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.