Outdoor Music Options 

Ruthie Foster

Ruthie Foster

After a brutal summer in which most Memphians were loath to stray too far from their air conditioners, the heat is starting to let up and outside seems like a more enticing place to be. And following on the heels of the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival and last week's Booker T. show at the Levitt Shell, this weekend offers some terrific outdoor music options.

The Levitt Shell kicks off its fall concert season this weekend with five shows over four days. On Thursday, September 16th, the Shell will host Tear Down the Walls, an interfaith music project created by Jewish rocker Rick Recht. Texas blues singer Ruthie Foster, whose 2009 album The Truth According to Ruthie Foster, was recorded locally at Ardent Studios, will perform Friday night. On Saturday, an early kids' concert will feature the Hattiloo Theatre presenting music from The Wiz, the '70s musical that retold The Wizard of Oz from an urban, African-American perspective. That will be followed Saturday night by Tennessee native Tracy Nelson, an alt-country pioneer in the '70s with the Nashville band Mother Earth whose music has moved into more blues and R&B styles over the years. The Shell's opening weekend concludes Sunday night with Louisiana-based alt-country singer-songwriter Kevin Gordon. The kids' concert on Saturday starts at 5 p.m. The other concerts start at 7:30 p.m. All concerts are free.

The Shell's fall series consists of 25 concerts spread over five weeks. Other season highlights include: Austin folk-rocker Bob Schneider (Sept. 23rd), Mississippi barrelhouse piano player Eden Brent (Sept. 24th), classic New Orleans unit the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Oct. 2nd), alt-country fave Jim Lauderdale (Oct. 7th), versatile Memphis-based roots/blues master Alvin Youngblood Hart (Oct. 8th), and retro soul band Charles Walker & the Dynamites (Oct. 15th).

For a full concert schedule and more info, see levittshell.org.

While the Levitt Shell is in the middle of the opening weekend for its fall series, the annual Cooper-Young Festival will be happening from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. a few blocks away. On the fest's main stage, Memphis music institution Reba Russell and salsa standard-bearers Orquesta Caliente will headline. The full main-stage lineup: University of Memphis Jazz Band (12:15), the Sheriffs of Nottingham (1:15), D Monet (2:15), Tony Dickerson (3:15), Reba Russell (4:15), Marcela & Orquesta Caliente (5:15).

A new twist this year is that the fest's other music stages will be given over as showcases for a couple of local music institutions: "Music and Worship Arts College" the Visible School and the Cooper-Young-based Goner Records.

The Visible School Stage lineup: Darien Clea (12:15), Battle Victorious (1:15), Donte Everhart (2:15), Keia Johnson (3:15), Speakerboxx (4:15).

The Goner Stage lineup: John Paul Keith & the 145s (12:30), the Overnight Lows (1:30), Jack O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers (2:30), Missing Monuments (3:30), and the Limes (4:30).

The Goner Stage at Cooper-Young could be seen as something of an early kickoff to the label's annual Gonerfest, which begins in earnest Wednesday, September 22nd. We'll have much more on the five-day Goner festivities next week. But here's a quick, early cheat sheet on the opening-night lineup at the Hi-Tone Café: the Spider Bags (boozy roots from North Carolina), Useless Eaters (minimal, attitudinal punk and longtime Goner faves, from Toronto), the aforementioned Missing Monuments (the latest project from New Orleans garage-rock institution King Louie Bankston), Vermillion Sands (Italian post-punk), and Msr. Jeffrey Evans (Memphis-based garage-punk godfather). See gonerfest.com for a full lineup.

Of course, not all the musical action this week is happening outside. On Monday, September 20th, at the Hard Rock Café, the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission will host a CD-release show for its new A Taste of Memphis Music compilation. Scheduled performers at the concert, which is set to run from 5:30 to 9 p.m., include King Ellis, Vicki Loveland, and Winston Stewart. Other artists featured on the disc include Al Kapone, Deering & Down, and Nancy Apple. Proceeds from the sale of the disc will benefit the Memphis Musician's Healthcare Fund.

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