On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I decided to continue my exploration of small towns and backroads in the Mississippi Delta. My first stop was a community called Savage, Mississippi, that Apple Maps showed being tucked between Highways 3 and 4 on the railroad tracks. Although I had heard of the place, I had never been there, and was surprised to encounter a large, abandoned store of some sort, and a small wooden railroad station. Unfortunately, the station was behind fences and today sits on private property, so I was unable to explore it or photograph it close up, but I still managed to get some good photos around the tiny village.
West of Sarah, Mississippi, I came to swamps, and a long, oxbow-type lake called Walnut Lake, bordered by a road of the same name. Although I had read of a nightclub called the Pussycat Lounge that was supposed to be next to the lake, I didn’t see it at all, but at the end of the lake and the road was a quaint tin-roofed grocery store called the Three-Way Grocery where a man was barbecuing meat in front, while a few men played chess or checkers on a table nearby. Although the barbecue smelled amazing, I had recently eaten, so I drove back to Highway 3 and continued south through Marks and Lambert and into the town of Sumner, one of two county seats for Tallahatchie County (the other is Charleston).
Sumner sits on the Little Tallahatchie River, and consists of little more than the courthouse, a restaurant called the Sumner Grille, and an art gallery called the Cassidy Bayou Art Gallery. Neither was open on the hot Sunday afternoon, but I took a few pictures on the Tallahatchie bridge and around the courthouse square, noting the historical marker about the trial of the murderers of Emmett Till, which took place in the Sumner courthouse. An Emmett Till Interpretive Center is located a block off the square in Sumner.
The next town to the South, Webb, seemed larger and more significant, although most of its fairly large business district along Main Street seemed empty and abandoned. Of note was a weatherbeaten frame train station, and what appeared to be a fairly large juke joint.
From there, I came to the town of Glendora, which clearly had seen better days. Almost all the town stretched along the railroad tracks on both sides, and on the east side, along Burrough Street, was a row of rough-looking jukes, including a rather large place called Club 21. The employee there was amenable to me photographing the place, so I got to take pictures inside and out, and I was especially pleased with the classic pool table indoors. What I saw on the west side of the tracks was sad, the ruins of a large building that by the signs visible appeared to have once been Glendora’s City Hall. Only the building’s shell remained.
Things were similar at Minter City, in LeFlore County, where the massive ruins of T. Y. Fleming School sit along Highway 49E west of the actual townsite, although nothing much is left of the town. From the looks of it, Fleming must have at one time been a high school, but was most recently an elementary school. That it had won awards for student achievement didn’t stop the LeFlore County School Board from closing it down, and one of the more ironic things to see there was school’s sign in front of the buildings facing Highway 49E, which included a “No Child Left Behind” logo. With the school closure and abandonment of the campus, it seems that all of Minter City’s children got left behind.
Because I had to make it back to Memphis for a gig, I didn’t go on to Greenwood, despite the fact that I was close. Instead I turned east on Highway 8, but in coming to a little town called Phillip, I spent some time photographing the old downtown area along Front Street, and then got back on the road heading for Grenada.
I had heard that the second day of A3C would be kicked off with a VIP Brunch which would be open to panelists, so I texted my homeboy Fort Knox about it, and headed down to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the event was being held. The brunch was on the 25th floor, but proved to be not so much a brunch, but just a table of fruit, danishes, bagels, coffee and juice. However, the view from there was beautiful, and DJ Tephlon was spinning on the north side of the room. On the south side were some exhibits, including a display of new Reebok shoes, and a Microsoft gaming exhibit, and Beatminerz Radio was providing the music on that side.
Since there was very little actual food at the brunch, my fellow panelist Travis McFetridge from Great South Bay Music and I headed out north to Buttermilk Kitchen for a very late brunch that was really good, and then back to the hotel for our “Negotiating the New Music Industry” panel, featuring him, Fort Knox, Big Tah, Latisha “Ms. NuNu” Manigault, attorney Andrew Krems and myself. The panel, which was intended to give artists strategies for coping with lost revenue from the decline in music sales was literally so crowded that nobody else could enter the room. Several people told me that they considered it a success, so I was pleased with the outcome.
My homeboy C. Wakeley had invited me to Gainesville, Florida for his annual Gainesville Music Summit, which was held on a Wednesday, so I had driven down to Florida on the Tuesday before, and Wakeley had gotten me a nice hotel room in Gainesville. The next day, after breakfast, I went around to Hear Again Music and Movies and Hyde and Zeke Records, which were the only two record stores in Gainesville, and then I spent some time in the library on the University of Florida campus researching the civil rights movement in Jacksonville before grabbing a burger at a place called The Swamp and some gelato at The Gelato Company downtown.
The actual summit was held at The Venue, a former theatre downtown, and I was actually surprised at the number of artists who showed up. Some of the performances were in fact fairly good, and I especially noticed groups called 1900 Block and Iceburg Tony. Of course, having driven all the way from Memphis to Gainesville the day before, it didn’t take me long to be exhausted. As soon as the event was over, I headed back to my hotel and to bed.
On the fourth day of South by Southwest, I drove down from the hotel to a place called Cafe Java in a North Austin industrial park, listening to a CD of early works of the American composer Marc Bliztstein which I had bought at Waterloo Records the day before. Although I am usually a fan of Bliztstein, I cannot say I enjoyed these highly-dissonant early pieces where the young composer was trying to shock the world. Cafe Java had a decent and inexpensive breakfast, and afterwards, I drove down toward East Austin, to a conference event which had caught my attention in the daily schedule.
Unlike Memphis, New Orleans made a big splash at this year’s festival. DJ Jubilee, Anders Osborne, The Stooges Brass Band, Partners-N-Crime and K. Gates all performed a couple days ago at the Only in Louisiana day party in Brush Square Park. But today’s event seemed even more exciting—a bounce music photo exhibit called “Where They At” which had started in New York and was now being shown at the Birdland Gallery in East Austin.
I expected an exhibit of bounce-related photographs and flyers, and that was there, of course, but I had not expected there to be a DJ, or for bounce artists to be performing. I noticed that a female friend of mine, Ms. Tee, was prominently featured in the exhibit; I wasn’t sure she was in Austin at all, but I decided to call her and tell her to come over to the exhibit because people were asking about her. As it turned out, she was in Austin, and I agreed to come and pick her up from her hotel and take her to the gallery.
DJ Jubilee was performing when we got back to the gallery, and I don’t know if Ms. tee had originally been scheduled to perform, but they allowed her to, and she was of course a hit with the crowd. My fun afternoon could have taken a turn for the worse, however, after I bought a brownie from a sales table. I noticed that it cost $5, but I didn’t think much of it; everything is expensive in Austin during the festival. But after I sat down and started eating it, a boy sitting next to me said, “You know those are special brownies, right? That’s why they’re $5.” I grew alarmed, and said, “What do you mean, special brownies?” He looked at me like the greenhorn I was at that moment and said, “They’ve got weed in them.” I was devastated. Not that I had any moral qualms about eating something like that, but I didn’t know, and I had to speak on a panel or mentoring session in an hour back at the Convention Center. And I had my car, and was going to have to drive it over there. I started praying that the brownie wouldn’t have any noticeable effect, and, to my surprise, it didn’t.
I managed to get through my mentoring session fine, and then headed out for dinner. But violent rainstorms came down, followed by absolute bitter cold. New Orleans artists were supposed to be closing out SXSW with a New Orleans Block Party, but the weather would not co-operate, and it was moved into a night club near the Convention Center called Submerged. Magnolia Shorty was performing, and it would have seemed to be the kind of event I couldn’t help but enjoy, but the temperature had dropped into the upper 30s. I had brought no clothing of that type, as Austin is usually bright, sunny and in the 70s during South by Southwest, so I shivered. The rain had ended, but the northern winds were cutting like a knife, so I made my way back to the car and headed back to my warm hotel room.