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Memphis Concrete at Crosstown Arts

On Triangles: Sound in Geometry Series Vol. 1 borrows its title from a 15th-century collection of treatises by Johannes Regiomontanus. The German renaissance astronomer and mathematician, often identified as simply Regiomontanus, claimed his book would explain "all things necessary for anyone wishing to reach perfection" in his or her knowledge of the astronomical sciences. Similarly, On Triangles is a generous 17-track sampler CD showcasing electronic music and soundscapes crafted by the artists playing at this year's Memphis Concrète Festival. It can make clearer what to expect from a three-day event devoted to experiments and improvisations in electronic sound better than any descriptive overview could ever hope to do. On Triangles is a varied collection of sonic exotica that ranges from pop-inspired and percussive to freaky and free-form.

"Memphis Concrète was a play on words," festival organizer Robert Traxler says, explaining a desire to mix this cerebral approach to music-making with a hint of regional grit.

"Musique concrète," the expression Traxler was riffing on when he christened the festival, describes various methods of collecting, organizing, and manipulating recorded sound in ways that aren't restricted by traditional conventions of melody, harmony, and rhythm. The approach was employed by a variety of 20th-century European artists inspired by the idea of "acousmatic sound" — sound that's been uncoupled visually from the original source of production. That concept was inspired, appropriately enough, by the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, who sometimes lectured his students from behind screens, so they might focus their attention not on him, but on triangles.

"Last year's festival was basically a proof of concept," Traxler says. That event was two nights, featured primarily local and regional artists, and all events took place sequentially in Crosstown Arts' tiny gallery space on Cleveland. This year's festival moves across the street to the main Concourse and picks up a second stage. The event has also expanded to three nights.

The Memphis Concrète lineup features several area performers, including IMAKEMADBEATS (see cover story, p. 10), singer/songwriter Linda Heck, and DJ/recording artist Mike Honeycutt.

"I think a lot of people around Memphis probably think of Heck playing rock music," Traxler says. But of "Right," Heck's sometimes dreamy, sometimes anxiety-inducing contribution to On Triangles, Traxler says Heck's "doing something different, and it's phenomenal. It's the most straight-up musique concrète on the CD."

This year's festival brings a number of national acts to town, including Wolf Eyes, STARFIGHTER YELLOW SUPEROVERDRIVE, and former Dirty Beaches artist Alex Zhang Hungtai. Zhang moved from rock to jazz to even freer forms, creating epic soundscapes and intimate little suites that mix electronics and traditional instruments such as guitar, piano, and drums. Fans of Showtime's Twin Peaks reboot may also recognize Zhang as a member of the show's fictional band, Trouble.

Traxler describes Circuit des Yeux as being, "probably the most like what you might think of as a rock band." Fronted by Haley Fohr, a singer with a multi-octave range, Circuit des Yeux's sound can be difficult to pin down, with tracks that range from ambient burbles to guitar-driven knife-fights. "It's an eclectic sound with pop roots," Traxler says. "And a lot of surprises."

There's quite a bit of surprise built into Memphis Concrète's lineup, including three films with electronic or electronic-friendly soundtracks that will be performed live by festival artists. "Woman in the Moon is a silent film," Traxler says. "Those are always some of the most fun to do live soundtracks for."

That's just a small sample of what's available at the Memphis Concrète Festival, which is bringing more than 30 artists to the Crosstown Concourse this weekend. On Triangles: Sound in Geometry Series Vol. 1 is available at Shangri-La Records now.

Memphis Concrète Festival at Crosstown Arts, Friday, June 22nd-Sunday, June 24th.

Mempho Music Fest Announces 2018 Schedule, Opens Ticket Sales
(image) Now gunning for its second year, and rolling with the momentum of its 2017 turnout, the Mempho Music Festival lit up the Mid South some days ago when it announced its slate of 2018 performers. Today, they've announced the details of the schedule and are opening ticket sales. The Flyer's advice: get 'em while they're hot. This is a lineup of artists that rivals any festival in the business (see below). 

Grammy Award winners Beck and Phoenix will headline on Saturday, October 6. On Sunday, October 7, the legendary Nas, who has just dropped a new album, will headline, along with Post Malone. The festival will also bring us Grammy-nominated funkstress and Prince protégé Janelle Monáe, indie-rock favorite Mac DeMarco, German folk rockers Milky Chance, Atlanta-based rapper Rich The Kid, Danny Barnes’ Space Program, and “Stones Throw”, led by The Rolling Stones’ musical director Chuck Leavell and featuring current and former backing band members. And let's not forget the brilliant collective that is George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic.

First and foremost, the festival lives up to its name with plenty of local talent.

Mempho is fully committed to the #BringYourSoul city branding movement, celebrating the originality, soul, and change that Memphis is known for. Accordingly, we'll see shows by many a local legend: Juicy J, Project Pat, Lucero, Eric Gales, The Bar-Kays, Don Bryant & The Bo-Keys, Big Ass Truck, John Nemeth & The Love Light Orchestra, Boo Mitchell & The Kings featuring URiAH Mitchell, Lil Al & G Reub, and The Product, Talibah Safiya, and Cory Branan.

Especially notable will be a tribute set dedicated to Royal Studios. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer Boo Mitchell, the Royal Studios Tribute will feature Grammy Award winners William Bell and Bobby Rush, Oscar Award winner Frayser Boy, and Grammy Award-nominated Hi Rhythm Section.

Also on the local tip, by way of Como, Mississippi, will be Dap-Tone Records' stars, the Como Mamas. 
“We are thrilled to be back at Shelby Farms Park for year two of the great Mempho Music Festival,” says Mempho Music Festival founder, Diego Winegardner. “We couldn’t be more excited to announce this year’s lineup, which includes an extraordinarily diverse
roster of today’s hottest artists, legends of rock, funk, and soul, as well as a healthy dose of local Memphis talent.”
One lesser-known aspect of the Mempho Music Festival is Mempho Matters, a non-profit organization committed to developing “Learn To Rock”, a philanthropy-based arts education and funding initiative. Working with Memphis area businesses and community leaders, the initiative provides Memphis area music teachers and their students admission to Mempho at no cost.

Mempho Music Festival is also partnering with the Memphis Area Women’s Council to promote the Memphis Says NO MORE campaign—aimed at raising awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault—by providing a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all attendees.

Finally, Mempho has teamed up with the Oceanic Global Foundation—a non-profit that educates individuals on issues impacting our ocean through art, music, and emerging technologies. One specific impact of this partnership is Mempho's pledge to make the festival completely straw-free. Plastic straws, of course, constitute a major proportion of the plastic waste currently accumulating in the Pacific and other oceans.
This year, Mempho Music Festival has partnered with CID Entertainment to provide VIP and Super VIP experiences, including on-site camping and glamping options. 
A limited supply of GA, VIP, and Super VIP pre-sale tickets and packages are available on Monday, June 11th, for returning fans, starting at $79 for Single Day and $139 for 2-Day tickets.

General on-sale begins on Friday, June 15th, at 10 A.M. CT, starting at $89 for Single Day and $159 for 2-Day tickets. Prices will increase on July 13th and September 28th, so reserve your tickets while supplies last.

Through My Lens

Through My Lens is collection of high resolution digital images that capture the beauty of nature in urban culture. This collection is comprised of 13 framed and matted images, displaying everyday scenery that is unique and detailed. Turner’s pieces bring to life wonders of the world that would otherwise be hidden to the ordinary public.

Sabrina Turner is currently based in Memphis, Tennessee, and has been a professional photographer since 1990. She began taking pictures around the age of six, when she was given her first camera on a family vacation and realized her love of photography. Turner has perfected her craft through trial and error, learning to develop film and print images. Having used many film cameras and early low resolution digital cameras through the years, she continues to develop her art as the media evolves. She currently works exclusively in high resolution digital. Turner's primary work is in medical photography as an ophthalmic photographer. Her true love, however, is to find and capture the beauty in everyday places and things.
A Rare Appearance by Lee Ritenour
(image) It's rare to find a musician accomplished enough to have played and recorded with such luminaries as Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Lalo Schifrin, and Stanley Turrentine. Lee Ritenour has been there and done that. He came of age, precociously, at a time when the giants of 20th Century American music still walked the earth, still young enough to carry the torch into the current era. And on Thursday, June 21, he'll be playing in Memphis at Lafayette's.

Oh yes, and perhaps you remember listening to Pink Floyd's The Wall long ago, and wishing the band would drop the disco and just rock out, until the burning track "Run Like Hell" came on and you heard them turn it up to 11. As it happens, that was Ritenour as well, brought in to beef the song up. He's no stranger to such pop accomplishments, having played his first recording session at age 16, on a track by the Mamas and the Papas. And if you're a fan of "Strawberry Letter #23" by the Brothers Johnson (and who isn't?), well, then you're a fan of Lee Ritenour. So was famed Memphian Maurice White, who Ritenour collaborated with on the record "If I'm Dreaming, Don't Wake Me."

Naturally, he's fared well as a solo artist as well, releasing his first record over 40 years ago, and sending the single "Is it You" with singer Eric Tagg to #15 on the Billboard pop charts in 1981. Dubbed "Captain Fingers" for his mad skills, he also kept those skills accessible with one ear cocked to the glories of pop, funk, Brazilian, classical, and rock guitar. He's been nominated for 16 Grammy Awards, taking one home in 1986 for the instrumental "Early A.M. Attitude".

Thursday is a rare chance to see this decade-spanning artist, still in his prime at 66 years young. We recommend that you do just that.
McKenna Bray Celebrates New Album
(image) Yes, there are many Americana singers in Tennessee. It almost seems unfair to put an artist in that box. In the case of Memphis native McKenna Bray, it almost does her a disservice. Sure, there are touches of folk all over her new album, Once in a Blue Moon (Madjack Records), and even a banjo on a couple of tracks. But there are so many surprises in the songwriting, it defies any label that might suggest the Carter Family or simple folk strumming.

As you may have read, Bray's voice evokes classic Linda Ronstadt, and that's a better point of reference. It almost sounds as if Ronstadt released a tribute album of Richard Thompson songs. The lyrics are simple and direct, perhaps lacking some of the darker allusions that Thompson is prone to, yet still with plenty of shadows. There are elements of classic pop here, mingled with earthy instrumentation and atmospheric touches, presumably courtesy of Susan Marshall, Bray's producer and manager.

The band is a veritable Bluff City Wrecking Crew, featuring the core personnel of David Cousar on guitar, Ken Coomer on drums, Dave Smith on bass, and Richard Alan Ford on pedal steel and/or banjo. Other talents are sprinkled throughout, including Marshall on vocal harmonies. Al Gamble, Peewee Jackson, Jeff Powell, Matt Ross-Spang, Mark Edgar Stuart also make appearances. And Will Tucker sings a lovely duet with Bray on the ambivalent relationship song "Dive," adding some of his trademark blues guitar for good measure.

The playing is tasteful and restrained, but what really sets the album apart is Bray's voice. It is no small feat to evoke the rich alto of Ronstadt, with the same unaffected, straightforward delivery that can enliven lyrics with a disarming edge. It's understandable that she auditioned for American Idol. But really, she was too good for them. She avoids all the clichés of that game. And their loss is our gain.

McKenna Bray's Once in a Blue Moon comes out on June 29. Check out her album release party tonight, June 19, at Lafayette's Music Room, 8:00 pm.
TODAY: Harbert Ave. Porch Show Rides Again; New Label in the Making
(image) If this city has music coming out its ears, with pop-up shows, festivals, house shows, buskers, and impromptu jam sessions springing up in every corner, none of these is quite as Memphis as the Harbert Avenue Porch Show. Held at least once a year in the normally staid environs of Central Gardens, the porch show has become a tradition that brings together generations and neighbors from all walks of life.

The brainchild of Robert Jethro Wyatt, the porch show is a perfect expression of its host's love of music. Indeed, one might not expect such levels of fandom from a Professor of Pediatrics at University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, such a love of garage rock from a Pediatric Nephrologist at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. But Memphis is a city of iconoclasts and mold-breakers. A regular at many of the area's hardest-rocking shows, Wyatt has given back to the rock 'n' roll community every year since 2012, literally on his very doorstep.

This year's show marks the return of Jack Oblivian, who played the inaugural performance six years ago. Keth Cooper, Frank McLallen, Graham Winchester, and Seth Moody, also known as the Sheiks, continue to serve as his dream band.

When the tradition started, as Wyatt notes, "the event was attended by over 100 neighbors and friends. Since then we have held at least one porch show a year featuring musicians and bands from our region. Over 250 folks of all ages attended the 2017 Snowglobe show."

Some  were documented and simulcast by the short-lived Rocket Science Audio project, taking the porch show to international audiences through the magic of the internet. 

This year also finds Wyatt on the cusp of an even deeper commitment to local rock, as he lays the groundwork for a new record label. "Black and Wyatt Records is me, Dennis Black and Mike McCarthy. Dennis is the Research Director at Le Bonheur - but he goes back to working at a radio station in Millington when he was younger - and keeps motel rooms booked in Tullahoma for Bonnaroo every year. One Monday about 10 years ago Dennis and I flew to San Francisco to see the New Pornographers at the Warfield." Mike McCarthy, of course, is the punk film auteur, community activist, sculptor, comic artist, and underground film auteur behind Guerrillamonster, the catch-all enterprise for his many ventures. He and Ronnie Harris have designed the T-shirts for this year's show, and he'll be involved in curating the Black & Wyatt roster. The trio are brimming with enthusiasm for their new venture, although, as Wyatt says, "I'm just not ready to give out hundreds of handbills this soon."

The Harbert Avenue Porch Show featuring Jack Oblivian is free; a donation to the band of $5 to $10 is suggested. Free beer and food in the driveway (while it lasts) including beer Memphis Made Brewing. The music starts at 6:00 PM. Eat at Eric's Food Truck will be on the street.
Sponsors - Memphis Made Brewing, Memphis Sports Academy, Goner Records, Utopia Animal Hospital and Dennis Black.
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