Dirty Streets greet Europe, Big Star’s ‘Third’ goes to L.A.
Dirty Streets frontman Justin Toland has been overseas plenty of times. As it happens, his parents — academics who deal in international education — have lived all through Europe and Scandinavia, from Hungary to Switzerland. “I’ve visited them over there a lot,” he says.
But next week, Toland will see the continent rockand-roll-style as the Dirty Streets embark on their maiden European voyage, playing 24 shows in 30 days, in support of their latest album “White Horse.”
Before heading out, the Memphis blues-rockers — guitarist/vocalist Toland, drummer Andrew Denham, and bassist Thomas Storz — will play a send-off gig at the Young Avenue Deli on Saturday at 10 p.m.
Formed i n 2008, the Dirty Streets have established themselves as one of pre-eminent rock bands in the region: a group of youths convincingly able to merge elements of Hill Country blues, proto-punk and ’70s boogie-rock into a pleasing and somehow contemporary-sounding package.
Following a pair of selffunded, self-released albums, the group signed with Burbank, Californiabased label Alive/natural Sound Records, for their third album, and continue with the company for “White Horse.”
Released in the U.S. this past fall — the European version came out in January — the album finds the group sharpening its rifffueled songcraft while realizing a somewhat broader musical scope.
“This record was more about refining our sound, but also going off into a few different directions,” says Toland. “There’s some softer songs on there. It wasn’t a conscious thing of I want to write songs of this type. In the earlier days, I might’ve thought that way. But this record was organic. It was written how it was written and the songs just came out — we just focused more on the arrangements, and a sense of having some dynamics.”
Toland adds that his writing burst from the album has continued and the band plans to start work on a quick follow-up later this year. “While I’m in the mood to write, I just try and write as much as possible,” he says.
Before they can do that, however, the group will be continuing on the road. After Europe, they’ve booked a Southeastern tour with L.A. psych band Slow Season, and have plans in the works for a summer West Coast run, built around their appearance at the Psycho Las Vegas music festival (a bill that pairs the group with like-minded rockers Blue Öyster Cult and Fu Manchu).
Adds Toland: “We’re going to be touring a lot from here to the end of 2016.”
‘THIRD’ ON FILM
The continuing series of concerts celebrating Memphis cult band Big Star’s famed “Third” album will come to Los Angeles later this month. The April 27 show at the Alex Theatre will boast another all-star lineup of guest performers, and be filmed for a DVD release.
The “Third” album — alternately known as “Sister Lovers” — was originally recorded by Big Star’s Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens at Midtown’s Ardent Studios in the mid-’70s. The record — a dark and complex collection of songs — vexed the music industry at the time, and was given a belated, minor indie-label release at the end of the decade.
However, the music and myth of “Third” would grow exponentially in the decades to come. When it was finally issued on CD in the early ’90s, the record was hailed by Rolling Stone as an “untidy masterpiece ... beautiful and disturbing, pristine and unkempt … and vehemently original.”
North Carolina musician and Chilton collaborator Chris Stamey had long been enamored of the record and the idea of re-creating the “Third” album (along with full string arrangements) live on stage. He was close to realizing a version of the show with a reunited, latter-day Big Star lineup, when the band’s camp suffered a series of losses: first, with the passing of “Third” producer Jim Dickinson in 2009, and then the subsequent deaths of singer Chilton and original bassist Andy Hummel in 2010 — leaving drummer Stephens as the group’s only survivor. (Band co-founder Chris Bell died in 1978.)
Stamey finally achieved his dream and developed a “Third” concert production that has been staged in the U.S. and around the world over the last few years. A logistically complex and expensive show — typically featuring a dozen musicians, including a chamber orchestra, horn section and guest singers — it was presented in Memphis at the Levitt Shell in 2014.
The upcoming Los Angeles concert and DVD filming will once again be led by Stamey and Jody Stephens, and feature latter-day Big Star members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer of the Posies as part of the core band. The guest list features Mike Mills of R.E.M., Mitch Easter of Let’s Active, Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone of Wilco, Ira Kaplan of Yo La Tengo, Robyn Hitchcock, Dan Wilson of Semisonic, and Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, among others.
According to organizers, the concert will feature a full chamber orchestra helmed by the Kronos Quartet, “performing scores created directly from the original multitrack tapes from Ardent.” Memphian Carl Marsh, who wrote the original orchestrations, will conduct.
The concert will be filmed and directed by Yes Equals Yes — the L.A. production company that has done work for Devo, Dwight Yoakam and others. The DVD is tentatively slated for a spring 2017 release through the Concord Bicycle Music Group.
As the weather continues to warm, the MidSouth concert calendar is also heating up, with a slew of big acts, familiar names and notable up-and-comers all announcing local shows.
Minglewood Hall will present a concert by Los Angeles sibling rockers Haim on May 24. The sister act — who are currently working on a follow-up to their widely hailed 2013 debut “Days are Gone” — will be making their Memphis debut. Tickets for the show are $27 and go on sale April 1 at 10 a.m.
The following night, on May 25, Minglewood will present a concert by the Hard Working Americans. The group, led by longtime Memphis favorite, singersongwriter Todd Snider, is an all-star combo that also includes Dave Schools, Neal Casal, Duane Trucks, Chad Staehly and Jesse Aycock. Tickets are $25.
On June 14, Minglewood will host the Memphis return of Pacific Northwest indie-rock greats Built to Spill. The group’s show will take place at the club’s 1884 Lounge. Tickets are $23.
All tickets for Minglewood concerts are available at minglewoodhall. com
Meanwhile, Downtown’s New Daisy also has confirmed a return engagement from the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. The former Black Crowes singer — who helped usher in the renovated Daisy with a gig last summer — will be performing on June 16. Tickets are $18 at newdasiy.com
Fans of Southern jam bands will also get a chance to see genre icons Widespread Panic on June 18, as the group plays the Mud Island Amphitheatre. Tickets for that are $53.50 and go on sale on April 1 at 10 a.m. at all Ticketmaster outlets and ticketmaster.com.
Bob Mehr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-529-2517.
Mid-south rockers the Dirty Streets get ready to depart for a long European tour this week — but not before playing a sendoff concert at the Young Avenue Deli on Saturday.
MEMPHIS MUSIC BEAT