What a day for a festival. With Memphis weather you never know what you’re gonna get, but this weekend turned out perfect! The second day of Moon River was as memorable as the first, but it kicked off a little quicker.
I showed up just as the Stax Music Academy took the stage so I apologize to Castro and David Ramirez for missing your individual sets, I know they did great as well. BUT I AM GLAD I GOT THERE WHEN I DID. Y’all, if you haven’t heard of the Stax Music Academy, you haven’t heard Memphis music!
These are high school kids who all come together, despite whatever environment they are surrounded by, and they play MUSIC. This is what music is all about, coming together. Stax Music Academy exists to nurture and present the next generation of great soul communicators. The director spoke and said that, “100% of the students enrolled since 2008 have continued their education to the next level.” They played Memphis hits like, “Soul Man,” “Land of 1000 Dances,” “Walking the Dog,” and they even paid tribute to prince with a medley of songs. These kids on stage lit a fire in the crowd’s hearts, and people were even standing up from their lawn chairs!
Stax Music Academy woke everyone up and got us moving, then came Kris Allen. A native Arkansan, I hope the festival made his weekend a little better. (Arkansas football had the misfortune of playing Alabama this weekend.) The former American Idol winner was playing for the first time at the Levitt Shell. Allen, performing hit songs, “Live Like We’re Dying,” and, “Lost,” was just as popular off stage as he was bombarded by fans the moment he finished his performance.
After Kris Allen, I snacked on a delicious Mempop (number 3 of the weekend) and got ready for the Texas show to start. Green River Ordinance and Wade Bowen were up next and before they even started playing, a Texas flag was unfolded from a backpack and waved back and forth in the crowd. Now, if you have never seen Texans in their natural habitat, it truly is something special. There were two-steps breaking out, cowboy boots were appearing out of thin air, and I’m pretty sure I heard a couple of “yeehaws”. Drew even said before Wade Bowen went on that if they were in Texas, Drew would be opening up for Wade. Both Green River Ordinance and Wade Bowen brought Texas culture to Moon River and Wade Bowen even paid tribute to the late great Glenn Frey with a cover of the Eagles, “Heartache Tonight.”
As the sun went down, then came the romance. Johnnyswim, composed of husband & wife Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano Ramirez, are a Nashville based folk-pop, blues band and to put it plainly: they are goals. They let their love for one another flow through their stage interaction and told stories of their life to the crowd, letting everyone in. Besides the music, their greatest moment was when Abner told the story of how their name came to be. “We used to just play music together as an excuse to make out,” he said, “but then someone asked us what our band was and we made up Johnnyswim. So if I have told you differently, I’m sorry, I lied.” They were great. And as if they couldn’t be any cooler, they are tight with Steph and Ayesha Curry.
Johnnyswim was the perfect appetizer for the final act. Drew and Ellie Holcomb took the stage to finish out the festival, taking us back to the days when they consistently toured together. Ellie brought out the soft, smooth side of Drew as they performed classics like, “Wine We Drink,” “Hung The Moon,” and “I Like to Be with Me When I’m with You.” It gave me all the feels, taking me back to the first time I saw Drew and Ellie on their Good Light tour in Little Rock, AR.
And it wouldn’t be Moon River if they didn’t bring out the previous bands for an encore, right? Ellie took a second to thank Drew for all the hard work, something we forget goes on to make the festival happen, and closed out the night with “Hey Jude,” perhaps the most popular/memorable/lovable Beatles song ever. There’s a video of me screaming the lyrics on my twitter.
Good night, Moon River, see you next year!