Friday, July 27, 2007

Thriving pop scene gets its props

Thriving pop scene gets its props

Daylong inaugural festival will showcase rising local stylists

Bob Mehr

July 27, 2007

During the past year, something struck Shangri-La Projects owner and veteran Memphis music impresario Sherman Willmott as being very strange.

"I was noticing all these pop music festivals around the country -- in San Francisco, in New York, and Los Angeles -- that were featuring bands from Memphis or bands that were affiliated with Memphis," says Willmott. "And I wondered why we didn't have something like that here."

Addressing that oversight, Willmott is staging the inaugural Memphis Pops festival this Saturday. The daylong event will feature 10 bands -- covering a panoply of pop styles -- playing at the Shangri-La Records store and at the Hi-Tone Cafe.

Though the lineup includes several bands with long-standing local roots, the emphasis is mostly on new and up-and-coming acts -- ranging from the sweet-sounding trash-pop of The Perfect Fits to the expansive chamber pop of Antenna Shoes.

"I really do think this is the best time for Memphis music I've seen in my life. And there also seems to be a civic movement to promote current arts," says Willmott.

"That's the whole idea behind putting everyone on a bill for one day. To give people who can't get out to the clubs all the time an opportunity to see and enjoy what's going on in town and the region right now."

Willmott notes that Memphis' legacy as a town rich in roots music -- blues, R&B, soul -- has tended to obscure the city's identity as a thriving environment for pop.

"I don't think people have ever really considered Memphis a pop center," he says. "At a certain point in the mid-'60s it was, but even then it was so overshadowed by what was going on at Stax and Hi," says Willmott. "But if you go back to that period and look at Sam the Sham, the Box Tops and the Gentrys, they all had big pop hits."

That trend toward pop music continued -- albeit with less chart success -- into the 1970s, with several bands revolving around Midtown's Ardent Studios, including Big Star, The Scruffs, The Hot Dogs, Cargoe and Tommy Hoehn.

"And there are bands in town that still carry on that tradition," says Willmott. "But I don't think anybody immediately thinks of Memphis as a place for pop, unfortunately."

Memphis Pops will begin Saturday at 3 p.m. with a series of free in-store performances at Shangri-La Records. The lineup features several interesting fledgling bands -- Jared McStay's Nice Digs, Quinn Powers' and Alix Brown's The Arch Rivals, the Scott Rogers-led Perfect Fits, and the Wallendas, fronted by former Reigning Sound bassist Jeremy Scott and ex-Panther Burns guitar ace Jim Duckworth.

The nighttime festivities at the Hi-Tone commence at 6 p.m. with the first public screening of a 2006 documentary on the history of Ardent Studios by The Commercial Appeal's former music writer Larry Nager.

Live performances start immediately afterward, beginning with the Tim Lee 3, the new project from the Mississippi native and legendary Windbreakers front man. Local left-field indie pop crews Vending Machine, led by Robby Grant, and Antenna Shoes, featuring Tim Regan, will follow.

Atlanta's fast-rising punk-pop outfit The Carbonas will also appear; their set will offer a preview of their album due on the local Goner Records label this fall.

Memphis power-pop veterans Rick Camp and Jeff Golightly of 1980s favorites The Crime unveil their latest project, The Everyday Parade, while art-pop ensemble Viva L'American Deathray , featuring former Memphian Nick Ray and celebrated local tunesmith Harlan T. Bobo, will cap the night.

The fest's $10 cover charge also includes a limited-edition four-song vinyl single featuring cuts from various Memphis Pops artists, including an unreleased Viva L'American Deathray track.

Willmott says the event is something of a dry run for what he hopes will be an expansion of the festival into a multi-day event next year. He cites the success of the locally produced garage rock extravaganza Gonerfest -- the fourth edition of which will take place in late September -- as an example of how specifically targeted music fests can succeed without the need for expensive headlining acts and pricey tickets.

"That's kind of where cultural tourism is going – people just want to go and indulge in their passions a long weekend," says Willmott. "That's why Gonerfest is so successful. It's not because they have the biggest bands in world playing necessarily, it's because everything they have that weekend appeals to that audience and gives them ten reasons to come to town instead of just one."

More info:

Music preview

Memphis Pops

Free in-store at Shangri-La Records, 1916 Madison, at 3 p.m. Featuring: Nice Digs, The Arch Rivals, The Perfect Fits and The Wallendas. Call 274-1916.

Festivities begin at the Hi-Tone, 1913 Poplar, at 6 p.m. Cover is $10. Music starts at 7 p.m. Featuring: Tim Lee 3, Vending Machine, Antenna Shoes, The Carbonas, The Everyday Parade, and Viva L'American Deathray Music. Call 278-8663.

Vending Machine
The Carbonas
Everyday Parade
Viva L'American Deathray

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Festivals, festivals, festivals

Seems like Vending Machine is playing a lot of festivals coming up. The first one is soon (July) and the other are in September. Keep an eye out for some other shows to be added soon (mainly a short early September tour).

Memphis Pops: July 28th

Saturday, July 28 at the Hi Tone Café Memphis

6:00 Ardent Records 40th Year Documentary
7:00 Tim Lee 3 featuring Tim Lee from the Windbreakers!
8:15 Vending Machine
9:30 Antenna Shoes
10:45 Goner Recording stars The Carbonas
12:00 The Everyday Parade featuring members of The Crime!
1:15 Viva L'American Death Ray

Also Featuring Special Guest Debonair DJ/MC Zak Wilders!

There's also an early thing at Shangri-La that day as well. Quinn Powers' band, the Arch Rivals will be playing.
Coooper Young Festival: September 15th
Other bands: Lucero, Secret Service, Antenna Shoes, and more.


Gonerfest: September 26th - 30th
Vending Machine is playing Saturday afternoon - September 29th at Murphy's. I think Mouserocket might be playing Sunday afternoon as well.
Full list of bands and activities at the website.

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