I know people who feel most comfortable in dive bars. To be honest, I am one of those people. I’ve been guilty of looking for those divey music venues when I travel to a new city to find what the townsfolk are like. You know the bars… the music is louder than it should be, the people range from fanatical to random passerby, the seats are sticky, the lights are really low, there is an old jukebox in a truly inconvenient place in the room, and yet everyone seems to be really enjoying themselves and you get a sense it isn’t because of the booze. I’ve watched the dive bar “aesthetic” become a trend in other cities known for music in the U.S, but neon signs, a DJ, and a letter board menu does not a dive bar make.
Memphis dives are a whole other genre. The priority list at a proper Memphis dive bar is short yet consistent: you will find live and local music, a reasonably priced drink menu, a killer playlist for when there is no live music, and a snack that will allow you to keep purchasing said reasonably priced drinks while watching live music. Yes, that’s right, the priorities are all centered around live Memphis music. B-SIDE is the Memphis dive bar that has grown up, and it has become wiser with age.
In 2019, owners J.De DeHart and Brad Boswell opened B-SIDE Memphis inside the Minglewood Plaza building at 1553 Madison Avenue, with a specific focus on programing live Memphis music. And well…we all know what happened a few months later. B-SIDE Memphis hasn’t batted an eye at the arresting virus that’s caused the music industry much havoc. In fact, DeHart and Boswell have remained committed to providing live and local music in person and virtually through B-SIDE’s social media and YouTube channel’s throughout the majority of the ongoing pandemic. B-SIDE’s YouTube channel boasts over three hundred live sets, filmed and streamed from the venue since 2019.
Additionally, each live-streamed set features the band or musician’s venmo or Cash App handle, so viewers hopefully tip. DeHart says, “tipping musicians came day one of live streaming, allowing [musicians] to earn what little income they could and all tips went directly to the band… Once we saw that we could do [live streams] and that the quality was up to our standard for sound, video, and live music, we created B-SIDE TV. We had great friends along the way to help build it like Joe Holland, David Sprowles and Justin Birmann. Without these three, the vision of us doing the live stream wouldn’t have happened. We have subscribers from around the world who listen to our shows.” If that isn’t impressive enough, the venue has filled their music calendar nearly every single night since mid 2021.
“B-SIDE has become Midtown’s new old faithful, and a spot-on venue to patronize the Memphis music scene.”
About being a steady source for live music, DeHart says, “The most important thing is for people to feel like they can be safe again by going out and seeing live music. We have seen more and more people so that is a good sign.” No doubt DeHart & Boswell’s goals haven’t changed since opening im 2019. DeHart says, “When Bradley [Boswell] and I opened, we wanted to showcase Memphis Musicians and allow locals to disappear into the night listening to great music. To provide a platform and stage where musicians can come in and play, and the people who come are here to listen to the music. Musicians know if they play here, the audience is listening. We are a musicians bar with great friends and fans who support while great musicians play.”
Memphis staples like Devil Train, who claim themselves to be bluegrass with a Memphis edge, play B-SIDE weekly, but one can pop in on any given night and walk into funk, reggae, or blues. Memphis musicians are skilled and wiley, and B-SIDE Memphis has literally set the stage for all.
The older, wiser version of Memphis’ dive bar includes ample table seating, cozy booths, a beautiful shiny bar with local beer on tap, a pool table, plus pizza and other bar snacks. However, with the cast of local bands playing nightly on B-SIDE’s roomy stage, all of those extra amenities are only the icing on the cake, or as we say in Memphis— sauce on the ‘Q. I suppose the Memphis music scene and its fans owe the team behind B-SIDE Memphis a round of applause, or a round on us. B-SIDE has become Midtown’s new old faithful, and a spot-on venue to patronize the Memphis music scene. *Clap, Clap! Chin, Chin! Cheers! Prost!*
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