This weekend the Edge District is turning into a rockabilly wonderland for the inaugural Memphis International Rockabilly Festival.
Not only will there be two stages with live music (everyone from local act Motel Mirrors to rockabilly legend Lee Rocker) but a ton of other activities and vendors. Think tattoo artists, record swamps, photo booths, food and drink, and hot rods.
The festival goes from noon to midnight on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $20 in advance for a one-day pass or $30 in advance for both days; buy tickets here or at the gate for an additional $5.
As for parking: there will be various lots and spaces available around the Festival, including the Commercial Appeal's front and back lots, several UT Medical lots, and others that will be marked. Parking still might be limited, so consider a cab or ride-share or set aside some extra time just to be safe.
Darrin Hillis is a festival producer who is an avid rockabilly fan and an organizer for the Rockabilly Fest. I called him up to get the scoop on the latest addition to Memphis' many food and music festivals. For the lineup, click here.
Holly: Are you a native Memphian?
Darrin: I grew up all over the country, but spent a lot of time in Chicago where I fell in love with music, played in a band, and started producing and promoting shows and festivals. My wife and I moved here 20 years ago, and now it's home.
Holly: Why the Rockabilly Festival in Memphis? Why now?
Darrin: We want to do this in Memphis because it's where rockabilly started. There can be some discussion about where rock or blues or soul started, but rockabilly was born here. I've had people for years ask me why, as a huge music, festival, and rockabilly fan, I didn't do something like this, so this time we finally pulled the trigger.
Holly: What exactly is "rockabilly" music?
Darrin: There are a lot of different definitions, but my favorite is "hillbilly boogie", which is what it was originally called. In its purest state, it was a bunch of hillbillies trying to play rock 'n' roll and country at the same time. Elvis' first hit "That's All Right Mama" was actually a rockabilly song. He went in a more rock 'n' roll direction after that and rockabilly kind of went out of fashion. In the eighties, the band Stray Cats brought it back and there's been a growing interest.
Holly: What will Rockabilly Festival be like?
Darrin: We are taking up two city blocks, from Orleans near Sun Studio all the way down to High Cotton Taproom on Monroe and on Marshall. There are two main stages with live music, and the street will be filled with vendors and booths (including food, mostly barbecue and food you'd see at the Delta Fair). The Memphis Bombshells will have a photo booth set up in the Premier Palace location for people who want to get dolled up like a pin-up girl and do photos.
We'll also have a tattoo parlor where folks can get the ultimate souvenir: classic rockabilly tattoos or maybe even our Festival logo. You can make appointments for that in person or online. There'll be a killer hot rod car show with folks dressed in rockabilly outfits, and we'll be projecting old movies on the side of the warehouse behind our main stage.
In the old Hattiloo Theatre location, we'll have a storytelling station where our legendary musicians will talk to the crowd and share their stories in the 75-seat, air-conditioned theatre. That will be about every hour on the hour.
On Saturday night, there's a celebrity Sock Hop that is a separately ticketed event from 10 p.m. to midnight; there will be costume contests, a jitterbug contest, and the crowning of the King and Queen of the sock hop.
We really want people to feel like they've gone back in time with the atmosphere, and the Edge is such a cool part of Memphis that it's a perfect location.
Holly: There's a big component of this festival that's also about giving back, can you tell me more about that?
Darrin: 15 percent of our net profits will go to four different Memphis charities: LeBonheur, St. Jude, the VA Medical Center (hospital for veterans), and Music Cares, which supports musicians in need. We'd be honored if folks coming to the festival could give above and beyond the ticket prices. Many of our musicians are also Veterans of the Armed Forces and we're very proud of their service and want to honor and support that.
– Local Yokels (showcasing the very best Bands and Artists Memphis has to offer) 1 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
– Tom Mathis and Band – 7 p.m.
– Deering & Down – 9 p.m.
– Stunning Cunning Band – 2 p.m.
– WS Holland and band (Johnny Cash’s Drummer) – 4 p.m.
– Stan Perkins – (Carl Perkin’s Son) 5:30 p.m.
– Jerry Lee “Smoochy” Smith – Locked – 6:10 p.m.
– Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers – 6:40 p.m.
– Lee Rocker of Stray Cats – 8 p.m.
Sunday August 16th
– Local Yokels – showcasing the very best Bands and Artists Memphis has to offer – 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
– Brad Birkedahl and Band (of The Dempsey’s) – 5:30 p.m.
– Motel Mirrors featuring John Paul Keith & Amy LaVere – 7:30 -8:30 p.m.
– JP Harris & The Tough Choices – 9 p.m.
– Travis Wammack – 3:30 p.m.
– Sleepy LaBeef – 5 p.m.
– Dale Watson – 6:30 p.m.
– Narvel Felts on Premier Palace Stage – 7:30p.m.
– The Pride of Memphis: Rockin’ Jason D Williams – 8 p.m.
Memphis International Rockabilly Festival
Edge District on Marshall Ave. west of Sun Studio
August 15 – 16, 2015
$15 – $25