Memphis Marvels - Closing the Loop
This weekend I closed a personal loop on a unique event and found even more inspiration. The Indie Memphis Film Festival was happening when I spent my first weekend here, but I had one full day and chose to visit The National Civil Rights, Rock and Soul (already been to Stax on a drive-thru a few years earlier) and Cotton Museums. That night in November 2013, however, I went to a wrap party for the festival at Kris Kourdouvelis’ Warehouse, an event and place which influenced my decision to move here. Anytime I talk to a visitor, or go looking for something to do in my own time off, I watch for and talk up unique events. I felt like I shorted Indie Memphis by not supporting the films, and with one excuse or another did not attend after I moved here in 2015 or last year. Four years after that moving wrap party, I actually attended two full-length screenings, with one preceded by a short film, all of which got me taking notes and thinking about other events I have attended or been a part of here and unique spaces that inspire me.
Of course, independent films and local film festivals are not exclusive to Memphis. What I’m talking about with Indie Memphis is a purely personal experience - one I think you should consider when looking for something to do here. Of course, the two features I saw are distinctive and uniquely Memphis. The films were ‘Mr. Handy’s Blues’ by Joanne Fish, ‘Furry Lewis & The Bottleneck Guitar Story’ by David Brian Guinle, and the short was ‘The Man Is The Music’ by Maris Curran. I’m not going to play film critic or detail these films, but if you like music or art, see them if you get the chance. WC Handy, despite the controversy over his actual role in the development of blues music - which was addressed in the documentary - was critical in the development of American music. Most notable are hearing his voice and local and international musicians playing versions of his songs and talking about him. I hear about Furry Lewis from people here who knew him, but his style, his adaptation of Hawaiian slide (slack key) guitar - yes, imagine the meeting of Pacific Islander and African cultural music right here in Memphis and the Mississippi Delta - was well exhibited in interviews and performances in the film. Before the film, Zeke Johnson’s live performance and storytelling of his days playing with Lewis were like a fine china platter on which a roast was then placed. The story of Lonnie Holley in ‘The Man is His Music” was shown before the Furry Lewis feature. Holley wanders about Atlanta collecting seemingly random pieces of trash and creates art from them, sometimes leaving the work in place for people to find. Now, this film hit me harder because I just went to Frank Lilly’s From Trash to Treasure opening at The Levy Gallery at Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center, on the campus of St Mary’s Episcopal School (where I saw Alejandro Escovedo last year - let all that sink in). Frank collects trash and paints around it, from aluminum cans to tires, eyeglasses, and trash cans. I wrote about Frank last year in my ‘Meet Memphis’ series, an article he uses as his handout and which, with my photograph of him, is hanging at Levy as part of the exhibit. Hmmm, I spot lots of trash while walking around Memphis…
Stay tuned junk fans! I will continue this story about unique events and places ending with two that are absolutely Memphis marvels - on Main Street and Beale Street!