Monday, November 26, 2018

Elvis Costello Rattles the Orpheum Theatre

Posted By on Mon, Nov 26, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Some 14 years ago, Elvis Costello endeared himself to many Memphians while in Mississippi to record The Delivery Man. Of course, his fans were already legion here, but this was when he had time to kill, and he killed it with many locals. I was a lucky hanger-on backstage at the old Hi-Tone, when the late, great B.B. Cunningham met with him and recalled their first encounter many years earlier. "Of course," said Cunningham, "we were both a little skinnier back then..." 

"Oh that's all right, though," said Costello, beating his chest a little, "we're just getting up to fighting weight now!" It struck me then that this icon of gangly nerds the world over was actually pretty tough; I could easily picture him holding his own in a scrap down 'round the pub.

I thought of those days as he took to the stage with the Imposters once again last Monday night. The band threw us off briefly, with a feint in the direction of canned rhythm tracks as they took the stage; but soon they launched into a ferocious "This Year's Girl" and it was clear that the Imposters were fully engaged. And Elvis was clearly up to fighting weight, looking more nonchalant than in previous shows, but entirely committed once he approached the mic.

From the start, it was clear that the band (with Kitten Kuroi and Briana Lee on background vocals, Davey Faragher on bass, Steve Nieve on keys, and Pete Thomas on drums) would need every ounce of tenacity they had to overcome the audio mix. As many touring musicians know, live sound engineers are often fixated on the kick drum, and this night was a classic example. It was so loud and boomy that it muddied every other sound on stage, even to the point of obscuring the actual bass notes. This was a sticking point for many music-savvy Memphians, as I discovered in the days the followed. One man was escorted out of the hall for shouting at the sound engineer. Another claimed he was nearly moved to violence over it, noting the hundreds of dollars he and his wife had spent on a gala "date night" that, for them, was compromised.

But the band rose above the atrocious mix with road-seasoned professionalism, and Elvis' vocals punched through the booming crud of low frequencies. Though the machine-gun lyrics of some of his earlier songs were a challenge to keep up with, Costello never phoned it in. Every word was loaded with nuanced meanings, even more so than in his brutal youth.

Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas, with Costello for some 40 years now, were also all-in. Nieve, surrounded with every conceivable keyboard, as if to compensate for his early years with only a Vox Continental organ, made his entire armory sparkle. "Clubland" shone with his brilliant piano work in a Cuban vein. All eras of music were up for grabs with this band.

This was especially clear when Costello stepped over to a vintage (looking) microphone for the quieter, slower ballads, somehow evoking his own father's tenure with the Joe Loss Orchestra. As Elvis the Storyteller emerged, many of these tunes were set up with a preamble of sorts. "Imagine a woman sitting there, wrapped in the fur of another animal..." he said before launching into "Don't Look Now," one of many he's penned with Burt Bacharach. "Sometimes you have to put people up on a pedestal, just to see them more clearly," he said, adding, "until, like a Confederate General, they come tumbling down." As an appreciative gasp of recognition went through the crowd, he quipped with faux coyness, "Aw, I didn't mean anything by it!"

Bacharach loomed large over the night, partly because the ballads were so strong, unhampered by the kick drum. But also because old songs were transformed in his image. As the band vamped in a quieter mode, Elvis freestyled lyrics from "The Look of Love," before launching into "Photographs Can Lie," another collaboration between the two. This in turn colored "Temptation," a number from Get Happy! that has aged well.

That was nothing compared to the next transformation. "I wrote this when I was 26," Elvis explained with a smile. "The world wasn't ready for it then, but I think I can safely say, you've all caught up. It's written on every tortured line on your faces." (Or something to that effect.) And then a somber reading of Imperial Bedroom's "Tears Before Bedtime" emerged, with a stately, quiet power.

The set, ranging from such moments to ravers from his back catalog, was a roller coaster. The background singers, Kuroi and Lee, were phenomenal, especially on the ballads. To these ears, they may have been too much of a good thing on old rockers like "Mystery Dance," the essence of which lives in its stark raggedness. One longtime fan was more dismissive. "Elvis Costello and Dawn!" he quipped; but others were deeply moved by their powerful voices, which even graced the classic "Alison" with gospel-like melisma.

Such quibbles aside, Costello & company whipped the crowd into a frenzy by the night's end, pulling everyone out of their seats with set-closer "Pump It Up," and keeping them aloft through a generous 10-song encore that culminated in a rousing "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding." "Thank you! We love you!" Elvis shouted. "Both individually and as a group!"

Set List:
This Year's Girl
Honey, Are You Straight or Are You Blind?
Don't Look Now
Burnt Sugar is So Bitter
Green Shirt
The Look of Love/Photographs Can Lie
Tears Before Bedtime
Moods for Moderns
Why Won't Heaven Help Me?
Either Side of the Same Town
Watching the Detectives
Deep Dark Truthful Mirror
He's Given Me Things
Mystery Dance
Waiting for the End of the World
Beyond Belief
Pump It Up

Every Day I Write the Book
The Judgement
I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down
High Fidelity
Unwanted Number
Suspect My Tears
(I Don't Want to Go To) Chelsea
Mr. and Mrs. Hush
(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, & Understanding

See the show via the eye of Jamie Harmon, in the slideshow below:

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, November 19, 2018

In Memoriam: Patrick Mathé of New Rose & Last Call Records

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 3:36 PM

Today, the French journal Libération reports that Patrick Mathé, co-founder of New Rose Records and Last Call Records, has died. The details are not available at this time. He was 69.
Patrick Mathé
  • Patrick Mathé
The importance of both labels to Memphis music, and underground music in general, can scarcely be overstated. After working to import punk music to France, starting in 1976, Mathé opened the New Rose record store in Paris in 1980. Soon after, he and partner Louis Thévenon started the label of the same name.

Their first release, the Saints' Paralytic Tonight, Dublin Tomorrow, set the tone for a long track record of soulful garage rock, alternative, and punk music. Many Memphis-associated artists were eventually released on the label, including Alex Chilton, Tav Falco & His Unapproachable Panther Burns, the Hellcats, and the Country Rockers. Chilton, after releasing two Eps on Big Time, shored up his career revival in the mid-’80s with High Priest, Black List, and Clichés on New Rose. The label also released such Chilton-produced gems as the Gories' I Know You Fine But How You Doin'? and Les Lolitas' Fusée D'Amour.

Even renegade country groups like the Country Rockers or Our Favorite Band, some of the first artists recorded by Memphis' Doug Easley (who would doubtless be rejected by today's gatekeepers of Americana), were welcomed by New Rose, as were many other unclassifiable combos. Many of them were featured on compilations like the multi-band Everyday is a Holly Day, a tribute to Buddy Holly, as well as on albums under their own names. 

In the 90s, New Rose was put on ice, as Mathé launched Last Call Records with much the same aesthetic as its predecessor. Perhaps that label's greatest achievement, subjectively speaking, was the brilliant Cubist Blues, an improvised album by Alex Chilton, Ben Vaughn, and Alan Vega, released in 1996. It also re-released many older New Rose titles, and continued to operate well into the 21st Century. As Vaughn wrote in a Facebook post today, “He was the first true 'bon vivant' I ever met. A great music man. He will definitely be missed.”

Tags: , , ,

Friday, November 9, 2018

Huge Lineup Of Memphis Musicians Come Together To Benefit Saxophone Legend Dr. Herman Green

Posted By on Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 9:56 AM

  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Herman Green
Octogenarian saxophone legend Dr. Herman Green is one of Memphis' most loved and respected musicians. Some recent health problems have left him in a bad spot, so his friends have organized a concert to help him out. And Dr. Green has a lot of friends.

This Saturday, November 10th, beginning at 3 p.m. and running until the wee hours of Sunday, Rum Boogie Cafe will be packed wall to wall with some prime Memphis talent, thanks to his friend and longtime bandmate in Freeworld, Richard Cushing, and Memphis Blues Society board member Mark E. Caldwell. Just check out this mind boggling, two-stage lineup: 

Blues Hall

3:00 – 3:25 p.m.: Southern Avenue
3:35 – 4:00 p.m.: Blind Mississippi Morris
4:10 – 4:35 p.m.: Brad Webb & Friends
4:45 – 5:10 p.m.: Papa Don McMinn’s Blues Babies
5:20 – 5:45 p.m.: Tlaxica & Pope
5:55 – 6:25 p.m.: Mojo Medicine Machine
6:35 – 7:00 p.m.: Eric Hughes Band (w/ Mick Kolassa)
7:10 – 7:35 p.m.: Booker Brown
7:45 – 8:10 p.m.: Outer Ring
8:20 – 8:50 p.m.: Mark “Muleman” Massey
9:00 – 9:30 p.m.: Vince Johnson & Plantation Allstars
9:40 – 10:05 p.m.: Lizzard Kings
10:15 – 11:00 p.m.: Chinese Connection Dub Embassy
11:15 – 1:00 a.m.: Sister Lucille

Rum Boogie Café

3:00 – 3:25 p.m.: Billy Gibson Duo
3:35 – 4:00 p.m.: Barbara Blue Band
4:10 – 4:35 p.m.: Mighty Souls Brass Band
4:45 – 5:10 p.m.: Robert Nighthawk & Wampus Cats
5:20 – 5:45 p.m.: Jack Rowell & Royal Blues Band
5:55 – 6:25 p.m.: Delta Project
6:35 – 7:00 p.m.: Ghost Town Blues Band
7:10 – 7:35 p.m.: Devil Train
7:45 – 8:10 p.m.: Earl “The Pearl” Banks
8:20 – 8:50 p.m.m: Ross Rice
9:00 – 9:30 p.m.: The Temprees
9:40 – 10:05 p.m.: FreeWorld (w/ Ms. Zeno & Al Corte)
10:15 – 11:00 p.m.: FreeWorld (w/ Ross Rice)
11:15 – 1:00 a.m.: FreeWorld (w/ Dr. Herman Green)

If you can't find something you like in there, I don't know if I can help you. If you can't make the show, but still want to help out the good doctor, you can contribute to the GoFundMe drive at this link.

Tags: , , ,

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Dreamers’ Field Chronicles Hopeful Band, Premieres at Indie Memphis 2018

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 5:36 AM

The Field People - NOAM STOLERMAN
  • Noam Stolerman
  • The Field People
Israeli band the Field People, a rock-and-roll three-piece made up of Aviv Lavi, Yogev Hiller and Evyatar Baumer, never got a break back home, so they moved to London to pursue a dream. It was as much about freedom as about music. Their name even pokes a bit of fun at their humble origins: “The Field People,” as in farm boys straight outta the kibbutz. The Field People found, if not fame, then at least a more welcoming reception in London, and a month after they landed, fellow Israeli artist and former classmate and then-film student Noam Stolerman joined the trio to record their progress. Whether they made it big or collapsed under the weight of their hopes and expectations, Stolerman would be there to get it all on tape. Stolerman’s chronicle of his friends’ shot at stardom became The Dreamers’ Field, screening Sunday, November 4th, and Thursday, November 8th at Indie Memphis Film Festival.

“In Israel, you get the feeling that everyone who doesn’t come from Tel Aviv comes from
a really small town,” Stolerman says. “The main reason I wanted to make this film is that these guys feel like they don’t belong. And everybody gets that feeling sometimes.” Stolerman says he felt simpatico with the Field People. He understood the desire to be bigger than one’s origins, to dream a way out of their current circumstances. But, unlike his musically inclined friends, Stolerman says he lacked the courage to pack it all up and just go. That is, until the Field People gave him a reason to throw caution to the wind. “I’m going to go with these guys and live their dream,” Stolerman says. If they succeeded, well, maybe that meant he could as well. If not, then at least he would be there to capture the experience.

“I know one of them from high school. He’s a really good friend,” Stolerman says of his
longtime friend and Field People drummer Aviv Lavi. Stolerman says he remembers Lavi talking rapturously about his band, almost the way a soon-to-be-betrothed man might talk about the woman of his dreams. Stolerman remembers Lavi saying, “This is it. This is the one. This could be my big break and my ticket out of the kibbutz and out of Israel.” And that sentiment may be the key to understanding both the Field People and The Dreamers’ Field. Both the band and the film about them are products of a desire for something more, a hope for escape from the everyday.

“This is not a film about music; this is a film about people,” Stolerman says, laughing as
he admits that even he falls into the trap of calling his character-driven documentary a
rockumentary. “They used music as a form of escape. [They’re like] lost souls. Sure, the music brought them together, but if it wasn’t music, it would have been something else.” Stolerman remembers feeling alienated, even while attending the Minshar Film School in Tel Aviv. The longing for something more, perhaps the most universal of feelings, propelled first the Field People and then Stolerman almost 5,000 miles from home. With challenges and uncertainty as their only guarantees, they took the leap. And there were certainly challenges.

“I had an incident with the police in London,” Stolerman says, laughing. The director was
filming without a permit in the London Underground when he was detained by the police. He describes being held for an uncomfortable amount of time, being questioned, and finally being released on the condition that he would never film in the Tube again. The director returned later that day to finish filming the scene. Stolerman shot almost the entire film himself, and did most of the editing. With almost no funding and only himself to rely on, every hour of footage was valuable. “It’s the most indie, guerrilla film making you can imagine,” Stolerman says, describing a ’70s punk ethos, where attitude and heart are valued over technical proficiency. That attitude is equally descriptive of both the film itself and the band. “I saw people say, ‘This is not that good. They’re not great musicians, but they have heart.’”

And speaking of heart: “The heart of the film lies in the second half,” Stolerman says.
“They’re starting to lose their way, and they’re having a really hard time living with it.”
Stolerman, who faced financial and legal challenges as well as the challenges inherent in being separated from his family for so long, remembers asking himself, “Why am I holding this camera? Who’s going to watch this?” But Stolerman’s fears were for naught. In addition to two showings at Indie Memphis 2018, The Dreamers’ Field was selected for a screening earlier this year at Solo Positivo Film Festival in Šibenik, Croatia. Stolerman, whose short film “Yehoshua” has also been shown in international film festivals, is building his own field of dreams — a little bit at a time and through sheer force of will.

The Dreamers’ Field screens as part of Indie Memphis Film Festival, with its U.S. premiere, with director Noam Stolerman in attendance, at Studio on the Square, Sunday, November 4th, with an encore presentation at Ridgeway Cinema Grill, Thursday, November 8th, at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Juanita Stein's Songs of Self-Reliance in the #MeToo Moment

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 7:33 PM

Juanita Stein
  • Juanita Stein
Sometimes music lovers are afforded a chance to catch something special, to see a star on the rise before fame forces us to share them with everyone who has a pair of ears and a Spotify account. And this Sunday at Railgarten, discerning Bluff City music fans have a chance to see Juanita Stein before the singer/songwriter gets too big to justify a Sunday show at a Midtown venue.

The former front woman and lead singer/rhythm guitarist of Howling Bells, Stein is
carving out a name for herself as a solo artist with those rare qualities, subtlety and taste.
Hot on the heels of her solo debut record, America, Stein recently released her sophomore album, Until the Lights Fade, on Handwritten Records/Nude Records.
Juanita Stein
  • Juanita Stein

Stein’s music embraces simple arrangements and twangy guitars, with the bass and drums hot in the mix. The result feels authentic and emotional. “Forgiver,” the first single from her new album, stands as an example of the immediacy the songwriter harnesses by eschewing a big production. And it’s fitting that Stein has, upon embarking on her solo career, adopted a direct approach. A mother of two young girls, Stein has spoken about the influence the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have had on her songwriting of late. Though Stein hails originally from Australia (she has since relocated to the U.K.), the issues coming to light in America right now are, to some extent, universal. On Until the Lights Fade, she tackles such issues with grace, singing about the point when forgiveness becomes foolish, about agency and self-reliance and compromise — and the tension between those ideas.

Later in her tour, after a three-night run in Brooklyn, Stein is set to play a handful of
European festivals, and she opens for the Killers in Finland and Luxembourg. It’s safe to say that the indie-rocker is blowing up. The Sunday afternoon concert at Railgarten provides a chance for an intimate show with a star on the rise. Don’t miss out.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Madjack Records: 20 Years of Homespun Magic

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 1:01 PM

  • Pawtuckets
In the early ’90s Mark Edgar Stuart, then a college student on an orchestra scholarship, picked up a copy of the Flyer, read an ad, and joined a band. “I was reading the Memphis Flyer one day, and there was an ad in the classifieds, ‘bass player wanted,’” Stuart says. “I never in a million years would I have answered a bass player wanted ad, except it said ‘influences — the Band and Blue Mountain.’” Stuart, who had expected to see a list of cheesy metal bands, says his interest was piqued. The ’90s alt-country movement hadn’t really gotten off the ground yet, but Blue Mountain was making some waves in Oxford — and of course Stuart knew the Band. “I called the number” Stuart says. “I wasn’t even interested in being in a band. It’s just one of those serendipitous things.” Thus began the career of the Pawtuckets, who will reunite after 18 years this Saturday to headline the Madjack Records 20th anniversary concert at Railgarten.

The beginnings of the Pawtuckets are relevant (beyond providing proof of the merits of regularly checking out the Flyer) because the Pawtuckets, and Stuart, are inextricably tied to the history of Madjack Records.

“Around 1998, with our second record, [Rest of Our Days], we decided to start a record label,” Stuart says. “It didn’t really mean much at the time. … It was just a vehicle to put out the Pawtuckets record.” With Stuart on bass and Kevin Cubbins handling guitar and pedal steel duties, the Pawtuckets were helmed by the dual songwriting talents of guitarist Mark McKinney and pianist/guitarist Andy Grooms. Percussion was handled by a rotating cast of drummers. “McKinney had a dog named Madison, and Andy Grooms had a dog named Jackpot,” Stuart remembers. “So we said let’s just name the label Madjack after the two dogs.”
Mark Edgar Stuart - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • Mark Edgar Stuart
Though Stuart confesses to being more interested, at the time, in playing bass and drinking beer than in business, he says McKinney had bigger ideas and took a more serious interest in Madjack. Before too long, Madjack had signed Cory Branan and Lucero, a band the Pawtuckets often shared bills with. Co-owner Ronny Russell joined the Madjack scene to help McKinney with the business side of things. Says Stuart, “It just sprouted wings after that.”
  • Joshua Black-Wilkins
  • Cory Branan

Eventually the Pawtuckets disbanded, but Madjack soldiered on. The label continued to grow and to represent Memphis talent, through the CD boom, after the advent of the downloadable mp3, into the age of online streaming. “We definitely had to evolve,” Russell says. And still Madjack has signed Memphis artists like James and the Ultrasounds, Susan Marshall, and Jana Misener, up to and including Stuart’s recently released third album, Mad at Love, recorded in part at Scott Bomar’s Electraphonic Recording studio in Memphis and in part with Bruce Watson of Fat Possum in Mississippi.
Susan Marshall
  • Susan Marshall
 Stuart, who began his Memphis music career playing upright bass in an orchestra pit, has transformed again in the past few years with the growth of an unexpected singer/songwriter career. “I just started the singer/songwriter thing about six years ago,” Stuart says. “Up until that point I was just a bass player. I played for the Pawtuckets and Cory [Branan], Alvin Youngblood Hart, and just whoever needed a bass player,” Stuart says, listing an impressive curriculum vitae. He adds two more Memphis heavy hitters: Jack Oblivian and John Paul Keith.

“If you’d told me 10 years ago I’d be doing what I’m doing now, I would have told you you were crazy,” Stuart says. “Then in about 2011, I got cancer and lost my dad and it just inspired me to try to do something different.” Stuart says he felt like he had something to write about and a more mature viewpoint to bring to his craft. Around this time, with his 2013 debut solo LP, Blues for Lou, Stuart first pinged my radar. I remember hearing “Remote Control” on the radio, and pulling over to the side of the road to listen. I imagine I’m not the only one who’s been so affected by Stuart’s powerful songwriting. Stuart will perform his solo material at the anniversary show in two sets — a full band set and a stripped-down songwriter set — as well as joining Jana Misener and Krista Wroten-Combest and the Pawtuckets on bass. 

James & the Ultrasounds
  • James & the Ultrasounds
“I never thought [the Pawtuckets] would get back together, but this seemed like the perfect moment,” Stuart says of the Pawtuckets reunion show set to close out the festivities at the Madjack anniversary shindig Saturday. “We haven’t played together since 2000, and we haven’t played with the original drummer since 1998, so it has been 20 years since we played with the original lineup.” With the Pawtuckets reunion concert and brand-new and soon-to-be-released albums from several of the artists in the Madjack arsenal, the anniversary show should present a mix of old and new sounds from the Memphis label.

Madjack Records celebrates 20 years at Railgarten Saturday, October 20th, at 1 p.m. Free.

Wampus Cats - Outdoor Stage - 1:00 - 2:00p
Jed Zimmerman - Outdoor Stage - 2:00 - 2:45p
Corduroy & the Cottonwoods - Pong Bar - 2:45 - 3:30p
Keith Sykes - Outdoor Stage - 3:00 - 3:45p
Delta Joe Sanders - Pong Bar - 3:45 - 4:30p
Mark Edgar Stuart (solo) - Outdoor Stage - 4:00 - 4:45p
Rob Jungklas - Pong Bar - 4:45 - 5:30p
James & the Ultrasounds - Outdoor Stage - 5:00 - 5:45p
Eric & Andy - Pong Bar - 5:45 - 6:30p
Susan Marshall - Outdoor Stage - 6:00 - 6:45p
TN Boltsmokers - Pong Bar - 6:30 - 7:15p
McKenna Bray - Outdoor Stage - 6:45 - 7:30p
Mark Edgar Stuart (band) - Pong Bar - 7:45 - 8:45p
Jana & Krista of Memphis Dawls - Outdoor Stage - 8:00 - 8:45p
Cory Branan - Outdoor Stage - 9:00 - 10:00p
Pawtuckets - Pong Bar - 10:00 - 11:00p

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Kelley Anderson & the Crystal Shrine Play Shangri-La's 30th Anniversary

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 5:08 PM

It's fitting that this Thursday's celebration of Shangri-La Records' 30th Anniversary, at the Levitt Shell, will feature an artist whose first glimpse of Memphis was in the store itself. Kelley Anderson was a key player in the Nashville folk/country/punk group Those Darlins, starting about a decade ago, and, having first played here on Shangri-La's porch, felt such a strong affinity for Memphis that she ended up moving here permanently. In recent years, she's been known for the country/western/rock/pop sounds of her group, the Crystal Shrine. I asked her a bit about the evolution of the group, and where they're headed musically.

Memphis Flyer: It seems you'll have a bigger version of the band than ever at Thursday's show, with Jana Misener and Krista Wroten Combest on cello and violin, Jesse Davis on guitar, Seth Moody on keyboards, Andrew Geraci on bass, and drummer Matthew Berry. Is this a new lineup for the Crystal Shrine?

Kelley Anderson - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • Kelley Anderson

Kelley Anderson: It's not really a new lineup. The rock band that plays with me, I've played with them quite a bit, as well as with Jana and Krista. But this show is the first opportunity to finally put the whole band together: to have the rock band with strings added, and to have a little bit wider instrumentation. Because I have a really good rapport and history playing with Seth and Jesse. Those are my bros. And the same with Krista and Jana. We did the Harbor Town Amphitheater fund-raiser for the Montessori School last March, and we did that as a trio, and we've performed a couple other times as a trio. And then more recently, I've added Andrew Geraci and Matthew Berry as my consistent bass and drums.

This Levitt Shell show has been really instrumental in helping pull together some of those loose ends and really inspire me to get all of it together. I've been really focused on writing, and really focused on the music, and making art music, and not as much on delivery, or marketing, or publicity. You know, all of that business. It's so cool that Shangri-La asked me to play for their 30th anniversary, because one of the first shows that I ever played in Memphis was on the porch there. It may have been the first show Those Darlins played in Memphis, on the porch at Shangri-La. And that was 10 years ago. So I'm super proud of them for keeping everything running. I firmly believe in the importance of having a local record store in your community, and the ways the store supports the community and the way the community supports the store. It's an integral part of the music community in Memphis. I'm super proud of all the work that Jared McStay and John Miller and crew are doing over there.
Crystal Shrine as a trio, with (l-r) Jana Misener, Kelley Anderson, & Krista Wroten Combest. - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • Crystal Shrine as a trio, with (l-r) Jana Misener, Kelley Anderson, & Krista Wroten Combest.

You've been working with the Crystal Shrine for some time now. Has the sound evolved in new directions with all these players?

I'm exploring a lot of similar themes, such as redemption and guilt, oppression and liberation, salvation, grace, forgiveness. I've been recording some music over at High Low, so I've got some new stuff in the works. But no rush to get a ton of it out there. I just got two of the mixes mastered, and I've got the new track "Benny" uploaded to my Bandcamp site. All proceeds from the track go to Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities (YEAH!), an organization I founded in 2006 to amplify the voices of young people. It's the organization that provides the Southern Girls Rock 'n' Roll Camp.

I also do more experimental pieces, like this take on the folk song "Worried Man Blues." I loop the song on a nylon folk guitar and layer harmonies and manipulate the song using a 4-track and pedals. I performed it at Marshall Arts and my friend sent a video he took with his iPhone. Then I manipulated the video to reiterate the time travel aspect and duality of past/present idea I was trying to work out through the audio.

I'm just writing songs, and whatever the song needs is the instrumentation. I'm thinking of it kinda song first. It's got kind of a Southern psychedelic vibe to it. Kind of Spaghetti Western, like Morricone. I'm really interested in film and making music for films, and also using a lot of visual elements with music. In fact, film maker Brian Pera and I have a residency at Crosstown Arts starting next fall. We'll be using some of this material that I'm currently recording, and working on images and video pieces to go with it.

So was it a conscious decision on your part to move away from the sound of Those Darlings?

Not as much the sound of Those Darlins, because I still have all of those same influences. Everything from traditional country music to psychedelic rock 'n' roll to noise music and experimental forms of music. It was more a conscious decision to move away from the industry. Nashville's very much a music industry town, and Memphis is a music town. And I really wanted to explore music as an artist, and not think of it so commercially.

It's been useful for me to disentangle the two, and not think about commercial viability or how it's gonna get marketed, or any of that. Ultimately, I'd love for people to hear it, and use those opportunities in any way I can to support other aspects of the community, or lift up voices that are marginalized. And I think when you're not as focused on it commercially, sometimes that can allow you to do that more.

And Memphis has been really receptive and wonderful. There are lots of weirdos and people doing outsider art and music here. And I appreciate that energy and that undercurrent. And the amount of support that everyone has provided. There's so many opportunities to collaborate with people. More projects than you ever would possibly have time for. 

Those Darlins
  • Those Darlins

Part of that goes back to ten years ago, and Those Darlins playing in Memphis. I mean, Memphis really embraced us, whereas Nashville was just confused by us. So this really felt like a second home, and at times like a first home for us and for our music and for our vibe and energy. I recall always feeling very accepted here, and have been in love with Memphis for a long time. And so, getting to actually reside here and work and collaborate with other people in the Memphis music community has been a real blessing.

It's really special and an honor to collaborate with Krista and Jana. They're exceptional musicians in their own right. But the ultimate goal was always to bring it together under one roof, and have this larger instrumentation. This is the first gig opportunity that has provided the stage and the resources that would accommodate that size of a group. That band lineup doesn't really work at Bar DKDC, you know? And I can't say enough about Shangri-La sponsoring and underwriting the show and making those resources available.

I'm also very grateful to the Memphis music community, and to the Levitt Shell and people who have revitalized that space, and people that support live music there. And Shangri-La is a big part of that community. It's all very connected for me. And I'm very grateful to get to play on the same stage that so many historical, amazing musical acts have performed on. That's a real treat and a real honor.

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

TsuShiMaMiRe: The Best Japanese Band You've Never Heard Of

Posted By on Tue, Oct 9, 2018 at 1:53 PM

There is a long history of punk, tweaked pop, and no-wave music from Japan, and such bands are beloved in the Bluff City, to which hundreds of Guitar Wolf fans can attest. Shonen Knife is much loved also, going back to their shared gig with the Country Rockers at Maxwell's in the early '90s.

But I must confess, I've only just learned of TsuShiMaMiRe, and they may just be my new favorite band. Memphis should pay attention to them. Like Shonen Knife, they are a trio of women with a diehard DIY attitude, but their similarities with that band should not be overstated. While Shonen Knife played shambling, yet peppy, pop songs with amateurish gusto, TsuShiMaMiRe pack considerably more wallop.

Where the rhythms of Shonen Knife were pleasantly clunky, TsuShiMaMiRe rock hard. Their blasts of guitar distortion sync up with the bass and drums like a sledgehammer. Beyond that, there are myriad subtle touches that distinguish them from other screaming punk purists. Dynamic breakdowns give you a breather, only to crack your skull seconds later. On top of this, they layer some actual singing, eschewing de rigueur hoarse screaming for simple but effective melodies (and yes, screaming!). It's an irresistible combination. If the Buzzcocks had been women who relied on bigger walls of noise guitar riffs than were imaginable in the '70s, the result might be TsuShiMaMiRe.

But don't take my word for it. Check out this video and see if you can resist heading down to the Hi Tone tonight. Arrive early to hear A Thousand Lights (with the Memphis Flyer's Chris McCoy), the city's latest and best Stooges-inspired band, who made their well-received debut opening for My Life With Thrill Kill Kult in Nashville this past April.

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Captured! By Robots Brings True Metal Machine Music to Murphy's

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 1:16 PM

Jay Vance wishes he was made of steel. At least that's the implication of his adopted stage name, Jbot. But maybe that's the Stockholm Syndrome talking. Just look at the photo: He's obviously not in his happy place, having been captured by robots and all. But when Captured! By Robots play, who cares? We need only experience the beautiful music they make together.

They'll be playing Murphy's tonight, and you can hear their trademark speed metal and grindcore for yourself. Lest you think this is a joke, I quote the band's official bio:

"Captured! By Robots released its first album in 1997, and over the past two decades, Jbot has fine-tuned his metallic bandmates GTRBOT666 and DRMBOT0110 to the point of mechanized perfection. The method to the madness is derived from a series of computers which activate air valves that allow compressed air to pour through in controlled bursts. Those blasts push and pull the mechanical fingers that hit guitar frets and sticks that crash into snare drums. Pneumatics also power the robots' movement, giving them a disturbingly human sway."

In short, this human, in an attempt to make his own band, created the robots. Instead of following him, they revolted, and now force him to travel the world with them, performing music and making him contemplate the inferiority of the human race.

Still I wanted to hear the human angle on all this. I contacted Jbot to see how the music reflects his heart, his soul.

Memphis Flyer: Hello Jay! I couldn't ask this of a robot, but how are you feeling?
Jbot: I'm having a very bad morning. Hope you're doing better than me.

But you're doing what you love!
All the music is played by the bots. They're total dicks.

But they sound like the perfect band mates. You can just turn them off.
Twenty years touring with a robot band has taught me a few things. Most importantly that the human race as a whole is totally f*%ked, and we ALL deserve to be wiped off the Earth like the scum that we are.

At this point, I slowly backed away from the computer and ran out of the house. Clearly he's internalized the robots' message. Perhaps he thinks he is one of them. Let's find out if there's any humanity left in this band. Indeed, human drummers who are game can go toe to toe with DRMBOT0110 in a live competition. And did I mention that the openers will be the River City Tanlines and the Hosoi Bros? Not to be missed!


Tags: , , ,

Monday, October 1, 2018

Gonerfest 15: Saturday & Sunday

Posted By on Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 1:03 PM

For this time-worn punter, nearly 12 hours of straight rocking out can seem intimidating, but in hindsight my Goner-rific day zipped by without a hitch. The daytime action, of course, is at Murphy's Bar. Typically, I make straight for the outdoor stage, but the eerie pop sounds of Pscience stopped me in my tracks. Blending what could be classic big beat sixties tunes with odd harmonics and noise, this group, who only just had their first show earlier this month, has certainly hit upon a good psonic compound in their New Orleans-based laboratory.
Negro Terror - ALEX GREENE
  • Alex Greene
  • Negro Terror
Then Negro Terror appeared outside, and we heard a whole other kind of eerie. Their chords of doom revving up, the trio was perhaps the most cathartic band of the festival, as they directly addressed the ugly elephants in the room: recent stress over the the rise of fascist groups, and violence in the city. Singer Omar Higgins started with a dedication to Phil Trenary, the beloved president of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce who was recently murdered. "Phil came to our shows. He understood the message," said Higgins, before launching into raging hardcore riffage. He also reflected the general rage over the recent shooting of Martavious Banks by Memphis police officers, with the anthem, "All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB)." Higgins then dedicated their cover of Detain's "Capital Punishment" to rapists, and quoted General Patton on the importance of killing Nazis. "Nazis!" Higgins called out, his hand raised in salute, until it became a thumbs-down. "Raus!!"

  • Michael Donahue
  • Exek
One longtime Gonerfest-goer commented later, "It's been good to hear so many political songs at this Gonerfest. They usually have such apolitical punk, and the apathy always bugged me."

But those in search of escape rather than confrontation didn't have to wait long, for soon Australia's Exek took the stage with a subtler sound. They betrayed no emotion as they earnestly led the crowd down a hypnotic spiral, sounding like the love child of Stereolab and early Wire. Propelling it all was a powerful bass and drums that at times recalled Sly and Robbie, sans any hint of white reggae. A fascinating blend.

  • Alex Greene
  • Exek

Then, even the most sedentary fans piled in to the bar's smokey interior for one of the festival's most anticipated shows, A Weirdo From Memphis (AWFM), backed up by the Unapologetic crew. DJ'd platters and a live band meshed seamlessly as AWFM proved his freestyle mettle, laced with satisfying expletives that caught the mood perfectly.

AWFM with fellow Unapologetics and Crockett Hall (far left). - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • AWFM with fellow Unapologetics and Crockett Hall (far left).

Then it was back outside to hear the afternoon's closer, Robyn Hitchcock. Given that all of his previous Memphis appearances, going back to 1990, were solo, this show, featuring a crack East Nashville band that included Wilco's Pat Sansone on bass, arrived with heightened expectations. And they delivered, as the combo never missed a beat amid the jangling 6- and 12-string guitars, vocal harmonies, and driving Brit-pop beats. As with his old bands, the Soft Boys and the Egyptians, Hitchcock's surreal lyrics cruised effortlessly above the delicate, yet pulsing, rock sounds.

Recalling his first Memphis show, 28 years ago, Hitchcock then tried to imagine what the world would be that many years hence. "No doubt they'll be releasing the iPhone 21 around then. I may be gone, but I'll live on in an app, so my ego can have the last laugh. You'll be able to have the app compose songs exactly as I would. Or you'll be able to mix and match songwriters, so it'll compose in the style of, say, me, Tom Petty, and Joni Mitchell."

The fading day echoed with many such flights of verbal fancy, in a wide-ranging set that included the Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You" and the Egyptians' "Element of LIght" and "Listening to the Higsons." They echoed up and down Madison Avenue as darkness fell, and all the little Goners readied themselves for the night.

Robyn Hitchcock - ALEX GREENE
  • Alex Greene
  • Robyn Hitchcock

NOTS as portrayed on Gonerfest 15 poster. - GONER
  • Goner
  • NOTS as portrayed on Gonerfest 15 poster.

Not being quite ready for a long night myself, and being a teetotalling tea head, I supped some strong brew and victuals, missing out on Oh Boland and Amyl & the Sniffers, alas. Arriving at the Hi Tone as the NOTS played, I took some considerable hometown pride in the audience's rave reaction to what the Goner program guide calls the city's "synth/guitar squiggle punkers." They did not disappoint, though it was tough to wedge into the packed room.

And then came a blast from the past, the fabulous Neckbones, once rightly hailed as rock's saviors some 20 years ago. Newly reunited, they were in true form as they pummeled the crowd with what can only be called maximum R&B, old school rock-and-roll grooves amped up to 11, attacked with genuine ferocity by the Oxford, MS, quartet. Tyler Keith channeled a Southern preacher with his between-song rants, and drummer Forrest Hewes yelled out his gratitude for the audience's frenzy in flurries of swear words.

Neckbones - ALEX GREENE
  • Alex Greene
  • Neckbones

After that, Melbourne's Deaf Wish, in the unenviable position of following the Neckbones, rose to the occasion with their thorny post-rock rock. There was plenty of noise and wiry, dissonant guitar, but the driving rhythms rocked hard, befitting a band just wrapping up a month long tour. They seemed elated to be ending their U.S. venture on such a Goner note. 
Carbonas - ALEX GREENE
  • Alex Greene
  • Carbonas
And so the night's endgame began, as the Carbonas, who gained much love in their prime over a decade ago, took the stage in their one-night-only, Goner-fueled reunion. Time seemed meaningless as they immediately regained all the chemistry that dissipated when they broke up. Though drummer Dave Rahn's shirt implored us to "Kill the Carbonas For Rock and Roll," it was the group that killed it on this night. A friend and neighbor confessed between songs that "this group helped me survive grad school," and even this fan from back in the day was not disappointed. Nor was the still-packed house, all sporting happy faces as they filed out. 
R.L. Boyce
  • R.L. Boyce

For some, the night raged on, of course. Eric Oblivian, not content to co-manage the festival, play with the Oblivians, and oversee the Murphy's show with a child on his back, played Saturday night's/Sunday morning's after party with his old outfit, the AAAA New Memphis Legs. And then came Sunday at the Cooper-Young gazebo, featuring R.L. Boyce and Lightnin' Malcom, as festival-goers bid adieu to their comrades until next year (?), or made plans to convene at Bar DKDC that night, to the groovy, basement-dredged sounds of Memphis' own Hot Tub Eric. Farewell, Gonerfest 15, and many happy returns!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Gonerfest 15: Friday

Posted By on Sat, Sep 29, 2018 at 2:06 PM

Day two of Gonerfest 15, the annual celebration of punk, garage, and other off-kilter forms of rock, took place in two locations: at Memphis Made Brewing, during the afternoon hours, and Hi Tone on Cleveland late into the night. The daylong festivities featured a songwriter session from Harlan T. Bobo, psych-blues-punk from Chicken Snake, the dark and deranged disco extravaganza of Cobra Man, and a breakout performance from indie-pop band En Attendant Anna. 
Gonerbraü by Memphis Made
  • Gonerbraü by Memphis Made

Memphis Made produced a limited cream ale, the Gonerbraü, to commemorate this year’s festival. The light, fizzy beer seems like the best bet to help get into the Gonerfest spirit, so, Gonerbraü in hand, I weave my way through the crowd to the small stage on the back patio of the Cooper-Young-area brewery and catch Harlan T. Bobo’s acoustic set.

“I wonder if there are many people who get engaged at Gonerfest,” Bobo muses. “Or get divorced at Gonerfest — or at least because of Gonerfest.” The crowd laughs, and Bobo begins playing “I’m Your Man,” a love song from his 2007 album of the same name. Gone is the demented showman who, backed up by a full band, closed out the festivities sometime after 2 a.m. the night before, and in his place is an indulgent father, a humorist, and a day-drinking, guitar-wielding teller of truths.

Bobo jokingly tries to calm a crying child hiding beneath the wooden stairs, tossing a rolled-up T-shirt down to the kid in an attempt to distract him. Then he brings guitarist Jeff “Bunny” Dutton onstage to add commentary to a song Bobo wrote about Dutton, who so ably backed him up on lead guitar the night before. “He don’t drink water and he don’t eat. He lives off alcohol and nicotine,” Bobo sings as Bunny smiles and nods, unable to contest his bandleader’s claims. The crowd laughs, and the kid beneath the stairs is busying himself dragging a plastic chain around. Later, the same little boy will run haphazardly up and down the loading ramp in front of the venue, narrowly avoiding spilling my Gonerbraü.

Out front, New Orleans-based Chicken Snake take the stage, ripping into a swampy, blues-inspired punk set. The drummer sports a goth-glam mane as she attacks the drums with a frenzy. Sneering, strutting guitar licks call to mind the pioneering work of The Sonics or Roky Erickson. “Baby, don’t you give me them walkin’ blues,” the singer implores.
  • Jesse Davis
  • Cobra Man

Later, back at the Hi Tone, L.A. synth duo Cobra Man blends seemingly disparate elements of punk and disco, crafting a spooky dance atmosphere. Their sequined jackets flash in the green lights. During the rising energy of the repeated line, “I want it all,” audience members begin crowd surfing. By the time the singer begins chanting, “I’ve been living in hell with you,” Goner fans are taking turns clambering aboard a large wooden plank and riding it like a surf board across the waves of outstretched hands. The lights change to red, and the rhythm shifts into cut time. The Goner fans dance, revelers in a disco of the damned. Cobra Man’s set is wild and dramatic, and I hope the next band can top it.

French indie-rockers En Attendant Ana follow the depraved rave that is Cobra Man, and far from being overshadowed by the L.A. disco duo, the Parisian quintet make their set look easy. Their Gonerfest performance marks the end of a two-and-half-week U.S. tour in support of the band’s debut album Lost and Found, out on Trouble in Mind. Their tour has taken them through Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Boston, landing them on the main stage at the Hi Tone. They begin, and a wave of jangly guitars and trumpet blasts washes over the crowd, prompting an immediate reaction, as the collected bodies begin to move to the beat. The young indie-rockers ride the wave, all clean guitars, synths, and breathy, urgent vocals, before crashing to a halt.  
Margaux Bouchaudon of En Attendant Ana - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • Margaux Bouchaudon of En Attendant Ana

A smile tugs at the corners of singer and guitarist Margoux Bouchaudon’s lips as the crowd cheers their support. Grinning, she ducks her head as lead guitarist Romain Meaulard introduces the next tune in a thick French accent. En Attendant Ana’s music sounds like euphoria feels. It’s bright and optimistic, like the ideal soundtrack to kick off a road trip. The clean guitars, trumpet, and dreamy rhythms call to mind Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura, but there’s a punk urgency that adds an edge the Scottish indie-pop legends lack. The Parisian quintet’s set seems to pass in an instant of pop nirvana. “This could be the end, oh, this could be the end,” Bouchadon sings on “This Could Be,” backed up by Meaulard and by vocalist/guitarist/trumpet player Camille Fréchou. The song is insistent and anthemic, and I don’t want the lyrics to be true. I hate for the set to end.

I catch three or four songs by New York-based Surfbort, a pure punk explosion, all alcohol-sweat and frantic guitar wrapped in a revealing bodysuit. They’re Gonerfest gold, but I can’t get En Attendant Ana out of my head, so I make tracks toward the merchandise room to find the band and ask them about their tour. I find Fréchou and Bouchadon, who are game for a quick interview.

“We’ve been [in Memphis] for six or seven hours, but tomorrow we stay all day long,” Bouchaudon says. She’s wearing a flowing red coat she bought on tour, and she and Fréchou lean close and speak into my recorder. “This will be the first town in which we can relax and visit. We want to go to Sun Records,” Bouchaudon says. “I would like to go to Graceland,” Camille Fréchou adds, “But I don’t think we are going to.” “Non,” Bouchaudon interjects emphatically. “I will go to Graceland, and you will come with me.” The nearly three-weeks-long tour marks the band’s first time in the U.S. “Every day was like, ‘I’m going to move here,’” says Fréchou, who assures me that Americans have been “really friendly.”
En Attendant Ana - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • En Attendant Ana

En Attendant Ana recorded an EP to tape two years ago, releasing a limited run on cassette, which caught the attention of Canadian label Nominal Records. “[They] asked us if we were okay to release the EP on vinyl, and we said ‘Yes!’” Bouchaudon says, emphasizing the affirmative. The group then recorded their full-length debut, Lost and Found, which they released on Trouble in Mind. After a successful tour with label-mates (and fellow Gonerfest 15 performers) Ethers and a day and a night spent being “the best tourists ever,” Bouchaudon says the band will “go back to France, [and] go back to work.” She says they will spend some time playing in the West of France before getting down to the business of a follow up to Lost and Found. “And then we’ll have some time to make new songs,” she says. “And a new record. And another, and another,” Fréchou chimes in. Personally, I hope Fréchou is right. After only one concert and a brief conversation in the alley behind the Hi Tone, I’m already looking forward to the band’s next release and U.S. tour. Gonerfest 16, maybe? We can only hope.
Oblivians - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • Oblivians

I make it back inside in time to catch The Oblivians, Gonerfest royalty, who deliver their raunchy garage-rock excellence to a packed mass of sweaty music fans. After two days of nearly nonstop music, I settle in to enjoy the show. The rhythm section is tight and powerful. The guitar tones are crunchy and snarling, as befits a late-night set helmed by Jack Oblivian, star of Memphis filmmaker Mike McCarthy’s psychedelic punk odyssey, The Sore Losers, screening Sunday afternoon at Studio on the Square. With two days of Gonerfest memories fresh in my mind, I relax, thankful for the 15-year-old festival that brings so many diverse and distant musical experimenters to the Bluff City.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 28, 2018

Gonerfest 15: Thursday

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 3:12 PM


A week ago, the man in the chainmail and shimmering cape would have been broiling in the Memphis heat, but rain swept in on cooler winds, and the first night of Gonerfest 15 is just cool enough for the assembled punks, rockers, and music fans to break out their denim jackets — or, in some cases, chainmail.

The emcee takes the Hi-Tone stage just after 9 p.m., wearing sunglasses and leather, and says a few kind words about Chris Beck, Goner’s “Muddy Spear,” who recently passed away from brain cancer. Members of the crowd shouted that they wished Beck could be there, displaying a communal spirit central to the festival.

Music fans come from the world over for Gonerfest, and there always seems to be a happy reunion happening in the parking lot or by the bathrooms. Then the emcee kicks off the night’s festivities, introducing the “King of the Gras,” who “tours in a cage on wheels … just take it  — Bênní!” Then the man in the chainmail hood smiles and steps onstage and up to a stack of keyboards and synthesizers. And he conjures magic.
BÊNNÍ, master of analog synths - ALLISON GREEN
  • Allison Green
  • BÊNNÍ, master of analog synths
Bênní’s set is dark and hypnotic, but there’s a touch of humor in his deadpan stage patter delivery as he sets up each synthesized swirl of sound. He speaks (and sings) into a talk box, explaining that the diamond man character was a vision that haunted him until he put it in a song: “This is who I am — a diamond man.”

The New Orleans-based musician plays an instrumental song in 6/8 time. It sounds at once sinister and rising, like an old-school video game theme played on a church organ at the bottom of a well. “I haven’t played that one in a while,” Bênní says casually. His delivery is wry, as if to nudge the audience and say, “You know we’re just getting started, right?”

Between sets, the garage-rock true believers slip outside to smoke cigarettes or scarf down barbecue from a smoker pulled behind an RV. Cincinnati-based Bummer’s Eve take the stage after a quick turnover, summoning the crowds with violently strummed guitar. The band is raucous and bopping, fuzzed-out punk. They crash into a noise breakdown, a wall of feedback and distortion, before plunging seamlessly back into the rhythm of the song. Where Bênní’s set pulsed, Bummer’s Eve shakes and rattles. Their set seemed to end far too soon.

The Hi Tone, already crowded for opening sets on a Thursday night, swells with the addition of late arrivals. There is a constant sense of rising energy throughout the night, a shared knowledge that this is only the first night of the festival. Conversations buzz and grow louder as the ever-growing mounds of beer cans in the trash continue to rise, and people fight to be heard over each other and the ringing in their ears. People dance and bop, and Memphis-based Aquarian Blood and Tampa party-rockers Gino & the Goons continue to escalate the energy. Aquarian Blood wails, frenetically running chromatic scales up their fret boards, urging the party to a wilder pitch.

Aquarian Blood
  • Aquarian Blood

Aquarian Blood build a bomb, and Gino & the Goons light the fuse. They’re party punk, solid songs punctuated by grunts of “ooh!” and “uh!” The Florida-based band plays on as the singer shouts from onstage, “You’re not dancing, we’re not stopping!” Then the rhythm changes, and the singer rips into a chorus of “hip-hip-hypnotic” before everything crashes to a stop with a squall of feedback. Lydia Lunch Retrovirus is up next.

Lydia Lunch, backed by a band so tight they seem telepathic, is the penultimate performer on the opening night of Gonerfest. Dressed in black and laughing, she warns the crowd of her band’s “nasty,” “raunchy” ways. Her guitarist strikes a deft balance between crunchy, palm-muted riffs and wild, dissonant squeals of noise. The rhythm section is locked in, propelling the performance forward through moments of angry, brittle complexity and explosive breakdowns. Red and green lights seem to drip from the Hi Tone sign above the stage. Lunch’s voice floats above it all, singing, screaming, and crooning. Local singer and multi-instrumentalist Luke White leans in to shout in my ear, “She’s pretty badass” before admiring the guitar and bass tones.

  • Jasmine Hirst
  • Lydia Lunch

White is waiting to go onstage with Harlan T. Bobo, who is closing out night one of the festival. Lunch’s vocals rise, casting a dark spell, while the band pulses with barely restrained energy and she chants, “There’s something witchy in the air.” The music rises to a final crescendo, and Lunch, a master performer, relinquishes the stage with a shouted, “Start the disco!”

Harlan T. Bobo’s set is magnetic, hypnotic. He looks like a man possessed, his eyes going wide as he sings, his smile like Conrad Veidt’s in The Man Who Laughs. He has the strangely compelling charisma of someone who hears holy voices.

His band crafts a dark atmosphere, making them a perfect bookend to Bênní’s darkly filmic opening set, a complement to the eclectic lineup. Frank McLallen’s bass lines are expert, a framework on which to hang the keyboard swells and whine of a slide guitar.

Bobo’s second song is “Human,” the simmering opening track from his new A History of Violence. The song builds to an electric instrumental ending, setting a fevered energy level that the band maintains for several songs, before Bobo pulls out a harmonica and eases up on the gas slightly, giving the captive audience a moment to catch its breath.

It’s the briefest of moments, though, before Bobo starts up a swinging, country-inflected song. It’s an inspired performance, and a fitting end to the opening day of the festival.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, September 24, 2018

Love Story

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 5:18 PM

Chad Latham and Malak Moustafa
  • Chad Latham and Malak Moustafa

Chad Latham is gearing up for a fundraiser to help save his fiance’s life.

The benefit, which will feature stand-up comedy and music Oct. 6th at the Hi-Tone, will be held in addition to a GoFundMe for Malak Moustafa, who has hip dysplasia.

If they aren’t able to raise the money for Moustafa’s surgery, she will be immobile for the rest of her life, Latham says.

They need $10,000.

They’ve only received $165 so far.

“She’s a sixth grade teacher at Ridgeway Middle,” Latham says. “The first girl I ever dated. We reconnected later in life.”

They met when they were in the eighth grade. Moustafa is Muslim and Latham is Christian. Latham remembers her dad answering when he called her on the phone. “Because of different cultures and strict parents she was not allowed to date so naturally the very next day I received a note that explained she couldn’t date and that she then had to break up with me.”

Over the years, Latham and Moustafa messaged each other from time to time on Facebook. Latham, who is divorced, told her he had a daughter. Moustafa, a widow, was living in Memphis, Egypt, with her two sons.

In 2015, they began regularly corresponding on Facebook. And never stopped.

Moustafa told him she wanted to move back to Memphis. She wanted her sons “to grow up in a better culture.”

Latham, who finally was able to get Moustafa and her boys to Memphis, proposed to her at the airport after she arrived in June 2016. “The boys were happy knowing they were going to have a daddy for once in their life.”

He knew Moustafa had hip dysplasia, but she said it “didn’t really hold her back from anything growing up.”

But her condition got worse after she gave birth to her boys, he says. “That pretty much kicked it in high gear for advancement in deterioration.”

Over the years, Moustafa “walked wrong” because of her condition, Latham says. “One leg is smaller than the other from lack of muscle mass and not being able to put her normal walking weight on it. Because with hip dysplasia there is nothing to connect the leg bone to the pelvic region. She tries to hide it the best she can, but you can only do that so well and so long. It’s embarrassing and painful for her.”

Moustafa has to have a full bone replacement because of the “grinding down from over the years of walking. It has also caused major scoliosis mainly on her spine. If she doesn't have this surgery as soon as possible, she will be immobile for the rest of her life. Her spine can't stand to get any worse and it kills her every step she takes. I literally have to help massage her back every night to try to find some type of comfort.”

Moustafa doesn’t take any pain pills. “She’s seen first hand what that can do to people. Plus, she’s a fighter. She doesn’t ask anyone for anything.”

Latham decided to contact everyone he knows and who knows her to help him “do something nice for a great soul that deserves to not feel the pain that she feels everyday. “

He wants her “to know what it feels like to walk normal again.”

The fundraiser will include performances from two bands - No Love for Lions and Ego Slip - and MC King Farroah and stand-up comedian Josh McLane.

“I've put my heart into this because she is the love of my life and she deserves it,,” Latham says.

To give to the GoFundMe, go to:

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dancing Highlife in Memphis, Obruni Style

Posted By on Fri, Sep 21, 2018 at 1:35 PM

Obruni Dance Band & the Mama Africa Dancers - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • Obruni Dance Band & the Mama Africa Dancers
One night this summer, with some time to kill, I dropped in to the Wiseacre Brewing Company on Broad Avenue. Walking across the parking lot, I heard grooves not often played in our neck of the woods, and opening the door to the bar, the music suddenly springing into the night, only confirmed that we weren't in West Tennessee anymore. It had to be West Africa.

Filling the room were the sounds of an ace Ghanian highlife band. The band was collaborating that night with dancers who sang along with many of the classic highlife numbers. Hypnotic, joyous guitar arpeggios shimmered over fiercely syncopated beats — this was the real deal! But scanning the players, I saw only familiar faces from other combos around town.

The Obruni Dance Band is indeed comprised of local talent. And, given that many American fans have had African music on their radars since the 1960s, it shouldn't come as a surprise that enough Memphis musicians were big enough fans to eventually create their own band. Here, along with a slideshow using Jamie Harmon's images of the show I chanced upon that night in July, are the details of how that happened. I asked Obruni's founder and lead singer, Adam Holton, about the origins of his interest and what his vision for the group might be.
Adam Holton & the Obruni Dance Band - JAMIE HARMON
  • Jamie Harmon
  • Adam Holton & the Obruni Dance Band

Memphis Flyer: How did you first get into highlife music, and how deep did you go with it?

Adam Holton: I’m from Memphis and I first learned about highlife and other types of Afro-pop when I was in school at University of Colorado, Boulder. There was an ethnomusicology professor from Ghana named Kwasi Ampene who had a “West African Highlife Ensemble”. I went to see a performance of theirs, and I was blown away by this huge ensemble of 20+ musicians, dancers, and drummers playing this infectious dance music with killer bass lines! I joined the group the next semester and stayed in the group under Kwasi’s leadership until after I graduated. I traveled with Kwasi to Ghana as a part of a study abroad program, and got to sit in a few times at clubs in Accra. I also took some bass lessons from Ralph Karikari, a killer highlife bassist and guitarist who is famous for his role in Dr. K. Gyasi’s Noble Kings band.

It sounds like Boulder must have quite an Afro-pop scene.

The West African Highlife Ensemble would invite guest artists each year for a big performance, and through these special performances I got to back up some heavy hitters including Mac Tontoh of Osibisa, Okyerema Asante, and Paa Kow. Paa Kow is a drum prodigy who was playing professionally before he was a teenager, and he and I started the By All Means Band together in Colorado, playing Afro-funk-fusion. We eventually moved to Memphis in 2007 and played here for a little more than a year before breaking up.

Where did you go from there?

I went in other musical directions with other musical projects (Mister Adams, Big Barton) just following my muse where it wanted to go. Some time in 2016 (about seven or eight years after the band broke up), I kind of looked up and realized that this music that I had devoted many years of my life to learning and playing was no longer a part of my life, and I missed it terribly! No one in town was really doing the Afro-pop thing, so I decided to start a new band. Initially, I tried to find any West African musicians who might be in the area, but to date I haven’t had any success with that. So I just started calling on players who had some world music experience or who have jazz backgrounds and can really play just about anything you throw at them.

Obruni means foreigner in the Akan language of Twi. As a white American in Ghana, you’re kind of a sore thumb, so strangers will playfully call you Obruni as you pass them in the street or markets. I decided to name the band Obruni Dance Band because I figured American audiences wouldn’t know what it meant, and I thought that it would be kind of an inside joke to Ghanaians who would immediately know that the band wasn’t from Ghana. Highlife bands are often really large by comparison to rock bands, which translates to a lot of concentrated human energy during performances. The band started with five members (Logan Hanna, Stephen Chopek, Felix Hernandez, Gerald Stephens, and myself), but we have since added Victor Sawyer and Jawaun Crawford on trombone and trumpet.

So does the band mainly play classic highlife music, or do you write originals in that style?

Right now Obruni plays about 50/50 original music versus covers. We are somewhat limited in the covers that we can do because I am by no means a fluent Twi speaker, and so I mostly focus on songs that are sung in pidgin English. Sometimes, I take a popular rock song, and give it a heavy highlife makeover so that pretty much no one would ever recognize it. We do songs by The Beatles, Nirvana, Dire Straits, and Warren Zevon alongside songs by Osibisa, Prince Nico Mbarga, The Sweet Talks, and George Darko.
See events listed below to discover two ways to hear the Obruni Dance Band this weekend.

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Memphis Music Initiative: Chic New Space Remakes Fire House into Musical Hub

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2018 at 4:10 PM

Today marks a turning point for the Memphis Music Initiative (MMI), now in its fourth year of nurturing musical skills and development in the city. It's the grand opening of the organization's new space, the newly refurbished fire house at the corner of B.B. King and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. As the staff flitted around us, preparing for today's festivities, Amber Hamilton, MMI's Chief Operations and Strategy Officer, showed off the new offices.
Amber Hamilton - ALEX GREENE
  • Alex Greene
  • Amber Hamilton
It's a beautiful, light-filled space, cleanly modern, but with details from the building's original design still intact. Construction on the fire house at198 Doctor M.L.K. Jr Ave. was begun in 1923. It ultimately served other uses after being retired from public service, including Chips Moman's studio. The MMI staff all recognize the storied history of the place.
Darren Isom - ALEX GREENE
  • Alex Greene
  • Darren Isom
Darren Isom, MMI's executive director, feels the building "at the corner of King and King," is perfectly situated for MMI's mission, combining "social justice with musical genius."  It's also "musically agnostic" and inclusive, he says, befitting it's hub-like location. The MMI's 33 fellows teach at 49 schools throughout the city, and a downtown location is accessible to the whole of Memphis.

The main goal was to create a space conducive to the fellows, students, and staff hanging out. Community, after all, is what MMI is about, says Isom. "It's not just for 'leaders' or career musicians. Even those who go on to other things are part of the creative economy."

Tonight will be filled with music (and much good conversation, one imagines), not to mention food and drink. There will be performances by many of MMI's Music Engagement Teaching Fellows, partner school ensembles, MMI Works youth and more (see below for the line-up).

Parking is free in the FedEx Forum media lot, the gated parking lot at the south corner of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue and B.B. King Blvd. There will also be food trucks aplenty: Polar Tropical Shaved Ice & Sweet Treats, Primal Flames Grill and Pablo's Cuisine & Grill.

Ribbon Cutting 5:15 PM
Stax Music Academy 5:30 PM
Young Actors Guild 6:00 PM
Frayser Mass Band 6:30 PM
Harmonic South String Orchestra 6:50 PM
Trap Jazz 7:05 PM
Lucky 7 Brass Band 19:30

Perfecting Gifts, Inc. 5:30 PM

Calvin Barnes 5:15 PM
Soulsville Choir 6:00 PM
Memphis Jazz Workshop 6:15 PM

Top Viewed Stories

© 1996-2019

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation