Saturday, May 6, 2017

Beale Street Music Festival Friday: Whether Through Soul, Rock, Blues or Hip-Hop, the 2017 BSMF Delivers.

Posted By on Sat, May 6, 2017 at 12:36 PM

Charles Bradley exhorting the Friday crowd at Beale Street Music Festival 2017. - BRIAN ANDERSON
  • Brian Anderson
  • Charles Bradley exhorting the Friday crowd at Beale Street Music Festival 2017.
By the time it’s 5pm on Friday the first weekend in May, both ends of Riverside Drive are filled in with people clamoring to attend the annual Beale Street Music Festival. This year’s festival is expected to attract something around 100,000 people over the course of three days & the weather looks like it’s going to hold out for a change. Traditionally, “Memphis in Mud” notoriously produces unpredictable weather events. Although remnants of a Thursday and early Friday cold/wet front remain in the form of mud tracts throughout Tom Lee Park, it’s not nearly as bad as it could’ve been. Based on the mud levels throughout the park on Friday night, you may still want to wear your mudding clothes for Saturday. But as for the rain? This year, it appears the weather will favor us.

Things you should remember when hitting the park:

  1. Bring Cash Yes, there are ATMs, but you can expect long lines and ATM fees that can start to get a bit expensive.

  2. Wear Sunscreen Do I have to explain this? Just do it.

  3. Hydrate You’re gonna wish you’d consumed a bit more water before you leave the house if you don’t.

  4. Bring Earplugs Look, I know music is loud, but you want your hearing later. Wear some earplugs?

  5. Bring your ID No ID, no drinkie-poo for you.

  6. Wear Something You Don’t Mind Getting Muddy You’re not leaving clean, pal.

  7. Surge Pricing Takes A Toll Unless you’re independently wealthy, don’t bother taking Uber or Lyft. The word is out that ridesharing services can get you there safely. But leaving the park last night at 1am, I found the surging costs of Uber and Lyft between Downtown and Midtown began at $53.00 and went up from there.

  8. If You Don’t Want To Pay $53 For A Rideshare, Don’t Catch a Ride With a Random Stranger Just trust me on this one.
So, how was the music on the first night? There was so much that needed to be seen and heard, I had to trudge from one end of the park to the other and pace myself.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires - BRIAN ANDERSON
  • Brian Anderson
  • Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires

For the critically-lauded and fan-loved soul singer Charles Bradley, pacing yourself doesn’t seem to be something he’s familiar with. Despite a diagnosis of stomach cancer in October of 2016, Charles and his band,The Extraordinaires, maintained a grueling touring schedule. And to look at Charles’s commanding presence and vocal acrobatics on the River Stage tonight, the average spectator might not know anything was even wrong.

Belting out nearly a dozen songs from his collected works, Charles delivered the kind of performance he has become known for, one as stirring as any soul music legend that ever made a record or graced a stage in this town. Sincere, honest, emotional and filled with love, Bradley and his band mesmerized an eager early-evening crowd.

“We’re Jimmy Eat World,” the voice cried out, “a professional rock band from Mesa, Arizona, and this one’s for all-a y’all.” Making themselves at home here in Memphis, the band ran through a litany of their most popular songs & also came with a few from their 2016 offering, the consistently well-reviewed Integrity Blues. Twenty-five years into their music career, the group, led by vocalist & guitarist Jim Adkins, have not lost their boyish charm, their good looks or their musicianship. Tonight’s performance offered attendees an opportunity to experience the breadth of their songcraft in all its nuanced glory.

Though undoubtedly the biggest drawing act of the night was Snoop Dogg, I opted to stick with MGMT to close out the night. Music fans, including me, have witnessed the many incarnations of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden’s id through meteoric success and experimentation. Though at times dogged by the grandeur of their imperfections, each segment of MGMT’s musical evolution seems to prove as fascinating as the last.

MGMT debuted new songs at Beale Street Music Festival 2017. - E. J. FRIEDMAN
  • E. J. Friedman
  • MGMT debuted new songs at Beale Street Music Festival 2017.

And tonight, performing together as a five-piece for the first time in 2.5 years in front of an adoring Memphis crowd, you could not tell that any time had passed. With equal parts shock and surprise, the band opened their set with one of their most well-known songs, “Time To Pretend”, perhaps alluding (in this setting) to that thinnest veil behind which rock superstardom hides. Inching towards a tenth anniversary, the band’s album Oracular Spectacular remains an influential stalwart classic of modern psychedelic pop-rock. To the delight of the crowd, their expansive set included 7 songs from that collection. But of particular interest and note, MGMT also treated us to a total of five new songs from a yet-to-be-completed album, including a well-received cover of the song “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus from the Silence of the Lambs movie soundtrack.

Nashville visitors Andrew Gonzalez and Drew Thomas hug it out. - E. J. FRIEDMAN
  • E. J. Friedman
  • Nashville visitors Andrew Gonzalez and Drew Thomas hug it out.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Country Rockers, Fuck Get Notable Reissues

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 9:01 PM

“Pretty... Slow,” Sounds Pretty Great on Vinyl
Vampire Blues reissues Fuck’s second record

Good news for Fuck lovers with a vinyl fetish. The band’s terrific early LP Pretty... Slow is available as a big round record with a hole in the center for the first time ever, thanks to Steve Shelley’s Vampire Blues label. To give you a better sense of who all these folks are, and what they get up to when they’re together, here’s a video with Fuck’s frontman Tim Prudhomme (a Memphis dweller), playing punch-balloon with fellow Fucker Kyle Statham singing/strumming, and Sonic Youth drummer Shelley, holding down all additional percussion in the parking lot at Shangri La Records.

But that’s another band and another story.

Fuck was born in the San Francisco Bay area, in 1992, just a few years after The Red House Painters
(later Sun Kil Moon) pioneered the genre nobody but music writers called Slow/Sadcore. Like the House Painters’ (whom Shelley sometimes drums alongside in SKM), Fuck was attracted to slower tempos, lower volumes, and all the dynamics that rock-and-roll forgot. But the F-band was odder, and artier than other slow/sadcore bands, and countrier too, in a Palace Brothers kind of way. They also had a name that turned every public bathroom into a crude advertisement, even if it couldn’t be printed in most mainstream publications or shouted out on radio. Fuck’s shattered, shimmery pop was sweet by nature and always more awkward than aggressive. In a world where band names made sense, they’d be Kiss, and Pretty… Slow, would be one to remember.

Things start off tense with “Wrongy Wrong,” a hurried two chord waltz that bristles with aggression, breaks into discord then fades into soft, sampled swing music from a long time ago. The narrator puts his headphones on and acts “like nothing’s wrong,” but that’s obviously not the case.

The three-count rolls along with an egg shaker hiss and organ drone in “I Am Your King,” a Lou Reedy monologue about a slow-talking idiot who’s “full of it” with a whole lot to say. “Make you laugh, make you look, make your life miserable,” is both a great lyric, and a reasonable thesis statement for a record that sneaks up on you sonically and emotionally.

The sparse, space age flamenco that introduces “Hide Face,” gives into confessional moaning and crashing, scratching Spanish guitars. “I hide my face like liars do,” Prudhomme grunts. Drama...fuzz... syncopation.

If there’s a perfect song on Pretty… Slow it’s “In the Corner,” a fuzzy, lo-fi country ballad that sounds like it was sung from the bottom of bucket in another room, in a neighboring state, and gets all the fumbling, cringe-worthy wonderfulness of a first meeting that turns into a sloppy make out session. “You look so sweet in your wrap-around dress. I watched from the corner… corner… corner. Oh, yeah.” Maybe those are horns lifting everything up, maybe guitars. Probably guitars.

“From Heaven,” finds Fuck channeling the Velvet Underground on a song about Saturday night, wasting my time, and angels. Guitars shimmer and twinkle like piano keys.Then things get considerably more ominous with numbers like the poppy “One Eye Out the Door,” and the squalling, thundering, “Monkey Does His Thing,” which plays out like the subtext of a Jim Thompson novel set to an increasingly heavy, horrorshow groove. “She came home to run away... but when she got there the locks on the doors had been changed.” And so it goes.

“Pretty Pretty,” is a vibe-y little instrumental. Lasting just over a minute it’s like exotic doorbells, or an extended TV station identification theme circa 1969. It sets up “Shotgun (H)ours,” a ballad that searches for the place where anxiety and beauty fuse — like a nuclear sunset or a flying saucer invasion. “I look at the sky and don’t know what I’m looking for,” Prudhomme sings over ringing single string guitar leads that cry like the tortured ghost of real true Bluegrass.

Pretty… Slow concludes with post coital regret and the relentlessly walking, occasionally wandering bass line of “Beauty Remains,” another vividly deconstructed country song about strangers and change.
Some fucks are here and gone. Some fucks go on and on. This Fuck put out eight albums, a mess of singles and EPs, and is technically still active. As you might expect from a band with longevity that likes to play around, the catalog is all over the place, ranging from novelty and period pastiche to giddy, glorious indie-pop in the mold of bands like Pavement and The Grifters. Pretty… Slow has the kind of purity you only ever find on early records, married to a kind maturity you usually have to wait for. The pieces are all distinct, but fit together like a brief and tidy novel. It’s a great catch by Shelley who's also reissuing Fuck’s third album Baby Loves a Funny Bunny.

The Country Rockers: Free Range Chicken
Weird Honky Tonkabilly, Straight out of Midtown

On January 6, Big Legal Mess will reissue an artifact from back in the days when Memphis’ glorious past was known to collide with its chaotic present in the most peculiar ways. The Country Rockers 13-song opus Free Range Chicken (Now with two more songs!) is available once again, with a super set of liner notes by longtime Memphis Flyer contributor, Andria Lisle.

One of the most distinctive memories from my early days in Midtown, is of regularly seeing Gaius Farnhm (AKA Ringo), pulling his grocery cart down Union Ave. following a visit to Seesel’s. Farnham was the octogenarian dwarf drummer for The Country Rockers, a well known area character, and the recipient of many honks and waves. If his giddy cover of "Wipe Out" didn’t drive like the Surfaris, it had an otherworldliness on par with the original "Telstar" or some of the crazy instrumental rock that blasted out of Sweden and Singapore in the 1960’s.

The “Keep Memphis Weird” contingency was strong in the 1980’s/90’s, and Farnham’s band, the Country Rockers, was a magnet.

Studio musician and Panther Burns alum Ron Easley caught his first Country Rockers set in 1986. The stuck-in-time band lived up to its name with a school bus driver up front, a female bassi
  • Ringo
st named “Miss Lillian,” and Ringo on drums. They were playing Eddie Bond covers and country classics at a cinderblock shack called Dennis’ Place on Lamar when Easley walked in on a whim. When Miss Lillian got religion and left the group, Easley joined, and introduced his new Lamar Ave. band to the punks at the Antenna Club on Madison., and eventually the punks at CBGB’s in New York. The band’s last gig was Stockholm’s Lollipop festival in 1996, where Easley, Sam Baird, and Farnham shared a bill with Bob Dylan, Beck, and the Wu-Tang Clan.

The two bonus tracks on the Big Legal Mess reissue — "Rock Around with Ollie Vee" and "Was Hab Ich Falsch Gemacht" find The Country Rockers straddling a gap between tradition and something from another dimension. But the straight honky tonk of, “Barrooms to Bedrooms,” and hopping covers of standards like, “Pistol Packing Mama,” and, “Drivin’ Nails in My Coffin,” are still the best tracks on a terrific document, with guest appearances by Alex Chilton, Jack and Amy Adcock, Roy Brewer, Jimmy Crosthwait, Sonny Williams, and more.

“Guitar Polka,” and, “See You Later Alligator,” are a lot of fun too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Elvis Guitarist Scotty Moore Dies

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 11:16 PM

Scotty, Elvis and Bill
  • Scotty, Elvis and Bill
Scotty Moore has died. The influential Elvis Presley guitarist, and pillar of the early rock-and-roll sound was 84.

Moore was Elvis' senior by a few years and a couple of years younger than bassist Bill Black. But, to his fellow musicians, he was known as, "the old man."

In a field full of flighty creative types, Moore was famously reliable and, during his tenure as Elvis' first manager, he kept photo albums filled with receipts the way other musicians collected photographs and souvenirs. It's not surprising that "the old man" would move into a management position for Fernwood Records when Elvis got the G.I. Blues for real. 

If Moore was uncommonly reliable behind the scenes, the licks he coaxed out of his big Gibson hollow body electric guitars were reliably hot. His unique style blended the contemporary R&B of B.B. King with hillbilly blues sounds pioneered by artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. He whisked it all together with the jazzier electric lead stylings of Nashville cat Chet Atkins. If Moore didn't really sound like any of his influences, it was close enough for rock-and-roll. 

Moore wasn't serious all the time. He sometimes joked that he was in the only band in the world conducted by the gyrations of its lead singer's backside. And for all his usual humbleness and modesty no album has ever been more perfectly named than his 1964 solo release, The Guitar that Changed the World.

Elvis may have been crowned the King of Rock and Roll, but according to most accounts his highness didn't get in the way too much when Moore and Black were working out arrangements on recordings of songs like "Mystery Train," "That's Alright," and "Baby Let's Play House." 
Moore was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015. 

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