Harlan T. Bobo filled the Hi-Tone Café to capacity twice in the last few weeks: first, for the CD release party for his new album I'm Your Man on July 21st and again on August 9th, when he, organist Brendan Spengler, bassist Jeremy Scott, and cellist Jonathan Kirkscey backed cult favorite Daniel Johnston.
"It was a last-minute thing," Bobo says of the second performance, where he played drums for Johnston. "I got a call from the Hi-Tone that the opening band was also serving as the backing band on Daniel's gigs. We learned the songs and then met him just a few minutes before the show."
It might've been off-the-cuff, but Johnston's once-in-a-lifetime set, which featured classics such as "Speeding Motorcycle" and "Casper the Friendly Ghost," was spectacular. Clad in a souvenir T-shirt from Sun Studio and fresh from a live appearance on WEVL, the eccentric indie superstar shared a mutual affection with his Memphis audience.
Johnston's tour wraps up at the end of the month. Meanwhile, Europe beckons Bobo: The musician departs with Jack Yarber & the Tennessee Tearjerkers at the end of this month for dates in Germany, France, Spain, Norway, and the Netherlands. While Yarber & the Tearjerkers are slated to return home in October, Bobo plans to remain in Europe for another month or more to work on material for his third album.
Local garage-rock instrumentalists Impala celebrate their 15th anniversary at The Buccaneer in Midtown Friday, August 17th. It's also the band's first gig in more than a year.
"We played the Buccaneer last August, the same night as Tom Waits' Memphis show," says guitarist John Stivers. "We literally have not played since then, so we're gonna have to have a marathon practice for one or two nights."
Asked if the group, which also features drummer Paul Buchignani, saxophonist Justin Thompson, and bassist Scott Bomar, will have any new material in their repertoire, Stivers laughs.
"We wanted to work on some stuff," he says, "but it's so hard to get everyone in the band together. I think it's gonna be a struggle just to get through the songs we know."
Also on the bill: AWO, a new project that features Neighborhood Texture Jam veterans Tee Cloar and Greg Easterly on guitar and bass respectively, Wallendas drummer Steve Parkinson, and Jay "Big Daddy" Thomas on organ.
"For lack of any better description, I'd say it's kind of NTJ-ish in its power and structure," Thomas says of AWO. (Pronounced "Ah-woo.")
"It's very different from anything I've ever played before," says Thomas, a New Orleans transplant whom Memphians may recognize from bands such as The Royal Pendletons and Doctor-A-Go-Go. "I was doing '60s garage rock, and this is like early-'70s rock with a punk element. It's a bit of a departure for me, but it's fun."
After more than a decade in Atlanta, the Jus' Blues Music Awards is moving to The Old Daisy Theatre on Beale Street, where, this Thursday, August 16th, more than a dozen blues men (and women) — including Bobby "Blue" Bland, Lucky Peterson, Denise LaSalle, Sir Charles Jones, Artie "Blues Boy" White, Bobby Rush, and Maxine Brown — will be feted.
"Memphis is a natural choice," says Kevin Mills, producer of special events for the Jus' Blues organization, which also serves as a booking agency for several artists. "Atlanta has become a bit too cosmopolitan for the blues. Why not move our event here, where people listen to the blues every day and where clubs regularly celebrate the blues?"
Mills says that the decision was spurred by the Blues Music Awards' weeklong celebration, staged by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation in May.
"That was a real inspiration for us," he explains. "And as soon as I walked into the door of the Old Daisy, I felt something, like the blues had been there. It's an old place with great acoustics, and I hear that B.B. King and Muddy Waters have played there.
"Memphis is our new home," Mills adds. "We've already got next year booked."
Longtime Elvis Presley impersonator Danny Vann will also be taking the stage on Thursday night. "It's Elvis Week, and Danny wanted to work with us, because he knows we're gonna attract a different audience," Mills says. "His approach is Elvis' gospel songs. He does an amazing show, and he's a welcome addition."
The Jus' Blues celebration kicks off with a patio party and musical showcase, hosted by WDIA AM-1070, from 1 to 5 p.m. Artists and honorees, including WDIA DJ Bobby O'Jay, James Alexander and Larry Dodson of The Bar-Kays, their fellow Stax alumni Deanie Parker and William Bell, and Hi Records producer Willie Mitchell, will walk the red carpet at 5 p.m. The awards show will begin at 7.
For more information, call 888-202-2003 or go to JusBluesMusic.com.