Two months out, the Memphis Music Foundation is gearing up for a big local presence at Austin's annual South by Southwest Music Festival, which takes place March 18th-22nd. Last week, the foundation announced the stellar lineup for its official Memphis Music showcase, a mix of local rock and rap leading up to a closing set from Stax legends The Bar-Kays.
The showcase, which will take place on March 19th, will pair rockers Lucero, Jack O & the Tearjerkers, and River City Tanlines with rap/hip-hop acts Eightball & MJG, Al Kapone, and Free Sol. The foundation is still finalizing the line-up for its SXSW day party, according the director of development and communications Pat Mitchell Worley.
"We think the showcase is a good mixture of Memphis music," says Mitchell Worley, who adds that the Bar-Kays booking came in consultation with SXSW, which wanted a Memphis music legacy act. (Among the other Memphis action scheduled for the festival: a still-being-finalized showcase featuring Amy LaVere, a Goner Records show, and an event related to Craig Brewer's $5 Cover.)
In addition to covering travel and lodging expenses for its showcase bands, Mitchell Worley says the foundation is working to help all Memphis artists get the most out of their SXSW experience.
"We didn't want it to just be, 'Yeah, we went down to SXSW and played this showcase and it was fun, but nothing came out of it,'" Mitchell Worley says.
To prep for the festival, the foundation is doing a "how to get the most out of SXSW" workshop for bands making the trip, whether or not they're playing foundation-sponsored showcases. The foundation also has hired a Los Angeles-based publicist to promote the showcase and individual acts.
On site, the foundation is booking a room close to the convention hall to provide local artists with a convenient, comfortable place to conduct business.
The Austin invasion is the biggest focus, so far, of what the foundation is calling their "Ambassador" program, the goal of which is "to take Memphis music to large entertainment events." A warm-up for SXSW will be the International Folk Alliance Conference, which occurs in Memphis February 18th-22nd. The foundation will sponsor a Memphis showcase that will feature William Lee Ellis and Alvin Youngblood Hart, among others.
The foundation also recently did a test run for a new "piggyback" program, designed to pair up-and-coming local and regional artists with more established acts on the road. The first run helped young rock band Sore Eyes (which plays the New Daisy Theatre Saturday, January 24th) on a string of Midwest dates opening for Florida-based modern-rockers Shinedown (which features Memphian Zach Myers on guitar). The foundation also provided tour support and press. The hope is to continue the program with high-profile local bands such as Saliva, the North Mississippi Allstars, and Jay Reatard in the "big brother" role.
In the meantime, the foundation is gearing up for a local event in the form of its Plug In Memphis: Indie Music Expo, scheduled for 5:30-9 p.m. on Tuesday, January 27th, at the Memphis Botanic Garden, an event meant to link musicians with local music-industry service providers and bring musicians together. The event also will provide one-on-one access to local music-industry notables such as producers Jeff Powell and Pepper Williams and Live From Memphis' Christopher Reyes and Sarah Fleming.
"We want a place for [musicians] to meet people doing what they do without loud music playing in the background," Mitchell Worley says. The foundation hopes to build the Plug In expo into a regional event.
For more information on foundation events, check their website at MemphisMeansMusic.com.
Speaking of Live From Memphis, the indispensable site celebrated its eighth birthday last week — and a reboot. Check out LiveFromMemphis.com for the new design.