More Stories
Listen Up: Wine Witch

David Shull got serious about guitar after someone heard him play and said, “David sucks.”

He was in the eighth grade at the time.

“I swear to God that has been a driving force,” says Shull. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to suck.’”

About the same time he was told he sucks at guitar, Shull discovered Wolfmother. “Everything I’d been listening to before that just seemed really contrived. I had never heard anything like that. It was kind of Led Zeppelin-y. It was like old school rock, but with this new feel and this power behind it. You know. Just driving. You want to bang your head to it.”

Shull, 26, now is guitar/vocalist with drummer Wes Brown, 21, in Wine Witch.

Brown says he was “always that annoying kid that wanted to play music.”

He chose drums as his instrument. “I had that energy and those rhythms in my head.”

Slipknot, Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down were among Brown’s favorite bands.

He dated Shull’s sister for a time, but he didn’t know Shull. “The first time I met him I was scared,” he says. “She warned me. She said, ‘He might have to feel you out a little but don’t worry if he’s a dick.’”

“I kind of was known for being a fucking protective brother,” Shull says.

Brown was nervous when he knew he had to meet Shull one night at LBOE. “I knew I was going to have to come meet my new girlfriend’s scary older brother who I’d heard all the horror stories about. Like if I say one wrong thing I might get a quick uppercut to the jaw.”

So, Brown just “played it cool.”

“We were cool,” Shull says.

Brown was surprised when Shull called him to jam after he stopped dating his sister. “I thought I did so horrible because I hadn’t really been playing as much as I needed to and I hadn’t been playing with other people,” Brown says. “I had like half of my drum kit and I was just trying to make something happen. I didn’t think it went well at all. I thought, ‘He’s never going to hit me up again. I blew it.’”

“I knew he was good,” Shull says.

Shull was in another band when he approached Brown about starting another project. “I was like, ‘Yo, man. Why don’t we do something on the side? I’ve got all this music that we’re not going to use and I want to play it. It can be a little heavier. Something’s that going to be just fucking fun to do.’”

Brown liked Shull’s music. “Just the driving force of it,” he says. “I’m always more into hard hitting, rhythmic stuff. I like melodies that are good. He can write a really damn catchy melody and hook. He just writes good songs. I’ve known people who could listen to a Jimi Hendrix song or just an insanely difficult song to play and and play it note for note. But they can’t write their own music. He’s always writing. Always coming up with stuff. Just stuff that is genuinely catchy. My parents like it. That’s catchy.”

“My biggest influences are like Queens of the Stone Age and all of Josh Homme’s project,” Shull says. “Because he falls in this place where it’s driving. It’s heavy. It’s not your regular rock. It’s something between metal and rock. Something that falls and sinks.”

Shull and Brown played their first show as “Amberlamps.”

Brown wasn’t a fan of that name. “I thought it was too memey,” he says.

“The first thing you learn about a two piece band is there’s a lot of empty space,” Shull says. “And every mistake you make is amplified a thousand fold because there’s only two dudes to look at. So, if you fuck up, they’re going to know it.”

Their first show together also was the first show Brown ever played. “Ever played ever,” he says. ‘So, I had the first show jitters bad.”

Shull came up with the idea of the two of them covering their faces that night to conceal their identities. “I was like, ‘It’ll be cool, man. I’ll wear this bandana on my face.”

“You were supposed to wear a ski mask,” Brown says. “I was like, ‘Get a ski mask, dude. Wear a ski mask. It’ll be cool, man.’”

“I did not wear a ski mask,” Shull says.

“He brought a ski mask the day of,” Brown says. “It had this little bill on it. And I was like, ‘That doesn’t look intimidating!’”

“It didn’t look as intimidating as I wanted,” Shull says.

“It looks like you got back from the mountains,” Brown says.

“Like I’ve been skiing,” Shull says. “I was going for more like robbing a bank kind of vibe. We missed the mark on that, really.”

“But he - like halfway through the first song - got too hot and just ripped that shit off his face anyway,” Brown says.

“I couldn’t breath behind it,” Shull says.

“You couldn’t sing,” Brown says.

And their music? “Everyone said it was alright,” Shull says. “A big struggle for us has been gear. I’ve borrowed amps. I’ve used shitty amps. I’ve had amps go out on me. I just got a new bass amp."

“Well, after that first show I pretty much was like, ‘I don’t like the name ‘Amberlamps.’ Fuck that,’” Brown says.

As Wine Witch, they began opening up for a lot of bands passing through town on the way to perform at South by Southwest. “They’re looking on Facebook like, ‘Who can play these last minute shows,’” Shull says. “So, I just started jumping on them. I think we played three in a week that month.”

“And we learned a lot at every show,” Brown says.

They’ve been developing a following. A boost was when a couple from Richmond, Va. passed through Memphis on their honeymoon. They Googled to find out what bands were playing that night, found Wine Witch and listened to one of its videos on YouTube.

“We didn’t even know there was a video on YouTube,” Shull says.

“They came to see us and they were so stoked on it,” Brown says. “Just to know that those two people were so stoked on it.”

“It’s been little things like that,’ Shull says.

Wine Witch, which plays about three shows a month, recently played its first out-of-town show at Santos in New Orleans. They’d like to play out of town shows at least once a month.

They’ve also thought about adding a third member to the band. “I’d be able to do more on the guitar,” Shull says. “Instead of being the driving melody with guitar I could actually do a little bit more filling in. Lead stuff. And see how it goes.”

“We toyed with the idea of maybe doing a revolving door thing and jamming with one person one week on keys and background vocals and playing a show with them,” Brown says.

There is one advantage to being a two-person band, Shull said. The money. “You only have to split it with between two people. Fifty bucks between four guys is like, ‘Oh, cool. Gas money.’ But with two guys it’s like, ‘Hey, now. We’re going out tonight.’”

Wine Witch will play with Pink Suede and Geist at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 at 1884 Lounge at Minglewood Hall at 1555 Madison Avenue. Admission: $10.

Wine Witch also will play with Regulus and Late Night Cardigan at 8 p.m. Sept. 10 at Sounds Good Memphis, 831 Cooper. Admission: $6.

September Brings Cool Outdoor Music Galore
(image) On good nights, the cool air of autumn is already whistling in. And other tones are floating in the air as well, with the fall outdoor concert season, already underway, really hitting its stride this weekend. Not only do we still have the Delta Fair & Music Festival, this weekend will see the launch of the fall season's River Series at the Harbor Town Amphitheater and the Levitt Shell Orion Free Music Concert Series.

Of course, it all pales before tonight and tomorrow's International Goat Days in Millington. There will be a classic "battle of the bands" and other live music, along with other family fair goats! Meanwhile, if you really want to see dancing in the streets, check out the Orange Mound Parade, this Saturday morning at 8:00, where marching bands give it their all  from Melrose High School to the Lamar-Airways Shopping Center. It's the grandest preamble that the Southern Heritage Classic could hope for. 
Other fairs and parades ensue through the month, culminating in the 15th Annual Memphis Pride Fest, sure to bring a host of bands out to Tom Lee Park. For even more music with that street carnival flair, check out the diverse lineup of the Mid South Fair, September 20-30, now held at Landers Center in Southaven.
This year's fair boasts a special celebration of Latino music, presented by Radio Ambiente, with six bands playing from noon til 10:00. And let's not forget Memphis legends 8 Ball and MJG. That show, like most others, comes free with your fair admission.  

Meanwhile, back to the present, the weekend is exploding with sit-down outdoor shows. Not long ago, we gave you a rundown of the full fall lineup at the queen of outdoor venues, the Levitt Shell. If you missed last night's Devon Gilfillian, there's still time to plan on this weekend's especially international sounds, with Havana's Orquesta Akokán tonight and the Afro-pop/reggae/soul blend of Meta and the Cornerstones tomorrow. Reba Russell closes down the weekend on Sunday.

Earlier that day, there's even more music, including a special pop-up sunset jazz event at Court Square with the Bill Hurd Jazz Ensemble. Meanwhile, the River Series at the Harbor Town Amphitheater, aside from being smartly curated, also boasts one of the most beautiful vistas of any outdoor music experience. Perched on the steps of an amphitheater in the style of Ancient Greece, you gaze on shores of the city and the hyper-reality of our gigantic metallic pyramid.

Both of the artists jump-starting the River Series season on Sunday, Harlan T. Bobo and Paul Taylor, evoke the city very specifically in their music. Bobo, who recently captivated an audience at the Memphis Music Mansion, might even sing his instant classic, "Must Be in Memphis," as the city floats out in the night; and Taylor may treat audiences to his new, and very groovy, Old Forest Loop music. The River series then continues with Cameron Bethany & Kid Maestro on September 23, and Teardrop City and the Limes on October 14.

Elsewhere around the city, the Live at the Garden series continues tonight, with the big, rich tones of Big & Rich echoing through the sublime environs of the Memphis Botanic Garden. Although that show will mark the end of the summer series, look for CMT Music Award winners Dan + Shay with special guest Michael Ray at the end of the month.

Of course, Midtowners are already readying for next weekend's Cooper-Young Festival, and the event's three stages will feature some choice performers. Highlights on the main stage include FreeWorld with the legendary Dr. Herman Green, followed by Fuzzie Jefferies. The other stages are great ways to check out the many and diverse sounds coming out of Memphis these days, from Laramie to the Switchblade Kid to the current
kings of Memphis hardcore, Negro Terror.

And finally, we can't forget Gonerfest 15. While much of the music will happen in clubs around town, the festival does offer some choice opportunities for open air listening. Indeed, it's bookended with performances at the Cooper-Young Gazebo, with D.M. Bob on Thursday, Sept. 27, and R.L. Boyce on Sunday, September 30. And, as usual, both the Murphy's Bar interior and patio will be hopping with far out sounds all afternoon on September 29, culminating with a show by Robyn Hitchcock.

Fast on the heels of Gonerfest, of course, we'll wake up and it'll be October. Check the Flyer that weekfor a special report on the Mempho Music Festival, which will play host to the likes of Beck, Post Malone, Phoenix, Nas, and Janelle Monáe. But heck, that's a whole month away. For now, dust off your camping chairs, pack your coolers, break out the bug spray, and get ready. The nights grow cool and the musical creatures are coming out to play.
Star & Micey Celebrate 10 Years

The members of Memphis folk-pop band Star & Micey radiate a solidarity that calls to mind a Southern Fab Four-era Beatles, an impression that was driven home for me when I met Josh Cosby and Nick Redmond, the main songwriting duo, for coffee. The two look like an odd couple, the scholar and the handyman, but they field interview questions like an Olympic volleyball team. Cosby sets up a joke, and Redmond spikes it, or vice versa, again and again, putting proof to the fact that the two have spent a decade leaning on and learning from each other on stages and in the studio.

All that hard work pays off, as this month, Star & Micey celebrate 10 years as a band, a mile marker few groups ever reach. The festivities kicked off two weeks ago with an anniversary show at Railgarten, and continue this weekend at the Levitt Shell with a long-awaited co-headlining concert with Memphis indie-pop heavyweights Snowglobe.

"Jeff Hulett from Snowglobe is my neighbor," Cosby says. "We've been throwing it around: 'When are Snowglobe and Star & Micey going to play together?'"

The 10-year mark represents an unusual time in the life of Star & Micey. Having recently amiably ended a near-decade-long contract with Ardent, the band is in uncharted territory. Cosby and Redmond seem happy, open to the possibility of a new direction and pleased with a summer bookended by a spot on the Beale Street Music Fest lineup and a hometown blowout show at the Shell. But after six-and-a-half years of near-constant touring and almost a full decade with the same label, the band is taking stock. "For the first time in 10 years," Redmond says, "we're 100 percent free agents — and with a stack of material."

But let's back up. Redmond was already working at the famed Ardent Studios when Cosby and bassist Geoff Smith welcomed him into the band, so it was natural that they wound up at the Memphis label when the time came to sign a deal.

Star & Micey toured, released an EP and a full-length with Ardent, learned to play drums with their feet, toured some more, and added a drummer, Jeremy Stanfill. Their shows became more extravagant. "It was crazy. There was confetti; there were back flips," Cosby says. They released a third record, Get 'Em Next Time, in collaboration with Ardent and Thirty Tigers (who handled distribution), made a few laps around the U.S. and Canada, and went back to stomping their feet for a while. "In the meantime, we had recorded five records that just sat on the shelf," Redmond says.

"Contractually, we had to stay," Redmond says of the label entanglements that left them tied to the studio but unable to release their newest recordings. And after the deaths in 2014 of Ardent founder John Fry and John Hampton, one of the studio's chief producers, there was no one to let the band go. "I don't think there's blame," Redmond says. "We got lost in the cracks."

Meanwhile, over at Thirty Tigers, the death of vice president and co-founder Bob Goldstone sent the company into a period of drastic change. Star & Micey was locked into a deal with Ardent with no one to handle distribution. Eventually, after years in a sort of limbo, the contract was dissolved.

Now it's back to the band's origins. "I jumped in the van, and we took off — for 10 years," Redmond laughs. Those first tours built the band's chops and taught them how to depend on each other, how to survive long days in a van, and how to roll with the punches.

"If something happens, we'll all show up," Redmond says, demonstrating the Get 'Em Next Time ethos that so defines the band. "We've all decided, all four of us, this isn't over," Cosby says, putting words to a feeling that permeated the conversation from start to finish. Never for a moment did I doubt that, even after 10 years, Star & Micey have a lot more to give.

Star & Micey and Snowglobe play the Levitt Shell, Friday, September 14th, 7 p.m. Free.

Memphis Music Hall of Fame Announces 2018 Inductees
(image) The Memphis Music Hall of Fame just announced this year's inductees, who officially enter the ranks of honorees at the induction ceremony this November. The Hall of Fame, a nonprofit set up in 2012 and administered by the  Memphis Rock N' Soul Museum, now celebrates the works of over seventy artists or groups, and shows no signs of lacking local talent for future recognition.

This year's inductees are, as usual, giants in their respective genres. We pay tribute to them here with clips of them working their magic onstage. Towering over them all is the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who died just last month. She will be paid a special tribute in November's ceremony, as the Hall of Fame honors a legend who called Memphis her birthplace.

Another soul giant, Eddie Floyd, will also be inducted this year. The writer and hit performer behind "Knock on Wood" and many other Stax hits, Floyd's songs were interpreted by nearly every Stax artist. Naturally, not a year has gone by without at least one artist from the label being inducted.

O'Landa Draper
, the Grammy Award-winning gospel singer and director of the Associates Choir, was considered one of the top gospel artists of the 1990s. He too will join the ranks of honorees this year. Though not born in Memphis, Draper moved to Memphis at the age of 13 and attended Overton High School and the University of Memphis.

At today's announcement event, there was some light-hearted discussion of whether Draper could be honored in the same program as fellow 2018 inductees, 8 Ball & MJG. They will be, we were assured, but the musical numbers won't be juxtaposed. The rap duo are on a roll lately, ramping up their live appearances and continuing to drop new albums. (See our recent profile of them below).

In keeping with the Hall of Fame's tradition of inducting groups as well as solo artists, the Box Tops were also added this year. With Big Star having been inducted in 2014, this makes for two groups associated with Alex Chilton getting the nod. Could he be recognized as a solo artist in his own right one day? In any case, the announcement also named checked original members Danny Smythe, Bill Cunningham, and Gary Talley, as well as 1968 additions Rick Allen and Thomas Boggs. The fabulous guitar in this video clip was not mentioned by name.

Another group, arguably far more groundbreaking than the Box Tops, was also recognized: The Rock and Roll Trio, responsible for the groundbreaking "Train Kept A-Rollin'" and other rockabilly masterpieces. Driven by the savvy guitar attack of Paul Burlison, brothers and Memphis natives Dorsey and Johnny Burnette took the world by storm, once upon a time. Here they are from 1956.

And finally, another legend from the first days of Elvis, who most certainly has not left the building, is George Klein, the pioneering DJ and rock 'n' roll television host who was critical to giving regional bands exposure via his programming. He was also an early friend to the King, and had the honor of inducting Elvis into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He'll be honored with the other performers above (for he, in his own way, was an artist as well) at the induction ceremony, scheduled for November 1st at the Cannon Center. Here's George sharing a strange moment with the great Sam Phillips.
Repercussions: Aftermath of Continuum Festival Continues To Inspire
(image) Like the audience, performers from the recent Continuum Music Festival at Crosstown Arts are still reeling from the power of the music they brought to life, and the promise of partnerships they were a part of. Not since the Memphis Symphony Orchestra's legendary Opus One series, which featured MSO members backing rock bands, singer-songwriters, and rappers alike, has genre-hopping occurred on such a scale in the Bluff City.

Many of the festival's performing artists are remarking on its game-changing nature. "Continuum was a beautiful platform to explore the boundaries of sound," says Siphne Aaye of the duo Artistik Approach.

"I did some things I’ve never done before in my life and pushed my performance into a realm of cerebral art that was just as exhilarating as It was challenging," commented rising producer IMAKEMADBEATS of the Unapologetic collective.

And Brandon Quarles of Chicago's ~Nois Saxophone Quartet enthused that "The Continuum Music Festival was adventurously curated and offered intriguing and engaging events to audiences from all walks of life. Incredible things are happening in Memphis and Crosstown Arts is leading the charge with its one-of-a-kind facility and creative vision."

Here we present indelible images by Jamie Harmon and Ben Rednour, capturing those two charmed evenings in the former Sears Tower, which was reverberating with many a novel vibration. Thanks to the tribute to avant garde composer John Cage, the sounds were on the unique side. Unless the Sears potted plant department once hosted an impromptu chamber concert, it was surely the first time cacti were listened to so intently; and though one can imagine multiple radios blaring in Electronics, Aisle 4, way back when, they surely were never coordinated as dynamically as when one ad hoc group performed Cage's "Imaginary Landscape No. 4 for 12 Radios."

Co-organizer Jenny Davis was especially delighted at the reception Cage's music received."Cage is regarded as one of the most influential of 20th century composers, especially in regards to experimental music, but also in the realms of dance, visual art, and poetry," she says. "Though Continuum is a primarily a music festival, it also features collaborations between different artist disciplines and musical genres, so Cage seemed like a perfect composer to showcase. His philosophy that sounds of all kinds have value simply as they are is a welcome reminder to us all to be more open to our experiences, to put our preferences and biases aside, and consider the world around us with a new perspective."

If you missed it, flip through these intriguing photos and imagine what was, and what might be in years to come.

More posts are loading...