Recently, another blogger (Kat, is it OK to link to you? thought I’d ask before doing it) commented that she needs to find stuff to do other than hang out on Beale Street when she comes downtown. She said she scans my blog for ideas and refers to me as a Memphis Social Master. Whoa… that’s quite a reputation to live up to, but I’ll give it a shot. In this entry I will talk about stuff that goes on downtown that often flies under people’s radar. Some of this stuff I’ve been to, some I haven’t, but it’s all going on.
Halfacre Gunroom at Earnestine & Hazel’s, Wednesday nights
This band has been described to me as a combination of rockabilly and punk rock. I stumbled in E&H one time on a Wednesday and ended up seeing them quite by accident. I thought they were all right (found out later that only half the members of the band were there that night) but I have several friends who just love them. My advice? Give ’em a try and decide for yourself. If nothing else, you can get a Soul Burger while you’re there. On the downside, Nate’s upstairs bar isn’t open during the week.
Nancy Apple’s Pickin’ Party at Kudzu’s, Thursday nights
Normally I’m not a big fan of country music but Nancy Apple is cool, and Kudzu’s is sort of her home base. As I understand it this is a night when people can bring their instruments and get up on stage and jam with her. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been to Kudzu’s, even though it’s less than a mile from where I live. It’s a neighborhood bar, but its neighbors are a bread factory and whatever the current incarnation of Six-1-Six is. I understand it draws a loyal regular crowd though. I’ve been meaning to check this place out for too long.
Dr. William “Bill” Hurd at the Best Western Hotel on Union, Thursday nights
I mention this one out of sheer novelty. Never been. I can’t imagine the Best Western as an entertainment venue, and for that reason alone, I’m curious.
The Speakeasy at Jack Robinson Gallery, Thursday nights
One of the most diverse offerings in the entire city, any night of the week. Go there on Thursdays and you’ll find rock music, neo-soul, folk music, spoken-word poetry, comedy, performance art, you name it in a very chilled out atmosphere. They tend to have several performers in one night. I’m sorry to say I haven’t made it to this one yet either; I need to go soon.
Di Anne Price at Cielo, Fridays-Saturdays
Chill out to some jazz with a sense of humor in one of the most beautiful venues in the city. If you’ve never been to Cielo, you need to go just to see the place (it’s on Adams Avenue in a 19th-century Victorian mansion). Great place to take a date for dinner. Bring money; this place ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it. By far my favorite of Karen’s restaurants.
The Prime Cut Band at Marmalade Restaurant and Lounge, Fridays
I’ve always been curious about the Marmalade, a lounge on G.E. Patterson just far enough down the street to be off the beaten track. Few of my friends have ever been in, and I’m wondering if it’s a treasure waiting to be discovered, kind of like Raiford’s and Wild Bill’s were 10 years ago. One of these days I need to give it a try. On the downside: Cover is $10, according to a flyer I was handed at a recent Trolley Art Tour.
Pam & Terry at Sleep Out Louie’s, Saturdays
This one is well-known to most downtowners, but I mention it for the benefit of people from other parts of the city. As much time as I spend at Sunday brunch at Sleep Out’s, I’ve only been there on a Saturday night twice. There’s a very simple reason for this. When I go out on the weekend, I tend to walk out of my apartment and down Main Street to Union, where I turn left, because that’s the path to all the action (Big Foot, Peabody Place, the Saucer, Beale). It never occurs to me to turn right and check out Sleep Out’s. But having said that, Pam & Terry is a damn fine band, and the place is often packed with my neighbors from Number 10 Main and even some of the Sunday brunch drinking crew.
All right… I also have a few that perform on Beale… these are well-known to downtowners, and have been mentioned in my blog before, but again, for the benefit of readers from other parts of the city I’m going to mention them anyway.
Barbara Blue at Silky’s, Wednesdays-Saturdays and on Sundays except in winter
Best blues singer in the city, hands down. A voice like you would not believe. You gotta hear her for yourself. If you make requests, remember that it’s “please” or money. She’s usually on in the early evenings, something like 5 to 8 or 6 to 9. They have good Hurricanes here and are not as expensive as Pat O’s. Order a Diver ($18) and you better plan on taking a cab home.
Richard Johnston, on the sidewalk usually somewhere near the New Daisy, weekend nights when it’s warm
Just look for a guy in overalls playing a double-necked combination guitar/bass made out of a cigar box (it’s called a diddley bow). He also sings, and plays drums with his feet, so he’s a one-man band. If you live in Memphis you gotta see this guy perform at least once. He has this song called “Shelby County Courthouse” about his experience getting arrested that is just hilarious. “Shelby County Courthouse… the whole goddamn building can kiss my ass!” As you can tell, he’s not shy about using colorful language. He also hates record companies. If you’re really lucky, some of the local bums will be dancing to the beat, which can be every bit as entertaining as Richard himself. I normally am not a big fan of the bums, but sometimes I’ll break down and buy them a beer to applaud their dance moves.
FreeWorld at Blues City Cafe, Sundays
FreeWorld performs at a lot of venues around town, but seeing them at Blues City is something special. It’s their home base, has been for many years (even before the place was Blues City) and they’re comfortable there. It’s also a very comfortable vibe, a lot of service-industry workers showing up to unwind at the end of a hard week. You’re not a true downtowner until you’ve been to this at least once. The band doesn’t come on until 10:30 PM. Stop yer bitching about Monday being a workday; just take a nap early in the evening and show up. It’s worth it.
… and that’s my list for now. If you know anything about these places that I don’t, let me know and I’ll edit this post and add to it. Or if you can think of anything I missed, let me know that too. And now, it’s the weekend, which means it’s time to go pickle my brain and my liver. See you later…