Last May, seven bands and a couple hundred people showed up for the first Bristerfest, a one-day event at the Levitt Shell that benefited nonprofit radio station WEVL-FM 89.9.
Almost a year later, as organizers gear up for the second Bristerfest this weekend at the Shell, it's clear the event has already grown exponentially. More than 25 acts are slated to perform at the festival, which has expanded to two days.
The event features a diverse lineup of local artists, including singer-songwriter CC Hill, reggae band Chinese Connection Dub Embassy, mellow New Age artist Voice of Golden Eagle and disco-inspired groove band The Incredible Hook.
Following Saturday night's lineup, the Hi-Tone Café will host a hip-hop afterparty featuring rappers Preauxx, Knowledge Nick and Fathom 9, among others. Regular admission to the show is $10, but Bristerfest wristband wearers get in for half-price.
"It's Bristerfest 2, but I've been telling people it might as well be Bristerfest Squared because we've basically multiplied it by itself," says Jack Simon, creator of Bristerfest, which starts Saturday and concludes Sunday.
Bristerfest has its origins in Simon's backyard. That's where the University of Memphis senior, living in the shadow of the school on Brister Street, began holding regular "shed parties," featuring some of his favorite bands like the "space island funk rock" outfit Agori Tribe, who are slated to close out Saturday's bill in a potentially incendiary performance that pairs them with a fire dancing troupe.
Simon's parties soon wore out their welcome with neighbors who complained about the noise. At about the same time, Simon, a communications media and political science major, was developing a more ambitious plan.
Simon and partner Jon Harrelson started Brister Street Productions, a for-profit media and production company, to serve as a vehicle for a wide array of creative endeavors including videos, recording projects and event promotion and production.
Their first endeavor was Bristerfest.
"We didn't have much promotion experience or production experience, but we did it anyway," says Simon of the event that drew about 250 people. "But we pulled it off."
That first event also established the thread of social consciousness that has run through all Brister Street productions to date. After donating a portion of the proceeds from the first Bristerfest to WEVL, Brister Street's second event in February, a house party food drive, collected more than 100 pounds of food for the grassroots organization Eat Memphis. A similar event is in the planning that would benefit the Memphis Literacy Council.
"We always had the vision to give something back," says Simon. "Music is a special thing where you can have an event and also benefit the community."
Bristerfest 2 will donate a portion of its proceeds to the nonprofit GrowMemphis, which has expanded food access in underprivileged areas through the founding of 28 community gardens. If the event is successful, it could provide the group with the full $5,000 it would need for garden startups next year, says GrowMemphis executive director Christopher Peterson, whose nonprofit is a recent offshoot of the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center.
"I think it'll be a huge benefit to us," Peterson says. "I really like to see this sort of collaboration, seeing local music support local work in the city and hopefully vice versa, using our local organization to benefit local music."
Saturday-Sunday at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park. Tickets: $15 each day, available at the gate, in advance at Scootie's One Stop (3566 Walker), by phone at (901) 318-3969, and online at bristerfest.com.
1:30 p.m.: Danza Azteca de Quetzalcoatl
2 p.m.: Los Cantadores
2:45 p.m.: Cliff Christopher Avenue
3 p.m.: Ghost Town Blues Band
3:45 p.m.: David McNiell
4 p.m.: Black Rock Revival
4:45 p.m. TBA
5 p.m.: Devil Train
5:45 p.m.: Michaela Caitlin
6 p.m.: Chinese Connection Dub Embassy with Marcela Pinilla
6:45 p.m.: Michaela Caitlin
7 p.m. : Wampa
7:45 p.m.: Sound Mind
8 p.m.: The Soul Thieves
8:45 p.m.: Sound Mind
9 p.m.: Agori Tribe with The Dancing Fire
1:30 p.m.: Voice of Golden Eagle
2 p.m.: Paving Funk
2:45 p.m.: Los Psychosis
3 p.m.: The Incredible Hook
3:45 p.m.: C.C. Hill
4 p.m.: TBA
4:45 p.m.: C.C. Hill
5 p.m.: Prosody
5:45 p.m.: Voice of Golden Eagle
6 p.m.: FreeWorld
6:45 p.m.: Butch Mudbone
7 p.m.: Copper Possum
8 p.m.: The Lions Science
8:45 p.m.: Butch Mudbone
9 p.m.: Lightajo