Former Hi-Tone Café owner Jonathan Kiersky announced last week that he's signed a lease at 412 and 414 N. Cleveland to open a new live-music venue to replace the former Hi-Tone on Poplar, which closed last month.
This deal was in the works when we reported on the Hi-Tone's closure in a recent cover story outlining Kiersky's tentative plans for the new space in the Crosstown arts district.
"It will be about the same size as the [original] Hi-Tone, but, with the ability to remake the space, it's going to allow for a larger capacity," Kiersky said at the time, estimating a 600-person capacity. "One of the exciting parts about this new space is we'll have a blank chalkboard. We can do whatever we want."
At that point, Kiersky had minor hurdles to clear regarding a liquor license (getting approval from a neighboring church) and parking. As of a couple of weeks ago, Kiersky was negotiating with the landlord about his plans to knock down an interior wall in order to join the adjacent bays. The issue was tabled while the landlord was on vacation and Kiersky was at Austin's South by Southwest Music Festival representing his company, Ping Pong Booking & PR.
While it remains to be seen what shape the open space will take, Kiersky described a slightly larger stage at the back of the club, rather than the Hi-Tone's odd, small stage in the front corner, with a bar in the middle of the room to reduce congestion. He also planned on a separate smoking lounge to reduce in-and-out traffic and give patrons a place to watch a Grizzlies game even while bands are playing. — Chris Herrington
Fatback Jubilee at
Memphis may be flatland, but for lovers of old-time mountain string band music in the 1990s, there were few better ways to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than camping at a table at the Young Avenue Deli, nursing drinks, and singing along with Fatback Jubilee, a bluegrass super-band composed almost entirely of area rockers who were exploring their roots. Today it would be more accurate to simply describe members of the newly reformed ensemble as some of the region's most dedicated folk instrumentalists.
Fatback was a smaller, tighter spinoff of Professor Elixir's Southern Troubadours, a multipiece ensemble mixing old country, blues, jug band, and folk revival sounds with the occasional Velvet Underground cover. Where Professor Elixir was all over the cosmic American map, the Jubilee — featuring Eric Lewis, Mike Graber, Andy Ratliff, David Pierce, Clint Wagner, and the late Craig Shindler on bass — was more focused on bluegrass, with Shindler's vocal turn on the standard "Rye Whiskey" being a highlight of most shows.
"Without Craig, there is a sweet longing," says Graber, remembering Shindler, who died of a heart attack in 2000. "We dedicate each show to him."
"We all grew up musically together, and at a certain point in time we really bonded," Graber says of the group's origins. "We all missed the energy," he adds, explaining why the group re-formed after a 15-year hiatus.
Fatback Jubilee plays an all-acoustic show at Otherlands Coffee Bar on Saturday, April 6th. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $10. — Chris Davis
Levitt Shell Schedule
The Levitt Shell announced its summer schedule this week, with free concerts Thursdays through Sundays running from late May until mid-July at the outdoor venue in Overton Park. The summer calendar begins on May 23rd with the North Mississippi Allstars and concludes on July 13th, with a concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Recording Academy, performers scheduled to include New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas and Memphis' Hi Rhythm Section.
In between, potential highlights include Kansas City sibling blues band Trampled Under Foot (June 8th), zydeco faves Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band (June 14th), the return of Todd Snider's "What the Folk" Fest (June 15th), alt-country stalwarts Son Volt (June 27th), Mississippi jam band Roscoe Bandana (June 28th), and rising New York indie-folk band The Spring Standards (July 11th).
For a full schedule and more information, see levittshell.org.