Thursday, October 19, 2017

Emo and you

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 3:25 PM

An evening of emo at the Hi-Tone. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • An evening of emo at the Hi-Tone.

How do you define “emo” music?

“Think ‘punk,’ but more whining,” said Ben Beninati.

Scotty Theunissen described it as “Emotionally nostalgic.”

Will King, vocalist for “Indeed, We Digress,” said emo music is “darker in tone and the musician puts a lot of emotion and passion into the music.” And, he said, “Usually the songs are dark thematically.”

King came up with the idea of throwing an emo night in Memphis, which was held Oct. 14 at the Hi-Tone. “I always love bands like My Chemical Romance and Senses Fail and stuff like that,” he said. “I had seen that they were doing similar things in other cities like LA and New York and Chicago. And I thought, ‘What’s to stop us from doing that here?’ I posted a Facebook stat asking Facebook friends who’d show up for something like that. And i got a great response. I was like, ‘Screw it. I guess I’m doing this thing.’”

He asked Theunissen to help. “He was super into it. And we just went from there and it became this huge thing. It had a way bigger turnout than I possibly could have hoped for. A little less than 100 paid, which means about 100 people got in.”

King and Theunissen had a “meeting of the minds” with Hi-Tone owner Brian “Skinny” McCabe, who said he’d put their list of specially-named drinks with the regular list and feature happy hour prices all night.

The emo drinks included “Sunny D Real Estate,” a screwdriver; “I Write Gins not Tonics,” the gin and tonics; and “Coke Without the E,” which were the whiskey and Cokes.

“We came up with the idea of the eyeliner booth,” Theunissen said. “We called it the ‘Cry Liner’ booth.”

Erica Grant applied eyeliner to guests during the evening. “Because emo is all about being very sad or emotional,” he said. “And the scene used to focus on heavy eyeliner and dark clothing and dark hair covering your face. We felt people might like to relive that and have fun with it.”

They also featured “black volley balls to throw around. To give it a party atmosphere. It was fun. We had mesh gloves available for people to wear. They were big in the early 2000s for people to wear in the emo scene.”

Wes “ DJ My Chemical Remix” Carter; and Alyssa “DJ Honestly?” Moore played the appropriate music for the occasion.

Said King: “The thing about ours that set ours apart from everyone else’s is a lot of other cities were taking it way too seriously. I still love the music. Love the bands. But the culture around emo and the way we dressed back then was funny. Not serious. We made a few jokes about it and didn’t take it too seriously. That way people who were embarrassed that they like music like that showed up.”

King, 23, was 14 when he got into emo. He loved emo bands, but he didn’t really dress emo. “I wore tight jeans. Jeans that were way too tight. Aside from that, not too much. My hair was in my eyes.”

Theunissen, who is 28, remembered listening to emo bands Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and My Chemical Romance, when he was 14.

He didn’t really dress emo, he said. “I wore like extremely tight girl pants. Made for women. I had long, curly hair and wore bandanas all the time. Tight T-shirts. And a bandana around my head.”

Back then he dressed “just like I do now. Only now I wear man pants.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

Foaming at the mouth at Cooper-Young Beerfest

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 4:09 PM

Beer rules at the Cooper-Young Beerfest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beer rules at the Cooper-Young Beerfest

Leather lederhosen isn’t the best attire when the temperature is in the high 80s.

“I am sweating,” said Jacob Griffin, who, along with Roy Wells, were wearing the suede German-style pants at the Cooper-Young Beerfest, held Oct. 14 at Midtown Autowerks.

“My lower half is uncomfortably warm,” Wells said.

Amber Griffin, who was in a dirndle skirt and blouse instead of shorts, said she wants EVERYONE to dress in similar Oktoberfest attire at next year’s festival. Which may be a tall order if that day turns out to be another scorcher.

About 1,000 people - many of them in flip-flops and shorts - attended this year’s festival, which benefits the Cooper-Young Community Association.

Foaming at the mouth wasn't a bad thing.

The event has “definitely grown,” said Cooper-Young Community Association executive director Kristen Schebler.

Home brewing clubs and 31 breweries took part in the regional beer festival, she said.

“One thing that sets Beerfest apart is it’s a benefit for the local community,” Schebler said. “It’s all about community, right? So, it’s about Cooper-Young as a community and the brewing community as a community.”

When the festival began eight years ago, Andy Ashby and Drew Barton of Memphis Made Brewing Co. said the two communities should be combined. Brewers can “show off with each other and show off to other people what they’re doing,” Schebler said.

Goner Records provided music to sip or chug to.

Note: If you want a pair of those white socks with “BEER” written on them in red letters pictured on Cooper-Young Beerfest’s web page, you’ll just have to shop around. They weren’t selling them at the festival. “We have a lot of people who really get into it,” Schebler said. “It’s people who come out in all their different beer paraphernalia. I think that was just a fun one.”

Friday, October 13, 2017

Burger Fest and more!

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Brett Healey at Best Memphis Burger Fest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brett Healey at Best Memphis Burger Fest.

The Brranimal did it again.

Brett Healey, appropriately nicknamed “The Brranimal” for his power-eating expertise, won the slider eating contest at the Best Memphis Burger Fest, held Oct. 7 in Tiger Lane. He ate 12 sliders in five minutes.

On Aug. 20, Healey won the meatball eating contest at the Monroe Ave. Festival in front of Bardog Tavern. He was the first contestant to finish 40 meatballs. He finished in 13 minutes and 14 seconds, which beat the previous record of about 15 minutes.

“This is a new one for me,” Healey said. “I’ve done burgers, but never cute little burgers.”

Contestants were allowed to dunk their sliders into water during the contest. “I didn’t know if dunking was going to be allowed. I’ve actually never dunked in a contest before. But everyone else had the water cups. I mean, that’s the level you’re playing at, so I just went in there and ate as fast as I could.”

Did he eat breakfast before the event? “There was no breakfast this morning. That was my breakfast. I was very hungry.”

Gay, Josh and Morgan Hammond at the "Rommy Hammond Way" dedication. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gay, Josh and Morgan Hammond at the "Rommy Hammond Way" dedication.


When he heard a section of Highland was going to be named after his dad, the late Rommy Hammond of Buster’s Liquors & Wines, Josh Hammond wasn’t sure “Rommy Hammond Street” sounded right.

Bill Boywid, long-time general manager at Buster’s, said, “It’s got to be ‘Rommy Hammond Way.’ We’ve got to do that.’”

And that’s what the section in front of Buster’s on Highland between Poplar and Central now is designated.

“For those who knew Dad, he truly did things his way,” Josh said. “He worked hard. He valued that in others. He said he was going to set out to build the largest liquor store in Tennessee. He said it at a young age and he did it. When he got behind something, he was full force with energy.”

Josh’s brother in law, City Councilman Kemp Conrad, suggested they name a section of the street after Rommy. Josh felt it was “very deserving.” Most people just know Rommy from “growing Buster’s into this incredible wine and spirits emporium.”

But, he said, many people don’t know Rommy “actually grew up in this area, a couple of blocks nearby on Ellsworth. He went to St. Anne’s Highland Elementary just down the street. The man probably spent 72 of his 76 years in this neighborhood.”

A special champagne celebration to commemorate the day and unveil the street was held Oct. 3. About 100 people, including family and friends of Rommy, attended. Included in the family group were Rommy’s wife, Gay, and sons Josh and Morgan.

The day was special in another way. “Today is Dad’s 77th birthday,” Josh told the crowd.

And, he said, “Cheers to Rommy!” Guests raised their glasses.

That’s not the end of the story.

“The next day when we came in I checked the customer count for that day,” Josh said. “It turned out to be 777 customers on his 77th birthday. If that’s not a sign, I’m not sure what is.”

Matthew Thacker-Rhodes, Dara Vongphrachanh and Jeremy Thacker-Rhodes at Baron's Man Cave party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Matthew Thacker-Rhodes, Dara Vongphrachanh and Jeremy Thacker-Rhodes at Baron's Man Cave party.


Well groomed spelunkers visited Baron’s Man Cave for the barber shop’s grand opening celebration of its “next level.”

Instead of stalactites hanging from the ceiling, suits and other stylish clothing were hung on racks.

“The first phase of it opened two years ago,” said Jeremy Thacker-Rhodes, who owns the store with Matthew Thacker-Rhodes and Dara Vongphrachanh. “Trying to come up with a concept like redefining the modern man was the goal when opening up the barbershop side. Baron’s is a new kind of barbershop. It’s designed with a modern man in mind. It brings you all the amenities and services of a high end salon, but delivered in a laid back, masculine environment.”

The store was ‘just a barbershop” when it opened, Jeremy said. “It basically offered haircuts, shaves and foot treatment and facials all under one roof.”

They then thought, “How can we take it to the next level? Throw in a full line of men’s grooming products, full men’s retail and jewelry into the mix.”

In addition to featuring master barbers and stylists, Baron’s Man Cave features Happy socks, Hudson and 7 All Mankind jeans, Scotch and Soda and Civil Society clothing lines, Jack Mason watches, Studebaker Metals and Corkcicle gift items.

“Our goal adding the retail was becoming a one stop shop,” Jeremy said. “A man can come in. He has a dinner date on a Friday night. He can come into Baron’s, change his whole style with his appearance - hair cut, all his grooming, his wardrobe. He can come in in gym shorts and leave full clothed and groomed for a night on the town.”

So, who is “Baron”? “‘Baron’ is actually a name that we came up with. It’s not anybody's name that we know."

They wanted a name that personified “a well groomed, masculine, well-put together man. What would be the name of a fine-tuned gentleman?”

Mike Divoky, Cathy Simmons, Susanna Kelley and Austin Bryeans at Spaytacular. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mike Divoky, Cathy Simmons, Susanna Kelley and Austin Bryeans at Spaytacular.


A crowd of 160 two-legged people attended the 11th annual SPAYtacular to help their four-legged friends.
The event, held Oct. 9 at ANF Architects, featured food from area restaurants and an open wine and beer bar. Hank and Nora provided the music.

Board chairman/president Cathy Simmons chaired the event, which drew 160 people. “The purpose of the party is to benefit Spay Memphis, a non-profit dedicated to reducing pet overpopulation and high euthanasia rates by offering affordable spay and neuter surgery to the public.”

SPAYtacular “is our major fundraiser,” Simmons said. “However, we do accept private donations. We also get grants from certain organizations. We have a partnership with Memphis Animal Services. They pay us to spay and neuter dogs they are going to foster out.”

As for the proceeds from the event, Simmons said, “Whatever we raise from our fundraisers like this one will go for helping to run the clinic or offset surgery fees for people who can’t afford it. Some people come to the clinic and they don’t pay at all. We have a grant for people on government assistance. Or we have a grant for people over 65 or a grant for people on government assistance.

“All kinds of people can come to the clinic and not pay or get a reduced fee. Our fees in general - if you do pay full price - are generally lower than if you’re going to a private veterinarian. Some people cannot afford that.”

Brittany Pace is Spay Memphis executive director.


Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Mayor Jim Strickland at Downtown Memphis Commission 40th Anniversary celebration/Vision awards ceremony. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Mayor Jim Strickland at Downtown Memphis Commission 40th Anniversary celebration/Vision awards ceremony.

Lots of cake and other treats, including the Memphis Grizzline, were on hand at Civic Center Plaza Oct. 4 for the Downtown Memphis Commission’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Vision Award winners also were honored:

Scott Crosby, Madison Avenue Park; ServiceMaster Day of Service Team; Old Dominick Distillery; Odell Horton; Jay Kumar and Snay Patel of Hotel Napoleon; and the Henry Turley Co.

Tom Gannon at wine tasting at  Erling Jensen: The Restaurant. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tom Gannon at wine tasting at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant.
. .......

A wine tasting at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant is an enticing idea. Athens Distributing held a tasting Oct. 4.

“It was for the trade only,” said Ginger Wilkerson, vice-president of the artisan selections division of Athens. “It wasn’t a public tasting. It was for our clients, restaurateurs and retailers.”

The tasting featured wines from the Spire Collection, which is part of Jackson Family Wine Estates. Tom Gannon, Northeast regional sales manager for The Spire Collection of wines, conducted the tasting.

So, what did Jensen serve as an accompaniment to the wines? Among the culinary items were duck confit with braised red cabbage and a cheese plate with four different types of cheeses: blue Stilton, espresso rubbed barely buzzed, Dutch Muenster cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano, said chef de cuisine Will Hickman.

Slider Eating Contest from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Savoy at the Rendezvous

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 3:10 PM

Guy Savoy at the Rendezvous - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Guy Savoy at the Rendezvous

Wearing a cap with “Mem” on the front, the man in the gray mustache and beard stood out as he walked to his table at the Rendezvous. And it wasn’t just the cap. He had a distinguished air about him.

It was celebrated chef Guy Savoy of Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris, Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and four other restaurants in Paris, including Le Chiberta, which earned its first Michelin star after only six months of operation.A three-star Michelin guide chef, Savoy is a former recipient of the Legion d’ Honneur, France’s highest honor. His cookbooks include “Guy Savoy: Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook.”

This weekend, Savoy will be the featured chef at the Memphis Food & Wine Festival, which will be held Oct. 14 at Memphis Botanic Garden. He leads the roster of 13 out-of-town guest chefs and 20 local chefs who will prepare dishes that will be served by vintners and certified sommeliers.

Calvin Bell, who was named No. 1 server in Memphis Flyer’s recent Best of Memphis, was Savoy’s server Oct. 12 at the Rendezvous.

John Vergos, a Rendezvous owner, said, “He ate an array. He ate lamb ribs, pork ribs, brisket and the Rendezvous special - cheese, sausage, salami, pickles and peppers. He was very nice.”

Vergos heard Savoy say he loved the slaw, which is made from a 100-year-old recipe, and the lamb ribs, but he didn’t linger at the table. “I didn’t hover,” He said.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Best of Memphis, Gonerfest, 2 Girls and Whip and more!

Posted By on Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 6:34 PM

Best of Memphis 2017 party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Best of Memphis 2017 party.

Second place wasn’t good enough for Calvin Bell, a server at the Rendezvous.

He came in No. 2 last year in the Memphis Flyer’s Best of Memphis contest.

This year he came in No. 1.

“This year when I was nominated, I gave it all I had,” Bell said. “I really lobbied for it.”

His strategy? After taking care of his regular customers, he’d say, “By the way, I got nominated for Best Server.”

He calls his good customers his “local loyalties.’ “I felt comfortable talking to them about it.”

Bell, who has been with Rendezvous for 27 years, and his fiance, Kimberly Farmer, attended the Best of Memphis 2017 party Sept. 27 at Graceland.

About 2,500 attended the event, which featured food (including duck legs from third place Best Chef winner Michael Patrick of Rizzo’s) and music by John Paul Keith and The Subtractions.

Gonerfest14. East patio at Murphy's. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gonerfest14. East patio at Murphy's.


Andrew Anderson, who is in the Shakes and Proto Idiot, is a fan of Gonerfest.

What sets it apart from other festivals is it’s “open and welcoming and unpretentious,” Anderson said.

Other festivals are populated by “people who try to be cool and try to impress you.”

And Gonerfest? “Everyone is open and friendly and nice.”

Anderson, whose bands played during the festival, was among the 400 or so at Gonerfest14 Saturday Afternoon Blowout at Murphy’s, held Sept. 30.

Rob Blake, from London, Ontario, Canada, is in the band, Klazo, which didn’t perform at Gonerfest. He described the festival as “this gigantic melting pot of people from all over the world. Everyone is an equal.”

About “2,500 plus” .attended this year’s Gonerfest, which featured 36 bands in four days, said Zac Ives, who owns Goner Records with Eric Friedl.

Nick Longmire, who is in Burning Itch, a Knoxville group that didn’t perform at this year’s festival, summed up the attraction of Gonerfest in four words: “All the bands, dude.”

Two Girls and a Whip soft opening. With whisks. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Two Girls and a Whip soft opening. With whisks.


The new bakery, Two Girls and a Whip, held a soft opening Sept. 29 at 363 South Front. The bakery is slated to open to the public Oct. 9.

A “whip” is another word for a “whisk,” which probably was used to beat the from-scratch batter to make the 300 plus cupcakes for the opening event.

The owners are Caroline Dean, Mary Katherine Dunston and Courtney Lollar. Dunston and Lollar are the bakers a.k.a. the two girls with the whip.

The bakery featured their regular cupcakes - strawberry, lemon, chocolate, white cake and yellow cake - at the soft opening.

They also served other cupcakes, including “chipotle chocolate,” one of their specialty flavors.
Dean described the cupcake as “a dark chocolate batter that has just a little bit of chipotle - a very finely-ground chipotle - added to the icing. Also a special dark chocolate icing.”

They also sell “Boozy Batter” cupcakes - “Ones that actually have alcohol in them,” Dean said.

Guests could tri “White Russian” cupcakes at the event. They’re made with vodka and Kahlua.

So, who came up with the name “Two Girls and a Whip?” “Aldo did,” said Dean, whose husband is Aldo Dean, owner of Bar Dog, Aldo’s Pizza Pies and Slider Inn.

“Aldo has all sorts of Aldo has all sorts of random knowledge in his head,” Caroline said. “I’m sure he was thinking about the whisk being called a ‘whip.’”


Musa Banat, Mark Winder, Thomas Strickland, John Elmore at Mark Winder reception. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Musa Banat, Mark Winder, Thomas Strickland, John Elmore at Mark Winder reception.

Memphis Blues Rugby Club players gathered Sept. 30, but they didn’t wear cleats or sideburns. They already played rugby, so they changed shoes. And the Elvis 7s rugby tournament/homage to the King with its “Mr. Sideburns” contest is held in August.

The event, hosted by attorney Larry Magdovitz and his wife, Nouth, was a reception for Mark Winder, who was Larry’s rugby coach at Boston University. Winder now is head coach of the Mandurah Pirates in Mandurah, West Australia, near Perth.

“I invited him to come to Memphis and he took me up on it,” Magdovitz said.

Area restaurants provided food, which included crepes from Crepe Maker, lamb from Owen Brennan’s, pasta from Ciao Bella and key lime pie from Houston’s. Nouth also prepared some of the food.

The event also served as an “after inner squad match” held that day at McBride Field, said Spencer Hansen, one of the players whose likeness was captured by caricaturist Kevin Reuter, who kept a line in front of his easel as he drew portraits of guests.

The Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis 2017 party from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Festival time!

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 5:20 PM

Brian Williams, Anna Roxberg and Kelly Reed at BreakFest 901. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brian Williams, Anna Roxberg and Kelly Reed at BreakFest 901.

BreakFest 901 was more than sausage biscuits.

Take “Black Friday Biscuit,” one of the contributions from Glaze Hardage and Ricky O’Rourke from the Sun’s Out Bun’s Out team. It’s made with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and gravy on a sweet potato biscuit.

His other items were “Bacon Bread Pudding Waffle,” “Chinese Takeout Omelet” - General Tso’s chicken and fried rice omelette; “Bacon Situation” - biscuits with bacon and bacon jam; and biscuits with crawfish gravy.

Hardage also is cook/catering manager at Blink restaurant/Melissa Catering, which is located at Southern College of Optometry.

“I had to defend the home court,” he said.

The categories were “Breakfast Sweets,” “Breakfast Sandwich,” “Omelet,” “Bacon Lovers” and “Anything Goes.”

Sun’s Out Bun’s Out came in second in Bacon Lovers and second in Breakfast Sweets. The team got third in Omelet and third in Anything Goes.

This year’s event - the third - was their biggest, said Christin Yates, who chaired the benefit with Andy Wells and Amy Chadwick.

“We sold right at 1,000 tickets,” she said. “Last year was around 750 or 800 people.”

Asked what sets BreakFest apart from other festivals, Yates said, “We try to make it all inclusive. So, if you’re not on a cooking team, come have a good time. There are games, family friendly activities, music and lots of other things to enjoy. I think that kind of draws people in and gives everybody something to do.

And they can eat. Booths handed out samples. Food trucks also were on hand.


Steve Mulroy, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Judge Janice Holder at STRUT. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Steve Mulroy, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Judge Janice Holder at STRUT.

None of the bartenders at STRUT had to make frozen margaritas or even mix a scotch and soda. But if you were a guest, Shelby County Mayor Frank Luttrell or other Memphis celebrities might have poured a glass of red or white wine for you. Maybe a soft drink with ice. Or served you a beer.

The event, held Sept. 21 at Mercedes-Benz of Memphis, was presented by Community Legal Center.

About 200 attended the party, which included a fashion show, a buffet and drinks.

Jerri Green, director of community engagement, planned and coordinated the event. Long-time board member Steve Mulroy “should get MVP for the event,” said Anne Mathes with Community Legal Center.
“Recruiting emcees and celebrity bartenders, getting wine and beer donated, soliciting sponsorships and auction items and selling tickets - you name it, he does it.”

The event was presented by Laurelwood Shopping Center and Mercedes-Benz of Memphis.

Richard Ransom and Katina Rankin from Channel 24 news were emcees.


Jamond and Brittney Bullock at Farm Fest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jamond and Brittney Bullock at Farm Fest.

Instead of weeding or hoeing, guests could whistle along - or dance if they wanted - to Star & Micey tunes at Farm Fest, held Sept. 24 at Loflin Yard.

Farm Fest, hosted by Memphis Farmers Market, is “our annual fundraiser,” said Memphis Farmers Market executive director Allison Cook. “The proceeds go directly into funding the upcoming season.”

About 300 attended. “I think it was a great success ‘cause we had such great support from area restaurants that donated as well as our newest brewery, Old Dominick Distillery.”

Another reason was “the community support,” she said.


John Paul Keith and Will Sexton at The Hi Tone - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • John Paul Keith and Will Sexton at The Hi Tone

The Hi Tone was hopping Sept. 22. The big room featured the “Gimme Shelter” Rolling Stones Tribute/Benefit for HOPE (Homeless Organizing through Power and Equality) and the small room featured a release party for Louise Page’s new EP, “Salt Mosaic.”

The HOPE benefit featured 15 acts, said Kelley Anderson, who organized the event with Graham Winchester. Winchester performed with his band, Graham Winchester and the Ammunition. Shangr-Lla Records sponsored the event.

HOPE “raises awareness around issues affecting people experiencing homelessness - a condition that can happen to anyone if they don’t have recourses like good friends and family. Things to fall back on.”

They raised about $800, but hoped to raise $10,000, Anderson said. “The concrete goal is to help HOPE get a van for their members. To help them get directly to their services: meal services, job interviews, things like that. And, mainly, a way to continue their organizing work.”

Page was “overwhelmed with joy and gratitude’ about her EP release. “The amount of enthusiasm and support from my friends, family and community was completely unprecedented and uplifting," she said. "And now I can’t wait to do something even bigger and better and more luminous.”

Julia Wellford Allen, Page’s 91-year-old grandmother, was among the guests.

Also appearing with Page and her band were Strong Martian and Magnolia.

Toney Walsh from Mednikow Jewelers and chef Logan Guleff sport Bremont watches at a reception at Mednikow Jewelers. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Toney Walsh from Mednikow Jewelers and chef Logan Guleff sport Bremont watches at a reception at Mednikow Jewelers.

Mednikow Jewelers remembered Giles English’s birthday with a cake - decorated as the face of a Bremont Watch. Giles and his brother, Nick, are founders of the watch company.

Mednikow hosted a reception for the English brothers Sept. 20 at the store in East Memphis.

“This watch company and the way it’s doing business energized me in a way that no other watch company has in many years,” said Jay Mednikow, owner/CEO.

Dr. Blas Catalani sported his new Bremont Boeing watch. “I bought it a couple of weeks ago, but I felt it was most appropriate to pick it up on this occasion,” he said.

Jay Mednikow and the English brothers joined the gathering for the “after party” at the Rendezvous.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cooper-Young Fest, Big Bugs, Art of Caring

Posted By on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 3:58 PM

Pauldarius Brown and Paula Raiford at Cooper-Young Festival. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Pauldarius Brown and Paula Raiford at Cooper-Young Festival.

You probably bumped into somebody you knew at the Cooper-Young Festival. Literally.

About 125,000 people attended this year’s event, which was held Sept. 17, said Tamara Cook, Cooper-Young Business Association executive director.

“We were down about 5,000 or 10,000, but they think it was probably the football game,” she said.

Cook was referring to the University of Memphis/UCLA game, held the same day. Many Tiger blue shirts were seen at the festival after U of M’s win.

Music was in the air - and not just from the jubilant pigskin fans. “We had 17 bands on three stages,” Cook said. “And that’s not counting the fringe festivals that were going on. Memphis Made had six bands down there. I think Cafe Ole in their back parking lot had bands all day. And bands were at 381 South Cooper. I can’t keep up with all those people. It’s always something new every year.”

This year’s festival also included 425 artists booths, Cook said.

She rated this year’s event as great. “Everything is always good in Cooper-Young. How can it not be?”


Terri Fox and David H. G. Rogers at Big Bugs. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Terri Fox and David H. G. Rogers at Big Bugs.

Guests drank green “Bug Juice” (not made with bugs, but with green Kool-Aid) and ate bug (made with icing)-decorated cookies at the VIB (Very Big Bug Party) Sept. 14 at Memphis Botanic Center. The event was a preview party for the new exhibit, “David Rogers’s Big Bugs at the Garden.”

The party included sponsors, donors, media, board members and others. As well as the children and grand-children of guests.

David Rogers, who created and built the giant wooden bugs, also attended. The bugs, which stand up to 18-feet tall, represent eight different species.

“It was fun to see the bugs change personalities as the evening grew darker and the colorful lighting of the bugs came up,” said the center’s executive director Mike Allen.

The exhibit, on view through Jan. 1, is “important to MBG in that we hope it will raise awareness about our gardens as a local attraction, break down any barriers or misconceptions people might have about what a botanic garden is, drive more visitors from all parts of our community ot the Garden, increase attendance and, ultimately, create more members.”

OBJECKT 12 will provide the tunes and local food trucks, the food.

Note: Those who want some grown-up “bug juice” can attend the Bug Crawl at the Garden 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 30. While viewing the big bugs, guests can sip beer from numerous breweries at stations adjacent to each wooden insect.


Jim and Missy Rainer at Art of Caring. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jim and Missy Rainer at Art of Caring.
About 250 people attended Art of Caring Sept. 14 at Shelby Farms Park FedEx Event Center, said Missy Rainer, who co-chaired the event with her husband, Jim.

The event benefits the Baptist Reynolds Hospice House in Collierville and the Center for Good Grief.

Dana and Frazer Gieselmann were honorary co-chairs of the event, which included food from A Moveable Feast and a silent auction.

Judy Vandergrift worked on a painting in the midst of the partiers. The completed work then was included in the silent auction.

Ken Hall was art curator.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Little Big Town, Art on Tap, Stock Exchange, Morris Midway Carnival

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 4:55 PM

Taylor James and Levi Clarkson at Art on Tap. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Taylor James and Levi Clarkson at Art on Tap.

“Rooibos” may not be as common as “Bud” or “PBR,” but five gallons of the beer were downed at Art on Tap, which was held Sept. 8 at Dixon Gallery and Gardens.

Jordan Raine, 24, who is from Johannesburg, South Africa, created and made the beer. “It’s a South African pale lager with orange peel,” he said.

It’s made with rooibos. “It’s a type of tea. It grows specifically in South Africa.”

The lager is a “milder, well rounded beer,” said Raine, who moved to Memphis last May to attend medical school at University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

“I started home brewing a couple of months ago. I decided to put some South African influences on it. I thought it just might be interesting. I gave it a try. It came out pretty well. Probably the third or fourth time I made that specific recipe.”

Art on Tap, which featured mostly beer stations, was the first time Raine participated in a beer event. “I’d given it to friends and family, but never really taken it to a festival or anything like this. This is my first trip out there to the big, wide world.”

Asked how Rooibos did, Raine said, “I brought five gallons and it was all gone. All the beer was pretty popular. I think we were all at the end of our kegs at the end of the night. I can’t really tell you if it was as popular as the others.”

But, he said, his beer was “something you wouldn’t see at a grocery store or a bar. And people enjoyed it just as much as the other stuff.”

Airside performed.

Robert Winstead and Megan Collins at Live at the Garden, - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Robert Winstead and Megan Collins at Live at the Garden,


Enough people to populate a little big town attended Little Big Town's performance Sept. 9 at Live at the Garden.

A record-setting-crowd of about 8,000 attended the concert at Memphis Botanic Garden. Devin Dawson was the opener.

Executive director Mike Allen was pleased. “The evening was terrific from start to finish,” he said. “Spectacularly beautiful weather.”

And, he said, “The LIttle Big Town band was as nice and personable as you hoped they would be.”

The group originally was going to play June 23, but the show was rescheduled "because of Tropical Storm Cindy, which drenched Memphis that day with a couple of inches of rain and some power outages.”

Little Big Town was “so gracious to work with us to reschedule. Just a beautiful night.”

Pimento's Kitchen catered the event.


Jonathan and Ashleigh Bernhardt at Stock Exchange preview party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jonathan and Ashleigh Bernhardt at Stock Exchange preview party.

The only thing that got broken at Les Passees Stock Exchange consignment shop - that made members happy - was the attendance record at the preview party.

It was “the largest attendance we’ve had and it was over 700 people,” said Stock Exchange chair Jennie Helm.

This year’s Stock Exchange, which runs now through Oct. 28, is held in the 35,000 square-foot space at 10337 East Shelby Drive in Carriage Crossing Market Place in Collierville.

“We have 4,000 consignors and I would say over half of those have already brought items,” Helm said.

People are encouraged to bring items to be consigned, she said. Items are flying off the shelves, so to speak. “We’ll run out of stuff at this rate,” she said.

Since items constantly are being brought to the floor, shoppers don’t know what surprises are in store. “We have this woman who bought this lamp. She had a pair when she was married 35 years earlier and had broken one. And here was the match to that lamp she had. Stuff like that is so bizarre. It was absolutely a perfect match.

“We have a lot of that. We could write a book.”

Judy Ashby is Les Passees president.

Morris Midway Carnival. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Morris Midway Carnival.


“Morris Midway Carnival” was the theme of this month’s Morris Marketing Group’s Bar 456 Happy Hour.

Fair food, including deep fried Oreos, corn dogs and funnel cakes, were the buffet items. Guests could try their hand at ring toss or the “High Striker,” where you swing a sledgehammer and try to ring the bell on top.

The “big top’ was Morris Marketing Group’s office on Tennessee Street. “There are three fairs this month - Delta Fair, Mid-South Fair and Bluff City Fair,” said president Valerie Morris. “It’s fair season. So, we decided to give everyone a little taste of fair food.”

Bar 456 holds its networking events once a quarter, Morris said. The next one will be held Dec. 7.

It’s going to be holiday themed, but, Morris said, “I think we’re going to go a little bit crazy. It’s a different type of holiday. With an alternative holiday theme.”

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Friday, September 8, 2017

Exposure, Heritage Festival, Hardin Hall

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 1:29 PM

Nikola Printz at Exposure. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Nikola Printz at Exposure.

Most players wore shorts and T-shirts to play kickball at Exposure, but Nikola Printz wore a below-the-knee spaghetti strap dress with red polka dots.

She wore a costume from the upcoming Opera Memphis production of “The Italian Girl in Algiers,” which will run Feb. 2 and 3 at Germantown Performing Arts Centre.

“I’m playing the title role,” she said.

This year’s festival, presented by New Memphis on Sept. 1 (“901 Day”), drew “several thousand” people, said Anna Traverse, New Memphis communications specialist. “But we don’t have the exact figures yet.”

Exposure is “a way for people to get involved with their city. To love their city actively. And to sort of find fresh ways of being part of the Memphis community. As well as just enjoy and celebrate all the wonderful things Memphis has to offer. Whether it be all the nonprofits and other organizations that were representing themselves or the kickball game as a fun way to get together and see all these different, interesting groups from Memphis you might not otherwise see on a kickball field together.”

The event “got started several years ago, but last year was the first we opened it up to the general public. For the first year we did the Exposure event, it was not on 901 day and also was tailored especially for city newcomers. What we found was a bunch of native Memphians kept showing up. They wanted fresh ways to get involved with our city. We thought, ‘Oh, if this is what everyone wants, we should open the doors wide and let everyone in.’”

Michael Darnell and Lyric, 2, at Center for Southern Folklore Memphis Music & Heritage Festival. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Michael Darnell and Lyric, 2, at Center for Southern Folklore Memphis Music & Heritage Festival.


Center for Southern Folklore’s Memphis Heritage Festival was more than music, food, crafts and art to Zack and Kim Sykes.

It was their first outing since their son, Samuel, was born eight weeks ago.

Or, as Zack described it, “Mom and Dad’s day out.”

Their outing was “a little nerve wracking,” he said.

“Scary, but fun,” Kim added.

Asked to name the highpoint of the free festival, founder/general chair Judy Peiser said, “It looked like everybody was smiling the whole time. I felt the people who came to the festival over two days got a slice of the music grown here.”

And, she said, “For two days you can hear the music that goes from blues to jazz to bluegrass to country to gospel to hip-hop, dance.”


Memphis Food & Wine Festival kickoff party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis Food & Wine Festival kickoff party.

Guests got a taste of the upcoming Memphis Food & Wine Festival at a kickoff party Aug. 29 at River Oaks restaurant.

Guests learned what the large roster of chefs will prepare at the FedExFamilyHouse fundraiser, which will be held Oct. 14 at Memphis Botanic Garden.

For instance: acclaimed chef Guy Savoy, who has restaurants in Paris and Las Vegas, will prepare artichoke and black truffle soup; Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, will prepare kelp and sea salt grilled royal red shrimp with rum agricole grilled pineapple, jicama, hearts of palm, sliced lemon, toasted coconut, mango aspci and three-year aged “Rum Barrel” hot sauce; and Nick Vergos from the Rendezvous will serve Rendezvous ribs.

In other words - get your palates ready for cuisine prepared from the palettes of renowned chefs.

Jennifer Hamblin, Mike Allen and Veronica Tansley at Hardin Hall. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Jennifer Hamblin, Mike Allen and Veronica Tansley at Hardin Hall.


Harvey met Hardin Aug. 31.

Guests braved rain and wind - Hurricane Harvey remnants - to attend a preview party for the newly-renovated Hardin Hall at Memphis Botanic Garden.

Executive director Mike Allen was on hand. “The renovation of Hardin Hall is really important for the long-term sustainability of the Memphis Botanic Garden,” he said. “Rental income from Hardin Hall as well as our three other venues is in a large measure what helps to underwrite the operating costs of our Garden. This renovation brings Hardin Hall into the 21st Century with a current, neutral look, better audio visual technology, enhanced lighting options and more. It will allow us to better compete with some of the newer event venues that have opened in recent months. We have already hosted a couple of wedding receptions, a large civic event and both the Ole Miss and University of Memphis kick-off events. All to really positive reviews.”


Matt McCormack at Matt McCormack and Friends at Lafayette's Music Room. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Matt McCormack at Matt McCormack and Friends at Lafayette's Music Room.

Former Memphian Matt McCormack appeared in “Matt McCormack and Friends” Aug. 28 at Lafayette’s Music Room.

He included music from his album, “Life in Stereo,” which will be released Sept. 8. He also performed “Pride,” a song he collaborated with KISS guitarist Gene Simmons.

“I just saw people there that I’ve known since the first grade,” said McCormack, who lives in San Antonio. “And I saw people I knew at college. All the time periods I lived in Memphis - there was somebody there from that group. Which is great.”

On this Memphis trip, instead of going to Corky’s and Krystal - places “we don’t have in Texas” - McCormack “just stayed at a friend’s house and barbecued and had a nice time.”

Andrew Vanelli - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Andrew Vanelli


Andrew Vanelli now has three of his own radio shows under his belt.

He just aired his third “Sports Hour with Ace,” which airs from 9 to 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday. He also co-hosts “Beast of Sports Gab” with Quenton Bailey from 2 to 3 p,m. Thursdays. Both shows air on AM 730.

“It’s a sports talk show, so i’ll be taking callers,” said Vanelli, 35. “I’ll go in there and I’ll talk about the trending topics, stuff everyone’s talking about.”

Vanelli and his fiance, Amanda Phelps, recently were at dinner at the new Farm Burger Memphis in Crosstown Complex.

Sports is something Vanelli knows a thing or two about. “I had a football in my hand since I was three years old, man.”

He was wide receiver and defensive back at St. Benedict at Auburndale. “I ended up being all-state honorable mention my senior year.”

But, he said, “I was not good enough to play in college. I was fast, but I wasn’t fast enough to play that position in at the college level.”

Vanelli provides a sports handicapping service at

And, he does “some fantasy football advising. People don’t know how to draft or build them, I’ll help them do that.”

Vanelli is a newcomer to radio. “I used to have a hard time speaking in front of 10 people. And, man, when I’m talking about something that I love and I’m passionate about, it just flows, man.”

Where does “Ace” in the show title come from?. “That’s my nickname,” Vanelli said. “It goes back to my Uncle Tony. When I was about 10 or 11 I’d just got done playing a peewee football game and my uncle came over and said, ‘Good game, Ace.’ And one of my buddies said, ‘Why did you call him that?’ And he said, ‘’Cause, boy, he’s the best one out there.’ That always stuck in my head. I think it’s catchy. And I just brought it back.”

If you want to see what Vanelli looks like in person, you can catch him bringing Elfo’s Special or some other dish to tables at Ronnie Grisanti’s Italian Restaurant, where he’s a server.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Ballet Memphis, Urban League, Pillars of Excellence and more!

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 3:16 PM

Grand opening of new Ballet Memphis headquarters. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Grand opening of new Ballet Memphis headquarters.

Crystal Brothers. who danced in the "Sa Voix" number, was the first dancer to set foot on the new stage at the mini-performance Aug. 26 to celebrate the grand opening of Ballet Memphis’s new headquarters at 2144 Madison.

That was just a coincidence, not symbolic, said Ballet Memphis CEO/founding artistic director Dorothy Gunther Pugh. “Crystal has been here over 20 years now,” she said. “So many of those dancers had their first jobs with us and they’ve loved it so much they’ve grown with us. They’ve reached a stature of excellence that’s understood by people across the country who really know what professional ballet is.”

Associate director Seven McMahon is another veteran. McMahon, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland, used “y’all” in his opening remarks to the audience. “I’ve been in Memphis 14 years,” he said. “I think I can say that.”

Ballet Memphis’s new headquarters officially opened Aug. 24. “Everything from start to finish starting with the ribbon cutting on Thursday afternoon was magical,” Pugh said. “And the magic never stopped. All day Saturday that place was full with excited and over-awed people.”

Guests were “mostly kind of mesmerized by how amazing the place is.”

And, she said, “The building did what it was meant to do: be open to sharing joyful experiences with people in the community.”

The 38,000 square foot, $21-million Ballet Memphis headquarters houses five studios, including a large glass-walled studio with limited, retractable seating, and a costume shop, which is visible from the street.

“This has been a dream for many years and now it’s a reality,” McMahon told the audience.

Mama Gaia restaurant also is housed in the new headquarters. The restaurant, which also has a location in the Crosstown Concourse, held the grand opening for the new location Aug. 24 at Ballet Memphis.

Following the ballet performance, dancers joined guests to kick up their heels in the Flying Hall in the Ballet Memphis headquarters. D. J. Waht kept the music going, but it was Stax instead of Stravinsky. He played Top 40s and rhythm and blues. Toe shoes were not required.


Marvin Ballin and Sam Fargotstein at Pillars of Excellence. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Marvin Ballin and Sam Fargotstein at Pillars of Excellence.

Members of the legal profession were placed on pedestals Aug. 26 at Pillars of Excellence at Hilton Memphis.

Honored this year were former University of Memphis president Shirley Raines, judges Julia Gibbons and James Todd and attorneys Homer Branan, John Houseal Jr., Jim Raines and Jim Warner.

Pillars of Excellence is a fundraising event for scholarships to the University of Memphis law school, said Marina Carrier, U of M alumni association event coordinator. “To do that, we’re honoring individuals in the legal community who have practiced for a minimum of 40 years.”

A total of $75,000 was raised at this year’s event, which is the eighth Pillars of Excellence, Carrier said.

U of M alumni law chapter president Richard Glassman was emcee.


Tonya Sesley-Baymon and Congressman Steve Cohen at Memphis Urban League Empowerment Luncheon. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tonya Sesley-Baymon and Congressman Steve Cohen at Memphis Urban League Empowerment Luncheon.

Ron Harris, a former reporter for the now defunct Memphis Press-Scimitar, was the speaker at the Memphis Urban League Empowerment Luncheon, held Aug. 24 at the Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis.

The award-winning Harris, now adjunct journalism professor at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University, also is the managing editor of the Howard University News Service.

He also worked at EBONY magazine, the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Asked why Harris was selected to speak, Memphis Urban League president/CEO Tonja Sesley-Baymon said, “He’s a Memphian - one - and an award-winning journalist. So, when I discovered what the National Urban League’s theme was for 2017 - ‘Protect Our Progress’ and ‘Put People First’ - I thought he would be a great person to talk about protecting the progress of African-Americans. And talk about the strides we’ve made as a people. And the next step: to move forward.”


Impala at Tiki Night at Railgarten. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Impala at Tiki Night at Railgarten.

Impala performed on stage near a movie screen showing surfers riding big waves at Tiki Night Aug. 24 at Railgarten. A group of guys played beach volleyball nearby.

But Impala really isn’t a surf band, said guitarist John Stivers. “We certainly have those elements,” he said. “It’s easy to lump an instrumental band that plays that style of music into that. And I don’t mind somebody calling us that. For lack of a better term, that’s what we are. But we span genres.”

They’ve also been called “crime jazz,” he said. “Just think about James Bond themes. That kind of stuff. Guitar heavy. Staccato-type picking. But a lot of times it will have horns.”

He also has heard their songs described as “creepy noir” - “dark, creepy music that would accompany an old movie.”

Surf music “all revolves around a certain type of beat. There’s a thing called ‘surf beat.’ It would typically have more classic rock and roll licks to it, but all the guitars drenched in reverb. It has a little more rock and roll feel to it.”

Surf music “might have been what got us started,” he said. “We listened to the Ventures and Dick Dale and all that stuff. But we also listened to Booker T and the MGs. And John Barry, who did all the James Bond themes - the earlier ones with all the guitar sounds. And spaghetti westerns. We strived to mix all that down together.”

As for the Railgarten stage, Stivers said, “I like that venue. I’d like to play there again. It’s a fun place to play, that’s for sure.”

And Stivers did NOT use the word “gnarly.”


John Halford, Anna-Lise Halford, Jose Velazquez and Jennifer Velazquez at Next Door. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • John Halford, Anna-Lise Halford, Jose Velazquez and Jennifer Velazquez at Next Door.

Guests were introduced to the Baja burger (Home Place Pastures ground beef, guacamole, cilantro slaw, roasted Jalapenos and lime crema), wild caught Alaskan Salmon bowl (pan roasted with Tuscan kale, beets, quinoa and lemon) and curry chicken salad sandwich (green apple, golden raisins, celery and lettuce) at the soft opening of Next Door American Eatery Aug. 24 in the Crosstown Complex.

The menu groaned with more salads, bowls, sandwiches, burgers and soups.

“We’re a scratch kitchen,” said Next Door assistant general manager Scott Lawrence. “We try to source everything as local as we can. As sustainable as we can. Everything is made in the kitchen for the most part that day.”


Paula Anderson and Anthony Hicks at PRSA Memphis networking event at Jack Robinson Gallery. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Paula Anderson and Anthony Hicks at PRSA Memphis networking event at Jack Robinson Gallery.

PRSA Memphis celebrated PRSA DIversity Month with a networking event Aug. 22 at the Jack Robinson Gallery.

“At the beginning of this year the national organization said PRSA was going to make a more concerted effort to promote diversity and inclusion from a national level and throughout our local chapters,” said James Dowd, president of the Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Their chapter previously held mixers, but this was the first one devoted to promoting diversity and inclusion, Dowd said. “This is something we will actively promote throughout our programming day to day month to month moving forward. This is the first in a series to situate Memphis PRSA as a leader in diversity and inclusion among our peers and throughout the country. To bring everyone together to have these conversations. Where are we doing a good job promoting diversity and inclusion and where do we need to get better?”

University of Memphis’s Prizm Chamber Music Ensemble members Noel Medford, Joseph Miller and Dylan Willis performed music to network by.

About 150 people attended the event, Dowd said.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jerry Schilling, Isaac Hayes, Monroe Ave. Festival, Fight Night, Loflin Yard and more!

Posted By on Tue, Aug 22, 2017 at 9:24 PM

Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling were at The Peabody's Corner Bar during Elvis Week. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling were at The Peabody's Corner Bar during Elvis Week.

Jerry Schilling loves Memphis.

Schilling, who was a close friend and business associate of Elvis, was in town to participate in Elvis Week events.

“I think Memphis is different,” he said. “And I think it’s in the water in the Mississippi River. It’s where it all came together with all the styles of music and with the geniuses like Sam Phillips and Dewey Phillips, who got it. And Elvis Presley, who put it all together and basically kicked the door in for rock and roll.

“I am very proud to be a part of this city with its great musical heritage both black and white. When I came back to be president of the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission, I walked down Beale Street and looked at every note on Beale Street and I saw friends, people I idolized and I didn’t know. And for me to have the 66th note on Beale Street was the ultimate. I live in Hollywood, but my soul is in Memphis.”

Schilling participated in “SiriusXM Town Hall” with Priscilla Presley, Mac Davis and Peter Guralnick. The event, held Aug. 14 at the Guest House at Graceland, was aired live.

Among his current projects is the Cinemax series “Quarry.” “I’m a consultant on that,” he said. “It takes place in Memphis in the ‘70s. It’s not about Elvis at all. It’s about two Vietnam soldiers coming back to Memphis and having a hard time getting a job. And they become hit men. We use a lot of Memphis music. A lot of David Porter.”

Schilling is an executive producer along with Priscilla Presley on the upcoming HBO documentary, “Elvis Presley: The Searcher,” slated to air in 2018. “We have finished the program now. I did come come to Memphis over two years ago with Kari Antholis. He’s the head of series programs at HBO. We did a whole research thing for the show. We met with David Porter. David is one of the voiceovers in the documentary. And we used some of his music.”

Antholis “fell in love with Memphis,” Schilling said. “He fell so much in love with Memphis he had his son’s 

Meatball Eating Contest from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

seventh grade field trip to Memphis. From L. A. They went to Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum. They did everything.”

And, Schilling said, “I’m back managing the Beach Boys after 30 years.”

He was the Beach Boys’ manager for 10 years. “I love their more deeper music. I love it all, but I think there’s a lot more obscure Beach Boys music I wasn’t familiar with in the beginning. We all know ‘Good Vibrations,’ the car songs.”

He particularly likes “Warmth of the Sun” and “Feel Flows.”

“They’re great to work with. And they’re very, very diverse. It’s America’s band. They’re the Beatles of America.”


Jonathan Magallanes at Fight Night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jonathan Magallanes at Fight Night.

TV’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Chopped” and “Throwdown! With Bobby Flay” have nothing on the Aug. 19th boxing match between Restaurant Iris/Second Line chef/owner Kelly English and Los Tortugas chef Jonathan Magallanes at Phoenix Club’s “Fight Night” fundraiser. The Boys and Girls of Greater Memphis benefit was held Aug. 19 at the University Club of Memphis .

“John Collier, who put on the event, asked if I would be willing to fight Kelly,” Jonathan said. “We’re good enough friends we could put aside our love of each for a good cause and trade blows.”

In addition to punching each other, the two chefs added some verbal jabs. “I told him that I had better Cajun food at Popeye’s in Ecuador,” Magallanes said. “And that Applebee’s was better than the Second Line. And he said that cheese and sour cream do belong on tacos. We don’t do that.”

He described the comments as “little jabs on cuisine and food as a way to get each other riled.”

Magallanes didn’t train for the event, but English did. He worked with trainer Nick Davis for six months.

When Collier asked him to fight, English said, “You’ve got to get me a chef. I’ll fight a chef. I feel like that’s a fun draw.”

Collier came back and saId, ‘We got Jonathan.” To which English responded, “You got Adonis? LIke 6-4. Born in perfect fashion. Like chiseled.”

English won the event - best of three two-minute rounds - by a unanimous decision. “If Jonathan had trained, he would have been an insane opponent,” English said.

But, he said, “I love Jonathan and I do not enjoy fighting someone I love. I am not interested in fighting someone I love ever again. I was in his wedding for chrissakes. He’s probably my best friend in town.”

“It was all in good fun,” Magallanes said. “We’re real bro’s. We’re able to fight and put it aside.”

“I’d never boxed before,” English said. “It’s good to hang up the boxing gloves undefeated.”

Veronica Hayes and David Porter at Isaac Hayes Day in the Park. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Veronica Hayes and David Porter at Isaac Hayes Day in the Park.


Isaac Hayes was honored in his home-town of Covington, Tenn. Aug. 19 at Frazier Park. Family and friends gathered at “Isaac Hayes Day in the Park” to remember Hayes and to listen to some of his music.

His daughter, Veronica Hayes, who attended with her sister, Melanie Hayes, described the gathering as “the inaugural event to celebrate my dad.”

Her father was born Aug. 20, 1942, but they held the event on Aug. 19 because it was a Saturday, Veronica said.

The Class of 1977 Revue performed Isaac’s hits, including “Soul Man,” which he co-wrote with David Porter. Porter was among the guests.

Veronica brought three of her father’s BMI awards - two for “Shaft” and one for “Deja Vu” - to the Tipton County Museum to coincide with the event, which was organized by John Edwards.

Veronica plans to get more involved next year. “I think I’m going to throw my hat in there and help them out,” she said.

She'd like to raise money from the event to provide scholarships and give money to high school music departments.

Brett Healey at Monroe Ave. Festival. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brett Healey at Monroe Ave. Festival.


Brett Healey won the “Meatball Eating Contest” at the Monroe Ave. Festival Aug. 20 in front of Bardog Tavern. He was the first contestant to finish 40 meatballs. He finished in 13 minutes and 14 seconds, which beat the previous record of about 15 minutes. The annual event follows the annual Breakaway
Bardog 5K to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Healey, who was born in Hamilton, New Jersey, moved to Memphis two months ago. He got hooked on competitive eating in New Jersey. “There was a burger challenge at a restaurant where I used to work in New Jersey. That was a two-pound burger plus one pound topping. So, a total of a three-pound burger. You had 30 minutes to eat it. And I finished it in 24 minutes.”

His secret is “working out a lot, eating a lot of fruit and vegetables and water to stretch my stomach out.”

Healey already is hungry for his next challenge. “I have been approved to do the Moonpie eating contest in October at The Pyramid.”

Novel bookstore soft opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Novel bookstore soft opening.


Novel held soft openings two days before the new bookstore in Laurelwood officially opened Aug. 18.

A group got together to open the bookstore after The Booksellers at Laurelwood decided to close its doors.

“As a customer, I think it’s important for the city to have an independent bookstore,” said John Vergos, a managing partner along with Christy Yarbro and Matt Crowe. “I already knew there was a strong base of support. I went there almost every day. I thought I could help round up some people. By the time we were through, there were other people of like mind to put it together.”

Vergos described it as “a full-service bookstore. We’ll carry fiction, non-fiction, religious books, cookbooks. And it’s going to be totally locally owned, locally staffed. A strong emphasis on local artists, local writers.”

Asked how the bookstore’s name originated, John said, “Nicole Yasinsky said if she could open the perfect bookstore that would be the name she’d choose. It resonated with everybody and we kept it.”

Libra, the store's restaurant, is slated to open in early September.

“It’s our goal to keep it full of books. And our goal is for it to be sustainable. We expect to see this place still there in 20 years.”

Rebekah and Scott Tashie at the I Love Juice Bar soft opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rebekah and Scott Tashie at the I Love Juice Bar soft opening.


Owners Scott and Rebekah Tashie were on hand for the I Love Juice Bar soft opening Aug. 16 at Crosstown Complex.

Food includes the nori bowl, AB (almond butter) sandwich and overnight oats.

Among the fresh-made juices are Orange you Glad, We’ve Got the Beet and Sweet Greens.

Aaron Gardner and Matthew Stachowski at Loflin Yard. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Aaron Gardner and Matthew Stachowski at Loflin Yard.


Loflin Yard held a soft opening of its new menu items Aug. 16. The culinary items, which currently are available, will officially be featured on 901 Day - Sept. 1. People will celebrate all things Memphis on that day.

New Loflin Yard items include brisket poutine with scratch gravy, brisket tacos with avocado and pickled watermelon radish, house-smoked sausage and cheese, a vegetable focaccia sandwich, a grilled vegetable platter, Farrow Island smoked salmon and the Gayoso con Queso Mexican-style cheese dip.

These are dishes people can share “that we didn’t have before, geared to an Austin, Texas-style barbecue,” said Matthew Stachowski, Loflin Yard executive chef. “Our main focus is brisket. We’re trying to have the best brisket in Memphis.”

Operation BBQ Relief Mississippi State Challenge. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Operation BBQ Relief Mississippi State Challenge.


The smell of grilled steaks wafted over Byhalia, Mississippi Sunday morning.

Tyler Clancy, owner of Clancy’s Cafe in Red Banks, Miss. was among the contestants in the Operation BBQ Relief Mississippi State Challenge.

Asked the secret to grilling a great steak, Clancy said, “Do not overcook it.”

Sixty-seven teams participated in the event, held Aug. 20, said Mark Lambert with Operation BBQ Relief.

Organization members are “first responders in times of need and natural disaster,” Lambert said. “People from all walks of life come together and pull resources, pull equipment and travel anywhere in the country where there is a centralized, large relief effort to feed victims.”

Asked how many contestants were from Memphis, Lambert said, “probably about 65 percent of our teams are local, Mid-South area.”

Everyone was required to turn in one ribeye steak, Lambert said. “We provide two un-trimmed ribeye steaks. Trim it as necessary before it’s cooked. They have to cook that steak and turn it in in a box with nothing else. A steak in a box. The have a 30-minute window to turn that in. So, they can take as long as they need to trim it, marinate it, do whatever they need.”

They also can - perhaps nervously - eat the other steak and share it with friends while waiting for the winner to be announced.

Jim Holland from Louisiana won the steak category

Mark, who is president of the National Barbecue and Grilling Association, also is with Sweet Swine O’ Mine Distributing. The Sweet Swine O’ Mine barbecue team is a two-time world champion in the Memphis in May 

World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Meatball Eating Contest from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Elvis fans, Omni, Linda Thompson, Lisamorgan, Railgarten

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 3:27 PM

Nathan Pittorf at Candlelight Vigil. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Nathan Pittorf at Candlelight Vigil.

John P. Carpenter, an Elvis tribute artist from Canada, finally took the step and bought a pair of blue suede shoes at Lansky Brothers.

Elvis’s own shoes wouldn’t be too big for Carpenter to fill. “I’m about sure Elvis wore size twelves, too,” said Carpenter, who was dressed in the King’s favorite colors - pink and black.

Carpenter was among the throng at the Candlelight Vigil, held Aug. 15 in front of Graceland. Fans of all ages turned out to honor the memory of the King on a hot summer evening.

“My hair’s melting,” said 11-year-old tribute artist Nathan Pittorf, whose slick coif accented his lavender shirt, black pants and black-and-white spectator shoes.

Nathan uses three different pomades on his hair: 360, Clubman and Aussie, said his dad, Mike Pittorf. On a “windy, rough day” Nathan uses American Crew pomade, he said.

Asked what the King meant to him, Australian Elvis tribute artist Stuey V said, “The impact he’s made on many lives.”

Stuey V described Elvis as “a humble human being and one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived.”

Keith Easom, who is from England, showed his love for the King with his tattoos. He had 17 Elvis tattoos on just his back.

Kyler Campbell has a special bond with the King. “I doubled for Elvis once,” he said. He portrayed Elvis - ‘50s shirt, slacks and all - as he sat in the backseat of a green car in the “Sun Records” TV series.

His dressing room door had a star on it and the name “Elvis,” he said.

Brian Troy, who participated in the Images of the King tribute artist contest, said this was his first Candlelight Vigil. “It’s wonderful to be able to finally come here and experience this fantastic thing,” he said.

He enjoyed his visit to Memphis, which included a booking at the Magnuson hotel. As for the Vigil, he said, “This here beats it all.”

“You are keeping Elvis alive - truly,” Priscilla Presley told the audience before fans began the walk to Meditation Garden to pay their respects.

Frankie Broyles, Doug Bleichner and Philip Frobos of Omni at Growlers. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Frankie Broyles, Doug Bleichner and Philip Frobos of Omni at Growlers.


“I love Elvis,” said Omni vocalist/bass player Philip Frobos. “I mean, there’s so many things to love about Elvis, but I really love his minimal ballads a lot.”

Frobos and his band, which includes guitarist Frankie Broyles and drummer Doug Bleichner, were in town Aug. 9 to perform at Growlers.

His girlfriend recently sent him the box set of Elvis recordings, “A Boy from Tupelo - The Complete 1953-55 Recordings,” Frobos said. “It’s some really great stripped-down versions of ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘I Love You Because.’ and stuff like that. But I also really like his Hank Williams cover of ‘Trying to Get to You.’ I even love that special where he’s wearing the black leather.”

Frobos began playing bass when he was 14. “I remember saying I would probably never learn a musical instrument or anything like that, which is weird. I was a soccer player. It was kind of my main thing.”

But he stopped playing soccer. “That kind of happened at the time I started dating girls, too. So, it’s like, ‘Music and girls are a lot more fun than waking up at 6 a.m. and running around.’”

Asked how Omni began, Frobos said he and Broyles “would write songs around the house” when they were in their own bands. Frobos was in Carnivores and Broyles was in Balkans and, later, Deerhunter. “But, really, Omni happened, I suppose, after we had written a song that sounded more like proto-punk. And we kind of liked where we went with that and followed that idea.”

The band originally was called “Land Line,” but, Frobos said, “We decided to change it to ‘Omni’ because there’s another ‘Land Line’ in Portland. We named it after the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta. It’s no longer there, but it’s where the Atlanta Hawks played basketball. And David Bowie and Led Zeppelin played there all the time.”

As for their music style when they began, Frobos said, “I don’t think we set out to do any kind of thing, but at the time we were listening to a lot of late ‘70s early rock music. So, rock and roll with a new wave influence. Rock and roll with a sense of urgency. Not necessarily punk, but rhythmic, too.”

They recorded their first album, “Deluxe,” with Trouble in Mind records in January, 2016. “The second one comes out this September. It’s called ‘Multi-task.’ I would say it seems a little more rock and roll than the first record. We definitely don’t want to repeat ourselves. But, also, I’ve never been a fan of people just abandoning their sounds. (It’s) just good rock songs. I think we tend to not be afraid to do things that some people might consider cheesy. Or bigger guitar and drums moments. A little more space in the songs and things like that.”

Frobos, who writes the lyrics to their songs, said, “I would say this new record is a lot of disenchantment and stemming from maybe just common everyday social experiences. I was in a pretty terrible relationship, so there was a lot of anger coming from that. But it doesn’t come out as anger. It comes out as clever.”

John Doyle, LInda Thompson, Pat Kerr Tigrett at Linda Thompson's book signing at Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • John Doyle, LInda Thompson, Pat Kerr Tigrett at Linda Thompson's book signing at Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum.


Fans packed Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum Aug. 13 to meet Linda Thompson and have her sign copies of her book, “A Little Thing Called Life: On Loving Elvis Presley, Bruce Jenner, and Songs in Between.”

The book recounts the years Thompson spent with Elvis and her marriage to Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner.

The King’s first words to Thompson after he noticed her at the old Memphian theater were, “Oh, hello, honey.”

Thompson presented an award to Jenner at a charity event in 1979. They began dating and were married in 1981. Thompson never suspected Jenner was transgender.

About 200 attended the signing, said the museum’s executive director John Doyle.

They don’t do a lot of book signings at the museum, but, Doyle said,, “She was such a big draw and, obviously, the Elvis fans that are in town know her, respect her and appreciate her involvement in Elvis’s life. Needless to say, there was almost a guaranteed audience for that.

“Elvis Week presents that unique opportunity because the tourists that are here are very focused on anything associated with Elvis and his career and his life. An opportunity to have her in town and participate in a book signing with her is a great opportunity to tie in with the cool things that Graceland is doing.”


Tadd James, Dylan THompson, Mary Catherine and Muriel Gintz at Fam Jam. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tadd James, Dylan THompson, Mary Catherine and Muriel Gintz at Fam Jam.

Tigerlake and Mellowtonin performed Aug. 8 at Fam Jam at Railgarten.

Commenting on their musical style, Tiger Lake bass player Ian Rone said, “I think we’re trying to go the indie alternative route like every other band nowadays, but I’d say it’s something different. We’re always trying to keep things different and new.”

The band also includes Wallace Leopard and Lucas Davis on guitar, Gary Leopard on drums and Jacob Tims on synthesizer and guitar.

All the band members write the songs, including “Moon Man,” the group’s most popular song. “It’s about this guy and girl in a moon colony,” Rone said. “And she has to leave and he’s sad. She’s leaving to go back to Earth or somewhere else. I’m not exactly sure.”

Asked where “Tigerlake” came from, Rone said, “I was driving in Florida and I saw it. It’s like a county or something in Florida near Pensacola. I was like, ‘That’s a cool name. Guys, let’s do that.’”

Mellowtonin got its name sort of by accident. “We thought we were going to be a band for one show, so we kind of made it as a joke name,” said guitarist/vocalist Wesley Wolffe. “We played our first show and we liked it.”

Mellowtonin also includes guitarist/vocalist Emerson Manley, Turner Wolffe on bass, Ara Hanissian on synthesizer and Grady Leopard on drums.

As for their music style, Wolffe said, “We have three or four different songwriters in the band. I listen to a lot of ‘80s music. Emerson, the other guitar player and singer, likes pop punk and stuff. All the different styles meld into one. So, you can’t put your finger on it.”

They liked Railgarten. “We normally play at our friends’ houses and stuff like that. That was definitely the nicest venue we’ve ever played. We really liked the setup and how nice the stage looked.”

Rone also liked Railgarten. “I really enjoy the space. A lot of people there. It’s a great environment for people to go watch live music for free, which I think is just dandy. It’s a very, very family friendly place.”

Chelse Rice and Javarrius Reaves at Lisamorgan soft opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Chelse Rice and Javarrius Reaves at Lisamorgan soft opening.


Lisa Morgan, former owner of The Cottage restaurant on Summer, held a soft opening for her new business, Lisamorgan, a boutique in Wolfchase Galleria.

The event included a fashion show hosted by Glen Allen and Jenni Graham of apparel by designers featured at the shop.

Asked why she wanted to open a boutique, Morgan said, “I wanted one for a couple of years and I couldn’t do it. Morgan (Prewett, her daughter) is into fashion and modeling, so I thought it would be good for her as well.”

On hand at the event was Lisa’s father, Billy Franks, who owned The Cottage from 2009 to 2012 before Lisa took it over. Since the store’s party coincided with Billy’s birthday, guests treated him to a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Elvis 7's, Downtown National Night Out, Memphis Film Prize, Summerween, Fam Jam

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Mr. Sideburns 2017 contest winner Hal Struckman at Elvis 7s rugby tournament. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mr. Sideburns 2017 contest winner Hal Struckman at Elvis 7s rugby tournament.

“All Shook Up” played in the background as rugby players competed in the Elvis 7s tournament Aug. 5 at USA Stadium in Millington.

Some players grew sideburns for the occasion. A few of them entered the Mr. Sideburns contest, where they showed off their chops and sang a bit of an Elvis song.

“This is the unofficial start to Elvis Week in Memphis,” said emcee Larry Magdovitz, who was dressed in a white jumpsuit and wore a pair of sunglasses the King would have envied.

Magdovitz described the event as “an all-day 32-team sevens rugby tournament we’ve been doing for several decades now.

“What makes it Elvis is the sheer love of Elvis that everyone shows. It requires you to grow sideburns if you want to compete in the sideburns contest.”

And, he said, “We listen to Elvis music all day long - from 8:00 until 7:00. And we just enjoy good camaraderie and a love of a nice man from Tupelo who touched all of our hearts.”

Out-of-town teams participated in the event, but player Chris Cobb probably traveled the farthest. A former Memphian, Chris now lives in Shenzhen, China. He said he traveled 1,200 miles - 16 hours on a plane - from China to Memphis.

Why? “It’s the best, most social rugby tournament in North America,” he said. “This is my first time back in two years. (I’ve been) living in China two years.”

He doesn’t have to worry about getting a group together to play rugby in China. “There’s over 1,000 rugby teams in Hong Kong. I play rugby in China. I play for the Shenzhen Dragons and the Hong Kong Valley.”

Hal Struckman won his second Mr. Sideburns title at the Elvis 7s. He sang “Suspicious Minds.” And, in a runoff with competitor Jason Mapp, he sang “Hound Dog.”

Struckman’s nickname is “Halvis.”

Greg Todd and Bridget Lee at Summerween. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Greg Todd and Bridget Lee at Summerween.


Halloween is about three months away, but guests celebrated a similar event Aug. 5 at The Bluff.


“Basically, it’s a concept for people to have fun in the summer,” said promoter/organizer Jack Simon. “And give them a reason to dress up. Everyone wants Halloween to be twice a year, so why not help them out with that?”

Costumes ranged from “rabbits to skeletons to just funny outfits in general,” Simon said. “I don’t think we had any Trumps this year.”

Entertainment was provided by DJ Ben Murray with drummer Zach Logan. Dude Called Rob also performed.

Summerween isn’t a new concept, said Simon. “We had it three years from 2012 to 2014.”

Why did he bring it back? “People just kept asking for it.”

Paul Morquecho, Shirley Morquecho, Rebecca Garcia and Kera Shane at Downtown National Night Out. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Paul Morquecho, Shirley Morquecho, Rebecca Garcia and Kera Shane at Downtown National Night Out.


People dined on Memphis cuisine, including Jack Pirtle’s fried chicken, Aldo’s pizza and Hog Wild barbecue, at Downtown National Night Out Aug. 1 at the Memphis Farmers Market pavilion at Central Station. About a dozen food services provided the fare for the event, said Marcy Siebert, president of Downtown

Neighborhood Association, which hosted the event along with the South Main Association, Blue Suede Brigade and the Memphis Police Department.

“National Night Out is sponsored by Neighborhood Watch,” Siebert said. “All Neighborhood Watches can have one. We choose to have a celebration for our Memphis Police Department and thank them for the job well done.”

They raised $615 for Police officer L. McCoy, whose apartment burned “a few nights before Downtown Night Out. We donated our proceeds to her.”

Gregory and Heidi Kallenberg at Memphis Film Prize after party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gregory and Heidi Kallenberg at Memphis Film Prize after party.


Filmmakers didn’t show any nerves at the Memphis Film Prize 2017 after party, held Aug. 5 at Mollie Fontaine Lounge. The party was held after their movies were shown, but the evening before the winner of $10,000 cash was announced.

“We Go On,” directed by Matteo Servente, won the top award. The other winners were “The Game,” directed by Robb Rokk, and “Favorites,” directed by Tracy Facelli. The winners were announced at a brunch at The Arcade Restaurant.

The top three films will be screened at the Indie Memphis Film Festival, which will be held Nov. 1 through 6. Memphis Film Prize is not affiliated with the Indie Memphis Film Festival.

The Memphis Film Prize invites filmmakers from around the world to create a five to 15 minute short film. The only rule is that the film must be shot in Shelby County.

Gregory Kallenberg is founder and executive director of the Film Prize Foundation.

Julia Berger watches Jessi Dalton perform at Fam Jam - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Julia Berger watches Jessi Dalton perform at Fam Jam


Tuesday isn’t even hump day, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Railgarten at 2166 Central is holding its “Fam Jam” between 6 and 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. Live music will be featured each week.

“The idea behind it is to create a weekly event that has live music, but that also appeals to people’s kids,” said Martha Hample with Railgarten. “So, there’s stuff to do for the kids.”

They plan to feature bands that are “more kid centric,” she said. “And doing virgin drinks in the tiki bar. “Just a night adults can come and get out of the house and bring the kids.”

The Rusty Pieces played Aug. 1. The duo even captivated Julia Berger, 3, whose dad, Taylor Berger is one of the Railgarten partners. Taylor and his son, Andrew, 6, sat in the audience and watched an entranced Julia as she stood on stage and watched Jessi Dalton play guitar.

Elvis 7s from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MEMPHO Fest founder in Memphis, Royal Studios, Our Scene United, Forever Young,

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 4:41 PM

Diego Winegardner and Southern Avenue at Peabody Rooftop Party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Diego Winegardner and Southern Avenue at Peabody Rooftop Party.

Diego Winegardner was front and center at Southern Avenue’s performance July 27 at the Peabody Rooftop Party sponsored by the Memphis Flyer. The Memphis band is one of the groups selected for the upcoming MEMPHO Music Festival Oct. 6 and 7 at Shelby Farms Park. Winegardner, a former Memphian, is the festival’s founder and the CEO of Big River Presents, which is putting on the event.

“I think it’s completely refreshing to know that soul and R&B music is alive and well and kicking in Memphis,” said Winegardner, 49. “Southern Avenue, to me, reaches back into the rich history of soul music that came out of Memphis, that came out of Stax, and was so important. And it’s so appropriate they’re on the Stax label. They bring it into a modern context.”

Winegardner, who lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, was in town meeting with potential sponsors and was conducting “ongoing production work on the festival.”

HIs idea to hold the MEMPHO festival in Memphis began with his “rediscovery of Shelby Farms Park. I came up on it on this bike ride on the Greenline that took me to Shelby Farms Park with some friends last summer.”

Winegardner hadn’t been to Memphis since 2009 after the death of his father, the late Roy Winegardner, who succeeded the late Kemmons Wilson as chairman and CEO of Holiday Inns Inc. “I, obviously, was blown away by what was going on in Shelby Farms Park, but I was really energized in what I saw going on in Memphis, in general. In particular, looking at all the recent economic developments. Whether you’re looking at Crosstown, restaurants popping up everywhere or just the energy on the street, it sure seemed like Memphis was in the midst of a renaissance.”

Winegardner, who has worked in finance in New York for more than 20 years, felt the time was right for the right kind of music festival. A “lifelong avid music lover,” Winegardner said he’s attended “every music festival of note - all the major ones,” including Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and the New Orleans Jazz Fest. “I’ve seen first hand the impact a festival done right can have on a community.”

He wanted to “create a festival that’s more than just music.” He wants people to come from all over the country to “enjoy all the sights of Memphis and do the walk through the history of Memphis music, but listen to live music in a sensational setting with the best culinary experience you can possibly garner in Memphis. We want to bring out all the flavors of Memphis.”

National acts already booked include the Grammy Award-winning Cage the Elephant and Jason Isbell and Grammy-nominated Anderson .Paak and Cold War Kids.

“We are in the midst of developing a local stage,” Winegardner said. “And that local stage will have a full complement of Memphis bands. Local bands. We’re looking to have participation from anyone from School of Rock to more recognized local bands.”

When he was in his 20s, Winegardner, a graduate of Memphis University School and Cornell University, held “super jams” that he dubbed “Bottom Feeder Ball.” “Putting together R. L. Burnside and Blues Traveler” in his garage on Wagner Place overlooking the bluff. “I’ve always been a big fan of music, like so many. I think Memphis deserves a world-class festival and experience. And something that can grow organically over time.”

Locals will be seeing a lot of Winegardner, who is married and has three children. “My plan is to spend a considerable amount of time in Memphis,” he said. “And acquire property and build our office as we evolve into an annual event.”

Charles Hodges, Howard Grimes, Leroy "Flick" Hodges and Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell at Rhythm on the River. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Charles Hodges, Howard Grimes, Leroy "Flick" Hodges and Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell at Rhythm on the River.


Pat Kerr Tigrett wore a yellow raincoat at Rhythm on the River (Poppa Willie’s Big Night) July 27 at Royal Studios.

“I wore this in honor of Ann Peebles: ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain,’” she said.

Don Bryant, who was standing nearby, seconded Pat’s response. Bryant is one of the composers of “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” which was recorded by his wife, Ann Peebles. The record was produced by the late Willie “Poppa Willie” Mitchell, Royal Studios owner.

Don “was the first vocalist that Pop ever worked with,” said Grammy-winning producer Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, who owns Royal Studios. “Don used to sing on Willie Mitchell records. Don also was with Don Bryant and the Four Kings in the early ‘60s.”

Don and the Bo-Keys performed some of his old Willie Mitchell tunes during the event.

Entertainment also included singer Ashton London.

And starring at the event was a buffet featuring cuisine prepared by Boo’s aunt, Yvonne Mitchell. Fare included salmon croquettes, mushroom, chicken and rice; greens, black-eyed peas, homemade peach cobbler and lemon pound cake. And - the piece de resistance - “Von’s Famous Chow Chow.”

“Rhythm on the River” was one of the special events surrounding the 60th anniversary of Royal Studios. The next event will be a concert featuring local, regional and national acts Oct. 14 at the Levitt Shell, Boo said.

U901 at Our Scene United - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • U901 at Our Scene United


About 50 bands performed at Our Scene United, a three-day music fest held July 27-29 at the Hi-Tone.

“Basically, it’s all about Memphis,” said Taylor Agee, owner of Refreshing Shows, which presented the festival. “It was something that’s all about community and it’s full of diversity. All the bands were different. So many genres represented and yet everyone is in town. It’s all about bringing different kinds of music together for one great experience.”

The first Our Scene United was held in 2011, Agee said. “But that was another company - Won’t Look Back Booking. I started Refreshing Shows this year by myself and brought back Our Scene United.

Agee was pleased with the success of this year’s event. “I went to it just hoping we’d have three good nights. We did. And I think next year it could be even bigger.”

The next Refreshing Shows event will be “Bringing Sexy Back,” a tribute to Justin Timberlake featuring Airside and Mobius Pieces, which will be held Aug. 25 at Growlers. The bands will perform Timberlake’s solo pieces as well as “some of the NSYNC classics,” Agee said.

“He’s kind of the pride of Memphis. So, that’s another local success story we’re trying to pay tribute to.”

Diane Hight, Jack Taylor and Sandra Shinault at Dreamgivers Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Diane Hight, Jack Taylor and Sandra Shinault at Dreamgivers Gala.


Dr. Arie Szatkowski and his daughter, Mila, 11, visited the Beaches of Normandy, the sight of the Normandy invasion, two weeks ago.

“She was so moved by it at the end of the day she said, ‘Dad, I really want to talk to some World War II veterans,’” said Arie, a cardiologist with Stern Cardiovascular.

He called Diane Hight, founder and president of Forever Young Senior Veterans. “(I) told her that we just visited Normandy and it was incredibly moving: ‘Is there any chance you could introduce my daughter to World War II veterans?’”

Hight said, “Well, it just so happens we’re going to have a gala within a couple of weeks. I’m going to send you an invitation. And I’m going to sit you at a table with World War II veterans.”

Arie and Mila, who attends St. Mary’s Episcopal School, were among the guests at the sixth annual Dreamgivers Gala July 29 at the Hilton Memphis.

“She sat us next to a gentleman named Vince Rowell, who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944 and made it all the way to the Battle of the Bulge,” Arie said. “And he won three Medals of Honor.”

Mila spent time talking to Rowell and Hugh Bell, who was an Army Air Corps tail gunner on a B-29 in the Pacific during World War II.

“They were amazing,” Arie said. “At the end of the night she said it was the greatest night of her life.”

A total of 356 attended this year’s gala, said Hight. The Memphis Knights performed.

Forever Young Senior Veterans grants wishes for senior veterans 65 and older. Recipients include World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans, said Hight, whose father and uncle were World War II veterans.

Proceeds from this year’s event will go toward sending World War II veterans to England, Hight said. “The trip to England is to honor our WWII Army Air Corps flyboys who flew missions out of England into Western Europe. We also have Army soldiers and Navy sailors who trained in England before the invasion of Normandy in 1944.”

They raised $138,000, Hight said. “We will be using the money for England. Then if we have any left over from that we will be sending our Vietnam veterans to Washington in October.”

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Blues on the Bluff, Luna, Frank Murtaugh

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 4:24 PM

Neil Johnson and Sy ndney Collette at Blues on the Bluff. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Neil Johnson and Sy ndney Collette at Blues on the Bluff.

Ann Sanchez attended her first Blues on the Bluff event July 22nd on the grounds of the National Ornamental Museum. The annual event is a fundraiser for WEVL FM 89.9, a member-supported radio station.

“I came to Memphis for the blues,“ Sanchez said. “I moved from San Franciso, bought a house and I’ll stay forever.”

And, she said, “I’m a down home blues girl. I was raised with the blues.”

Asked what she thought about the event, Sanchez said, “It was wonderful. I had a great time. I’m going every year. And I became a (WEVL) member that evening. And I received a wonderful poster.

“I just love the music and history in Memphis. I just love Memphis.”

Terry Soffel, who was with her, is a Memphis drummer who performed for about 20 years with Joyce Cobb.

Blues on the Bluff celebrated its 29th anniversary this year, said station manager Judy Dorsey.

A silent auction ranged from Kroger gift cards to paintings by folk artist Lamar Sorrento.

Ghost Town Blues Band and Marcella and Her Lovers were two new bands at the event. Also performing were The MD’s (formerly Maitre D’s.”

The sunset, again, was a star. “One man told us, ‘It was worth coming just for that,’” Dorsey said.


Memphis magazine managing editor Frank Murtaugh and Memphis Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden at Murtaugh's book signing for his novel, "Trey's Company." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis magazine managing editor Frank Murtaugh and Memphis Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden at Murtaugh's book signing for his novel, "Trey's Company."

Frank Murtaugh held a book signing to celebrate the release of his coming-of-age novel, “Trey’s Company,” July 19, at Burke’s Book Store in Cooper Young.

“The novel traces one life-altering summer for 13-year-old Trey Milligan, a boy spending three months away from home with his widowed grandmother in East Tennessee,” said Murtaugh, Memphis magazine managing editor. “Three special friends come to embody love, death and the criminal element as Trey finds himself growing up faster than he’d like. The story calls to mind coming-of-age films like ‘Stand by me’ or ‘The Sandlot,’ one set in the 1980s and with a love story.“

“Why did you choose this genre,” a guest asked Murtaugh.

“Maybe it chose me,” he said.

Murtaugh has “fond memories” from his own childhood summers. “Like Trey, in Cleveland, Tenn.,” he said. “And there are some special people from that time in my life who are no longer with us. The book became a way I could bring these characters to life, even if dramatized, and share their wisdom and virtues with readers.”

“Trey’s Company,” published by Sartoris Literary Group (Jackson, Miss.), sells for $19.95 paperback and $8.95 eBook and is available at and Burke’s Book Store.

Luna soft opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Luna soft opening.


Guests experienced Luna Restaurant’s “new look, new image” at a dinner July 17 at the Hotel Napoleon, a boutique hotel at Third and Madison.

“We’re trying to make Luna a beacon Downtown, said Eric “Sache” Evans, a consultant on the project. “A restaurant that has a Southern fusion-inspired menu. And try to appeal to the Downtown community, the major businesses around there, including ServiceMaster, First Tennessee, AutoZone and the Redbirds ”

The menu includes chicken thigh marsala and beef tartar, tuna tartar. The “tapas”-inspired appetizer menu is called “Comets” and is described as “small plate, big bang.”

Eric Hagerman is Luna’s executive chef. “Our goal is to come in and make this place amazing,” Evans said.


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