partner with local organizations to bring attention and donations to charitable causes. “We have an opportunity here with a captive audience and one who is focused on conscious change.” With that in mind, Left Unsung have partnered with MIFA for their upcoming Growlers show.

MIFA is one of the local organizations partnered with the Mid-South Food Bank – an organization that typically sees a “food drought” in the summer as donations slow down until the next school year (see article below). MIFA is the organization behind the Meals on Wheels program, which delivers nutritious lunches daily to senior citizens. “We want to remind [the audience] that we have this service in the community,” Shelton explains.
As for what to expect at the Growlers show, Shelton says the band has been steadily adding songs to the set list since their last performance at the Cove. “We focus on learning songs that not only span the band’s discography from the ’60s and onward, but also on varying styles of structure through playing songs like ‘Brokedown Palace’ and ‘Dark Star’ all the way to ‘Casey Jones’ and ‘Scarlet Begonias.’”

Shelton says the band intends to perform only every two months, with the intention of keeping the shows special – and giving the musicians time to learn new songs. They plan on adding 15 or so songs to their repertoire for each new performance so that, much like the concerts of the Grateful Dead themselves, no two shows will be the same. “Our goal is to keep the crowd guessing about what we’ll play at each show,” Shelton says. “We value learning well-known songs as well as deep-cut, obscure originals from the band. We keep an integral focus on transitioning and improvising through songs throughout our sets, so the music flows similar to the way Grateful Dead’s sets flowed. We’ll be dropping some newly learned songs at Growlers and will continue to expand our song base every show we play.”

Left Unsung Grateful Dead tribute and MIFA benefit at Growlers, Saturday, July 29th at 9 p.m. $5 or two canned goods.

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