Church Health is unique among Memphis institutions. It was founded three decades ago by Scott Morris as a place to provide help for the working poor who fall through the cracks of our broken health insurance system. Some of those people are Memphis musicians.
"A lot of musicians and artists don't have access to health care," says Church Health Communications Director Marvin Stockwell. "This is the music scene itself backing a cause that helps so many of them. That's been the message of the show for 11 years."
Stockwell, a founding member of the legendary Memphis punk band Pezz, was one of the driving forces behind starting the Rock for Love benefit concerts. The annual weekend of live music has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help pay for the care of poor Memphians. Three months ago, Church Health moved to an expanded new home in the Crosstown Concourse building.
Stockwell says scheduling Rock for Love for the same weekend as the Concourse's gala grand opening was a no-brainer. "Why take a weekend-long event, built over a decade, and have it come three weeks after the big hurrah? This is the inaugural, celebratory moment of our brand-new home. It made every sense in the world."
- Near Reaches
This year's event comes with an added bonus. In the early 2000s, Makeshift Records regularly showcased new Memphis music with a series of sprawling compilation albums. Earlier this year, Memphis musician Crockett Hall found a copy of one of the Makeshift compilations in a used bin at a record store. When he asked his friends on Facebook about it, a discussion ensued in which people told fond stories of the acts they had discovered from Makeshift.
J.D. Reager, an organizer of Rock for Love (and a Flyer contributor) had been involved in the grassroots label. Since a Rock for Love compilation album had been successful a couple of years ago, and since the last Makeshift compilation release had coincided with the first Rock for Love, maybe it would be a good idea to, as Stockwell says, "gin up the old machine."
The new Makeshift 6 compilation includes 34 songs by contemporary Memphis artists, ranging from Mark Edgar Stuart's tight singer/songwriter compositions to Glorious Abhor's noise punk. Select-O-Hits donated their services, helping make the album a reality, and all of the artists donated tracks to the compilation. "When I listen to this broad swath of Memphis music, I think of how proud I am to be a part of this Memphis music scene," says Stockwell.
The album will get its official release this Friday, August 18th, the first night of Rock for Love. Artists include Jack Oblivian, Cassette Set, Yesse Yavis, Moon Glimmers, Sweaters Together, the Rough Hearts, and Indeed, We Digress. Al Kapone will be deejaying between sets. "Friday is the Makeshift release show," says Stockwell, "so we wanted to have as many of those bands as humanly possible."
Saturday, August 19th, amid all of the other Crosstown opening festivities, Rock for Love acts will be providing music all across the site. The main stage is one of the most diverse lineups in recent memory, beginning with beatbox soulsters Artistik Approach, the Rising Star Drum and Fife Band, Latin big band Melina Almodavar, singer Susan Marshall, and finally Memphis hip-hop superstars 8-Ball and MJG, backed up by Winchester and the Ammunition. Reager says drummer and bandleader Graham Winchester is "very excited about backing up both 8-Ball and Susan Marshall."
In the atrium at Crosstown will be quieter, acoustic sets, led by Reager and featuring Crockett Hall, Juju Bushman, Mystic Light Casino, and Faith Evans Ruch, among others. That night, the party moves back to the Hi-Tone where Chinese Connection Dub Embassy leads an all-star jam party including Kapone, Tonya Dyson, and Lisa Mac.
Stockwell says the new Church Health facility has energized the whole staff. "There's so much potential here that we have only started to scratch the surface of."