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.