Of all the live music venues stepping into the breach with the closing last month of Midtown institution the Hi-Tone Café, none is quite as unconventional as the Memphis Rehearsal Complex.
Located in a 5,500- square-foot historic building at 296 Monroe, just east of AutoZone Park in Downtown, the address has long been a hub of Memphis’ underground scene. A year ago, music entrepreneurs Robert Coletta and Brandon Knight took over its management, turning it into a complex of 13 rehearsal rooms and five recording studios.
They also began holding free monthly showcases in the central performance space called the Venue, featuring the diverse collection of acts who practice there as well as assemblages of visual artists, dancers and tattoo artists who have gathered around the scene.
Now, however, the Memphis Rehearsal Complex is looking to climb out of the underground and into the mainstream with an ambitious live event schedule that includes this weekend’s first annual Memphis Punk Rock Fest and continues next Tuesday with a concert by the cult Canadian hard-rock band Diemonds.
Other events on the complex’s schedule, which will soon be available online at memphisrehearsal.com, include hip-hop dance classes every Sunday and Tuesday, the “It’s What We Do Clothing” dance-off on March 16, an album release show from Tre Merit on March 23, and the monthly showcase on March 27.
Coletta believes the need for a place like the complex predates the closing of the Hi-Tone. “With The Venue in here, we decided to use it to our advantage to try and rebuild the local rock scene. So we’ve been booking a lot of amateur local stuff and now are starting to get in the national stuff.”
Out-of-town acts figure prominently in the Memphis Rehearsal Complex’s schedule this week. The brainchild of local musician and impresario Tyler Miller, the two-day Memphis Punk Rock Festival gathers 20 bands, including groups from Atlanta and New Orleans as well as locals like Modern Convenience, Capgun, Deal Me In and Sin City Scoundrels.
“The whole idea behind the festival is unity and just bringing everybody together and showing everybody what is possible if they work together,” says Miller, 20, who plays drums in another band on the bill, Special Victims Unit.
Miller is using the festival as the launchpad for his venture Memphis Punk Productions, an entity for developing a grassroots punk-rock scene that would be more diverse and younger than the one that has grown up around the Cooper-Young music shop Goner Records, with its eponymous label and annual music festival.
“I don’t want to be a dis to them or anything,” Miller says. “I highly respect everything that they’re doing. I just think it could be done more routinely than a once-a-year music festival.”
To that end, Miller has teamed with the music and media production company Brister Street Productions, with whom he had previously worked on last year’s alternative hip-hop show Summerween. Brister Street will be recording the entire festival for a compilation CD, the proceeds from which will help fund the establishment of an all-ages venue in town.
Perhaps best known for working with jam and world-music bands, Brister Street is also behind Tuesday’s show by Toronto’s Diemonds. A 1980s Sunset Strip-style hard-rock band fronted by female singer Priya Panda, the group’s tour is being sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Jägermeister. Memphis retro hard-rockers Modern Slang open.
“I’m excited about Diemonds,” Coletta says. “I’d never even heard of them until they booked that show. But that’s exactly what we want to hold up. We want to keep everybody in the loop. We don’t want to cater to just one demographic.”
Memphis Punk Rock Fest
Friday and Saturday, Memphis Rehearsal Complex, 296 Monroe. Doors: 3 p.m. Admission: $15, $10 with canned good donation to the Mid-South Food Bank. Advance tickets available online atwepay.com/events/135132. For more information, visit memphispunkfest.com.
Rock & Roll Over Party
Diemonds and Modern Slang, Tuesday at Memphis Rehearsal Complex, 296 Monroe. Doors: 9 p.m. Admission: $8. Advance tickets available at wepay.com/events/187116. For more information, call 901-619-5303.