Soulsville USA Festival Lights Up McLemore Ave.


If you're like me, you'll jump at any chance to see the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, especially if it's free. This past Monday, after punk rocker Jon Langford and the Four Lost Souls played a free show there, he and the band waxed enthusiastic about their first visit to the museum. Legendary session bassist Norbert Putnam, who produced the Four Lost Souls' debut record and joined the band for the show, reminisced about recording with Elvis Presley for five days in 1973, the highlight being when the King joined Norbert on the drum riser to eat his burger and fries during a midnight lunch break. But even a veteran like Putnam was awestruck during his return to Stax after 44 years. “All those records on the wall!” he enthused to the crowd. “They were working nonstop!”

This Saturday, Stax will celebrate its place in the city's (and the nation's) past, present, and future with a day long festival. The Soulsville USA Festival will be happening at the corner of McLemore and College from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. Three stages will offer a diverse array of music (click here to see the full line up). Naturally, one of the featured acts will be students from the Stax Music Academy, some of whom toured England this summer, joining Stax legends Mavis Staples and William Bell onstage there.

Candice Ivory
  • Candice Ivory
Another performer of note that afternoon will be Candice Ivory, a composer and singer who cut her teeth playing around Memphis before heading east to study jazz at the New School in New York. Now based in St. Louis, Ivory is a purveyor of what she calls “avant soul,” an intriguing blend of jazz and electronic experimentation, with a large dollop of her soulful vocals.

The festival will not only celebrate Stax itself, but other musically significant residents of the neighborhood. In addition to the “Stax 60 Stage,” there will be a “Royal 60 Stage,” in honor of Royal Studios, who, like Stax, are celebrating six decades of history this year. And the “Memphis Slim Stage” will be set up next door to Stax, outside the Memphis Slim Collaboratory, a cutting-edge space for community music education that also supports local musicians. Named after the blues piano legend who was born and raised in the same building, it offers spaces for rehearsing, recording, and performing. One notable program provides funding for artists to record and release their material. Their first success story, Eric Hughes, will be celebrating his band's debut CD Saturday evening at 7:00 at The Warehouse.

Other highlights of the festival will be: a) free museum entry and educational activities; b) the ARTent with demos from an array of visual artists; c) Knowledge Quest Kids Zone with games, face-painting, caricature drawings, and other activities; d) interactive ballet, contemporary, jookin/b-boy, and stepping dance demos on the dance stage. And on top of all that, there will be crafts vendors & food trucks.

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