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Rest in Peace Clay Hardee
(image) Yesterday, the Memphis music community was dealt a stunning and heartbreaking blow when word that the beloved Clay Hardee had unexpectedly died in his sleep broke on social media. He was 35 years old.

Hardee, who was probably better known by some as his stage-name Clay Otis, was a budding filmmaker/screenwriter when he moved to Memphis in 2006. But after a few years kicking around town and going to shows (LOTS of shows), he decided to give rock ‘n’ roll a go himself. With a crew of supportive collaborators that would read like a who’s-who of local players behind him, Hardee created some of the freshest, most original, and most personal music Memphis has ever heard.

In only 5 years of activity, the wildly prolific Clay Otis project released at least as many albums, plus a few singles. Each time out, the mood and accompaniment was new, but Hardee’s exuberance and self-deprecating honesty and humor were always in the forefront, always inviting you in.

“Even though he wasn't born here, he was a true Memphis original and a true believer in the mystical power of this city to transform people,” says Toby Vest, a longtime friend, producer and bandmate of Hardee. “The music he leaves behind is a testament to that. He was a musical pied piper. He convinced so many of us to follow him down musical paths we might not have taken on our own by simple force of will and his unbridled enthusiasm for the talents of the people around him.”

As for me, I got to know Clay as a casual friend through hanging out at the old Hi-Tone, where we had a few good times together, but also as a journalist covering Memphis music. No one I have ever interviewed in this town has ever opened up so freely or given time so generously when it came time to promote an album.

He was a joy to talk to about music, art, and creativity, and had tremendous gratitude for even the tiniest blurb in the paper or on this blog. I will miss him, if only because I know that I’ll probably never get to write about him again after this. Rest in peace.   
Details on funeral services for Clay Hardee are not available at this time, but are expected to take place in Florida. 
Mac Miller

Mac Miller returns to Memphis this Friday night, bringing his Divine Feminine tour to Minglewood Hall. A native of Pittsburgh, Miller first gained mainstream attention with his 2011 album Blue Slide Park, an indie-tinged hip-hop record that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Miller swapped the independent label Rostrum Records for Warner Bros. following the album's success, and has since released Watching Movies with the Sound Off, GO:OD AM, and most recently The Divine Feminine — released last month.

The Divine Feminine doesn't stray from the quirky, R&B-influenced rap that Mac Miller has built an empire on, but the album does boast a bevy of some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Ty Dolla $ign, Kendrick Lamar, and Ariana Grande, the singer who Miller is reportedly in a relationship with, even though Grande has recently refuted that claim (awkward). So what's so special about a rapper who can proudly release a single simply titled "Dang" with a straight face? That's a question that his cult-like fan base will gladly answer for you. Miller has created a "relatable, nice-guy-next-door" vibe with his music, and his comparisons to Drake aren't entirely unfounded. He's also become a complete YouTube sensation and a verified star — perhaps through his close friendship with fellow Steel City stoner Wiz Khalifa. Between Minglewood Hall and the New Daisy Theater, Memphis has been getting a fair share of top-tier rap concerts, and Friday's gig should reflect the growing mainstream rap scene. Lakim and Clockwork DJ open.

The Cure's Lol Tolhurst Will Bring His Book Tour to Memphis
(image) Lol Tolhurst, drummer, keyboardist, and founding member of The Cure, will stop at The Booksellers at Laurelwood on December 11 to discuss his new memoir, Cured: The Tale Of Two Imaginary Boys.

Released last week, Cured details his friendship, fallout, and reconnection with frontman Robert Smith. Tolhurst explains how, after a long fought battle with alcoholism that pushed him out of the band, he achieved sobriety and found peace in his life. Fellow founding member Pearl Thompson created artwork for two versions of the book. 

Tolhurst will speak, answer questions from fans, and sign copies of his memoir. Tickets are $50.

Forever Now
(image) Tim Butler on the upcoming Psychedelic Furs show.

Stylistically unmistakable due to singer Richard Butler's gravelly but tuneful vocal style and the presence of saxophone throughout their discography of seven full-length albums, the Psychedelic Furs were one of the more successful and visible alternative/college-rock propositions to break in the states (like the Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Modern English) after having originally emerged from the U.K. post-punk movement. Moody classics like "Imitation of Christ" from the self-titled 1980 album and the menacing but timelessly catchy "Dumbwaiters" from their '81 follow-up, Talk Talk Talk, are now-definitive examples of how the band could straddle the fence separating post-punk and alt-pop ear candy, while they clearly excelled in the latter category with the whopper hook of "Love My Way" (from 1982's Todd Rundgren-produced Forever Now album).

The original version of "Pretty in Pink" that opened 1981's Talk Talk Talk album was brought to the attention of screenwriter John Hughes by his script muse (and Furs super-fan) Molly Ringwald. Hughes' brat-pack mega-hit of the same name is very loosely based on the track, and the rerecorded radio-friendly version of the song on the soundtrack rocketed the band beyond college-radio subculture and into the arena-sized mainstream for a spell. In 1991, after releasing seven full-lengths, the Psychedelic Furs went on hiatus until 2000, when founding brothers Richard and Tim Butler (bass) reunited the band (which has actually been based in the states since 1983). They've been touring a slightly different lineup of the band ever since. In preparation for the band's appearance at the New Daisy Saturday night, we spoke with Tim Butler about his band's origins, early days, second act, and saxophones.

The Memphis Flyer: You first broke out of the original U.K. post-punk scene at the turn of the '80s, but officially formed a bit earlier in 1977 when the first wave of punk was still happening ...

Tim Butler: It was sort of the end of punk rock ... I consider the end of punk when the Sex Pistols split up. Richard and I got the impetus and kick up the ass to do it from seeing the Pistols in '76 at this place called the Flat in London, and we were just blown away. It was right then that we decided we wanted to form a band.

I've read that the Stranglers were a big influence, too ...

No ... not really their music, but Jean-Jacques Burnel, their bass player, was a big influence on me personally with his bass sound and style. Our musical influences were more Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, some Stooges, and some Bowie, mixed with the energy and aggression of the Sex Pistols.

What influenced the inclusion of a saxophone? Would that be Roxy Music?

Actually, that wasn't on purpose or planned at all. We were jamming around at home with some of my other brother's friends, like Roger, our guitar player, and he had a friend, Duncan Kilburn, who happened to play saxophone. He just turned up one day to jam, and we liked the sound of it. We didn't purposely include a saxophonist for effect. It just sounded good, and there you are.

The saxophone seems to do much more than simply fill up a space in your overall sound in place of keyboards or synths, especially on your first two albums ...

The whole thing was that when we were starting out, we had two guitar players, a saxophone, plus me, and all of us were fighting to be heard. We didn't really know when to lay back, so it was like a wall of chaos. The reason we started to use keyboards at all was that when we were recording the second album, Talk Talk Talk, our saxophonist went out to a club, got into a fight, and someone broke his jaw. So because he obviously couldn't play sax, he just brought a keyboard into the studio and started playing parts. From there the use of the keyboard expanded.

As the producer for the subsequent album, 1982's Forever Now, did Todd Rundgren have an impact on that? What was it like working with him?

Not really. When we went over to record with Todd, we had all the demos of the songs and 90 percent of arrangements already written. Working with him was great. We wanted to move into using strings and had recorded with a cello player on the demos. We'd heard his album, Deface the Music, where he does covers of Beach Boys and Beatles songs and did all of the cello and string parts of the original songs himself. Plus, we were big fans of Todd's and thought he'd be a perfect producer for the album. And he was. It's my favorite of all our albums.

Any plans to record and release new material?

Yeah, we've been recording new material and hope to have it finished in time to release an album at some point next year. But we've been taking our time to make sure it's exactly what we want a new Psychedelic Furs album to be.

Weekend Roundup 84: Bonnie Raitt, African Jazz Ensemble, Allison Crutchfield
Good afternoon and welcome to the 84th edition of my Weekend Roundup. This Friday is STACKED with shows worth your time, from the antics of Ross Johnson at the Buccaneer to Bonnie Raitt at the Orpheum to Blues Traveler at Snowden Grove. Saturday and Sunday are a little less packed, but there are still shows definitely worth checking out.

Friday, October 21st.
Ross Johnson & Enemies, 6 p.m. at the Buccaneer, $5.
Blues Traveler, Blind Melon, G Love & Special Sauce, Soul Hat, 6 p.m. at Snowden Grove, prices vary.
Citizen, Nicole Dollanganger, Free At Last, Pillow Talk, 6 p.m. at the Hi-Tone, $10.

Mac Miler, 7 p.m. at Minglewood Hall, prices vary.
Bonnie Rait, 8 p.m. at the Orpheum, prices vary.

Martina McBride, 8 p.m. at Gold Strike Casino, prices vary.
Winchester and the Ammunition, 10 p.m. at Lafayette's Music Room.

Tyler Keith and the Apostles and Toy Trucks, 10 p.m. at the Buccaneer

Saturday, October 22nd.
Tech N9Ne, Marco Pave, Preauxx, 7 p.m. at the New Daisy, $25-30.
Faux Killas, Heavy Pull, Far Out Arrows, 9 p.m. at Murphy's.

Bauuer, 10 p.m. at the New Daisy, $10-$25.
Sunday, October 23rd.
African Jazz Ensemble, 3 p.m. at the Harbor Town Amphitheater 

Iron Gag, Vincas, Heavy Pull, Lesser Men, 9 p.m. at Rock House Live Midtown, $5.

Allison Crutchfield, 9 p.m. at Murphy's, $7.
Rest in Peace Sports Junction
(image) About two years ago or so I got a Facebook message from a local publicist who invited me to a “press night” for Sports Junction. I have to admit that I was intrigued mostly because I wanted to see what the new owners of the building- a place that was once a Karate Dojo that Elvis attended before becoming the iconic Hi-Tone music venue- had done to the place. But to be fair, given my role at the Flyer, an informal press release about a sports bar with hookahs and cigars doesn’t exactly scream “music feature.”

The first thing I noticed when I went into the Sports Junction was the first thing that probably every single person noticed when they walked into that place- the amount of HD TVs. I'm not positive, but I'd be willing to bet that there were more TVs than barstools in Sports Junction. The owner of Sports Junction assured me he'd be booking bands at the bar, but I don't think that ever came to fruition. 

At first the bar had $1.00 drafts all day every day- a pretty good deal if you ask me or anyone else who enjoys a cold beer in the middle, beginning, or end of the day. That stopped after awhile, which meant I stopped going there too, until a friend informed me of the Tuesday night special at Sports Junction.

Basically the Tuesday night special at Sports Junction featured $1.00 beers and half price wings from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., which meant you could go there after work, get a decent buzz, eat some wings, and leave with about $13.00 less than what you came in with. Add the fact that DJ Superman from HOT 107.1 would normally start BLASTING hip hop, funk, and soul at about 5 p.m., and you had a gold mine hidden in the shadow of Overton Square.

The Hi-Tone building has always been special to people, it’s special to me as well. It’s the first place many local musicians (myself included) performed on a real stage. Most will agree that the pizza there was amazing. But Sports Junction was also important to a lot of people, for perhaps a much more important reason.

The staff and the patrons of the Sports Junction were almost all African American, save for a few, including the small group of white friends that I would attend the bar with on Tuesday nights whenever I got the chance.The simple truth is that there was no bar like the Sports Junction in midtown. It featured a no-frills vibe that made everyone feel welcome, the food was good and affordable, and they practically gave beers away.

I have no reason to think that whatever the Sports Junction becomes next won’t be great. I’m sure it will be. Alchemy has done very well and I’m sure I’ll find myself in the new Sports Junction at some point or another. The point is - midtown needs a bar like the old Sports Junction. It served a purpose far greater than offering cheap beer and fancy TVs.  It was a place where Memphians of all kinds could come together and find a common ground over a sports game and some wings. Someone would be wise to continue that trend. Hiring DJ Superman for a weekly night would be a start.

Big Star Book Launch at the Brooks
(image) Tomorrow night (Thursday, October 20th), Big Star drummer Jody Stephens will be at the Brooks Museum to celebrate the launch of the Big Star's new book Isolated in the Light. Also on hand will be photographers Michael O’Brien, Maude Schuyler Clay and David Bell. 
The limited edition photography book features over 200 photographs that track the career of Big Star, and includes photographs from William Eggleston, Michael O’Brien, Maude Schuyler Clay, Carole Manning, David Bell, Stephanie Chernikowski, David Godlis, in addition to historic images from the vaults of Ardent Records.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m, at the Brooks Museum, and a book signing will take place.  If you can't make the launch party but are interested in the book, grab a copy here

Down By The River
(image) The African Jazz Ensemble play the Harbor Town Amphitheater this Sunday night

Now in its third year, the River Series at the Harbor Town Amphitheater behind the Maria Montessori School has quickly become one of the best places to see live music in Memphis. Featuring some of the best live bands the city has to offer (the Reigning Sound's original lineup, NOTS, Chickasaw Mound, etc.), River Series shows are fun for the whole family, drawing a diverse crowd made up of rock-and-roll enthusiasts of all ages.

This Sunday night, the African Jazz Ensemble will take the waterfront stage. Made up of members who have toured with Michael Jackson, Al Green, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, the Dells, Luther Allison, and Rufus Thomas, the African Jazz Ensemble originally played as the soul group the Exotic Movement before changing their name to Galaxy. The 10-piece band rarely performs live, and this is their only scheduled 2016 show. I caught up with River Series founder Zac Ives to find out more about the outdoor concert series.

Memphis Flyer: How did the River Series start?

Zac Ives: I was trying to figure out a way to do something to give back to the school. We'd done these school events in that location on campus at the amphitheater behind the school, but they were always private. There are Memphis musicians who have students who go there, and the shows were always awesome. It's one of the best places to see a show, but it had never been open to the public.

After we decided to start having public shows there, I went to the Downtown Music Commission to find some funding for it, and I got them to give me a starter fund to pay bands. Then I went to Wiseacre, who agreed to sponsor the series, and so did Miss Cordelia's. After that, I got with Robby [Grant] and came up with a handful of bands we wanted to see play. It's grown organically from that into what it is now. The cool thing about it is that's how shows started there in the first place. The teachers [at the Maria Montessori School] are parents first, and they wanted to teach their kids in a different way. I think the River Series is a reflection of that.

How do you decide who's going to play? The longer the series has gone on, it seems like the more diverse the shows have gotten. Would you agree with that?

I think when we initially started there were enough interesting bands that it was cool, and there was a fee that made people want to play it. I didn't want it to just be a Goner set up. It was important to have other people's input on the lineup too. I wanted it to be more diverse and push boundaries — find different bands that people don't usually get to see. It's fun to throw those things out there, because we can count on different people showing up each time. We're curating it interestingly enough so that people can always get something out of it. I know what I'm going to like, but I want to think about it in terms of "What's my mom going to want to come out and watch? What are my kids going to want to watch? What are the parents going to want to watch?"

One of my favorite things about the River Series is it seems like you're constantly trying to outdo the last show. Do you think that's true?

Yeah, it probably is. The idea of having the African Jazz Ensemble play actually came to us from another parent. The band rarely plays live, and the members have musical ties that go back to the early '70s. They were all in soul bands, but at some point they wanted to work on more African-influenced music. They play a little bit of everything — taking the soul and R&B that they played in huge bands and mixing it with the stuff that they do now in African Jazz Ensemble. They are basically this cosmic jazz, 10-piece band with all different kinds of instruments. They don't play very often. Their first show was at the Stax Museum, and this is the first time the band has played this year.

Weekend Roundup 83: The Psychedelic Furs, Mavis Staples, King Cotton Blues Festival
(image) Welcome to the 83 Edition of my Weekend Roundup. From the Levitt Shell to the Lamplighter, here is everywhere you need to be this weekend.

Friday, October 14th
Aofie O’Donovan and Willie Watson, 6 p.m. at Minglewood Hall, $20-$22.

Won’t Look Back Booking’s 5 Year Anniversary, 6:30 p.m. at the Hi-Tone, $5.

Jam Messengers and Chicken Snake, 9 p.m. at Murphy’s, $5.
CATL, 10:30 p.m. at Bar DKDC, $7.
Couteux Latex, Synth Mode, 10 p.m. at the Lampligher, $5.

Saturday, October 15th
Dan Montgomery, The Klitz, Dixy Blood, 4 p.m. at Murphy’s, $5.
The Psychedelic Furs, 6:30 p.m. at the New Daisy, $20-$25.
Ben Rector, Jacob Whitesides, 7 p.m. at Minglewod Hall, $29.00

Mavis Staples, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, 7 p.m. at the Levitt Shell, ticketed event.
The Woodland Witch, 7 p.m. at Minglewood Hall, $15-$20.

Country Throwdown, 6:30 p.m. at the Hi-Tone, $10.

Sunday, October 16th
Pro Teens, Neev, Raquets, Wingsmith, 9 p.m. at the Hi-Tone, $5.

Marc Cohn, 8 p.m. at the Buckman Arts Center, prices vary.
King Cotton Beans and Bluegrass Festival, 11 a.m. at the Landers Center, $10.

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