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VOL. 132 | NO. 91 | Monday, May 8, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: BSMF, Budget Books and Milli Vanilli

By Bill Dries

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Three days of sun and mild temperatures for the Beale Street Music Festival. Not to be all “Dawn Lazarus” about the weather. Of course, it wasn’t just that way over Tom Lee Park. And many of us continue to find there is life outside after you have determined your festival days may be behind you. We were all over the place this weekend including Tom Lee Park and Shelby Farms Park and backyards and trails and on a rising river. Can you still claim you were at BSMF if you were within earshot of it?

Notes from the Beale Street Music Festival’s first two days with more to come on Sunday:

Friday: A large and very visible police presence including SkyCop cameras. Also a very windy and late start to the festival as a result. Stage crews put off hanging the last of the stage rigging until the winds died down. As a result, the gates opened about 35 minutes late.

The river was an unbilled performer Friday evening as the Coast Guard and other river agencies responded to a large barge (I rhyme!) stuck at the Harahan Bridge just south of Tom Lee Park, easily visible from the stage furthest south in the park during BSMF. Once it was unstuck, Union Pacific closed the bridge, including the Big River Crossing, to get a better look at any possible damage in the daylight. The crossing reopened around noon on Saturday. The Arkansas side gate of the crossing is still closed because of the rising River. You can inspect that all you want. It comes and goes on river time.

Saturday: The Kings of Leon set was filmed to be aired later as an episode of the series “Landmarks Live in Concert” – a new part of the PBS institution “Great Performances” that debuted late last year. Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers hosts the show and did the on-stage honors of introducing the band Saturday evening. "Landmarks" includes interview segments with the performers who tell visitors about their favorite spots in the area where they are performing. So, music and travel -- and if you thought you saw the drummer from RHCP with Kings of Leon around town but your friends don’t believe you, you are about to have proof.

The Revivalists, a seven-piece alternative band from New Orleans, closed out Saturday night in Tom Lee Park with a cover of “Hey Jude” – a night after they did the same at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, affirming the connection between the two festivals for some performers.

Still more music and festivals in The Week Ahead. As for MIM, this is the week of the International Salute to Colombia, this year’s honored country, with the barbecue contest next up for Tom Lee Park starting May 17 – building the booths begins probably later this week once the music festival moves out.

Meanwhile, Shelby County Commissioners were working on Saturday with a beautiful view of Shelby Farms Park. And after taking Sunday off from the budget books, they are in session Monday with a few items from the budget year we are currently in.

The Memphis City Council is back at the budget books Tuesday after an eventful week that produced the first major compromise of the City Hall budget season on police overtime pay.

Not to be left out, the Tennessee Legislature could adjourn for the year this week after some late action in the House Friday on a $37 billion state budget after a really rough Thursday in which House members added $320 million in amendments to the Governor’s plan – thus the acrimony. Our Nashville correspondent Sam Stockard runs down the math and the players.

As the weekend began:

State Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville took himself out of the running to be the next Secretary of the U.S. Army. The nomination promised to dwell on Green’s public remarks as a state legislator on LGBTQ rights, gay marriage and Islam and Green cited the controversy in announcing he was withdrawing. He claims the attacks on him were “false and misleading.”

Prior to begin tapped by President Donald Trump, Green had been a candidate for the Republican nomination for Tennessee Governor in 2018. The question is whether he returns to the race with his withdrawal. If he does, his candidacy is going to be perceived much differently.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in Memphis Friday for a couple of events including a speech to the Greater Memphis Chamber in east Memphis. Alexander was careful not to trash the Republican American Health Care Act that passed in the House the day before his remarks. But he was also clear the Senate will write its own version of the bill, won’t be bound to any specific timeline in doing that and will “get it right.” That’s still far kinder than U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, whose first reaction to the House bill on MSNBC was that the bill has “zero” chance of passing in the Senate. “That’s not the way it is going to work,” he added.

Half full, half empty at our Money & Markets Seminar last week at the Brooks where Vining Sparks chief economist Craig Dismuke said he is not expecting a recession in the near term and does expect interest rates to move a bit higher this year. He spoke the same day that the American Health Care Act passed the House and said the optimism among business leaders about the economy could change pretty quickly if Congress isn’t able to pass anything coming out of the Trump White House. Jay Healy of Century Wealth Management says the economy could go either way at this point and that the headwinds that made our recovery here a very slow recovery are still blowing out there.

There are two kinds of bike riders it seems, those who feel the need for speed – taking a trail miles long to the limits of your physical endurance. And there are those for whom the bike is another way to take in the scenery over a longer distance than they would if they were on foot. You may have seen some folks in the second group as part of the Freewheel slow ride program in the Medical District and at its fringes in the last few weeks.

Tourism is a $3.2 billion business in Memphis, drawing more than 11 million visitors a year, according to Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane just a few days before the Memphis In May events draws throngs of people to Beale Street that fill the district from side to side. Kane talked about the state of tourism last week at Old Dominick Distillery which recently had its soft opening on Front Street. This is the gap between the riverfront and Beale Street that is filling in pretty rapidly and connecting to South Main where the train station’s revival is already taking shape.

A confession: my eyes tend to glaze over when the dollar amounts get this big and the multiplier effect of how many times a dollar turns over in the economy come into play. I’m not questioning anyone’s math.

I just think we have a lot of opportunities in this area that shouldn’t get lost in the math. For instance, how great would it be to book an overnight riverboat cruise that includes the ability to arrive in Memphis at Beale Street Landing for the first night of the Beale Street Music Festival and go directly from your cabin to the festival? Each one of these boats are several hundred people at a time, sometimes on themed tours that include music tours. And for all of the efforts to convince people that there is enough parking, we have yet to find a successful marketing plan coordinated with easily identifiable parking areas tied to public transportation that appeals to enough of us to overcome parking anxiety at this time of the year.

The cover story by Don Wade in our weekly, The Memphis News, goes past all of the platitudes and plaudits about a heroic Grizz performance in the NBA playoffs first round and gets to what comes next for the team. That means some decisions about who stays and who goes in a core four in which Marc Gasol and Mike Conley already have a place reserved. No clues from Grizz GM Chris Wallace on whether majority owner Robert Pera is willing to pay a luxury tax.

So you’ve done just about all the Big Star material out there, done tribute anthologies to Big Star, tribute shows… what’s next? The answer, according to Billboard, is a Chris Bell box set – dedicated to Big Star co-founder Chris Bell’s recorded work before and after his work in the band that became a legend long after its very short life in 1970s Memphis. There are six unreleased pre-Big Star tracks including a new Icewater tune that is included in the Billboard piece. Later this year, more Chris Bell packages include a six-album set on vinyl with yet more unreleased material. And there is a Chris Bell biography on the way. The Billboard piece includes a chapter of what appears to be an oral history that is rich in detail on the Memphis music scene that Bell came up in.

The Memphis News Almanac: Milli Vanilli, 48 feet and falling and a different kind of Memphis in May.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751