Nine times out of 10 what happens in a basement should stay in a basement (if you've ever read Marilyn Manson's autobiography, you're nodding very hard right now). That never held true for Memphis Sounds, the beloved blues bar housed in the basement of the Econo Lodge downtown. It was a total dive, unforgettable, the type of place you only recommend to really cool friends.
Even with all of that being said, Memphis Sounds fell off my radar. It bleeped back onto my radar last week when a friend pointed out that it had reopened in the River Terrace Yacht Club on Mud Island. If it's possible, it has gotten even cooler.
You can't miss the sign. It reads "Cool Jazz Hot Blues" and illuminates the steps leading into the bar. I was thrilled to see that Memphis Sounds had taken over such a great location. The Yacht Club is a real piece of work; it's vintage cool with a split-level design allowing multiple levels to all look down onto the dance floor. I hadn't been inside since an unfortunate formal where I was the date of a man who only asked me in an effort to try to convince his friends he was straight. He was not. Sad dates aside, perhaps most stunning about the club is that it affords guests the absolute best view of the bridge and the river. Huge windows look out into the Mississippi, and once the weather cooperates, that patio will give Beale Street Landing a run for its money. I got there right as the sun was setting and was mesmerized by the view.
- Memphis Sounds
Memphis Sounds has a hell of a week every week. On Wednesdays, there is line dancing. Karaoke goes down each Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays, there is live music. The bar charges a cover on the weekends, but embarrassing yourself with either dancing or singing mid-week is completely free! I visited on line dancing night because I'm from Nashville, and my curiosity was piqued. Could Memphis, which competes with Nashville on so many different levels, possibly beat Nashville at its own sport? The answer is yes! A dance floor full of women absolutely demolishing a synchronized line dance to Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us" is the best thing I never knew I needed to experience. To make it even better, there's a huge screen wherein you can watch a very large version of yourself as you dance. This is not a selling point for me, but I imagine it is for those who a) can dance and b) don't have soul-crushing feelings of inadequacy.
I had about three separate incidents wherein I wanted to throw myself down on the dance floor, Wayne and Garth "We're not worthy!"-style. The bar opened at 6 p.m. and people were there right at 6, ready to dance. In Midtown, we can't even get a show to start on time. Do you love your home bar so much that you're there when it opens? No, you don't. A gentleman made a Three's Company reference to me. Do you attend bars where there are Three's Company jokes? You do not. Do you know that there is a remix version of the Cha Cha Slide and that there are people in this world that can make it look cool? You do not. You are as unworthy of Memphis Sounds as Wayne and Garth were of Alice Cooper. It's the coolest bar in town, and I am not cool enough to have been there.
Here's how to get there, assuming they don't kick you out for being a dork: head to Mud Island and stop at the guard booth. Tell them you're headed to Memphis Sounds to get schooled on the dance floor, then keep to the right. Admire the badass view of the river as you park. Proceed inside and order a $4 martini (there is table service as well as a bar) and then get out there, you hot shot! See if you can keep up! Memphis Sounds isn't currently open Sunday through Tuesday, but it's open until midnight Wednesday and Thursday and stays open even later for the music on the weekends.
I can't stress this enough: There is a beautiful blues club on Mud Island with a hell of a view and a large group of women line-dancing to Michael Jackson that puts country line dancing to shame. If you're looking for more fodder for your "Nashville sucks!" cannon, this is a good place to start. God, I love this city. It never stops surprising me, and I will never stop defending it.