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Alive in Memphis: the Beale Street Music Festival 2011!

Hi, ya'll,

My son Colin and I are in Memphis, TN for thie year's Beale Street Music Festival (the people jam formerly known as the Beale Street Blues Festival, and we haz a blast last night. Here we are near the end of the night at the SoCo Blues Shack...

After a mostly uneventful 3 hour or so drive down to our West Tennessee capital (did you know there are 3 Tennessees? Yup, East, Middle, and West) we drove right up to the Broad Street loft occupied by friend and professional photographer David Nester and rang his doorbell. David, David, David. The former resident of his two story studio/residence reportedly sank a quarter of a million dollars into it and he has only recently purchased it outright for considerably less after maintaining a mortgage that became wonky due to some bank mergers and our most recent hard economic times. It's on a CUTE little strip of historic commercial buildings and I think he was right to do so. His remarkable collection of art and artifacts make me feel righteously proud of my home office organizational skills. (That won't mean anything to anyone who hasn't seen how remarkably cluttered my office is, but please just imagine, especially if you've seen my desk at work.) David gave us some great tips on getting around in Memphis, and we are using them daily.

Our hotel is out past the airport, for a number of reasons, and I'm not sure I'd repeat that when we come back next year. The half-hour one-way driving time spends a bit too much time, though we're really being relaxed about our focus. It's a quarter to 10 a.m. and Colin's still asleep, though I got up at 7:30 or so, copping just about my normal 6 hours of sleep after crashing at 1:30. We have a shortlist of absolute musts, and we're right on track, though the advancing heavy rains might cut us even shorter. There's supposed to be an inch or two of heavy rain on Sunday, a development the weather media had led us to believe wouldn't develop 'til Monday. Oh well, Weather is.

last night we arrived around 6 at the venue and after paying $20.00 for parking walked its length to catch the lay of the land. Riverfront Park is a sprawling narrow greenway and the Fest takes up it all. No food or beverage is allowed through the gates, requiring purchase of, for example, a 3 dollar soda, a 6 dollar beer, and food starting at 5 dollars for a corn dog. We did partake of a 10.00 barbecue nachos basket that hit the spot, and I limited myself to one beer. Just won't do it. That had the notable side effect of enforcing sobriety at a music event, one that I savored, surprisingly. I'll do it again today and tonight. It may be growing on me.

Last night:
Manchester Orchestra--good, melodic, prog-rock maybe? We just heard them in passing but I enjoyed what I heard.
Egypt Central--eek, angry, abrasive sort-of-metal from shirtless wild men. Not my cup of tea, and it made me rue the omission of earplugs from our gear.
Cake--A fantastic, fantastic show, despite their immovable denial of our repeated "1,2,3,LOOOOOOng JACKet!"
MGMT--We actually ran into these folks at Huey's when we stopped in for world famous burgers before heading to the festival grounds. They were roaming around the picturesque bar and grill shooting video so maybe Colin and I will get our 30 seconds of fame in their next video release!
Slightly Stoopid--Niiiiice, chill, clever, intelligent music very weed focused. I'll put them on when I wash the car, most certainly.
Grady Champion--hot mouth harp to a three-piece guitar and drums backing band at the Blues Shed, literally a small stage with lights and sound and a roof over it, off in the north corner of the Fest. We returned there to hear Kenny Brown, a clear master of rustic classic acoustic blues. His slide work led us to comment that we would repeatedly return to that stage.

Finally: Flaming Lips, ya'll. I am not a fan, or wasn't, and now am. I'm going to pop a few pics in here to explain just how justified our staying for the last act of the night was!

I certainly never expected to see an abstract girl cavorting on a giant video screen morph into a gigantic pulsating female private part with the band members coming onstage through a door at its center. And the titillation continued with more naked video loop and giant plastic sphere crowd surfing! It was a proud parental moment to be standing there with my 15 year old!

More later: We're off to explore Memphis and to identify a less dear parking option for today and tonight!


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