Fo­mofest filled with sound of Mem­phis

Mu­sic event pro­vides broad sam­pling of lo­cal scene

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MUSIC - By Mark Jor­dan Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

FOMO, an acro­nym for “fear of miss­ing out,” is a pe­cu­liar side-ef­fect of the in­ter­net-en­abled mod­ern world. Stud­ied by psy­chi­a­trists, so­ci­ol­o­gists and mar­keters, it is an anx­i­ety, es­pe­cially preva­lent among young peo­ple, in which de­spite be­ing con­nected to the world more than ever be­fore, they are still go­ing to miss out on some event or some ex­pe­ri­ence some­where.

It is, in short, the rea­son the guy in the next row at the movie the­ater keeps ob­ses­sively check­ing his phone.

“FOMO” is also part of the name of a lo­cal mu­sic fes­ti­val that re­turns for its sopho­more stag­ing this Satur­day at the Le­vitt Shell. But rather than pro­mote the fear of miss­ing out, Fo­mofest looks to sate it. Func­tion­ing al­most like a live mu­sic sam­pler, the event pulls to­gether more than a dozen lo­cal acts of dif­fer­ent gen­res on one stage to give its au­di­ence a sense of the Mem­phis mu­sic scene to­day.

Among the acts slated to per­form are top lo­cal names such as post-punk out­fit Ex-cult, garage­rock vet­eran Jack Obli­vian and hip-hop duo Artis­tik Ap­proach, along­side lesser-known per­form­ers such as Univer­sity of Mem­phis-trained adult con­tem­po­rary singer Joshua Payne, emo comer Frenchie (for­merly of 7$ Sox), and the young jaz­zpop band Syrrup.

It is, ad­mit­tedly, a slanted de­pic­tion of Mem­phis mu­sic to­day, em­a­nat­ing from one man, Fo­mofest founder and chief or­ga­nizer James Sposto.

“It’s my fes­ti­val; it’s what I like,” Sposto says with a chuckle. “What I wanted to do was cu­rate a show and take all my fa­vorites, the things that I like that I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced, and put them all on one stage on one day and make a show­case. To say, look, Mem­phis is cre­at­ing fan­tas­tic mu­sic right now. We’re not just a place of mu­sic’s his­tory. We’re a place of mu­sic’s fu­ture.”

Sposto isn’t the most likely can­di­date to play am­bas­sador for Mem­phis’ mu­sic scene. Orig­i­nally from Cal­i­for­nia, his back­ground is in film and video and in­ter­ac­tive de­sign. He came to Mem­phis 13 years ago for a prospec­tive job. He lost the gig, but gained an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the city.

Lured by the cul­ture and the low cost of liv­ing, he started his “dig­i­tal creative agency,” Sposto In­ter­ac­tive, here in 1996. The com­pany re­lo­cated to Penn­syl­va­nia in 2000, but Sposto, miss­ing Mem­phis, moved back in 2007.

“I call my­self a Mem­phian by choice,” says Sposto, who telecom­mutes for his job. “I don’t have to live here. I can live any­where, but I choose to live in Mem­phis. I like the size of it. I like that I can go any­where and know al­most ev­ery­one that I see. There’s just easy liv­ing here. It’s com­fort­able. It’s friendly. I guess I found my tribe here.”

More ac­cu­rately, Sposto found his tribe in the late-night mu­sic venues of Mem­phis where he quickly be­came a reg­u­lar pres­ence.

“James is the ul­ti­mate Mem­phis mu­sic ad­vo­cate,” says Louisianareared Mem­phis chanteuse Mar­cella Simien, who first met Sposto when he be­gan haunt­ing her reg­u­lar gigs at the Mol­lie Fon­taine Lounge. “He sup­ports artists at all lev­els, whether it’s younger mu­si­cians just start­ing out or more es­tab­lished artists. He’s a trans­plant and has eclec­tic taste, which helps be­cause he has a fresh ap­proach to pre­sent­ing mu­sic. His vibe

is just so Mem­phis in that he takes in ev­ery­thing the city has to of­fer. He’s got the ap­petite for it, and his mind is open. If he likes a band, he’ll come and see them fre­quently, and he re­ally lis­tens.”

One of those to whom he lis­tened was bas­sist Daniel Mckee, who pro­vided the ini­tial in­spi­ra­tion for Fo­mofest through a Face­book post. It was early last year, and Mckee, whose many bands in­clude the soul­blues act South­ern Av­enue, logged on to vent ca­su­ally that he had never played the Le­vitt Shell at Over­ton Park.

“And I just said, ‘Cool, I’ll make a fes­ti­val, and you can play,’” Sposto says.

With the same non­cha­lance, Sposto, who had never or­ga­nized any­thing like a fes­ti­val be­fore, be­gan putting to­gether the pieces for the first Fo­mofest, lean­ing on friends and vol­un­teers to help pull off the lo­gis­ti­cal un­der­tak­ing. By May, he had an­nounced the in­au­gu­ral Fo­mofest, sched­uled for late Au­gust.

The ac­tual event did not go off with­out some hic­cups, though they were mostly na­ture­made; an early rain­storm ham­pered at­ten­dance to around 500. But those who did at­tend were pleased with the re­sults, with food trucks and art ven­dors adding to a loose fam­ily vibe that in­spired a lot of cross-col­lab­o­ra­tion on stage.

“It was well or­ga­nized, had a di­verse lineup, and was ex­cit­ing for all of the per­form­ers,” says Simien, who along with funky al­ter­na­tive rock­ers Zi­gadoo Mon­ey­clips is one of the only carry-overs to this year’s fes­ti­val. “It was our band’s first per­for­mance on the Le­vitt Shell stage. In ad­di­tion to the bands, there were also art ven­dors. I had a booth with my art­work and merch. It was a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity to get a sam­pling of what was/is hap­pen­ing in the arts in Mem­phis. All ages, young and old, get­ting ex­posed to new mu­sic. Ev­ery­one is hang­ing out and bask­ing in this rich and di­verse mu­sic com­mu­nity. It’s a great fes­ti­val to be a part of.”


Mar­cella & Her Lovers, who played the in­au­gu­ral Fo­mofest, are back for this year’s event.

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