By Zachary Corsa
It’s almost Overton Park Shell season again! The annual free outdoor concert series is a beloved staple of the warmer months in the Bluff City, and one with a hallowed history. Built in 1936 for orchestral performances, it was the site of Elvis Presley’s first paid gig in 1954, a crucial early concert showcasing what would eventually be known as ‘rock and roll’. But lest you think this is all just a case of dusty history on display, the organizers of the Shell’s various free concert series have always had a knack for insightful and eclectic programming that’s sure to satisfy a very broad range of Memphians.
Here’s a look at three upcoming spring and summer shows that have us excited.
The Sunset Symphony, in partnership with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra
Sunday, May 28th
Honoring the Shell’s earliest roots, this Memphis Symphony Orchestra performance featuring the MSO Big Band has become an annual tradition of its own. And don’t let any preconceived notions of the term ‘big band’ throw you off, either, as there’s a lot of musical ground covered here. These fine players amply tackle everything from traditional big band and swing standards to samba. This is the kind of music that folks call “timeless” for a reason, and there’s no finer way to enjoy such magic than sprawled in the grass around a legendary bandstand, beneath the stars and fireflies. This is a strain of Memphis music history that reaches way back, and can best be appreciated by hearing it in person.
Star & Micey w/ Dead Soldiers
Friday, June 16th
Star & Micey have been a Memphis institution since forming in 2009, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Once named “Tennessee’s Number One Band” by Paste Magazine, they consistently churn out endlessly-likable indie jams with one foot planted firmly in roots-folk tradition, their ragged harmonies an evergreen feature of the Memphis musical landscape. Such a distinguished career makes them a no-brainer for the Shell’s free concert series, of course. And even better, another venerable Memphis outfit owing much to the region’s sonic groundswell, Dead Soldiers, are along for the ride. These two bands represent the contemporary updating of beloved Delta traditions at its best.
Friday, September 15th
Formed all the way back in 1989, Pezz could be considered the quintessential Memphis indie band. Having survived the hectic American DIY gold rush of the 90s, they’ve toured with the likes of At The Drive-In and Hot Water Music, emerging from periodic hiatuses to bless our ears with hooky, uptempo anthems. Pezze’s sound draws on post-hardcore and pop-punk influences, landing refreshingly somewhere in the realm of Husker Du, Superchunk, and Archers Of Loaf while still maintaining a recognizably-individual spirit. As summer winds down once more in Memphis, it’s sure to be a fitting farewell to the hottest, stickiest season on September 15th. Mark the occasion in the company of Pezz.