One of the more important Thursday night showcases at A3C was called Double Cupped Fears, an event held at Space 2 on Edgewood Avenue and sponsored by TRDON, the record label/production company that works with Memphis rapper Preauxx, Select-O-Hits, and Travis McFetridge’s Great South Bay Music. The rather diverse line-up included hip-hop lyricists like J. Sands and Planet Asia, relatively new lyrical Memphians like Tori WhoDat and Preauxx, and classic Memphis headliners like Lil Wyte, Frayser Boy and Miscellaneous. Unfortunately, the showcase got under way about thirty minutes late, and as a result, was cut short at 2:30 AM, when the venue said they were required to close due to a city ordinance. But Lil Wyte and company left the crowd hyped and eager for more.
I had heard that the second day of A3C would be kicked off with a VIP Brunch which would be open to panelists, so I texted my homeboy Fort Knox about it, and headed down to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the event was being held. The brunch was on the 25th floor, but proved to be not so much a brunch, but just a table of fruit, danishes, bagels, coffee and juice. However, the view from there was beautiful, and DJ Tephlon was spinning on the north side of the room. On the south side were some exhibits, including a display of new Reebok shoes, and a Microsoft gaming exhibit, and Beatminerz Radio was providing the music on that side.
Since there was very little actual food at the brunch, my fellow panelist Travis McFetridge from Great South Bay Music and I headed out north to Buttermilk Kitchen for a very late brunch that was really good, and then back to the hotel for our “Negotiating the New Music Industry” panel, featuring him, Fort Knox, Big Tah, Latisha “Ms. NuNu” Manigault, attorney Andrew Krems and myself. The panel, which was intended to give artists strategies for coping with lost revenue from the decline in music sales was literally so crowded that nobody else could enter the room. Several people told me that they considered it a success, so I was pleased with the outcome.
Our whole goal for the afternoon had been to make it to Indianola for lunch, but we were in for a disappointment, because when we got there, we found that the Blue Biscuit, where we had intended to eat, was not open for lunch on Wednesdays. So we went across the street to the Gin Mill Grill instead, and then over to Church Street, which was the traditional street for juke joints in Indianola. We found that the walls of the Blues Corner Cafe (or Cozy Corner Cafe) were painted with interesting murals full of wit, wisdom and portraits of Delta life and blues legends. The murals were also found on the adjacent White Rose Cafe, which is now the Motor Mouse Motorcycle Club, and even included a 2Pac portrait with the words “Thug Life” and “Only God Can Judge Me.” A banner in a nearby vacant lot promoted the Church Street Festival, which is being held on Saturday June 28th, as a way of celebrating the historic Black neighborhood’s legacy. The event is being organized by Charles McLaurin, a former Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and COFO leader, and perhaps not coincidentally will take place during the 50th Anniversary of the Mississippi Summer Project.
My homeboy Travis McFetridge, the owner of Great South Bay Music publishing firm, was down from New York City for an event sponsored by the Memphis chapter of The Recording Academy in Jackson, Mississippi, so we decided to drive down through the Delta on Wednesday June 11, and I decided to go backroads so that he would see a different Mississippi than that offered by I-55. Once we left the interstate, the first town we came to was Charleston, Mississippi, a town that I had been to only once before, and which is one of Tallahatchie County’s two county seats (the other is Sumner). Charleston has the traditional courthouse square that is typical of so many Mississippi towns, but what was more interesting was the painted mural honoring three legends from Tallahatchie County, actor Morgan Freeman, jazz musician Mose Allison and blues musician Sonny Boy Williamson. The town also has some interesting-looking clubs and jukes, which suggests it might be worthy of a deeper investigation on a future trip.
My homeboy Travis McFetridge, owner of Great South Bay Music, had invited me to join him for a brunch at the Driskill Hotel which was being sponsored by SESAC on Thursday morning, so I agreed to meet him there, and until I did, I wasn’t even aware that there had been an incident on Red River Street the night before in which two South By Southwest attendees had been killed. Apparently a man who was driving drunk was being pulled over by Austin police at 10th and Red River, and deciding that he didn’t want to go to jail, the driver crashed through a barricade and careened down Red River Street running over pedestrians. Two were killed instantly, and 14 others severely injured, including some who lost limbs. It’s not the sort of thing that one expects at a music conference and festival, and there was something of an appalled silence among people on Thursday morning. There were even those who called for festival events or showcases to be called off, but fortunately, South By Southwest declined to cancel events that were not directly impacted by the incident and where it occurred. Even so, I was shocked. I had just been at Cheer Up Charlie’s earlier in the afternoon, and could have very easily been on Red River Street when the tragedy unfolded.
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.
Saturday was the day of the marketing and distribution panel at Cutting Edge, so I grabbed an early breakfast at Surrey’s Cafe on Magazine and headed up to the Old Mint for what was to be the first panel of the day, featuring myself, Rico Brooks from Atlanta who had been Gorilla Zoe’s manager, and Travis McFetridge from New York representing a publishing firm called Great South Bay Music. Although our panel began at 10 AM, it was better attended than I had expected, and we managed to get quite a bit of useful information into it. Afterwards, Rico and Travis and I headed over the river and south of Marrero to Restaurant des Familles in Crown Point for a seafood lunch. The restaurant backs up to a bayou, and we saw at least three alligators in the water or sunning themselves on the bank.
For 20 years, Cutting Edge has been the only comprehensive music business conference in Louisiana. Although it has seen some changes, like a move from August to September, and a couple of changes of location, Cutting Edge offers music industry professionals in Louisiana an opportunity to network and learn, and it offers local musicians a chance to showcase their talent to the larger music industry.
This year, Cutting Edge’s daytime panels, workshops and showcases were housed in the Historic U.S. Mint, in the French Quarter at the foot of Esplanade Street. The new location was extremely convenient, and parking was relatively cheap and plentiful compared to some of the past years. I was also thrilled to see that our Memphis chapter of the Recording Academy had agreed to sponsor some of the events, since New Orleans professionals are members of the Memphis chaper, as there is no New Orleans chapter.
In the afternoon, I ventured out around the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street, and ended up meeting my fellow panelists Rico Brooks (an artist manager from Atlanta) and Travis McFetridge (a New York-based publishing executvie) at Drago’s for dinner.