Labor Day weekend is typically one of Memphis' most hectic and fruitful times for live music, and this year is no exception. The highlight, as usual, is the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival (see Local Beat, page 53), which will unite a typically stellar grab bag of Memphis artists Friday, August 29th, through Sunday, August 31st, in and around the Center for Southern Folklore.
Then there's a really special event this year, when most of the city's garage-rock best -- including '68 Comeback, The Compulsive Gamblers, The Neckbones, and Impala --unite (or reunite, in some cases) for a record-release party for Shangri-La Projects' A History of Memphis Garage Rock: The '90s Saturday, August 30th, at the Hi-Tone CafÇ (see Short Cuts, page 48). This shindig will be followed the next night at Murphy's by a gathering of a new generation of garage bands, dubbed Memphis Future Sound Now Showcase, featuring The Dutch Masters, The Final Solutions, and New Orleans' Die Rotzz.
Other local shows of note include a couple of bands with ace new records. Lucero's latest, That Much Further West, is due to hit the racks next month, with a local release show scheduled for early October. But you can get an early taste Saturday, August 30th, at Young Avenue Deli. That Much Further West, which will be released by New York's Tiger Style Records, was recorded at the band's living space here in town and may be their best record yet. Another local record-of-the-year contender is Vending Machine's 5 Piece Kit, a lovingly crafted collection of bent, homemade pop that's been out for a while now but which will get an official celebration Sunday, August 31st, at the Hi-Tone CafÇ. Joining Vending Machine for the show will be The Bloodthirsty Lovers, who will be debuting a new lineup that adds ex-Big Ass Truck guitarist Steve Selvidge to the fold, and comedic genius and Flyer contributor Andrew Earles, who promises new jokes.
-- Chris Herrington
It makes no sense that a drum, a tuba, and a guitar can play idiosyncratic post-rock and still be taken seriously. But with hints of funk, nods to be-bop, and big rock drums, the Austin-based Drums and Tuba make seriously great instrumental music that defies accurate description. They come on like the soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch's mushroom dream, weird but irresistible. They are quite unlike anything else you are likely to hear anytime soon. They are certainly unlike anything else to roll out of the alt-country and roots-rock-obsessed Austin scene. Drums and Tuba have been picked up by Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe label; hopefully, the righteous babe's righteous muscle can give this most deserving band the higher profile they deserve. If you catch them at Young Avenue Deli on Wednesday, September 3rd, the chances are good you'll walk away a convert.
-- Chris Davis
An annual Labor Day weekend tradition, The Turner Family Picnic is scheduled for Friday, August 29th, and Saturday, August 30th, in Gravel Springs, a small farm community just east of Senatobia, Mississippi. Although the family lost patriarch Othar Turner and his daughter Bernice Turner Pratcher earlier this year, Turner's protÇgÇe, his 13-year-old granddaughter Sharde Evans, has proven her ability to lead The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band.
Musicologist Alan Lomax first documented the fife-and-drum tradition 50 years ago: "Consider first," he wrote, "the Spirit of '76, three musicians marching into battle, proud, erect another thing entirely from [these musicians], slouching along with their hip twisting, their hot licks, and an occasional Watusi leap. One message was writ large," Lomax concluded, "this was Africa come to life in America."
Half a century later, not much has changed. Blues fans won't want to miss the two-day picnic, which will feature the Rising Star Band alongside one-string player Glen Faulkner and guitarists Robert Belfour, T-Model Ford, Elam McKnight, John Lowe, and Daniel "Slick" Ballinger. -- Andria Lisle