By Zachary Corsa
Nestled amongst the stately townhomes and leafy walking trails of Harbor Town–a well-loved New Urbanism community just north of downtown Memphis on Mud Island–is one of the most charming secrets of the Bluff City. A short distance from the Maria Montessori School complex is the school’s stone amphitheater, a grassy and intimate outdoor performance space with heart-stopping panoramic views of the Pyramid and downtown. The brainchild of Goner’s Zac Ives and long-time Memphis scene linchpin Robby Grant, this amphitheater has hosted the River Series of concerts since 2014, a biannual (Spring and Fall) run of three Saturday shows each to raise funds for the school. Admission is free, but a donation of just $5 is suggested and much appreciated. The Spring 2022 offerings are as eclectic and intriguing as ever, so let’s take a quick look at what each one has to offer.
Saturday, April 30th, 4:00 P.M.
Greg Cartwright’s Whelk Stall, Aquarian Blood
Greg Cartwright’s Memphis music resume is a staggering one, having co-founded local legends like The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers. Although he makes his home in Asheville these days, he’s recently reconstituted the ‘Memphis lineup’ of perhaps his most hallowed outfit, Reigning Sound. Cartwright has chosen his appearance at the River Series on April 30th to debut a new project, Greg Cartwright’s Whelk Stall, and it’d be a stunner if this new endeavor didn’t feature the same highly-caffeinated take on 60s garage and pop that has been Cartwright’s expertise for decades. Another long-time Memphis institution, the hallucinatory psych-washed folk-swirlers Aquarian Blood, open.
Saturday, May 14th, 4:00 P.M.
Jeremy & The Drip Edges, Tm. Prudhomme’s Fake
Speaking of Reigning Sound, lending his bass skills to the aforementioned Memphis garage-rock luminaries is just one highlight of scene lifer and WEVL DJ Jeremy Scott’s resume, including an acclaimed and eminently-catchy solo album, Bear Grease, released late last February. Luckily for all of us, his new collective The Drip Edges will be on hand on May 14th to perform full-band takes on that album’s singular jangle and wail. Opening the evening is another new project debut, this one from Tim Prudhomme, late of ’90s Oakland indie notables F*ck, debuting Tm. Prudhomme’s Fake, which will surely continue his latter-day solo work’s beguiling and addictive throwback indie jams.
Saturday, June 4th, 4:00 P.M.
Mouserocket, Ibex Clone
Supergroups get a bad rap these days, but one shining Memphis example, Mouserocket, offers just as many melodic thrills and ramshackle spills as its associated members’ other treasured outfits. Mouserocket features the aforementioned Robby Grant (Big Ass Truck, Vending Machine) alongside several other Bluff City musical titans, including Alicja Trout (Lost Sounds, River City Tanlines) and Jonathan Kirkscey (cellist for the Memphis Symphony orchestra, Al Green, Cat Power). With so many heavy-hitters involved, the songs are inevitably chaotically-gleeful and enchantingly-strange. Life-affirming Memphis trio Ibex Clone opens, drawing on psych-folk and chilly Cold War post-punk in service of songs that call 80s Athens to mind while still reading as fully original and highly inventive.
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE RIVER SERIES CAN BE FOUND HERE – http://www.mariamontessorischool.org/river-series/