In May 2002, the Flyer published a story about a fledgling local arts organization, Live From Memphis, that had recently emerged with a website (LiveFromMemphis.com) and a plan to help promote and unify the city's diverse "creative" scene through a series of projects. While the organization has had many successes in the six years since that article was written, Live From Memphis has lately fallen on hard times.
Founded by film director and graphic designer Christopher Reyes, 38, Live From Memphis is well-known and respected in the Memphis music and arts community not only for the valuable networking and promotional resource that the website provides but for its involvement in countless other ventures, including Lil' Film Fest, the Music Video Showcase at the IndieMemphis Film Festival, Gonerfest, and the My Memphis DVD project.
Reyes told the Flyer back in '02 about his plans to expand Live From Memphis, which would eventually include working with Memphis' industry establishment to organize festivals, record-label showcases, a recording studio for artists on a budget, and further developing the website as a promotional tool. However, building cooperative relationships with groups such as the Memphis Music Commission, Memphis Music Foundation, Memphis Tomorrow, and Arts Memphis proved to be harder than Reyes expected.
"I have no idea why it never worked out," Reyes says. "I've tried and tried, and I've talked to everyone I could ever talk to about forming partnerships. We didn't want to just go out there and do things by ourselves. That's the whole idea of community — working together. But people don't want to work together; they want their own little corner, their own piece of the pie. All these groups like Arts Memphis and the Memphis Music Foundation are working toward building sites that are practically identical to LiveFromMemphis.com. At some point it's like, why are we doing this?"
Reyes pauses for a few seconds and then adds, "I think somewhere along the line I might have been blackballed."
Reyes doesn't deny having a contentious relationship with certain, notable members of the Memphis music industry, which has no doubt had an effect on his ability to realize his dreams of integrating Live From Memphis into other industry groups.
"People don't like to hear that what they are doing is wrong," Reyes says. "And people like me who are outspoken tend to become outcasts."
Support for Reyes and Live From Memphis from within Memphis' more grassroots community, however, is fairly unanimous.
"Every good idea that the Music [Commission or Foundation has had] they stole from Christopher. Nothing they've tried to do has ever had an effect on me as a musician," says Mark Akin, of the local band the Subteens and a close friend of Reyes.
"With a minimal staff and totally self-funded, Live From Memphis is an exhaustive central location to listen to bands, find out about bands, buy music, and find out about events around town," says Goner Records' Eric Friedl. "That Chris can do this by himself is mind-blowing. It's no wonder he looks exhausted all the time."
"Organizations like Live From Memphis are the key to a cohesive and productive music scene and thus to putting Memphis back on the map for good current music," says Brad Postlethwaite, of Makeshift Music and the local band Snowglobe. "For years, Christopher has been going out in the community and recording show after show, night after night, all for the simple goal of promoting the music and helping the artists. It is a thankless task, unfortunately, as is evidenced by the lack of funding for projects like Live From Memphis."
Despite an inability to form relationships with the local industry or find any substantial outside funding, Live From Memphis has remained a fixture on the local music and film scene and continues to grow. Reyes recently moved Live From Memphis from its offices in Reyes' downtown loft to a more publicly accessible space at the MeDiA Co-op in Midtown, launched a social networking component (called "Community") at the website, and is developing a print publication due out later this year called Art Rag. This comes in spite of the fact that Reyes has been dealing with significant health problems since August that have seen him bedridden, in and out of hospitals, and severely in debt.
These days, Reyes is getting around better and continues to work on Live From Memphis projects around his graphic design and film work. However, personal and organizational financial concerns have left him wondering how long he can keep it going.
"I think we get taken for granted, absolutely," Reyes says. "We have only a handful of supporters. We are the same creatives who we're trying to support. I've definitely thought, at times, about shutting it down."
For now, though, Reyes is content to push forward with minimal assistance and the hope that someone will see the value of Live From Memphis and offer some substantial support. Until then, he continues to promote the music scene that he loves by whatever means available.
"As soon as Christopher was well enough to get out of bed, he was recording shows for free," Akin says. "He has a genuine passion for Memphis music and puts his money where his mouth is. That's something we need to save and support."