Wednesday, May 24, 2017

GRRL FEST celebrates women in music

Posted By on Wed, May 24, 2017 at 11:19 AM

Kirby Gross and Louise Page at GRRL FEST - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Kirby Gross and Louise Page at GRRL FEST

GRRL FEST, a festival featuring bands that included women, was a success, said founder Allison Kasper.

“A lot of people weren’t on their phones during the show,” she said. “Everyone was paying attention to the bands.”

The event, held May 20 at the Hi Tone, featured 10 bands and NYA, a woman deejay.

A total of 298 people paid to get in, but about 350 attended, Allison said. That included the bands and “people that snuck in and that were on the guest list,” she said.

Allison got the idea to do the show two years ago. “I heard Knots for the first time and fell in love with them - their music, everything about them. I wondered if there could be something in Memphis. Get a bunch of bands together to play for a good cause and give recognition to women that are making really, really good music in town.”

Finding bands that included women was “very easy,” she said.

Knots headlined the show, which raised $2,115 after production costs.

GRRL FEST lasted until the wee hours. “People were still there at 3 a.m.,” Allison said. “It was kind of hard to get people out.”

Louise Page, one of the performers, said, “I thought it was a really really great idea. I think there are a lot of industries in which the role women play are marginalized, harder for women to break in the industry. Women don’t always get the same recognition in the music industry. And to have an event that acknowledges that with great female musicians is awesome. And necessary.”

Jo Gray and Matt Isbell at Peabody Rooftop Party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jo Gray and Matt Isbell at Peabody Rooftop Party.

Matt Isbell’s three-piece tie dyed suit lit up the Peabody Rooftop Party, held May 18 on the Plantation Roof and inside the Skyway.

The white suit, in shades of green and blue, made its debut at the party, said Matt, lead singer of Ghost Town Blues Band, which performed at the weekly event.

“I’d just gotten it that day so I was excited to wear it,” Matt said. “Take it for a test drive.”

He got the suit idea after he saw a jumpsuit worn by blues vocalist/harmonica player John Nemeth. Matt originally told John about Kate Lynn Stout, who does tie dyes at her Psychedelic Sass store in Arkansas. John commissioned Kate to do the jumpsuit. Now, Matt said, “He’s got this cool looking jumpsuit with the ace of ace of spades tie dyed on the back. I just thought it was too cool. I was like, ‘Well, I need to answer this.’”

Matt went on line and ordered a white linen suit, which Kate tie dyed. Comparing his suit to John’s jumpsuit, Matt said, “This is my ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ to his ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’”

Matt and the rest of the Ghost Town Blues Band, which includes Preston McEwen, Matthew Karner, Suave Jones, Taylor Orr and Tim Stanek, will be in Las Vegas as well as in New Mexico and Arizona this weekend. Asked if he was going to wear the tie-dyed suit, Matt said, “I don’t know. It’s going to be one of those things where I’ll have to catch the vibe of the festival before I pop it on. It’s not going to be my uniform. It’s going to live in the van. When it’s time to wear it, I’ll know.”

The Memphis Flyer sponsored the May 18 event.

Matthew Wrage and Will Vestal at BBQ Fest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Matthew Wrage and Will Vestal at BBQ Fest.

The Memphis in May World’s Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest could be considered one big birthday party for Kert Kaiser. He was born 23 years ago on the Thursday night of BBQ Fest.

“I’m a barbecue baby,” said Kert, who spent part of his birthday Thursday May 18 with the Cadillac Grillz team at the festival.

His mother, Ashley, and his dad, Edward, have different stories about exactly what happened the night Kert was born. “I don’t remember actually making it down there,” Ashley said. “He swears we were down there and I went into labor. I remember I was on my way. I was half way down there.”

Either way, Kert was born at Baptist Memorial Hospital on Walnut Grove the Thursday night of the festival. And, Ashley said, “For his next 10 years, he thought every time we were at BBQ fest celebrating, he thought it was his birthday party.”

For that first decade of his life, the Kaisers celebrated Kert’s birthday with the rest of the family on Thursday night at the Sons of Bacchus booth at the festival. They served cake made in the shape of a pig, Ashley said. But Thursday night also was the festival’s kids’ night so people dressed up like Batman and other characters were featured along with games. All of which Kert thought strictly were for his benefit.

“We’ve got great pictures of them sucking on bones before they should have been eating ribs,” Ashley said.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Big Llou's blues after party rocks

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 11:29 AM

Michael Roy Birdcap and Chris Reyes at  Artery. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Michael Roy Birdcap and Chris Reyes at Artery.

Rain, rain went away and the Artery Alley Party took place two weeks later.

The party, originally scheduled for April 26, was postponed to May 10 because of rain that hit about 6 p.m., said Penelope Houston, vice-president of marketing and communications for Downtown Memphis Commission, which sponsored the event.

Artists showed their works on the walls on the South side of Local and the old Oshi, Penelope said. “We probably had 30 submissions for what was eventually six artists we chose for phase one,” she said. “And there is a phase two we will launch later this year.”

About 350 people attended the event “over the course of the evening,” Penelope said. In addition to the art, the event featured table tennis, corn hole games, chalk for sidewalk drawling an Amurica photo booth, Mempops and music by Djanga and Southern Avenue.

Big Llou Johnson at  Big Llou's Blues Hall of Fame Tribute Jam. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Big Llou Johnson at Big Llou's Blues Hall of Fame Tribute Jam.


Big Llou Johnson hosted his fifth “Big Llou’s Hall of Fame Tribute Jam” in Memphis May 10, but it was the first time he held it at the Warehouse in the South Main district.

His event is the after party for the Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony. It’s held the night before the Blues Foundation Blues Music Awards.

Llou remembered attending the induction ceremony five years ago. “After that ceremony we just left and went back to the hotel,” he said. “Everybody did their own thing. There was no music there. There was no camaraderie or back patting.
He was concerned. “Me coming from Chicago, a party town and a blues music town, I was not having it.”

So, he said, “Let me throw a party.”

The first event, held at B. B. King’s Blues Club, drew “a good hundred,” LLou said. “Everybody who was inducted in the Hall of Fame that night - we just had a ball.”

The event was held at Hard Rock Cafe for three years until it moved to the Warehouse this year. About 350 attended this year’s event, Llou said.
Since it began, the jam has raised more than $20,000 for the Blues Foundation, Llou said.

Asked the origin of the unusual spelling of his first name, Llou said he changed it because he’s a member of organizations, including the Screen Actors Guild. “It’s a well known fact you can’t have two actors with the same name in the actors’ union.”

His real name is “Louis,” but “Louis,” “Lou” and even “L. Johnson” were gone, he said. “I’m sitting in the union office going, ‘What can I change my name to? I don’t want to be ‘Lou Stone,’ ‘Lou Riprock’ or ‘Lou Granite.’”

Since his mother’s name is “Lora,” his father’s name is “Louis” and his grandmother’s name is “Lillie,” Llou just added another “l” to his name. “Everybody who meant anybody to me in my family, (their) name started with ‘l.’ Let me stick another ‘l’ in my name. If I ever get to see my name up in lights, those ancestors will be up there with me.”

Jim Hines at Gossett. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jim Hines at Gossett.


Gossett Porsche unveiled its 2017 Panamera at a reception May 11 at the dealership on Covington Pike. The silver 550-horsepower Porsche that can reach a top track speed of 190 drew applause from the crowd when the drape was removed.

Wayne Ashford, one of the guests, has owned 27 Porsches over the past three years. He trades them in every “three to six months,” he said. “I never put 1,000 miles on them,” he said.

“He’s never had to check oil,” said his Porsche salesman Saad Baddar.

He even owned the Porsche that was unveiled. “Here people are waiting to see it and I’ve already driven it,” he said. “And traded it in.”


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The King at MusicFest

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 3:19 PM

MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue

Jerry “The King” Lawler and his fiance, Lauryn McBride, were in the audience at the Kings of Leon show Saturday May 6 at the Beale Street Music Festival.

Jerry recalled the time the band members wanted their picture taken with him. “They were first getting started,” Jerry said.

He was in Arlington making an appearance at the time. The Kings of Leon also were at the venue with their amps and musical instruments in a trailer, he said. “They saw that I was there and they came out and said, ‘We want a picture of you with your crown.’ I took the picture with them. I never thought anything about it until they became famous.”

Rick Gardner and Dike Bacon at HBG Design - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rick Gardner and Dike Bacon at HBG Design

HBG Design (formerly Hnedak Bobo Group) showed off its newly-designed office space at a reception May 4 at 1 Commerce Square.

The architecture and interior design firm invited friends to see the new offices, said HBG Design marketing manager Dana Ramsey. The firm moved from its old offices at 104 Front Street on Nov. 1.

“Along with our new office space, we also rolled out our new brand - a new logo, our new name and branded information,” Dana said.

Grinder, Taber & Grinder construction worked with HBG Design to create the new space. The closed office and workstations on the 23rd and 24th floors were demolished to create an open floor plan. The 23rd floor ceiling was cut through to create a stairway to connect the two levels.

Star & Micey provided music and Another Roadside Attraction prepared hors d’oeuvres for the reception, which drew about 120 people.

Marcus Bell and Romeo Khazen at Susan B. Komen - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Marcus Bell and Romeo Khazen at Susan B. Komen


The 2017 community health care grants were announced at the Memphis-Mid-South affiliate of Susan G. Komen annual grant reception May 4 at The Westin Memphis Beale Street. “We have 10 community health care grants,” said executive director Elaine Hare. “We presented $402,000 to eight health care providers and two support groups.”

The recipients provide breast health and breast cancer services in the Mid-South.
The money for the community grant recipients is from the 2016 Race for the Cure, which was held Oct. 29.

About 75 people, including grantees, Race for the Cure sponsors and winning team captains, attended the reception.



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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

U of M students star at The Bluff

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 1:38 PM

Kyle Neblett and Chandler Ellis at Hear 901. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kyle Neblett and Chandler Ellis at Hear 901.

Guests partied to the beat of the music of University of Memphis performers at the Hear 901 Music Festival, held April 28 at The Bluff.

Music was by The Band CAMINO, Sonic Pulse, Aaron James, Haley Daniels, Kyndle McMahan and Flirting with Sincerity.

“Hear 901 is our annual spring festival where we provide an opportunity for students in the music industry division to perform original music while also creating opportunities for students to produce, promote and publicize a festival,” said Ben Yonas, assistant professor of music business at the Rudi Scheidt School of Music at U of M. “We do these every semester. Our Fall festival we usually do at the Levitt Shell. This was the first time we had a show at The Bluff. It exceeded all expectations. Just under 500 people in attendance. It was a smash success. The place was packed.”

The festival also marked the release of Aaron’s new EP, “Caught in the Corner of a Half Moon.” Aaron, one of the artists on the school’s Blue Tom record label, said, “This EP is kind of a story of me letting go of things I was attached to in the past and coming into a new self identity. There are lots of themes of letting go of toxic things I maybe once held onto, but things that clouded my vision of myself. These songs tell that story of starting to value new things in life and letting those things shape me.”

The Band CAMINO, which headlined the event, played several songs from its “My Thoughts on You” EP as well as songs from its upcoming EP, “Heaven,” which will be released June 2.

Talking about the new EP, lead singer Jeffery Jordan said, “We took a lot longer to make it. It shares similar elements from the first EP, but it’s more us. It sounds like The Band CAMINO. On the first EP we were trying to sound like a lot of different bands. But on this album, we took our time to sound like The Band CAMINO. We just wanted to figure out what The Band CAMINO sounded like. I think we kind of captured that with this EP.”

All marketing and production for Hear 901 was done by U of M students.




A 6-by-4-foot oil portrait of a distinguished- looking gentleman - the late Domenico Canale - graces The Toasting Room at the Old Dominic Distillery. Domenico, great-great-grandfather of owner Alex Canale, wears a suit and vest with a watch fob. In his left hand he carries a toddy glass. In his right arm he carries a rooster.

That’s a Dominicker rooster, Alex said. The portrait was taken from a small headshot of Domenico. No photo - to Alex’s knowledge - exists of his great-great grandfather carrying a rooster. The bird was added later. Red Deluxe created the concept and commissioned artist David Riley to paint the portrait, said the Red Deluxe associate creative director Ben Powers.

“On one of the original Old Dominic bottles we unearthed to create that product were two roosters,” Alex said. “We invested some money in timberland. We were having our own white oak timber cut for barrels. One of the timber guys picked up the old bottle and said, ‘That’s a Dominicker rooster.’ So, we did some research and it is an actual Dominicker breed of rooster.”

The breed, he said, “is known for being hearty, calm, steady and a great forager. So, it sort of goes hand in hand with Dominic himself and the company as it’s evolved over the past 150 years.”

Guests milled about the portrait as they tasted Memphis vodka, Honeybell vodka and The Memphis Toddy at one of the distillery’s soft openings, held Aug. 28 during Trolley Night Memphis. A total of 324 tastings - at $2 for the trio - were sold that night, Alex said.

Atop the building, the striking neon sign bearing the Dominicker rooster resembles a turn of the 19th-Century logo, but it’s brand new, Alex said. “We modernized that logo,” he said. “That’s how we wanted it to look: like we’ve been here for 150 years. Even if we haven’t been in that building.”




Mary Ellen Kelley exhibited her photos and mixed media art and she was on site to sign copies of her book of photos, “My Memphis View,” Aug. 28 during Trolley Night Memphis at Stock & Belle on South Main.

She described the book of 65 photos of Memphis as “a modern way to look at Memphis. Memphis doesn’t have anything like the book I have. The books we have are coffee table books. They’re a little bit stagnant. I hate to say ‘old fashioned.’ But my book is simple and it’s hip and it’s small. To me, it’s much more relevant to a younger generation - people coming into Memphis and people who’ve been here looking at Memphis in a different way.

“My style is minimal. It focuses on one thing. So many of our photographic books representing Memphis are ‘whole view.’ They show the whole moment. Mine is simple, whitespace oriented.”

Mary Ellen photographs “every day things,” but, she said, “I focus on one particular detail.”

One of her photographs is of the Memphis Pyramid, now the location for Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. “It’s a picture of the Pyramid, but the top third. Against a white background.”

She also took a photo of the Pyramid from the ground looking up. Looking up, keeping your chin up, bucking up and looking forward to things are important to her, Mary Ellen said. “Looking up is a bit of my mantra.”

Her show will be on view through May.





Carnival Memphis will kick off its “Carnival Week” of parties at night and charitable visits during the day with the Crown & Sceptre Ball, which will be held June 2 the Hilton Memphis.

The legendary Memphis celebration, which began as Cotton Carnival in 1931, continues with various events during the year, including the Business and Industry Salute and Krewes for Kids, which is Carnival’s biggest fundraiser for its Children’s Charity Initiative. Each year, Carnival selects three local charities that provide services for children. This year’s recipients are Church Health, The Erika Center at Bodine School and Knowledge Quest.

The Secret Order of Boll Weevils, a group of people who conceal their identities by wearing masks with long snouts, held its annual Boll Weevil Party April 28 at Riverfront bar and Grill. The Weevils, which formed in 1966, are merrymakers at the parties as well as the charitable events.

The purpose of the annual party is to honor the king, queen and president of Carnival Memphis, said Evil Eminence Todd Brown. King Edward Dobbs. queen Tayloe Lowrance and president Dr. Jeff Cole attended.

Van Raby was introduced as this year’s ‘Unmasked Weevil.” That means he doesn’t have to wear a snout any longer. Instead, Van showed up wearing a green jacket, green shorts, green shoes and pink- and orange socks.

City Mix performed and Simply Fabulous catered the event.

Krewes for Kids was held April 22 at the Crosstown Concourse. The party drew “the most people and was the most successful fundraiser in the history of Carnival,” said Carnival Memphis executive director Ed Galfsky.

The party featured food from area restaurants, music by AJ Ghent Band and silent dancing to music heard with headphones at Silent Events

Joe Birch was auctioneer.


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