Mempho Fest rocks

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Kirah Ply and Ian Danchenko at Mempho Fest - MICHIAEL DONAHUE
  • Michiael Donahue
  • Kirah Ply and Ian Danchenko at Mempho Fest

I visited Mempho Fest for the first time on Sunday, Oct. 7.

I loved it.



I think Aaron Glazer summed up the two-day festival the best: “You’ve been coming to Shelby Farms your whole life and you’ve never had this vibe.”

The weather was beautiful. The people were beautiful. The music was beautiful. The food was beautiful.

I ran into Vince Black and John Grillo shortly after I arrived. Black wore a T-shirt with the words “I Am Proof Aliens Exist.” Grillo wore a stuffed toy chimpanzee on his back.

Black was barefooted. “You’ve got to feel the Earth, dude,” he says. “You can’t have the foot prisons on. My feet will be cut up and dirty after this, but it’s worth it.”

More than 15,000 people walked about the grounds along with Black and Grillo at Mempho Fest, which began Oct. 6.

I ran into Mempho Fest founder Diego Winegardner at the Flyer’s Best of Memphis party a few days before the festival and asked him about the event.

“Mempho Fest is in our second year,” he says. “We did our inaugural year last year. It was a great success so we’re going to build on that. We have bigger programming, bigger artists, more production. We have camping for the first time - probably the most notable add-on from last year.”

The festival features local as well as nationally known acts. “We’re trying to support as much of the Memphis and local talent as we can. Create a platform for them, but also bring the hottest artists of today.”

So, why did Winegardner choose Memphis as the site for a music festival? “That’s easy. Memphis is the birthplace of blues, soul, and rock-and-roll. To me, Memphis is as important to the history of American music as Washington, D.C., is to the founding of this great nation."

It’s important for today’s kids and “kids of the future to understand that history. To me, it

really matters a lot. It’s an opportunity for us to retell that Memphis story and that rich legacy to a broader audience, to the rest of the country.”

And, he says, “We’re just trying to add a chapter of our own to this great story.”

Diego Winegardner at Mempho Fest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Diego Winegardner at Mempho Fest.
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Kenny Wayne Alexander. Julien de Casablanca and  Emily Ballew Neff. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kenny Wayne Alexander. Julien de Casablanca and Emily Ballew Neff.

Following an outdoor party with food trucks and music, Julien de Casabianca completed his “Brooks Outside: Outings Project” installation on the facade of Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Brooks Outside, a curatorial program launched in conjunction with the museum’s 2016 centennial, consists of a series of outdoor installations, which are made to enliven the museum’s grounds.

Casabianca’s installation consisted of paper that was wheat pasted to the wall.

Brooks director of education/Brooks Outings curator Kathy Dumlao explains the process: “A ‘character’ from a work of art from our collection was selected, photographed, blown up in photoshop and printed on regular copy paper. (Casabianca used) wheat paste, applied to the wall first, then sticks the paper to the paste and wheat pastes over top of it. The ‘character’ that’s pasted to the facade of the Brooks is a portrait of our founder, Bessie Vance Brooks, by the American artist Katherine “Kate” Carl.”

The circa 1890 “Portrait of Bessie Vance" is an oil on canvas.

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Hampton Sides at this Novel book signing/talk. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Hampton Sides at this Novel book signing/talk.

I was impressed with the book talk by Hampton Sides as well as the jam-packed crowd that showed up that evening at Novel. Sides gave a lively talk about his new Korean War epic, On Desperate Ground, at the event, which was held Oct. 7.

I wondered how many people were there and if that was a record at Novel.

“We had about 200,” says Kat Leache at Novel. “And the record actually belongs to Rick Bragg ("The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma's Table").

But, she said, "Hampton's is definitely the second most."


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