Monday, June 1, 2020

Music Video Week: Sunweight

Posted By on Mon, Jun 1, 2020 at 4:34 AM

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Music Video Monday of Music Video Week is expecting.

Sunweight is a trio of proggy Memphis guitar rock stranglers. These guys love their noisy guitars. And I do mean love. As you will see from this clip for "Birth," directed by Nathan Woloshin, it's a long-term, committed relationship.


Stay tuned for more Music Video week! 

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Music Video Week: Julien Baker

Posted By on Sun, May 31, 2020 at 4:49 AM

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Today on Music Video Week, we look at Julien Baker's brilliant decade.

Along with his Music Issue cover story about Memphis musicians coping with the pandemic, Memphis Flyer music editor Alex Greene compiled a list of the twenty best Memphis albums of the 2010s. Julien Baker's 2017 Matador album Turn Out The Lights made the cut.

Baker got her start playing pop punk in Midtown before going solo in 2014. This early video gave us a sense of her power. Alone in a cavernous parking garage, she easily fills up the space with just her guitar and voice. Notice that this video is a one-shot. It's just her and director Breezy Lucia alone and live.


In 2015, director Sabyn Mayfield created this clip for "Sprained Ankle", the title track for her first solo album. Around the same time, Baker was the subject of a Memphis Flyer cover story by Eileen Townsend: "If VH1 ever makes a Behind the Music: Julien Baker, it will play out something like this: A small girl with a big voice grows up in the far suburbs of Memphis. She works a night shift through high school, spends her free time hanging out at the skatepark; she smokes cigarettes, plays hymns at her small church, and figures out an electric guitar in her dad's living room. She forms a punk band with her friends. They call themselves 'The Star Killers' and play all-ages shows in community centers and neighborhood pool houses. She gets a girlfriend, gets into drinking, gets some dumb tattoos. Starts touring when she isn't in school. Applies herself. Makes it to state college, where she records a lonely record. The record is really good. People hear the record, share the record, and she gets signed. What's next is history."


Baker's big break came with this spectacular performance on NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts series, which turned a lot of heads.


Two years later, Baker recorded her second solo record, Turn Out The Lights, at Ardent Studios. This video by director Sophia Peer was shot in Memphis with a local crew that included Breezy Lucia, who had first introduced her to the world.


Baker toured extensively with Turn Out The Lights, playing to festival crowds all over the world. Here she is at last year's Best Kept Secret festival in Belgium.


Baker found time to join her friends Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus in Boygenius, a supergroup of women singer-songwriters. Here they are at plying for Pitchfork in Brooklyn.


Baker's latest song, "Tokyo", came out on SubPop last October. She's been doing livestreams on her Instagram account during the pandemic, and you might even catch her trying out a new song.


Music Video Week returns tomorrow. 

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Music Video Week: Junior

Posted By on Sat, May 30, 2020 at 6:09 AM

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Music Video Week continues with a very special episode.

Photographer Jamie Harmon has put a face on Memphis' COVID-19 response with his quarantine portraits. His often haunting images have made appearances on CBS News Sunday Morning and the cover of Memphis Magazine.

Junior is a band from Missoula, Montana which counts Harmon's sister-in-law Carolyn Keys as a member. They asked their locked-down friends to sing along to the first single from their album Warm Buildings. Editor Marshall Granger created this video for "Goddamnit" by combining the clips with Harmon's Quarantine Portraits. It captures the mood of our time perfectly.


Stay tuned for more Music Video Week! 

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Music Video Week: Alyssa Moore

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2020 at 7:33 AM

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Today on Music Video Week, a quarantine project by one of Memphis' most talented musical auteurs.

Alyssa Moore made her debut on the Memphis scene with Strengths, and has come to be known as a talented producer and trusted sound engineer. She's also an amazing songwriter, and since there have been no shows to mix, she's been keeping busy creating new tunes. With "The World Is Listening," she tries to take in the moment.

"This song and video were created in the weeks of the beginning of the national lockdown," says Moore. "I was inspired to create something hopeful yet cautious — listening to the press conferences was depressing, yet moving. The first verse is a bit sarcastic; I poke fun at Donald Trump, threaten him with the possibility of being 'taken' from 'his land.' It's easy to imagine that our lives are in his hands, as the president, because he is supposed to do his best to keep us safe. However, the tables are turned, and the public seems to be far more aware of how to handle the virus than he does. His life — meaning his power — is now in our hands. Inversely, the public's lives are in the hand of experts. The phrase can be interpreted ominously when applied to corruption, but positively when imagining a benevolent scientist doing her best to persuade the public to take caution."


Stay tuned for more Memphis artists on Music Video Week. 

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Short Films Compete for $15,000 Prize at Oxford Virtual Film Festival

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2020 at 4:34 PM

"In The Pink" by Katherine Stocker is in competition for the $15,000 Artist Vodka prize in the Oxford Virtual Film Festival.
  • "In The Pink" by Katherine Stocker is in competition for the $15,000 Artist Vodka prize in the Oxford Virtual Film Festival.
The Hoka is the name of the trophy given to winners of the Oxford Film Festival. But this week, the Oxford Virtual Film Festival unveils its biggest prize of the season. The Artist Vodka Short Film Prize is determined by votes from the audience. The winning director will receive $15,000. “Artist Vodka continues to be such an important part of our film festival by lending a big financial hand to one of our filmmakers as they have in years past,” says Oxford Film Festival Executive Director Melanie Addington. “And now our audience members can take a real active part in deciding whose name will go on that big check. It adds a rooting interest to the entertainment each one of these three programs delivers in a major way. I can’t wait to see who is going to win that prize.”

Twenty short films are in competition for prize money, including two films by Memphis directors. "The Indignation of Michael Busby" by Nathan Ross Murphy and "Life After Death" by Noah Glenn were both part of the historically great Indie Memphis short film competition in 2019. "Life After Death" was most recently seen on WKNO's Indie TV compilation show.
Allen Gardner in Nathan Ross Murphy's short film "The Indignation of Michael Busby"
  • Allen Gardner in Nathan Ross Murphy's short film "The Indignation of Michael Busby"
You can sign up to watch the films and vote for your favorite on the Eventive site: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. For the price of admission, you can also take part in the virtual discussions with the filmmakers. The competition bloc will be available from the Oxford Virtual Film Festival May 29-June 5. 

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Music Video Week: Duke Deuce ft. Lil Jon, Juicy J, and Project Pat

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2020 at 7:15 AM

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It's a Music Video Week double shot with Duke Deuce and crew. Back in the Before Time of November, 2019, the Memphis rapper scored a major hit by answering the musical question, "Is crunk dead?" The studio video, shot by Wikid Films, racked up more than 17 million views on YouTube.


The success of "Crunk Ain't Dead" attracted some high profile admirers — namely, the architects of crunk, Lil Jon, Juicy J, and Project Pat. The remix video, shot Downtown last February, brings back Wikid Films, but with a considerably higher budget. Watch Duke Deuce and his crew tear it up on South Main in the "Crunk Ain't Dead (Remix)": 


See you back here tomorrow for the next installment of Music Video Week! 

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Music Video Week: Aktion Kat!

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 11:25 AM

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Welcome to Music Video Week! Normally, I feature a new music video from a Memphis-area music artist or filmmaker (preferably both) every Monday. In conjunction with the Memphis Flyer's annual Music Issue, we're unveiling a weeklong music video blitz. Every day until next Tuesday, I'll highlight a new or classic video from the Bluff City.

If you're like us, you're missing live music right now. Our artists are struggling, and we're just plain bummed out. The lifeline between musicians and their fans has been connecting through the computer screen, whether by live streamed shows from bedrooms and basements or homespun music videos like this one from Aktion Kat. Paul Garner has been locked up in his apartment so long he wrote a song about it. The video is a masterclass in doing a lot with a little. It's a tribute to just how much you can get accomplished if you have nothing else on your calendar.


Tune in tomorrow for more Music Video Week! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Music Video Monday (on Tuesday): Doter Sweetly

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 10:51 AM

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Music Video Monday is on Tuesday, because Memorial Day.

I am a sucker for 70s-era video synthesizer looks. Check out one of the greatest music videos ever made, Earth Wind and Fire's "Lets Groove."


Those awesome video effects were created by video artist Ron Hays using the Scanimate video synthesizer. Only eight Scanimates were ever built, but you've seen their output on countless vintage TV images. The giant machines combined the different video effects that could be achieved in the analog era in one package. Hays threw everything the Scanimate had to offer at "Let's Groove," but his use of video feedback is particularly artistic.

It's probably unfair to compare videos with their inspirations, but director Peter Phillips' video for Doter Sweetly's "Baby Boy" uses projection to achieve Scanimate-style video feedback effects, and I am here for it. Singer Elijah Posten calls the video, which was produced in New Orleans by Loyola University alumni, "a DIY labor of love."

"'Baby Boy' is about coming to understand the preciousness of where you are in life," says Poston. "I realized that along with my friends and fellow early-to-mid-20-something-year-olds, I had been hyper-focused on a life that I want to live. Some kind of ideal picture that I was yearning for and thinking about while I neglected to appreciate and enjoy the life that I lead every day. 'Baby Boy' is a song to myself that I wrote as a reminder that the joyful and satisfying life I get caught up wanting is all right here, with the friends and family and little pleasures that exist in my life already." 


In conjunction with the Memphis Flyer's annual music issue, which will hit the stands tomorrow, this is officially Music Video Week on the Flyer's Film/TV/Etc. Blog. Stay tuned every day this week for exceptional music videos, both new and old, from Memphis artists. And as always, if you'd like to see your music video featured on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Jaws Leads Classic Summer Film Weekend at the Summer Drive-In

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2020 at 8:55 AM

Bruce the shark and Roy Schider hit the beach in Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
  • Bruce the shark and Roy Schider hit the beach in Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
With the 2020 summer film season on hold for at least another month, the newly reopened Malco Summer Drive-In is offering classic blockbusters for your socially distant entertainment this Memorial Day weekend.

Screen 3 is where the action is with a Steven Spielberg double feature. The early show is the one that started it all. Before Jaws' 1975 release, summer was Hollywood's sleepy season, and Steven Spielberg was directing made-for-TV movies. Jaws set box office records, created a template for the wide-release summer blockbuster, and made Spielberg a household name. Just look at this trailer from 1975, which crackles with tension and danger.


The second Spielberg masterpiece is one that brought CGI into the mainstream. 1993's Jurassic Park broke the box office records that E.T. had set 11 years earlier. Say what you will about Spielberg, the man knows how to cut a trailer.


On screen 2, another double feature. 2001's The Fast and the Furious was a frothy street racing exploitation movie with a guy named Vin Diesel (who was clearly born to star in car movies) as a tough guy who couldn't make cars fly. Yet.


John Singleton directed the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, in 2003. Just look at that jawline on Paul Walker.


Over on screen 1, a kids animation double feature with the pandemic's surprise hit Trolls: World Tour, starring Anna Kendrick and Memphis' own Justin Timberlake.


The Trolls are paired with a film that spawned a million memes, 2015's Minions.


On screen 4, The Invisible Man and The Hunt continue their streaks as two of the only first-runs still in theaters. You can read my review of The Invisible Man here.

Tickets to the drive-in are currently a flat $20 per carload. You can buy tickets in advance to guarantee a spot on the Malco website

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Oxford Virtual Film Festival Presents an LBGTQ Hero, a Feminist Sports Doc, and Memphis Filmmakers

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2020 at 12:56 PM

"Being" by Cathleen Dean
  • "Being" by Cathleen Dean
For Memorial Day weekend, the Oxford Virtual Film Festival has a strong and varied lineup of shorts and documentaries.

Queen of Lapa by Theodore Collatos and Carolina Monnerat is a stunning vérité portrait of Luana Muniz, the guardian angel of trans kids in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Eventive tickets available here.  

Queen Of Lapa /// Trailer from Factory 25 on Vimeo.


In Life in Synchro, one athlete describes synchronized skating as the most feminist sport on Earth. The all-women events have been gaining popularity for years, and this documentary by Angela Pinaglia traces its history and push for Olympic recognition. Appropriately, the film will be offered as a synchronized screening with 40 other film festivals as part of Film Festival Day on Saturday, May 23rd, with an online Q&A with Emily Fitzgerald, a former competitive skater on the Dearborn Crystallettes; Heidi Coffin, a 68-year-old adult skater on the Maine DownEasters; and Peggy MacDonald, who was a skater on the first synchro team in 1956 and went on to coach the first national champions of the sport in 1984. The Q&A will be moderated by Women Sports Film Festival’s Co-Founder Susan Sullivan. Eventive tickets available here.


The Black Lens Shorts bloc's seven films includes "Soul Man" by Kyle Taubken, which was Indie Memphis' Best Hometown Narrative Short award winner in 2019. The acclaimed short features an iconic performance by Curtis C. Jackson as a Memphis soul singer facing the end of his life. Eventive tickets available here.
Curits C. Jackson in "Soul Man."
  • Curits C. Jackson in "Soul Man."
If you're looking for something a lot more outré, the always entertaining Fest Forward bloc has you covered. Closing out the six experimental and animated offerings is "You Are Headed for a Land of Sunshine" by Memphis filmmaker Laura Jean Hocking, which was originally created for the Response 3 dance and multimedia art show in 2019. Eventive tickets available here.
"You Are Headed For A Land of Sunshine" by Laura Jean Hocking
  • "You Are Headed For A Land of Sunshine" by Laura Jean Hocking

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Music Video Monday: The Conspiracy Theory

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2020 at 11:20 AM

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Music Video Monday is controlling your mind.

"MK Ultra" is the new video from The Conspiracy Theory, the Memphis rockers who know what They are planning. The title of the song, which is the third single from their 2019 album None The Wiser, refers to the infamous Cold War CIA program which sought to use LSD and other psychedelics to brainwash unsuspecting people. Director Brett Trail told the disturbing story using Furbys, the classic interactive toys which, let's face it, have always been kind of creepy.

Gaze deeply into the eyes of the Furby. Its third eye flashes messages — you might even call them "instructions" — which bypass the conscious mind and burrow deep into your psyche. Listen to the Furby. Trust the Furby. Obey the Furby. Only total submission to the Furby will bring true happiness.


If you would like to submit your music video to Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com. 

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Beanie Feldstein Comes of Age in How To Build A Girl

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2020 at 8:44 AM

Beanie Feldstien as Johanna Morrigan in How To Build A Girl.
  • Beanie Feldstien as Johanna Morrigan in How To Build A Girl.

Critics are the worst. All I wanted to do was enjoy the dark epic Superman v Batman: Both Our Dead Moms Are Named Martha, and along comes Mr. Smarty Smart Movie Critic telling me how stupid it is. Clearly, the director of the movie knows better than Mr. “I Don’t Care What Superman’s Mother’s Name Was,” because they spent $150 million bringing this spectacle of matriarchal nomenclature to life! He’s just jealous because Michael Bay collects Porsches. I wonder what kind of car Mr. Film Critic drives?

This is apparently the opinion a lot of Extremely Online people have of critics. And you know, I kinda get it. I understand that some people feel attacked when they read negative criticism of something they like. There are people who make a living writing contrarian clickbait, and there are people who are just bitter jerks who take their personality disorders out on the world. I think the key to writing good criticism is to remain a fan. I love movies. I’m always rooting for the talent on the screen and behind the camera, because I want all movies to be good. I want you to see more and better movies. I want to reward good artists and I want bad artists to get better. And for the record, I drive a 2001 Honda Civic.
Johanna Morrigan embarks on a voyage of self-discovery to become the acerbic rock critic Olivia Wilde.
  • Johanna Morrigan embarks on a voyage of self-discovery to become the acerbic rock critic Olivia Wilde.
How To Build A Girl is about discovering what it means to be a good critic and a good human being — not that those two states of being are either related or mutually exclusive. It’s based on a memoir by Caitlin Moran, a British journalist who got her start writing about britpop bands for New Music Express in the 1990s.

Beanie Feldstein stars as Johanna Morrigan, Moran’s surrogate. She’s a 16-year-old stuck in the working class English Midlands. Her father is a punk drummer who peaked in 1978, and her mother is a buried under the weight of caring for an unexpected pair of twins. Johanna is a talented writer who uses her art to escape her drab surroundings.

After a disastrous debut on a local TV station’s poetry contest, she decides to submit a review to NME. Her review is unexpectedly accepted, but when she makes the long trip to London to meet the other writers in the office, she discovers that the whole thing was a cruel joke played by the jaded music staff who didn’t seriously believe she was a 16-year-old girl. But Johanna brazens her way through the situation, and thanks to a generous intervention from a writer named Tony (Frank Dillane), she walks away from the encounter with a new gig, writing under the pen name Olivia Wilde.
Alfie Allen as britpop heartthrob John Kite and Beanie Feldstein as Olivia Wilde.
  • Alfie Allen as britpop heartthrob John Kite and Beanie Feldstein as Olivia Wilde.
Johanna has a ball reinventing herself as a cool girl. But when she writes a too-glowing profile of a sensitive singer-songwriter named John Kite (Alfie Allen), Johanna discovers that mean reviews will attract more attention than glow-ups. And then it’s off to the races. Soon, her high school vitriol is paying the rent for her entire family.

Is the film about how much critics suck critic-proof? The answer, shockingly, is no. Coky Giedroyc’s direction is never subtle, and occasionally heavy-handed. But what saves the picture from wallowing in its own self-importance is Beanie Feldstein. She’s one of the best comic actors working today, and How To Build A Girl finds her at the height of her powers. Feldstein knows how to communicate with a twitch of the eyebrow, and she can nail a pratfall like Jerry Lewis. She wrings more subtlety out of the material than is on the page. The best decision Giedroyc makes is to keep Feldstein in the center of the frame and let her do her thing. How to Build a Girl succeeds as a feminist Almost Famous because Feldstein is so successful at tracing the critic’s arc from naiveté to cynicism to, finally, hard-won sincerity.

How To Build A Girl is currently available from video on demand outlets.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Malco Summer Drive-In Reopens Friday, May 15 with The Invisible Man

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2020 at 11:57 AM

Elisabeth Moss is brilliant in The Invisible Man.
  • Elisabeth Moss is brilliant in The Invisible Man.
After six weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Memphis-based Malco Theatres has announced that their Summer Drive-In theater will reopen on Friday, May 15th.

“Malco is very excited to open the drive-in and welcome our customers back”, said Malco President and COO David Tashie. ”We appreciate their patience and understanding during this unprecedented time. We would also like to thank the City of Memphis for allowing the drive-in to open, and while we will be implementing a program to provide
Malco's Summer Four Drive-in - DRIVEINMOVIE.COM
  • driveinmovie.com
  • Malco's Summer Four Drive-in
extra safety measures for our patrons and employees, we cannot wait for everyone to enjoy a night out watching movies on the big screen again.”

Drive-ins, of which there are less than 350 left in America, would seem to be the ideal venue for film during a pandemic, where social distancing is necessary to prevent mass death. Indeed, a drive-in in Florida has been the only theater showing first-run films in America since mid-March.

But the social distancing imposed by the automotive seating alone isn't enough to prevent viral transmission, so Malco is implementing new pandemic measures to ensure patron safety. All employees will wear masks and gloves. Restrooms will be limited to a few people at a time, and will be cleaned on the half-hour. At the concession stand, the selections will be limited to prepackaged items, lines will be socially distanced, and other precautions will be taken.

The reopening-special admission price will be $20 per car-load, with all tickets on sale in advance via the Malco website. Admissions will be limited to 50% of capacity, so plan your visits accordingly.
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There are no major studio releases currently scheduled to drop until at least the beginning of July, so the first weekend back will feature films already in the system before the coronavirus shutdown. The best film on the marquee is The Invisible Man, a thrilling reimagining of the classic Universal monster film by low-budget horror maestros Blumhouse, featuring a killer performance by Elizabeth Moss. (Read my review here.) The animated feature Trolls: World Tour, starring Memphian Justin Timberlake, will make its Bluff City big screen debut after pulling in a record $95 million in the video on demand market during the early days of the coronavirus quarantine. Robert Downy, Jr.'s Doolittle and the controversial, violent thriller The Hunt round out the other two screens in the four-screen facility. Tickets go on sale Thursday, May 14th.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Spaceship Earth, “White Guys Solve Sexism” Lead Oxford Film Festival and Indie Memphis Online Offerings

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2020 at 3:40 PM

Spaceship Earth
  • Spaceship Earth
Two Mid-South film festivals continue their online programming this week, offering diverse fare for Memphis-area audiences.

Now on week three of converting their canceled March festival into a virtual experience, the Oxford Film Festival is presenting a narrative feature, a documentary, and a shorts program. The comedy I've Got Issues by director Steve Collins promises a group of intertwining stories that probe existential questions such as "What do we do with all this hurt?" The Armenian documentary I Am Not Alone by director Garin Hovannisian tells the story of a revolutionary walk across the country to inspire a revolution.

Oxford's "Hello Gorgeous" narrative shorts program, which is always a great place to start at film festivals, includes eight films, with international entries from England and Canada. The most intriguing is director Christopher Guerrero's comedy short "White Guys Solve Sexism," which pretty much does what it says on the box:

White Guys Solve Sexism - Trailer 2019 from Christopher Guerrero on Vimeo.

The Indie Memphis Movie Club has five films available, including the Beanie Feldstein-starring comedy How to Build a Girl, and James Sweeney's gender-bending comedy Straight Up. This week's documentary selection is Spaceship Earth, the stranger-than-fiction story of Biosphere 2. In an effort to better understand the feedback loops that regulate Earth's climate and ecosphere, a group of volunteers spent two years quarantined in what was essentially a giant greenhouse in the Arizona desert. But was it a legit science experiment, or just the public facing part of a giant financial scam? Here's the trailer for director Matt Wolf's movie, which you can rent at the Indie Memphis Movie Club.  

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Monday, May 11, 2020

Music Video Monday: Heels

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 11:17 AM

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Today's Music Video Monday is a slap in the face.

Like all musicians in Memphis, Heels has been in corona-hibernation the last two months. Without the opportunity to put their popular live act in front of people, they made a music video in the space where they stomp the hardest: The Hi-Tone.

Josh McLane and Brennan Whalen are no strangers to Music Video Monday's Best Of list. This video does not disappoint. Directed with a complete disregard to continuity by McLane and produced and shot by Jared Callan, "Antics/I'll Have a Name Soon" is as bracing as a hard slap to the face. Get some rock and roll:


If you'd like to see your music video on Music Video Monday, email cmccoy@memphisflyer.com

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