Snax Memphis, the local music-booking company founded two-and-a-half years ago by Mike Smith, 32, and Gary Crump, 27, takes a big step later this month with their production of a North Mississippi rock and blues show Saturday, May 22nd, at Mud Island Amphitheater.
The North Mississippi Allstars will headline the show, the first production Snax has organized outside of shows at Young Avenue Deli (where Smith is the general manager and talent buyer) and similar-sized clubs and small local festivals, such as Taste of Midtown.
"This is definitely the biggest show we've put on in terms of expense and, presumably, attendance," says Smith. "It's been a big undertaking but nothing we haven't been able to handle."
Snax got its start when Smith and Crump met while working on management and booking for onetime local road warriors Big Ass Truck. "We'd talk and decided that, if and when Big Ass Truck stopped touring, we didn't want to stop doing stuff with music," says Crump.
What the pair did was form a two-pronged booking company. They book local bands out of town -- most prominently, Lucero, whom Crump works with closely --and touring bands in town, most at the Deli. But the Mud Island show, which will also feature Alvin Youngblood Hart, Cary Hudson, Duff Dorrough, Afrissippi, and possibly segments from a new documentary film about Oxford band Beanland, marks a new chapter for the company.
"Mud Island had been talking to us about getting some more shows after their $3 concert series [Memphis Jam] had been so successful last year," Smith says. "As far as expenses, Mud Island is pretty reasonable, so it's very feasible for us to do shows there. The amount of profit is the reason some other promoters haven't been able to take advantage of it. There's not a ton of profit to be made, but if you're talking about two young guys putting a show together, the profit looks pretty good. If you're working for a big company that needs a larger profit margin, it might not be worth it."
Because Mud Island is a city-owned property, no promoter can have exclusive rights, which makes it a perfect venue for Snax to try to expand its operation.
"We're looking to do shows that other people might be overlooking for the area," says Crump. "There are bands [we'd like to book] that ordinarily might not even route through Memphis. We want to put Memphis more on the map for those medium-sized shows that now people are driving to St. Louis or New Orleans or Atlanta to see."
Snax would like to promote four to five shows at Mud Island this year. "If that goes well, turn that into maybe 10 shows next year," Smith says.
Next week's package show at Mud Island may be Snax's biggest production yet, but it's not the only thing the company has going right now. In addition to Lucero, Snax is working with local bands The Glass (whom they paired with Lucero on the road recently), Vending Machine, and Free Sol (whose bookings are being handled by recent Snax associate Chris Gere), as well as Atlanta band Outformation. Snax booked Steve Earle for the Memphis Arts Council's Artrageous event Friday, May 21st, and, in addition to shows coming up at Young Avenue Deli (perhaps most notably a June 9th gig from indie icons Yo La Tengo), has spread some shows to other local venues, with a pairing of Drag the River and Lucero frontman Ben Nichols Thursday, May 20th, at The P&H Café.
Another player for Snax is JC Youngblood, the tour manager for The Gamble Brothers Band, who has helped in a variety of areas, including promotion, sound, and handling some events.
"There are a lot of great bands in Memphis that need exposure and need direction, and if we can help with that, we want to do it," says Smith. "And there are a lot of great shows that need to come to town that other people aren't doing, and we want to do that."
Tickets for the Mud Island show are $15 and are available through Ticketmaster.