The Weekly Memphian: 'If Beale Street Could Talk,' Willie Nelson, 30 First Jokes and Hybrid Filmmaking

By Published: January 06, 2019 1:10 PM CT

The Weekly Memphian is a partial guide to things happening in Memphis, recommended by Daily Memphian staff. This guide covers January 2-8.


“If Beale Street Could Talk” at Paradiso Cinema Grill: After a local debut at the Indie Memphis Film Festival in November, filmmaker Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his Oscar-winning “Moonlight” finally arrives for a full theatrical release. In case any confusion remains, the film is not set in Memphis. It’s an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel set in Harlem in the 1970s. The title derives from W.C. Handy’s “Beale Street Blues,” and Baldwin – and Jenkins – use “Beale Street,” as it existed in Handy’s day, as a shorthand for African-American spaces throughout the country. Poetically rendered, Jenkins’ film – one of the past year’s best, I think – is a hymn to black love and a lament for the social circumstances that work against it. -- Chris Herrington

See for screening times. 

Hall After Dark Honors John Lee Hooker at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame: John Lee Hooker was born in Tutwiler, Mississippi, built his fame in Detroit, and died in California. It’s a classic Great Migration story. But Memphis was a part of the journey, with Hooker honing his craft on Beale Street and at house parties in the 1930s, when he was in his 20s. That connection put Hooker in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, where he was a 2016 inductee. Hooker is the subject of this week’s “Hall After Dark” event, which will feature a performance from hill-country blues duo Memphissippi Sounds. -- Herrington

8 p.m. $5. 126 Beale St.


Willie Nelson and Friends at the Orpheum: Willie Nelson will turn 86 this spring and I would tell you how good his 2018 album was, but that requires specifying which one. In this case, that’s “Last Man Standing,” a spirited batch of fine new songs that muse on Nelson's elder-elder-statesman status as old friends have passed on and just aging in general. (The other, which I haven’t spent much time with, is the Sinatra-themed “My Way.”) Nelson has released 22 new albums – not compilations or live albums – since 2000, and many of them are terrific. Nevermind the classic years (or decades), Nelson is, right now, one of the world’s most prolific musicians, and, I’d claim, one of the most durably pleasurable. His simple acoustic guitar and sing-speak vocals are twinned sure-shots. And yet as busy as Nelson is in the recording studio, the life he really loves is still making music with his friends, and on the road (again) he tends to focus on the big hits everybody knows and loves. Chances are you’re among that “everybody.”  --Herrington

8 p.m. Starting at $58. 225. S. Main St. More info here.

Elvis Birthday celebrations at Graceland (and beyond): It’s probably an accident of seasonal timing that we put more effort into commemorating the Big E’s death than celebrating his birth, but there will still be plenty happening, starting Saturday and culminating on Tuesday, Jan. 8, when ol’ Elvis would have turned 84. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra will perform an homage to Elvis’ Vegas act at the Cannon Center on Saturday. On Sunday, Graceland sponsors a road trip down to the Presley birthplace in Tupelo. On Tuesday there will be cake at Graceland and an official Elvis Day proclamation, followed by an on-site auction of Elvis items. -- Herrington

We ran down the full schedule here

Africa Night at Evelyn & Olive: This new event features African (benga, bongo flava, soukus, afropop, kwaito, kizomba, afrobeat) and Caribbean (reggaeton, soca, dancehall) music on the first Saturday of each month. Featured DJs are Kal and Rice. The event is for those 21 and older. -- Elle Perry

10 p.m. $10 at the door. 630 Madison Ave.

30 First Jokes at the Hi-Tone Cafe: Attendees will hear the first jokes of 2019 from 30 Memphis comedians, then rate them on a scale of 1-10. After which, the top two scorers, and the lowest scorer, will each give a five-minute set. After those sets, the audience will choose the night's winner. The event, hosted by Katrina Coleman and Mason King, is for those 21 and older. -- Perry

9 p.m. $5. 412 N. Cleveland St.


Hand Lettering with Jason Prater at Memphis Jewish Community Center: This is the first in a monthly series of four lettering workshops the Farmhouse Branding senior art director and associate creative director is leading. Participants can take all four workshops or just one. Each workshop after the first will include a short overview of the basics. -- Perry

1 p.m. $65 for MJCC members; $75 for non-members (All four workshops: $250-$270). Register online. 6560 Poplar Ave.


Orpheum Theatre Group Tours: These tours of the Orpheum and the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education are the first group tours the venues are offering regularly on Mondays throughout the year, after an August pilot. The tour lasts 60 minutes. Subsequent dates will be announced through March. -- Perry

10 a.m. and noon. $10 (cash only); free for attendees age 5 and younger. 203 S. Main St.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts at the Hi-Tone Cafe: With a snake in a canvas bag and a devastating DDT finisher, Jake Roberts was one of the most charismatic villains of professional wrestling’s 1980s eruption. But if you’ve seen the 1999 documentary “Beyond the Mat,” you know that things were scarier for Roberts outside the ring. This “Dirty Details” tour is apparently a spoken-word event, promising “an uncensored night of comedy, stories from the road, Q&A, and more.” I don’t remember Roberts ever wrestling in Memphis, but pretty much everyone of his era came through town, so you’d imagine he at least had a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning or Monday night. I guess you can find out at the Hi-Tone. -- Herrington

8 p.m., $20-$25. 412 N. Cleveland.


Shoot & Splice: Hybrid Filmmaking at Crosstown Arts: The latest in this workshop series hosted by Indie Memphis and Crosstown Arts features filmmakers Jon Bryant Crawford and Brett Hanover. Filmmaker Laura Jean Hocking serves as moderator of this discussion of creating hybrid films, combining narrative and documentary aspects. Crawford, a Guyanese American and native Southerner, is launching his “Tell Me A Memory” project, which includes interviews and stories from the queer community. Hanover, a youth media educator from Memphis, has completed documentaries and narrative film. His projects explore outsider art, mental health and queer fan communities. Complimentary beverages will be available. -- Perry

6:30 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. panel. Free. 1350 Concourse Avenue, Level 2, Suite 280 (above the red staircase)

Union Avenue Complete Streets Project Public Input Meeting at High Cotton Brewing: The city of Memphis will complete a major reconstruction Union Avenue in the years ahead. First up is work on the street from Marshall Avenue to Manassas Street. At this meeting, the city and its team of design consultants will present and seek feedback on plans. The proposed changes will include pedestrian/cycling safety improvements, transit stop enhancements, traffic signal modernization and management of stormwater runoff. The Memphis Medical District Collaborative will host a “social hour” after the presentation, at which attendees will receive a drink ticket redeemable afterward. -- Perry

6 p.m. 598 Monroe Ave.


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