Ever wonder who those bands are on the bottom of the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival? The ones in the 5-point type that is hard to read at the bottom of the listing of acts to perform in 2018. The Manchester Times is reaching out to some of the lesser-known bands to find out their stories.
Memphis band looking to be as famous as street name
Southern Avenue is a Memphis Street that runs from the easternmost part of the city limits all the way to Soulsville, the original home of Stax Records. Southern Avenue is also the name of a fiery young Memphis quintet that embodies its home city’s soul, blues and gospel traditions, while adding a youthful spirit and dynamic energy all their own.
“If Memphis music is a genre, this is it!” proclaims American Blues Scene, and Rock 103FM calls Southern Avenue, “The most-talked-about band in Memphis.”
Their self-titled debut album is a breath of fresh air with its own unique blend of gospel-tinged rhythm and blues vocals, roots/blues-based guitar work and soul-inspired songwriting. And Southern Avenue’s upcoming release on the fabled Stax label is a testament to the young combo’s talent and vision.
Southern Avenue features five young but seasoned musicians who came from diverse musical and personal backgrounds to create music that spans their wide-ranging musical interests, while showcasing the powerful chemistry that the group has honed through stage and studio experience.
Southern Avenue encompasses Memphis-born, church-bred sisters Tierinii and Tikyra Jackson, respectively a soulful, charismatic singer and a subtle, powerful drummer; guitarist Ori Naftaly, an Israeli-born blues disciple who first came to America as an acclaimed solo artist; versatile jazz-inspired bassist Daniel McKee; and the band’s newest addition, keyboardist Jeremy Powell, an early alumnus of Stax’s legendary music academy.
The band members’ diverse skills came together organically on Southern Avenue, via Stax Records, a division of Concord Music Group. Produced by Kevin Houston (North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, Patty Griffin), the 10-song album features guest appearances from Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and trumpeter Marc Franklin of the Bo-Keys. But it’s Southern Avenue’s own potent musical chemistry that drives such sublimely soulful originals as “Don’t Give Up,” “What Did I Do,” “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Love Me Right” and “Wildflower.” The band also pays tribute to its roots with an incandescent reading of Ann Peebles’ Memphis soul classic “Slipped, Tripped and Fell in Love.”
The seeds for Southern Avenue’s birth were planted when Ori Naftaly, who’d grown up in Israel with a deeply rooted passion for American blues and funk, came to Memphis in 2013 to compete in the prestigious International Blues Challenge. That experience led to Naftaly moving permanently to Memphis and successfully touring the United States with his own band.
Although his talents were embraced by American audiences, Naftaly felt constrained in his own band, feeling the need to include a more expansive, collaborative musical vision. That opportunity arrived when he met Memphis native Tierinii Jackson, who’d gotten her start singing in church, before performing in a series of cover bands and theatrical projects.
According to Ori, “When I saw Tierinii perform, I thought, ‘This is why I came to America.’ I met her and we clicked. At our first rehearsal, she told me that her sister was a drummer, and she thought it would be great to have her in the band. We had such a good vibe, and suddenly I didn’t care so much about my solo thing.”
“I initially clicked with Ori really well, but it was his project,” Tierinii remembers. “Then he came to me and said ‘I want this band to be a collaboration, I want this to be our vision and our music.’ So we started writing together, and that’s when I realized that we were really the same, musically.”
“We started over,” Naftaly continues. “We threw out most of the songs I’d been playing in my solo band, and Tierinii and I wrote a whole new set, and we became Southern Avenue. The more we played together, the closer we got, and the more we became a family. We started getting a different kind of crowd, and from there things escalated quickly.”
Ori said, ‘My band is done, this is y’all’s band,'” Tierinii recalls. “We all quit our other gigs and started focusing on this, working and writing and living together in a way that you don’t experience when you’re playing somebody else’s music. Now we’re playing songs that we wrote ourselves and we’re playing them from our hearts. That is when I realized that we had something special.”
Despite not having a record deal, Southern Avenue quickly found success touring in America and Europe. They won additional attention playing some prestigious festivals and competing in the International Blues Challenge, in which they represented Memphis. Less than a year after the band’s formation, they were signed to the resurgent Stax label.
“I feel like being on Stax is a responsibility,” says Tierinii. “I grew up in Memphis, seeing the name Stax everywhere. It was a constant presence, and now it’s up to us to live up to that. I feel like this band can be a platform to do a lot of positive things for the city of Memphis. I want to change the world, but Memphis is home.”
Tierinii views Southern Avenue as “a perfect soundtrack to our first year together. We wrote these songs in our first nine months of being a band. We’d all done so many things and come from so many different places, but the music represents all of us.
“It’s been a real crash course,” she continues. “We haven’t been a band for very long, but what we have feels very special, and it’s made us a strong unit. I think that we represent something that people need to see right now.”
“This band has already made our dreams come true,” Ori concludes. “I’ve waited all my life to be in a band like this, and it’s amazing to me that I get to play with these people every night. Our goal is to keep doing this for a long time and leave our mark. We’re trying to build a legacy.”
Listen to their music at: http://www.southernavenueband.com.
Pitchfork reports that Topaz Jones has been performing his entire life. The son of a musician, some of his earliest memories involve family gatherings where he and his cousins would put on shows where they’d try to replicate dance routines by the vintage funk and soul bands he was raised on. Since then he’s moved on to much bigger venues, splitting his time between opening for chart-topping rappers and selling out his own shows as a headlining artist.
Topaz Jones is the stage name of George David Brandon Jones, a New Jersey-based hip-hop artist. His music combines rapid flows and the oozing beats of trap music with touches of laid-back 1970s funk. Born in Montclair, N.J. in 1993, Jones was introduced to funk music at an early age by his musician father. He also absorbed lessons in social justice thanks to the influence of his mother, a doctor and Harvard scholar. He released his debut album, The Honeymoon Suite, in 2014 and follow-up Arcade appeared in 2016.
Movement is key to Topaz’s appeal as a performer, and it’s an essential part of the rest of his creative practice. On Arcade, the lanky 6 foot 4 inch New Jersey native slips and slides between classic funk, contemporary hip-hop, and all points in between with an easy grace that might be even smoother than his moves on stage.
Here his music at: https://soundcloud.com/topazjones.
Recording artist popular on YouTube and SoundCloud who released a debut mixtape titled Sixes and Sevens. He followed it up with a mixtape titled Painting Sounds, featuring the single “Another Life.” He is originally from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The 23-year-old is originally from New Haven, Conn., is known for his rhythm and blues style.
Listen to his music at: https://soundcloud.com/kyledion.
The Texas Gentlemen
It’s deceptive, because it creates the impression these Gentlemen might be hesitant about their first record, but any hint of uncertainty vanishes as the core quintet — Beau Bedford, Nik Lee, Daniel Creamer, Matt McDonald and Ryan Ake — tears into the opening track, Habbie Doobie, a low-slung piece of vintage country-funk that slams out of the speakers and announces The Texas Gentlemen as a force to be reckoned with.
This Lone Star-bred collective takes its cues from some of the iconic acts of the past — the quicksilver brilliance of The Wrecking Crew, The Muscle Shoals Swampers (who backed everyone from Aretha to Wilson Pickett), Booker T. and The M.G.’s, and Bob Dylan’s one-time backers The Band are the most obvious examples. Bedford, who shares chief engineering and producing responsibilities at Dallas’ Modern Electric Sound Recorders, assembled The Texas Gentlemen as an all-purpose backing band for an eclectic array of singer-songwriters, including Leon Bridges, Nikki Lane, and more.
In 2016, the Gentlemen were lured out of the studio to the Newport Folk Festival, where they were joined by iconic troubadour Kris Kristofferson, making his first Newport appearance in more than 45 years. Rolling Stone called it one of the festival’s “most exciting sets.”
Kristofferson so enjoyed collaborating with The Texas Gentlemen that he enlisted them to reprise their roles in a series of critically acclaimed Texas concerts. Of Kristofferson and The Texas Gentlemen’s appearance at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, music critic Preston Jones wrote “The [instruments] would slowly coalesce around Kristofferson’s gnarled but still potent voice, creating an electric sensation of the past fusing with the present.”
That deft fusion of before and right now is possible thanks to the musicians’ unswerving dedication to simply playing to the best of their abilities, trusting their instincts, and letting the music guide them. Case in point: TX Jelly was created in less than a week — four days, start to finish — at Muscle Shoals’ singular FAME Studios.
Pared down from the 28 songs the Gentlemen recorded in that 96-hour span, TX Jellyeffortlessly connects way back to what’s next, summoning the spirits of American songcraft even as it heralds the arrival of 21st century talent. Cut live, with little use for the blinding polish and careful presentation of so much modern music, TX Jelly oozes with skill backed up by that hard-won authenticity.
TX Jelly moves between contemplative and raucous, encompassing the full breadth of the American experience. The music touches on blues, soul, folk, country, rock and gospel — from first track to last, you can feel The Texas Gentlemen reaching deep inside themselves and finding what’s genuine — what illuminates the truth of the country’s rich, complicated and singular artistic history — and delivering it the only way they know how: real, raw and righteous.
Listen to their music at: https://www.thetexasgentlemen.com/music.
Earmilk wrote that Blume hails from Montclair, N.J. He excelled in school and went to Yale for undergrad, majoring in Latin American studies and living in Brazil, becoming fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. He was planning on sticking to a life of academia until his last year of school, when he joined a prestigious, all male, a cappella group called the Whiffenpoofs. Started at Yale in 1909, the Whiffenpoofs are the oldest and best known a cappella group in the collegiate circuit. While with the Whiffenpoofs, Blume toured the world, performing in 35 countries, and it was then he had a realization.
The reason Blume doesn’t have a singular demographic is because his music does not come from a singular place, and he doesn’t have a singular message to get across. Musically, Blume pulls from hip-hop, jazz, R&B, Neo Soul and electronica. Lyrically, Blume exhibits a passion for capturing a range of issues, from materialism to gay rights to civil rights.
Listen to his music at: https://soundcloud.com/michaelblume
Post Animal is a rock ‘n’ roll band from Chicago, Ill. Dalton Allison plays bass, Jake Hirshland plays both guitar and keys, Javi Reyes, Joe Keery and Matt Williams all play guitar and Wes Toledo keeps things ticking on drums. Impressively, and like all the greatest bands, everybody sings.
They are described as a heavy psych pop band.
Listen to their music at: https://postanimal.bandcamp.com.