After raising more than $120,000 for the Church Health Center over the past six years, the signature Rock for Love series of benefit concerts will add to the tally this weekend with its seventh installment. Since 1987, the Church Health Center has helped provide health care to uninsured working Memphians. Since many who have benefited from the center have been musicians, Rock for Love has emerged as a way for the local community to give back.
It's also grown into one of the best annual showcases for contemporary Memphis music, this year highlighting 17 local bands and solo acts from a wide range of genres and scenes, who will play across three venues and three days. After tapping into Stax last year for Saturday night headliner Booker T, Rock for Love does so again, in a manner of speaking, with Soulsville "Chief Creative Officer" and Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum headlining the free Saturday night show at the Levitt Shell.
In addition to the series of concerts, Rock for Love is conducting an online auction and will be selling a 20-song compilation CD featuring artists from this year's series and some who have played the event in past years. Among the highlights: The slow-burn anthem "Old Man," from rising country-rockers Dead Soldiers; the comic "Yardsale Weirdo," from singer-songwriter Mark Edgar Stuart; the ghostly rockabilly groove of "It's Only a Lonely Night," from John Paul Keith; and "Deez," a rare new track from Memphis indie-rock institution Snowglobe.
A day-by-day snapshot
Thursday, September 5th: An opening "VIP BBQ" at Ardent Studios will feature Latin singer Marcela Pinilla setting the stage for vintage soul band the Bo-Keys, who will be joined by singers John Gary Williams (of the Stax vocal group the Mad Lads) and Percy Wiggins. The event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30 for individuals, $55 for couples, or $500 for a table.
Friday, September 6th: With K97's Devin Steel keeping the party moving, the lineup at Young Avenue Deli will jump from the vintage roots of the Side Street Steppers (8:30 p.m.) to the Southern-flavored rock of Reemus Bodeemus (9:30 p.m.) to the soul/funk party of Hope Clayburn's Soul Scrimmage (10:30 p.m.) to genre-flouting trio Kaleidophonix (11:30 p.m.). Admission is $10. Show starts at 8 p.m.
Saturday, September 7th: Three different Rock for Love concert slates provide live music from noon to late night on the concluding day of the festival.
A free day show at the Levitt Shell starts with singer-songwriters Elizabeth Wise (noon) and Chad Nixon (1:15 p.m.) and continues with promising young indie band the Star Killers (2:15 p.m.) and fun-loving Elvis tribute band Big E & the Mississippi Boys (3:15 p.m.).
Free music continues at the Shell that night, with the centerpiece Rock for Love concert. It's already September, and I still haven't heard a local album I like as much as Mark Edgar Stuart's debut, Blues for Lou. Stuart will open the show, alongside frequent collaborator Kait Lawson, at 6 p.m. He'll be followed by the "future blues" of Beale Street stalwart and The Voice contestant Patrick Dodd (7 p.m.) and then by veteran Memphis rocker John Kilzer (8 p.m.), culminating in Kirk Whalum's headlining appearance at 9 p.m.
Rock for Love wraps up with an after-party back at Young Avenue Deli, where Devin Steel will again be on the turntables and a terrific three-band bill will feature the Mighty Souls Brass Band at 10 p.m., perhaps the city's best new band to emerge this year, country-rockers Dead Soldiers at 10:45 p.m., and then roots-pop trio the Memphis Dawls at 11:30 p.m.
Rock for Love 7
Thursday, September 5th-Saturday, September 7th