Memphis

How The Memphis Music Scene Is Going Virtual During Coronavirus

Courtesy of IMAKEMADBEATS
Courtesy of IMAKEMADBEATS
Courtesy of IMAKEMADBEATS

Who says you need a music venue — or even a live audience — to host a rock show? In light of COVID-19, Memphis musicians and music makers from all over the world have been posting up online via Facebook or Instagram Live to offer their fans a live look in at their new reality. From basement shows to spectacles in the bathtub, nothing is off limits these days. 
 
Before we came all too familiar with the true meaning of coronavirus, musicians from all walks of life were already dealing with tight margins when it comes to paying their bills. Now they are hustling more than ever to sell merch and encourage Venmo contributions in exchange for virtual shows. Late last month, Memphis Travel, the city’s tourism arm, put on Get Live! Memphis: A Virtual Music Festival — a three-day, multi-genre and fully online experience that raised money for Music Export Memphis.
 
“Staying relevant and creating new digital content is what we are focused on now,” says artist and producer James Dukes aka IMAKEMADBEATS, who played the festival with musician Cameron Bethany. “It was the first time we ever did anything like this. We take our work very seriously and the experience at one of our events is the most important thing.” 
 
In person, Dukes and his Unapologetic shows attempt to touch on all the senses. For these virtual performances, he paid a lot of attention to lighting and added in smoke machines to create a haze in the room. “We had a lot of fun doing it,” he says. “But it’s hard to not feed off of a crowd. People apparently dug it based on Facebook and Instagram emojis.”  

Despite the lack of connection from an audience, Blues City is still forging ahead with virtual events to give its local artists exposure. The Memphis Tourism Music Hub will be hosting a virtual DJ experience broadcast live from The Central Station Hotel in downtown Memphis in a new four-week series starting April 17 and the sets can be viewed on the hub’s social media channels.

The Wealthy West
The Wealthy West
The Wealthy West

For Brandon Kinder of The Wealthy West, performing virtually reminds him of being a kid — the idea of pretending to be on stage with a cool band. But now a ton of people are secretly watching. “It’s so different as there’s no feedback or visual cues to energize you while you play,” he says. “But it’s exciting because you get to engage with your crowd in a whole new way.” 
 
Before everything went online a few weeks back, Unapologetic’s roster of artists — which includes filmmakers, photographers, and musicians — were really picking up steam in Memphis and beyond. Now they are reduced to curating their one-of-a-kind shows via the internet. But the musician collective has plenty of ideas up its collective sleeves for this unprecedented time, including its first-ever TV comedy show, which premieres April 20. 
 
As for the music, artists realize that continuing to perform is the key to sustaining their presence in Memphis and beyond. “Seventy percent of the reason people come to Memphis is for the music, and that’s an old stat,” Dukes says. “Music is the thing we need to protect — from venue owners to session and church players to producers.” 
 
With times being what they are and tours and gigs being canceled left and right, musicians are struggling to make ends meet. Kinder, who has two virtual shows coming up on April 23 and May 11, mentions that he is losing royalties from an Olympics 2020 ad that was set to run.

“Fortunately, this is the first year I haven’t been dependent on live shows and touring, but I have many friends struggling,” he says. “Right now there’s a big sense of camaraderie, but how long will that last? How long will I want to see my favorite bands play their sets online?” 
 
Dukes agrees and says that staying relevant will be difficult in these new and unusual times. “I feel responsible for taking care of my team now more than ever,” he says. “We are all trying to problem solve in real time.” Sign up here for our daily Memphis email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Blues City.

Jeff Hulett is a freelance writer, musician, and PR consultant in Memphis. He lives with his wife Annie, two girls Ella and Beatrice, and two dogs Chalupa and Princess Freckles. Follow him on Twitter.

Memphis

The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Tennessee

Get some fresh air.

Michael Hicks/Flickr
Michael Hicks/Flickr
Michael Hicks/Flickr

As the late Charlie Daniels famously used to say, “Ain’t it good to be alive, and be in Tennessee!” That’s because Tennessee truly is a special state filled with beautiful places. If you’re of a mind to travel, here are some of the most breathtaking sites and sights across the state.

Anthony Heflin/Shutterstock
Anthony Heflin/Shutterstock
Anthony Heflin/Shutterstock

Big South Fork

Oneida
Named for the major tributary of the Cumberland River, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area covers almost 200 square miles along the border of Tennessee and Kentucky. Boasting many natural bridge and arch formations, an extensive system of hiking trails, and five developed campgrounds, Big South Fork has something to offer for adventurers at any level of experience looking to get out into the wild.

Alisha Bube/Shutterstock
Alisha Bube/Shutterstock
Alisha Bube/Shutterstock

Fall Creek Falls

Spencer
The gorgeous cataract is the tallest free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi. Beautiful from above, the 256-foot tall falls is even more impressive after taking the hike down to the pool at its base. It’s worth the hike back up to the parking lot afterward, we promise

Weidman Photography/Shutterstock
Weidman Photography/Shutterstock
Weidman Photography/Shutterstock

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Gatlinburg
The most-visited national park in the United States draws more than 10 million tourists a year to marvel at close to a thousand square miles of dense forests and mountain ranges that exhibit remarkable biodiversity. Drive or hike through the park to one of many scenic overlooks to spy the beautiful fog-shrouded peaks that give the ancient mountains their name.

Bluegrass Underground
Bluegrass Underground
Bluegrass Underground

The Caverns

Pelham
This cave complex outside the small town of Pelham just off of Interstate 24 is a dual threat. Not only does it host daily cave tours featuring a single room that’s longer than three football fields, giving the attraction its former name of Big Room Cave, but it’s also a premier performance venue. Currently, the spot has established a series of concerts in an above-ground amphitheater where music fans can purchase socially distanced pods of seats overlooking the sweeping vistas of Payne’s Cove below.

Oleg Shpyrko/Flickr
Oleg Shpyrko/Flickr
Oleg Shpyrko/Flickr

Cherohala Skyway

Tellico Plains
The Cherohala Skyway is a 43-mile stretch of elevated highway connecting Tennessee with North Carolina and features multiple overlooks offering views of the Unicoi Mountains and the two national forests through which it passes, the Cherokee and Nantahala forests that combine to give the skyway its name. A favorite of motorcyclists, the Cherohala is one of the greatest scenic drives in the region.

Michael Hicks/Flickr
Michael Hicks/Flickr
Michael Hicks/Flickr

Walls of Jericho

Belvidere
Once hidden away on private land, the Walls of Jericho is still rarely visited since it’s a pretty grueling hike in and out of the 8,900-acre wilderness area. Those that make the trek are rewarded with multiple waterfalls and rippling creeks along the way to their final destination, a dramatic natural amphitheater with 200-foot sheer rock walls that seep water from the Turkey Creek to create a dramatic water feature.

Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Clingmans Dome

Bryson City
Visitors can literally look down on the state of Tennessee from this peak, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The observation tower is surrounded by a rare evergreen forest and affords a wraparound view that reaches 100 miles on a clear day. As a bonus, there aren’t many mountain tops where you can drive all the way to the apex and park your car a short walk along a paved trail to find breathtaking views like these.

Flickr/Guillaume Capron
Flickr/Guillaume Capron
Flickr/Guillaume Capron

Reelfoot Lake

Samburg
Tennessee’s only major natural lake (you can thank the TVA for all those great reservoirs), Reelfoot Lake was formed when a series of earthquakes along the New Madrid fault in 1811-12 actually caused the Mississippi River to run backwards and fill in the land in northwestern Tennessee that had subsided due to the tremors. Known for gorgeous bald cypress trees, Reelfoot is known as paradise for fishermen and duck hunters. Bird watchers can also spy numerous nesting pairs of bald eagles.

Flickr/Joel Kramer
Flickr/Joel Kramer
Flickr/Joel Kramer

The Lost Sea

Sweetwater
Tucked in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, The Lost Sea is the nation’s largest underground lake at almost five acres. Beautiful subterranean features such as stalactites, stalagmites, and delicate crystal anthodites are visible as part of glass-bottom boat tours called The Lost Sea Adventure. Wild cave tours are also available for more intrepid spelunkers who want to go even deeper into the cavern.

Wayne Silver
Wayne Silver
Wayne Silver

Townsend

Townsend
Known as “The Peaceful Side of the Smoky Mountains,” Townsend is the least-crowded entrance into the national park. Even if you don’t ever actually cross into the park, the views from Townsend where the Cumberland Plateau meets the Tennessee Valley and the Smokies is breathtaking.

Flickr/HD_Vision
Flickr/HD_Vision
Flickr/HD_Vision

Twin Falls

Rock Island
Rock Island was created when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Caney Fork River in the early 20th century to help provide hydroelectric power to Nashville. The resulting reservoir has steep wooded banks leading down to the lake with lots of generations-old vacation homes taking full advantage of floating boat docks and water activities. Twin Falls is a striking cascade near the powerhouse where water flows out of an underground cave before falling 80ft into a pool below.

Flickr/Matthew Paulson
Flickr/Matthew Paulson
Flickr/Matthew Paulson

Cades Cove
Cades Cove

Sometimes the valley can be just as beautiful as the mountains, and Cades Coves at the foothills of the Smokies is an excellent example. An 11-mile one-way loop circles the cove offering the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and abundant wildlife of the verdant valley without ever leaving the comfort of your car. There are also some cool historical sites along the loop, including three churches, a working grist mill, and other restored centuries-old structures. Grab a self-guided tour booklet at the entrance and take a drive through history.

Flickr/L P
Flickr/L P
Flickr/L P

Crystal Shrine Grotto

Memphis
A true oddity, Crystal Shrine Grotto is the largest man-made crystal cavern in the world. Crafted in the 1930s by artist Dionicio Rodriguez (a self-taught sculptor from Mexico), Crystal Shrine is a sort-of-kitschy/sort-of-beautiful retelling of scenes from the Bible illustrated in sculptures made using rock quartz crystal and semiprecious stones. Once you pass through the hole in a large concrete stump, you’ll be entering into a magical world.

Flickr/J. P. Lu
Flickr/J. P. Lu
Flickr/J. P. Lu

Tellico Plains

Tellico Plains
Located where the Tellico River emerges from the Appalachian Mountains, Tellico Plains is a prototypical sleepy little mountain town with picturesque landscapes of rolling fields, ancient barns down below, and spectacular mountain views looming from above. With easy access to the Cherohala Skyway and the Cherokee National Forest nearby, Tellico Plains is a lovely home base for a weekend of outdoor adventures.

Flickr/Tim Moore
Flickr/Tim Moore
Flickr/Tim Moore

Natchez Trace Parkway

Fly
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile-long drive from Nashville to Natchez, MS. Although it’s slow going thanks to a 55 mph speed limit, it’s worth taking your time to enjoy the pastoral scenery and historical markers along the way that trace the history of the original inhabitants and settlers of the region. Particularly striking is the concrete double arch bridge across Highway 96 near Fly close to the northern terminus of the parkway. Acrophobics might want to close their eyes when crossing. (But not if you’re driving‚Ķ)

Flickr/Brent Moore
Flickr/Brent Moore
Flickr/Brent Moore

Falls Mill

Belvidere
Although the latest round of health regulations forced the 140-plus-year-old mill to cease commercial operations, the waterwheel is still turning at this historic facility near Belvidere. In addition to a bed and breakfast and a museum of antique, water-powered machinery and even a dog-powered butter churn, Falls Mill is worth a visit just to sit in the placid picnic grounds along the creek to listen to the stream cascading across the wheel and into the pool below. Spring foliage is particularly dramatic in the woods surrounding the mill.

Chris Chamberlain is a Nashville writer — follow him on Twitter at¬†@CeeElCee.

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