Tonight sees the debut of a new music series in a new downtown space: the Old Dominick Distillery. Many have noticed the impressive Dominique chicken signage on Front Street in the past year, a revival of the original Old Dominick liquor brand and logo from the 19th Century. Such spirits helped the Canale family rise to prominence in the early days, and they've now renovated a beautiful space downtown as the headquarters of a newly galvanized brand.
This is also a win for music lovers, beginning tonight with the debut of the Pure Memphis music series in the distillery's listening room. The series is curated by Kate Hackett and Bill Myers, who have already altered the local music landscape with their Memphis Music Mansion on East Parkway. Their beautiful home and Air B'n'B also hosts occasional house concerts where listening comes first. Last October's series of shows by Charlie Hunter. which doubled as recording sessions for his upcoming album, give one a sense of how important listening is to the environments they create.
As Hackett explained to me, the series at at the distillery “was inspired by what we were doing at the house. I was working for Mempho Music Festival and Old Dominick was a sponsor. They were really interested in somehow using their space to have a place where performers could come and people could enjoy it, and it was less of a bar scene and more of a listening space.”
The room will adhere to a locally-oriented aesthetic, spotlighting “working musicians that are either from Memphis or call Memphis home—transplants—or musicians that are coming to record at one of our studios. Those collaborations we think will happen a little bit further down the road, as the studios are more aware of what we're doing, and they can almost use the performance option as an incentive: while you're in town, you would be a great fit for this listening room. And it's just another bonus for the artist to get a feel for Memphis and get a little money in their pockets when they're in town to record. And obviously we want artists that sip the Old Dominick brand...”
Hackett waxes enthusiastic about the location and her partnership with the distillery. “They have such an awesome spot there on the river, and there is a rooftop that we'll be utilizing when the weather's better, and doing some music out there. It's a work in progress as well. The great thing about working with Old Dominick is, it's a big beautiful distillery that looks amazing. And they're putting out great product. But when it's all said and done, they're still a startup, and so they are a really agile group and we're also working together to come up with a sustainable model that is artist-friendly and gets foot traffic in the door, exposing people to what they've got going on down there from a distiller's standpoint, and then aligns that with Memphis music that's happening now. Everything from Jim Lauderdale, who's coming into town to make a new record at Boo Mitchell's place, to Talibah Safiya, who's this great emerging neo-soul artist. So we're excited that they're open to exploring that.”
As with the local house show and DIY scenes, the Pure Memphis series has been designed as an alternative to local bars. Hackett explains, “We really want it to be a place that Memphians go to hear music when they don't necessarily migrate toward the club scene that starts at 10:00. So we're done by 9:15, it's an early show. No smoking. It's definitely geared towards folks that either want to go to another show after that or get home to their baby sitter.”
John Németh & The Blue Dreamers open the Pure Memphis series
So far, the series has been greeted enthusiastically by the artists themselves. “We're really indicating with the way the room's set up that this is a room for listening. And enjoying the music; giving the artist your attention and engaging with them rather than socializing sort of room setup. A lot of it has to do with how the seats are set up and arranged. So we're gonna have some comfortable couches and seating options. We also have rows of chairs and rows of seating options that are facing directly toward the music. You're not at a table, you can't put your back to the music."
"The distillery is a spirit business, but not necessarily a bar," Hackett sums up. "I think this model and this type of series fits really well with what they've already built. It's just a beautiful space so we're just excited to play around with it.”
Old Dominick Distillery’s Pure Memphis Music Series
Doors at 6:30 p.m., music at 7:30 p.m. // $25 includes one Old Dominick cocktail
January 25: John Németh & The Blue Dreamers
February 8: The Pistol & The Queen
February 22: Jim Lauderdale
March 8: Talibah Safiya
March 22: Luther Dickinson