Best of the Day: A Tribute to Memphis Soul – August 12, 2015
Welcome to Best of the Day, our daily recommendation for what to check out around town. If you do one thing in Boston today, consider this.
You can’t talk about Memphis soul—the sultry, heat-shimmering music stylings embodied by the likes of Otis Redding—without talking about Stax Records. In the words of The Bitter Southerner writer Nelson Ross: “Memphis’ Stax Records in the 1960s and 1970s created some of the most funky, the most danceable and the most transcendent music of the 20th century. The list of hits and the roll call of artists who recorded at Stax rival the output of any musical entity in American history, including Berry Gordy’s Motown dynasty.”
Among their greatest claims to fame is Wattstax, a/k/a “Black Woodstock.” To commemorate the 1965 Watts riots (which marked its 50th anniversary on August 11, in the same week that also saw the one-year anniversary of the Ferguson protests), Stax co-owner Al Bell organized Wattstax, an incandescent 10-hour concert featuring Stax talent, plus such luminaries as Jesse Jackson and Richard Pryor.
Despite this landmark event, Stax Records very nearly winked out of existence in 1975, when the label declared bankruptcy. It spent the next several decades limping along, putting out nothing but reissues. But in the 21st century, the zombie label came back to life: In 2006, following the founding of the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Concord Records bought Stax, and announced that the label would start putting out new material; Isaac Hayes, Angie Stone, and Soulive were among its first acts—later joined by Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, who founded his own label, Soul Temple Records, under the Stax aegis.
Tonight, Beat Brasserie pays tribute to that storied legacy with an evening of Memphis soul, courtesy of local musician Brian Thomas and his band, who’ll be laying down a “reimagining of Stax Record soul music including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Rufus Thomas, and Booker T. & the M.G.’s.” To complete the Memphis-soul experience, executive chef Ignacio Lopez will be serving up such Tennessee-style fare as barbecue pork ribs and Memphis smoked brisket.
August 12, menu served 4 p.m.-12 a.m., live music 8-11:30 p.m., Beat Brasserie, 13 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-499-0001, beatbrasserie.com.