Friday, December 31, 2010

A Memphian dreams of Buffalo on New Year's Eve

It's New Year's Eve, so what's on my mind?

Well, this Miami-Notre Dame game (I was a Hurricanes fan as a kid), this pint of Ghost River Golden (I love beer), the exhaustion in my legs (I ran nine miles today), the approaching thunderstorm (I sometimes obsess about the weather), an upcoming day trip to Nashville to celebrate my 34th birthday and the potential of an exciting trip this summer to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York State and possibly Ontario.

Really, that last one is what has me most excited. We plan on visiting family in Columbus, Ohio, this summer and talked about a day trip to Cleveland to experience my biggest travel regret so far: not visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I got to thinking last night, though, about attempting to extend the trip to other areas: the UP of Michigan, maybe Detroit, the Finger Lakes region of New York, Niagra Falls and Buffalo, the wineries of Ontario, maybe even Toronto.

My mind is literally like a wheel chugging along at 100 miles per hour as I think about all those possibilities. I LOVE to travel, and possibly even more so, love to think about and plan those trips. I'm excited about the idea of visiting new places.

So as I watch bowl games before going to friends' to enjoy dinner tonight, the potential of this new trip has me most excited as I think about the new year. I'll keep you posted.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

MSO Pops rings in Christmas season with 'Home for the Holidays'

I had my first experience with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra's "Home for the Holidays" Pops concert on Saturday. It was also my first MSO performance to attend with new conductor Mei-Ann Chen in charge.

Let me just say she's great. I won't pretend to be able to rate her performance as a conductor compared to other conductors. But I found her to be charming and fun. Yes, I said fun. I thought she was having a blast on stage while leading the MSO in several Christmas songs, from the traditional to some modern twists based on a couple of seasonal movies to a few sing-along songs. She even mixed in a Chanuka Suite.

Soloist Ashley Brown, who apparently originated the title role in "Mary Poppins" on Broadway, was enjoyable to listen to. I would gladly watch her in a Broadway show.

I look forward to attending again next year and maybe even bringing along our son, who will be 5 then. He's really starting to enjoy everything related to the Christmas season. And there were a number of kids in attendance.

I'm usually too stressed at the beginning of December planning for parties and the like so it was really great to start the Christmas season with a relaxing night of holiday music.

Here's a link to a survey I just received from MSO. I encourage you to take it if you attended on Saturday.

Friday, December 3, 2010

'Dreamgirls' reveals brilliance of stage performers

I so wanted to blog about "Dreamgirls," which closed at The Orpheum yesterday, at some point last week so those of you out there maybe would be swayed to go see it. But since it is now closed you'll just have to trust me when I say the performance was brilliant.

One thing I've learned recently with some solid shows at The Orpheum is that it doesn't matter if you've seen a show before, have seen the movie version of a production or even hated a previous performance. Don't let those past experiences have an impact on your decision to see a show.

"Dreamgirls" was tremendous. I really didn't remember that much about the movie to be able to make a smart comparison. But one idea I previously had floating around in my head about traveling Broadway productions is that they're not as strong. I mean, you normally see the big-name actors playing on Broadway or in London's West End. So that must mean the traveling show is much like a minor league system of actors, right?

Dead wrong. This fall's lineup of "Wicked," "9 to 5" and now "Dreamgirls" at The Orpheum showed that these traveling professionals are exactly that: pros. I was blown away last week. There were some tremendous voices on display.

Now I must admit that I'm not really looking forward to the idea of "Shrek: The Musical" coming to The Orpheum next month, but I might be willing to give it a try knowing that someone is sure to steal the show.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas in Memphis

Christmas is one of those times of year that while we tend to be much busier with all the parties and events going on, it's also one of those times that it feels right to be busy. And one of the things we tend to make ourselves busier with is arts, from special concerts to season-themed ballet and theater performances.

The Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau has posted a great events guide here. There's some great things on there, including a couple that begin Friday: The annual Christmas lighting ceremony at Graceland and SunTrust Zoo Lights.

I've never experienced Zoo Lightsbut I have been a part of Graceland at Christmas. I worked there during college and also later visited for an evening tour to see the lights. Elvis was always known for his great light display and through the years it's only gotten bigger and better. I definitely encourage you to take your out-of-town guests by Graceland to see the lights.

There will be several other highlights this season, but one I'm looking forward to that will help set the season's mood will be the Memphis Symphony Orchestra's "Home for the Holiday's" concert on Saturday Dec. 4. We have Pops season tickets and this is the only show that new conductor Mei-Ann Chen will be conducting as part of that series.

And a quick shout out to my friends at ArtsMemphis who put together a book that might make an interesting Christmas present for any outdoor or cooking enthusiasts on your shopping list. "Wild Abundance - A Cookbook Anthology" is a 280-page, full-color book filled with photographs, stories and recipes.

I'm sure I'll have many more ideas, thoughts and random ramblings as we get closer to Christmas, but I just had to make this post after seeing the CVB's post on Twitter this morning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creating a better arts community in Memphis

Tonight will be an important gathering of some of the players in the Memphis arts scene.

An Artists Only Happy Hour will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Playhouse on the Square. I'm sure it will be a good social event bringing together members of the city's diverse arts community.

But the main purpose of this gathering is to complete a survey. ArtSpace, a national organization that works to create affordable live/work space for artists in cities across the country, is conducting a survey of those in the arts community to learn more about their needs.

I just took the survey. It's hard to say if I'm really an artist. I had the discussion yesterday with a colleague if being a journalist is an artist. He thinks it's more a trade. I agree with him, I think. But considering my role as editor of a business paper in Memphis that promotes the arts (not to mention this blog and just my overall appreciation of the city's arts) I felt it OK to complete the survey.

I encourage anyone with a connection to the local arts scene to do the same.

I could tell you what this survey aims to do but I think the story Stacey wrote in The Daily News today does a much better job than I could ever pretend to do. Kerry Hayes, special assistant to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., also does a good job of summing up the objectives:

“It gives ArtSpace the data they need to figure out the scope of the project. In the mayor’s office, it gives us a chance to see what artists and members of the creative class need to stay here – what we can do from a policy level to keep them from moving to Atlanta or Austin or another area.”

Sounds good to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

'9 to 5:' Broadway Comes to Beale Street

We recently enjoyed a night out at The Orpheum watching "9 to 5." I must admit that we weren't planning to attend but a last-minute opportunity presented itself and we couldn't refuse.

After we recently had Orpheum season tickets and attended "Wicked" last week, you might be wondering why we weren't planning to see "9 to 5" in Memphis. Well, we saw it last year on Broadway. It wasvery entertaining then and I assumed the touring version would not live up.

While I still think the Broadway version was better (I mean, Allison Janney as Violet was seriously brilliant on Broadway), the performance in Memphis is very entertaining. The actors were all different, but shined in their own ways.

Dee Hoty plays Violet Newstead

If I would have been sitting higher and unable to see her face, I would have thought Dee Hoty as Violet was Janney. Hoty was Janney's equal. Diana DeGarmo, the former "American Idol" runner-up, was solid in the Dolly Parton role.

There were distinct differences: the props used on Broadway were more realistic being the main one. The bookshelf in Franklin Hart's office, for example, was fake. On Broadway, at least if my memory is correct, there was a real shelf. Small differences, but differences all the same.

What this performance did for me was help me realize that just because I've seen a show on Broadway or even in Memphis before that the latest offering features different cast members and more than likely a different experience.

I've unfortunately had a negative second experience. Five years ago in London we saw "Chicago" and it was brilliant. It helped that I was a little star struck watching Brooke Shields. I don't recall who played the Mama character but she was awesome.

Fast forward to this past summer with "Chicago" at The Orpheum. I was a bit bored this time around. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the "Chicago" story doesn't interest me nearly as much as "9 to 5." I mean, "9 to 5" would be hysterical I'd have to think even with a poor cast.

But I just didn't get into "Chicago" this time around. And wasn't feeling Mama at all.

Lesson in all this? I won't turn down an opportunity to see a show I've already seen. And you should probably catch "9 to 5" at The Orpheum this weekend.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

MSO Pops and RiverArtsFest make for typical fall weekend

It's been a busy weekend for me in the man and the arts areas.

The little boy in me had the time of my life Friday night watching my Texas Rangers advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. It was one of the greatest sports moments in my life.

So to say I started my weekend off on a good note would be an understatement. But that was Friday and I had a couple of arts things to do during the remainder of the weekend.

Saturday night was my first time to see the Memphis Symphony Orchestra -- or any orchestra, really -- in person. We have Pops season tickets and Saturday was the first show. It was a 1970s theme evening and featured three female soloists and an a Capella men's group. So it wasn't just the symphony playing, although I found that my favorite moments of the night came when there was no singing.

We're pretty sure the little girl sitting next to us, who seemed to be enjoying herself, had no clue any of the songs. I've gotta be honest: the show was a lot of fun. Would I be saying the same thing if the performance was a traditional masterwork? I have no idea, but I think a Pops show makes a great intro. to symphony music.

Sunday saw us head downtown for the RiverArtsFest. We weren't able to stay long because the rain hit in a pretty big way about an hour after we arrived. But that's probably a good thing since my wife made a few purchases. I can't really complain about the pieces; they are paintings of musical instruments done by a Texas artist. The paintings will be hanging in my 4-year-old son's bedroom soon.

A note on the art-buying experience: Like my wife said, it's always great to buy art from an artist you've actually talked to. The Austin, Texas-based artist and his wife were they ones who sold us the pieces and I know my wife had a long conversation with them while I chased our son around in the rain.

What will the next week or two bring? I have a feeling it will be much more man than it will be art since the World Series starts Friday. But this was a great October weekend and just one more example of how fun Memphis can be in the fall.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hey, hey it's baseball time

When I started this blog back in the late summer I was looking forward to a great fall of arts events in Memphis: South Main Art Trolley Tours, "Wicked" at The Orpheum, a new season of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Art on Tap, RiverArtsFest and too many other great events to attend.

Yes, I'll be attending many of those. This Saturday I'll be attending the opening performance of the MSO's Pops season. I hope to make it to at least one screening at this weekend's Indie Memphis film festival and also make my way down to South Main for RiverArtsFest.

But a funny thing happened on the way to October. My favorite baseball team, the Texas Rangers, decided to dominate their division, qualify for the playoffs and, so far, dominate this postseason. I just watched them dominate the New York Yankees 10-3 for a 3-1 American League Championship Series lead, one win from the franchise's first World Series appearance.

So my mind the past few weeks has been on baseball. Not football, as is normal for me this time of year. And not on a great fall season of arts events. So you'll have to forgive me if you see me at one of this city's great arts events this weekend and I'm wearing a Rangers hat (like I did a week ago at the Broad Avenue Arts Walk).
Let's Go Rangers !!!! (And Memphis arts)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where have I been?

I feel really bad for not blogging the past two weeks. The reason? It's simple, Man won out over Arts.

I've spent the past two weekends on man-related endeavors. Two weekends ago I went with some friends to Cincinnati for a guys weekend. Ate good food, sampled excellent beverages and watched plenty of football. No art allowed that weekend.

Then, this past weekend our family went to Dallas so I could take my 3-year-old son to his first Major League Baseball games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington while my wife spent too much time and money at IKEA, her "shopping amusement park." (see Design Insider).

I have to be honest, my mind was not on arts. It was on seeing a couple of Rangers baseball games. As I write this, I'm watching my favorite baseball team, the Texas Rangers, win their second playoff game.

I probably should have written a review of "Who Shot Rock n Roll," the fabulous exhibit at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art that I was fortunate to experience the night I hit the road for that guys trip to Cincinnati.

I will say that exhibit was amazing. As a music fan I was very much into the fabulous photos on exhibit. That exhibit was just one more example of why the Memphis Brooks is a great arts asset for the city of Memphis.

I could also preview some things I'm considering for this weekend. Of course my mind will be on sports since the Rangers can clinch a series win on Saturday. But Friday night there are a few great options: ArtsMemphis will have its Shell out for the Arts event at the Levitt Shell, the Downtown Alley Jams outside of One Commerce Square will welcome the employees of Pinnacle Airlines and the Broad Avenue Arts Walk will take place.

Right now I think I'm leaning toward the Broad Avenue event. I'll let you know next week how it goes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bravo! It's Bravo Season

ArtsMemphis is launching the 2010-2011 season Thursday. Will you be there? I will, as will most my readers, I suppose, since you're all pretty much Bravo members. Well, at least the "official" followers of this blog are Bravo members.

So things get under way at the Memphis College of Art at 5:30 p.m. with a reception followed by a digital docent-led private tour of the "Who Shot Rock & Roll" exhibition at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

I honestly don't know much about this exhibit. I know a few friends who have been looking forward to it. I love music, so yes, I guess I'm looking forward to it too.

So let's assume one or two of you out there aren't members of Bravo. May I ask why not? I mean, it's about 10 arts events over the next year with food and drinks thrown in. It's $95 for a single or $145 for a double membership. An art exhibit, ballet performance or play, along with good food and drinks and you're not going to consider that?

This year is only my second season to participate in Bravo. The first has actually been a few years. So I'm looking forward to this season. Sure, the mingling, food and beverages are a good time. But experiencing all of the art opportunities in town is pretty cool too.

If you're a young professional and into the arts, or even if you're not into the arts but looking to get out and socialize with other young Memphians, I encourage you to consider a Bravo membership. It's not too late.

Friday, September 17, 2010

MSO: Providing an Education to a Musical Idiot?

With all the attention lately on the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and its new conductor Mei-Ann Chen, I thought the time was right for this post.

See, we bought a season ticket for MSO's Pops season that starts in October. I love music; even listen to classical on a rare occasion. And when I was in middle school I played the trombone in the band (I definitely don't like to admit that too often but I was actually pretty good; won a few awards at competitions). Of course now I can't even read music.

But since Mei-Ann Chen had her debut last weekend and the "Russian Masters" series kicks off Saturday at the Cannon Center, the timing is right for this Man Versus Art thought. I won't be attending the "Russian Masters," or at least not this Saturday's show. I mean, come on, it's the debut of Tiger Lane for University of Memphis fans. Where else would I be?

But my mind isn't always on football and tailgating, although those types of things certainly are much more front and center in my mind than the symphony. But that's kind of the point in this blog: A football-loving, "typical" guy immersing himself in the arts.

So I don't know what to expect when we attend our first Pops performance. Music? Sure, that's stating the obvious. The Pops season is not the pure classical stuff. I mean, the first night is called "Disco Days and Boogie Nights." Should be fun, or at least I hope.

There have been times in my life when I've listened to classical music. It's peaceful, relaxing and, honestly, it's amazing these guys wrote this music. I think all composers, for that matter, have an amazing ability.

Speaking of "these guys," I couldn't tell you the difference between Tchaikovsky, Chopin or Beethoven. Honestly, I just had to Google them to get the names correct.

Does that make me an uncultured slob? I don't think so but maybe you do. Well, it is what it is I guess. Not that I've ever been too concerned about impressing people with my knowledge of the classics, of course.

Honestly, where and when was I supposed to pick up that knowledge? American education, at least the one I got, didn't stress classical music. Or maybe it did and I just didn't pay attention.

I guess my lack of knowledge can be somewhat blamed on me. I took music appreciation freshman year at Memphis. I attended all of three classes. Managed to pass thanks to a lot of extra credit earned by attending lots of concerts and writing about them.

Anyway, I look forward to getting a bit of an education in person this season. Hopefully the hard-working musicians in Memphis can do a better job educating me than the educational system has done.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Music and Suds in the Great Outdoors

What did you do last weekend? Did it involve the local arts scene?

My weekend got off to a good start with one expected arts event and another one that was not expected but I was very happy it happened.

On Thursday night I took my 3-year-old son (this is starting to become a trend, I see) to the Thursday Night Live event at the National Ornamental Metal Museum. It was the ArtsMemphis night meaning all members got in free. And as a Bravo Memphis member that included me. I'm a sucker for free things so despite the fact I had to drive to Collierville ... from my office in Downtown ... only to turn right back around and drive back Downtown (yes, a lot of driving) I did it.

I thought my music-loving son would be really interested in seeing Memphis group Star & Micey, and he was somewhat. But he was more interested in the amazing view of the river from the museum's lawn. I was pleased to see the band and was even more pleased to hear new tunes not on their CD I bought several months ago.

It was a good time and something I encourage you to check out. It will be going on the next two Thursdays. (Spoiler alert: My newspaper, The Daily News, will have a story on the event in Thursday's edition.)

The other event I attended was Friday's Art on Tap at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens. I had no plans to attend considering the $50 per person admission. Of course that's even more reason to join the city's many great arts organizations such as ArtsMemphis and buy museum memberships. Young at Art, for example, costs $150 per couple per year and includes admission to Art on Tap and other events.

But on this night I had an offer for two free tickets. And OF COURSE I'LL TAKE YOUR FREE TICKETS. It's nice to be friends with people who have friends with great connections.

So we went and had a great time. It was a bit warmer than I would have liked. And there weren't as many beers to sample as Zoo Brew but I think the selection was strong. I actually enjoyed the vibe more. The presence of food from a number of Memphis restaurants, including those awesome sliders from Bardog, made it even better.

Didn't get a chance to check out the art inside the Dixon. So I'm not really sure if I can include Art on Tap in my year of arts events challenge. But hey, I did walk through the front gardens. That has to count for something, right?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Memphis Arts Weekend: Music, Lights and More

So what do you have planned this weekend? There are several arts events to consider, from tonight's second installment of Thursday Night Live to a cool new outdoor video projection. Here's a look.

Tonight at the National Ornamental Metal Museum is the second installment of Thursday Night Live. For just 5 bucks (and tonight only it's free for ArtsMemphis members) Star & Micey will perform on the lawn overlooking the Mississippi River.

On Friday night there are a couple of events to consider.

Over at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens is Art on Tap from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dixon members pay $40 and nonmembers pay $50 to enjoy great beer and food. Live music will be performed by Mean Green Music Machine.

Downtown afternoons the next five Fridays will get loud and colorful during The Downtown Alley Jams, which get under way Friday at 4:30 p.m. Every Friday through Oct. 8 in a different Downtown location there will be free live music. The cash bar opens at 4:30 p.m. followed by music from 5 to 8:30.

The events are free but donations are accepted at each event benefiting The Hospitality Hub. Along with the music will be a new art concept, digital projections that will be shown on the sides of adjacent buildings. The series of outdoor video art exhibitions are hosted by the UrbanArt Commission and Center City Commission.

This Friday Memphis Jones and The Soul Shockers will be the featured performers at the corner of Main Street and Peabody Place. The digital projection, which will be shown on the side of The Orpheum Theatre, will be by Jill Wissmiller.

The Soul Shockers are an R&B band with music spanning classic 1960s Motown and Stax to '70s funk and disco to recent dance favorites. Memphis Jones is a one-man-show that is part comedian, part singer, part storyteller and part preacher.

Wissmiller's video art is titled "Magic Meaning Making Machine." It came from the concept of theatrical staging.

Elsewhere on Friday "Russian Folklore," presented by Memphis Symphony Orchestra at Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center, will be the debut of music director Mei-Ann Chen as she opens the Paul & Linnea Bert Chamber series at 8 p.m.

"Godspell" starts its run Friday at the Germantown Community Theatre, running through Sept. 26. Show times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Here's hoping you get out and enjoy arts in Memphis this weekend.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wearable art in Downtown Memphis

A couple of Fridays ago I attended the monthly South Main Art Trolley Tour. As usual it was a great event with large crowds and a lot of fun.

Just before heading home for the evening, I made a quick stop in at Sache Design, a new retailer at 525 S. Main St. Sache has some really cool designs created by owner Eric Evans and screenprinted onto the shirts in the back of the store. All the shirts are on display almost like it's an art gallery. (Also check out this story at The Daily News and a recent blog posting at I Love Memphis.)
I bought a couple of his shirts, including the one pictured here. The crazy thing about this purchase is that as I write this I'm wearing a Texas Rangers T-shirt.
Not all my shirts are sports-related, but my stylish T-shirts are more of the bought at Target variety. Yes, I can admit that. I have a few stylish T-shirts, but they definitely are not ones that would be considered works of art. But I just couldn't resist when I tried on a couple of shirts at Sache.
The shirts aren't exactly Target cheap (in the $30 to $40 range each) but the quality is much higher. These are products you can be proud to wear knowing it's someone's art that is produced in Memphis.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Major decision: Football or Music and Heritage Festival

So it's 9 a.m. on the opening Saturday of the college football season and instead of sitting down to watch "College Gameday" I'm instead getting ready for the long drive Downtown from the suburbs. What was I thinking when I suggested this excursion?

See, I'm a college football fanatic. I have missed all of one University of Memphis home football game that I've been in town for in the past 15 years. One. And when I'm not attending Memphis games at the Liberty Bowl I'm usually sitting in front of my TV watching a game or on the road with friends at a random game.

But on this, the opening Saturday of the 2010 college football season? I'm preparing to drive my family to the Memphis Farmers Market for some food shopping, music listening, arts perusing and, well, a morning not watching "College Gameday" followed by whatever Big 10 game comes on ESPN.

And this afternoon? Well, I'm at least a little more excited about this but it's still a little baffling to think this was all my idea. We'll be attending the first couple hours of the annual Memphis Music and Heritage Festival.

OK, so the above scenario didn't really happen. When I woke up Saturday morning I had every intention of following through with that plan. But in the end I chose college football. I guess in this instance "man" won out over "arts." But hey, there was always Sunday.

And that's when we really did make the trek Downtown to the Music and Heritage Festival. We arrived at noon -- before the music really got under way (except Valerie June who was doing a kid's show). My 3-year-old son, to my surprise, wanted no part in it. See, he's more into the indie rock scene (seriously) and he must not have wanted to listen to fun music intended for his age bracket.

But it probably actually had more to do with the the line of African drums sitting unused at the Watoto Memphis booth. And it especially helped that the Watoto people were very encouraging when Colby sat down and put on display his already well-developed rhythm.

Instead of enjoying live music on the stages and perusing art, I stood there while my son performed a long drum solo. So honestly I can't tell you much about the festival. Having a 3-year-old in tow meant we couldn't stay too long anyway.
But I will be forever grateful to the Watoto people who instead of shooing away a little boy from their drums they were instead very encouraging of his playing.

Sure, it's important to put this city's many talented musicians on stage so we can listen and appreciate them. But it's even more important to encourage our youth along their artistic journeys. And the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival and Watoto Memphis went above and beyond on that mission. Job well done.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Memphis Arts Weekend: Sept. 2-6 edition

OK, so I'm a little torn for this weekend. Do I sit around all day Saturday and watch the opening weekend of college football or do I attend the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival? Do I enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon and evening at home, knowing I don't have to get up the next day and go to work, or do I head over to the Levitt Shell for Pianos in the Park?

Better yet, there's today's kickoff of Thursday Night Live at the Metal Museum and Friday's Zoo Brew. But good luck getting into the Memphis Zoo to taste the beer at Zoo Brew. That event sold out a couple of days ago.

First is Thursday Night Live at the National Ornamental Metal Museum. I don't think I'll be making it out to tonight's family night that features a performance by The Soulsville Charter School Philharmonic Orchestra, but I definitely will be in attendance next Thursday when Memphis band Star and Micey take the outdoor stage. The concerts are every Thursday in September from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for nonmembers of the museum and free for members.

An important note if you've never been to the Metal Museum. They have the best view of the Mississippi River. Seriously. You'll hear people say that and not think much of the statement. But seriously. Go see for yourself. The museum is perched on the bluff just below the old bridge and at a perfect bend in the river. The weather tonight will be perfect too. Will make for a magnificent sunset.

Looking ahead to the rest of the weekend:

Since I don't have tickets to Zoo Brew and won't be attending a football game this Labor Day weekend, the highlight for me will be the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival Downtown. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I've never attended this two-day music and arts festival along Main Street between Peabody Place and Barboro Alley just outside the Center for Southern Folklore.

I won't pretend to be able to recommend any of the bands. I've heard of several of them, seen a few in person. Jack Oblivian & the TN Tearjerkers, Blind Mississippi Morris and Bluff City Backsliders are some Saturday highlights to me. Sunday I'm looking forward to John Paul Keith & the 145s, Hill Country Revue, Valerie June and Kate Campbell.

None of those acts up your alley? Well, there's gospel, jazz, blues, rap, dance, rockabilly; you name it and you can see it performed.

In addition to music there will be plenty of art, food, demonstrations and speakers. And the best part of it all? It's free.

Details: Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. in and around the Center for Southern Folklore along South Main Street at Peabody Place.

Live in the Galleries: Van Duren

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Saturday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Live music in the galleries for Who Shot Rock and Roll

Free with museum admission

Arts in the Airport

It will be hard to get the opportunity to observe this arts event at Memphis International Airport, but on Friday at 12:30 p.m. chamber ensembles from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra will play music as Labor Day weekend travelers hurry by.

This reminds me of a discussion a few years back. I don't recall if it was in the Commercial Appeal, on TV or something I observed. But there was discussion about why classical music was played in the terminal instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce travelers to the great sounds of Memphis music.

The argument basically was that the airport officials believed the classical music relaxed the stressed out and hurried passengers. Personally, when I'm arriving at an airport the music I hear matters little, or at least I think it doesn't matter.

The point is this is just one more great arts happening in Memphis. I love this idea MSO has of playing peaceful music in the terminal. It accomplishes the best of both worlds: the sounds of local musicians and the peaceful sounds of classical music.

Performances take place every month from September through May outside of the Blue Note Cafe and the B Concourse Food Court.

Pianos in the Park

OK, I really like this idea (admittedly, I like all ideas that pertain to events at the Levitt Shell. I mean, outdoors, an historic venue in a peaceful park setting and you can bring in your own picnic. What else do you need?)

Anyway, so on Sunday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park an event called Pianos in the Park will be held. All sorts of styles will be played: Straight-Ahead (I have no clue what that means), Mainstream jazz (ditto on not knowing technically what that style is but an educated guess tells me it's traditional jazz) and contemporary jazz (I think I have a station on XM radio that plays the style.). In addition, the STAX Music Academy, gospel jazz, rhythm and blues plus soul and smooth jazz are listed.

There will be food and beverage vendors, door prizes and a moon bounce for the kids. If we go it will be interesting to see what my music-loving son will be most interested in: listening to the music or playing in the moon bounce. I guess there's only one way to find out.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts on Magic Kids

So I took my nearly 4-year-old son to the Magic Kids CD release party at the Levitt Shell last Tuesday. The band seemed to enjoy itself, the crowd -- a nice size -- was enjoying itself and in general it was nice to see these Memphis kids having success with their music.

I follow them on Twitter and have noticed a few tweets since last week of them on their CD release tour. And I just noticed on Facebook on the Sirius XMU page they mentioned the Magic Kids. So they seem to be looking at a successful future.

It will be interesting to see how far these guys go.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Trolley Tour and other weekend thoughts

Tonight is the South Main Historic Arts District Friday Art Trolley Tour. I'm excited about heading down, mostly because the last time I attended a trolley tour on a summer night that actually saw beautiful weather I remember that night to be one of the best trolley tours I've ever experienced.

So far today the weather is beautiful. So my hopes are high. I'll start things off at my regular Friday hangout, South of Beale.

There are a handful of happenings tonight at Trolley Tour. Here are some highlights:

Folk Alliance International will have live music by Anthony Da Costa, Rania Rose, John Elliott and Valerie June.

The Memphis Music Foundation at 431 S. Main will honor Memphis Music Educators tonight with special guests Mei Ann Chen of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Youth Symphony director Stilian Kirov.

The Robinson Gallery at 44 Huling will present Margaret Goodman's "Botanical Creations: Living Metalwork."

And over at 513S. Front at 6:45 there will be the second annual wine labeling party for the RiverArtsFest. This year's artist, Jimpsie Ayres, will be signing the 2010 Festival Wine Labels. The bottles will be for sale at the Corkscrew.

I will, of course, be making a stop at my new regular place, MPACT Memphis, since I joined at last month's Trolley Tour.

I know there is an opening at Art Under a Hot Tin Roof (Main and Gayoso) but I don't recall what it is. Sorry, but take my word for it. And I'm sure there are some other things going, but please cut me some slack. This is my first week to do this blog.

Other weekend arts events (that I'm aware of):

Downtown Farmers Market, highlighted by a children's performance by Memphis musician Valerie June. She also will be performing at Trolley Tour tonight.

Battle for a Cure, a battle of the bands at Minglewood Hall benefitting the Mid-South chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Read this story in today's The Daily News for more.

Another unique event that was featured in The Daily News today is the Soccer Rocks Music Festival at Mike Rose Soccer Complex on Saturday.

I just came across this one on Twitter: Voices of the South hosts the Backbeat Tour Dash and Dine.

What else? Let's see, well Memphis band the Limes has a CD release party Saturday at the Hi Tone. I'm contemplating getting their album on emusic. This is much more my style of music versus the other local album release this week from The Magic Kids (see my earlier post).

IndiaFest 2010 is Saturday (also an earlier post), "The Color Purple" is at The Orpheum and "Annie Get Your Gun" is showing at Theatre Memphis through Sept. 12. Other ongoing theater options include "The Drowsy Chaperone" at Playhouse on the Square and "The Wiz" at Hattiloo Theatre.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Main and Union: A Third Thursday to Experience

Note: This posting was originally meant to be my first of this blog. I wrote it by hand last Thursday while sitting at South of Beale, contemplating this new Man Versus Art blog idea I had just come up with while thinking about how I could write an entry on the event I had just attended. I've had other ideas that just happened to come up in the meantime. But I figured I better get this up soon. And I guess today is a good day to post something related to an "art walk/hop-type event" since it's Friday Art Trolley Tour.

I wasn't planning on starting this blog quite yet but I was inspired by my visit to the Main and Peabody Third Thursday event. This neighborhood is not fully established, but really, what community in Downtown Memphis really is?

This two-block stretch of Main between Peabody Place and Union receives its fair share of traffic, thanks to a handful of residential properties along with bars and restaurants, clothing stores, the Center for Southern Folklore, Belz Museum of Asian & Judaic Art and a couple of art galleries.

This stretch of Main doesn't have the artsy vibe that can be found in the heart of the South Main Historic Arts District. Are they trying to get there? I guess you could say they are. It took South Main quite a while to get to where it is today. (For more on what the stakeholders in this area have in mind with the Third Thursday event, read this story in The Daily News.)

The stretch of Main around Peabody Place will definitely be helped when the new residents start to move into the newly constructed residential/commercial mix-use building at Gayoso and Main that for so many years has been referred to as "the big hole on Main." I think there's great potential there, especially considering all the businesses in the area and if Pinnacle Airlines ultimately does move its corporate headquarters nearby.

Anyway, on this night (Thursday Aug. 19) I spent some time strolling the street, listening to the two musical groups set up and talking to the owners of See Main Street. But most of my time was spent in the neighborhood's two art galleries for two different reasons.

First, it was Art Under a Hot Tin Roof, a gallery I had never stepped foot in before. Entering this gallery was a unique experience for me and it had nothing to do with the art and beautiful colors in the space. No, it just might have been the first time I ever set foot in an art gallery without my art-loving wife dragging me through.

What happened next -- a long conversation with the gallery owners about art -- I can proudly say is a byproduct of this blog. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have tried so hard to discuss the gallery's art if it were not for my desire to really engage myself in the arts scene over the next year for this blog.

A couple of thoughts about this gallery: It opened in a space formerly occupied by a bank at the corner of Main and Gayoso a year and a half ago. It's a clean, bright space filled with regional, national and international art. For example, walk into the gallery from Main and you're greeted by a small display of local pottery in the same room that bright paintings from a Mexican artist hang. There are paintings of various sizes, jewelry and more in this welcoming space. It was an enjoyable time looking at the art while discussing some upcoming shows that will debut at the August and September South Main Art Trolley Tour nights.

On the negative side of things on this evening I was sad to learn upon walking into Rivertown Gallery that it will close Sept. 10 after 15 years of business. It's hard to understand, but basically a new tenant is moving into the current gallery space.

The Rivertown owner didn't want to leave, but now it seems she might not reopen elsewhere. At least she said she's not rushing into any decisions. And that's too bad. Rivertown provides space to local artists of various styles and abilities. The artwork is very affordable. Here's hoping they find a new home soon.

I guess it's just a sign of how things are in the life of art galleries in town. Or at least that's what I've seen in Downtown Memphis through the years as many galleries have come and gone for various reasons.

I encourage you to stop by Rivertown before they pack up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So, it turns out Memphis has an IndiaFest

This weekend is, among many other arts happenings in Memphis, IndiaFest 2010. Before this week, I had never heard of IndiaFest. Sure, I know barbecue fest, Italian Fest, Greek Fest (there's actually a couple of those), Africa in April, Memphis in May; there are enough cultural events, fairs and festivals to fill the calendar.

I discovered IndiaFest thanks to the beauty of NPR (there we go again with that trying to be the "artsy NPR listening guy" thing again). I just happened to be listening to WKNO's "Checking on the Arts" segment the other morning when I heard a promo for IndiaFest.

Then, I happened to see a press release for the event and decided to quickly turn it around as a story in the Aug. 26 edition of The Daily News.

Memphis is known for a lot of things, many different cultures, numerous events. But Indian culture? I have to admit that I hadn't thought much about it. Sure, there are restaurants around town, even a number of grocery stores (I know of two in Collierville alone).

I don't know much about India or its culture. I haven't seen "Slumdog Millionare" or any Bollywood productions for that matter. That is reason enough to consider attending Saturday's festivities at Agricenter International. This year's event will focus on Indian cinema.

But learning about Indian food, maybe even taking my 3-year-old son to participate in the Indian drum-making activity sounds like fun, especially considering it only costs $2 to get in.

India Association of Memphis' 8th Annual IndiaFest has four to five core focus areas, among them a bazaar with vendors selling merchandise, food from local Indian restaurants, kids activities and cultural exhibits.

I might just check it out. I encourage you to do the same.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Magic Kids, a new Memphis sound (for me)

Not sure if you've heard by now but Memphis band The Magic Kids will kick off their new CD "Memphis," released today, with a concert at the Levitt Shell. The show, which costs $5, will feature the Memphis Youth Symphony and also serve as a fundraiser for that group.

I plan to go to the concert, but not really because I care for their music. To be honest, I can't decide if I like their sound. I've heard them compared to Vampire Weekend but I only loosely see that. For the most part I enjoy Vampire Weekend. The Magic Kids? Well, the jury's still out.

A co-worker yesterday said he could see them being heard on Nickelodeon. I can see that, but I can also see them playing one of those cool Brooklyn joints known for its superb music. Their poppy Beach Boys style is not my thing really. Maybe part of me is hopeful for The Magic Kids because they're a Memphis product, and I always am pro Memphis products.

I have the new album and have listened to it quite a bit (one of the perks of being a member of the media is I received a copy a week before the album was released).

And by the way, this is not my first CD review. And when I post after attending the concert it won't be my first of many concert reviews. Who am I to tell you if what's on the album is worth listening to?

This is one of my first Man Versus Art challenges, though. I am trying to learn to appreciate the sound of this CD even though it's not my favorite style of music. I haven't decided if it's something I normally would buy (probably yes, but not positive).

I will say this review in the Washington Post (and don't come here expecting to get this kind of written magic because it's probably not happening) is teaching me a few ways to go about listening to this CD today.

Read both stories linked here then go to tonight's show at the Levitt Shell, plop down $5 to support the Memphis Youth Symphony and give a proper sendoff to this Memphis band as they embark on their new tour and journey.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What is Man Versus Art?

So what is Man Versus Art? Who creates a blog and calls it Man Versus Art? Guilty as charged I guess.

So I had this crazy idea recently while driving to work and trying to be the "cool, artsy NPR-listening guy" that I would take a year-long challenge of immersing myself in the Memphis arts scene. It's not that much of a challenge, I guess, since my wife and I attend the occassional arts event in town.

But I'm more of a sports guy. As soon as I finish this post I'll be diving into the all-too-important research of who should be my fifth wide receiver on my fantasy football team. So this won't be my comfort zone.

Man Versus Art will be one Memphian's view on experiencing the arts scene in the Bluff City over the next year. I'm not an artist but I'm married to one; I'm not a musician but I was one as a kid and love the beautiful sounds musicians create; I'm not into theater but I did write a couple of plays as a child and even participated in some acting programs; and to be honest I'm not the best representation of a cultured, artsy person.

But I do enjoy the arts. Maybe I'm more of the "wine and cheese" art gallery guy, but I do enjoy attending art showings and openings. I don't get excited about every Broadway musical that comes to town, but I have had fun attending my fair share. And I certainly can't imagine being awed by every note played by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, but I am excited my wife and I are Pops season ticket holders this year.

As a Bravo Memphis member, MSO Pops season ticket holder and occasional art gallery visitor, I will over the next year blog about my experiences at those events. But I will also attempt to attend theatrical performances at the city's many venues, attend a ballet or opera performance, check in on the latest offering at The Orpheum Theatre, attend a concer or two at the city's universities and just in general soak in the arts scene that is Memphis.

There are too many offerings to even pretend to imagine I can check out a fraction of what's going on. Plus, the bank account -- not to mention time thanks to other commitments, not to mention being the father of a soon-to-be 4-year-old son -- will allow me to visit everything that is going on. But I hope to get out there as much as possible and experience the arts scene.

I don't expect to be awe-inspiring with my writing; I don't have the proper eye to critique the works I'm seeing or hearing. I will never pretend to be able to come close to someone who has the proper knowledge of the arts to tell you if the performer was good, if the painting told the story I felt it should tell or how flawless the dancer was during a particular performance.

But maybe that's what will set me apart. I hope to give readers an account of the Memphis arts scene from a very amateur eye. I hope to have some fun with this while opening my eyes -- and maybe yours -- to all the fabulous offerings the Memphis arts community provides.

And next August we'll see who wins, man or art.