Bristerfest is a Memphis festival of music, art and film that raises money for Grow Memphis, a worthwhile organization that encourages neighborhood gardens in the inner city of Memphis. Formerly held at the Levitt Shell, Bristerfest moved this year to the former church-turned-performance loft called The Abbey at Cooper and Walker in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Midtown, and featured two indoor stages and an outdoor stage over three days in May the weekend after Beale Street Music Fest. I was especially impressed by the rap and hip-hop line-up on Saturday night May 10, where C-Beyohn performed with the excellent reggae band known as the Chinese Connection Dub Embassy. They were followed by up-and-coming Memphis rap artist Tyke T backed by drummer Otis Logan and trombonist Suavo J of the band 4 Soul, and the young hip-hop duo S.O.U.L. that has been getting some attention locally over the last year. I must add that attendance seemed very good indeed for this year’s Bristerfest, and hopefully a lot of money was raised for Grow Memphis.
For those who missed the C3 Band concert last night, here is the bulk of it (minus the opening “I’ll Play The Blues For you, sadly), recorded with my iPhone 5S using the Rode Rec app, which I highly recommend.
With lots of conflicting options with what to do on my Friday night (the first in many weeks that I hadn’t either had a gig or been out of town), I wasn’t sure what I wanted to choose. My drummer homeboy Mike Mosby had one of his Locked and Loaded events going on, Bristerfest was kicking off in Cooper-Young, Eden Brent was at the Center For Southern Folklore, and the Clarksdale Caravan Music Fest was going on down in Mississippi. But when I saw that my homeboys in the C3 Band were going to be playing at West Alley BBQ in Jackson, Tennessee, I decided to drive up there, both to catch their performance, and to check out the barbecue, which my homeboy Courtney Brown (C3’s drummer) had said was really good.
West Alley BBQ proved to be something like a large juke joint, with two older men tending to oil drum cookers outside along the side entrance. The look of the place would not have been unfamiliar to people who know Ground Zero in Clarksdale, but there were some elements that seemed more in keeping with Red’s Lounge instead, although the place was much bigger. The pulled pork was delicious, just as I had been told, and the club kept great roots blues playing over the speakers until it was time for the band to come up on stage. As I have discussed earlier, C3 is a blues power trio, with a repertoire that stretches from blues to funk to soul. Their performance on this particular night was augmented by a guest harmonica player that sat in, a visiting drummer that gave Courtney Brown a breather, and a superb female singer that closed out the night with a rousing rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” It was definitely a night to remember in Jackson, and West Alley BBQ will be a place to keep checking up on.
During the On Location: Memphis International Film and Music Festival, Le Chardonnay was the location of the neo-soul showcases on both Friday and Saturday nights. On Saturday night, the showcase opened with the superb Memphis jazz/soul vocalist Jamille “Jam” Hunter with her band, and was followed by the blues/soul/rock trio known as C3, consisting of drummer Courtney Brown, guitarist Chris Pitts and bassist Colton Parker, a power trio that I have discussed elsewhere. They were to be followed by Ethan Kent and my homeboy Otis Logan’s band 4 Soul, but as I was on the festival staff, I soon got called away to handle a crisis at the hip-hop showcase at 1884 Lounge at Minglewood.
Around the corner on Second Street was a keyboard-and-drums duo called The Elements, playing soul, smooth jazz and R & B. Not necessarily an official part of the Juke Joint Festival, this band sets up at that location each year and always attracts a crowd.
Memphis drummer Otis Logan is one of the best young drummers in the city, and for several years has been leading a band called 4 Soul that occasionally plays around town. So when he told me that his band would be playing a Friday night set at a local bar called the Pulse Lounge in Hickory Hill, I had to go and check them out. 4 Soul is a trio of musicians on keyboard, bass and drums, backing a female singer named Shenea who proved to be a young and talented singer, and their mix of original tunes and familiar covers kept things jumping for the crowd, who had turned out in some numbers despite the heavy rain outside. The band played one all-too-brief set, and was followed on stage by a comedian, but we can expect to hear more from 4 Soul in the coming months.
Last Saturday night, December 14, I was invited out to the all-new Deuces Bar and Grill on Winchester Road next to Hickory Ridge Mall to see a performance by two of Memphis’ best-known female vocalists, Carmen Hicks and Stefanie Bolton. They were backed by a first-rate band, anchored by drummer Taz Fields, and despite the venue’s newness, it was packed to overflowing. Deuces is located in the strip mall where Pop Tunes record shop was years ago, near the corner of Winchester and Hickory Hill roads. The club is comfortably equipped and spacious enough to accomodate even large events.
Deuces Bar and Grill
5959 Winchester Road
Memphis, TN 38115
On Saturday night December 14th, my drummer partner Mike Mosby invited down to Bhan Thai restaurant in Midtown where he was playing a gig with a Memphis musician, singer and actor named Brennan Villines whom I had not heard of before. He is a gifted pianist and singer, and the band, complete with horns was immensely soulful in that unique Memphis sort of way, which was all the more remarkable considering the fact that they had never played together before. It was an altogether enjoyable evening.
My homeboy Travis McFetridge was in town from Great South Bay Music in New York, and wanted to check out Beale Street, and my homeboy Antonio Motley (who is one of our city’s best young drummers) was filling in for the regular drummer with the Plantation All-Stars at Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall on Friday afternoon, so I took Travis there, and although there was literally nowhere to sit, we enjoyed a good half-hour of authentic Memphis blues and soul. Another blues band was playing on the outdoor stage in Handy Park as well, and yet another further down Beale in front of the New Daisy. I don’t think I’ve heard so much blues on Beale in one day as I did Friday.
After I left the block party in Crosstown, I headed out to The Grindz Coffee in Cordova because I had heard that they occasionally have jazz there on Friday nights. On this particular Friday night, they were not featuring jazz, but they did have a live neo-soul/funk band called PurElegance that was rather impressive. Unfortunately, the live music on Fridays at Grindz only runs until 9 PM, so I only got a chance to check out three tunes or so as I enjoyed my latte. But the atmosphere is comfortable, and Grindz features good music and coffee.