Memphis Hi-Lites: Levitt Shell (Free Concerts? Yeppp!)

Ultimate Family Reunion at Levitt Shell

Okay the Yepppp! is a bit corny, but that’s what happens when you watch way too much Storage Wars. If you are reading this, that’s a good thing. I really hope to put to sleep all of the negative comments that Memphis is a boring city, or a non family friendly city. This past weekend I fulfilled a childhood dream, and whether I sound like a fanboy, or if you read my post on the Legends of Hip-Hop and I seem trapped in the 80s/90s, when you get to mark off something from your bucket list, it’s a pretty damn cool thing to do.

This weekend Memphis radio station 103.5 hosted its Ultimate Family Reunion at the Memphis Levitt Shell. This is going to be less about the ultimate family reunion and more about the fact that the Levitt Shell is one of the premier spots in the city where you can relax and enjoy yourself. What is even more important and good is that the Shell is located in Overton Park, which I haven’t done a Hi-Lite on, but I should since Overton Park is the home to the Veteran’s Memorial and the number one ranked zoo in the country; that is for another post though. What I meant to say is that the event this weekend was free of charge,  featured a day of performers, the event was handled professionally and the visitors carried themselves with respect and dignity. What do I mean by this? Not an incident during the event.

Families were stationed throughout the park under umbrellas, laying on blankets, sitting in lawn chairs, some with coolers, others with “beverages” purchased at the vendors stations in the park. The crowd was a mix of Whites, Blacks, big uns, lil uns, wide uns, and too much funyuns. Like the classic family reunion there were at least 10 drunk uncles who were messing up the words to songs and dancing like… well you get the picture. Overall Soul Classics 103.5 put on a show and event that made the time fly.

The legendary Kurtis Blow!

Back to my bucket list though. The day ended with the legendary Kurtis Blow performing. Now needless to say, Krush Groove is one of my favorite movies. While it may be kinda corny, when it came out it captured the spirit of Hip-Hop and gave kids outside of NYC the ability to see stars that only played on the radio. Considering my family never had cable, even when I was in high school, I only got to see rap videos when I was at a friends house. While Run DMC and LL Cool J, were my favorites, I always understood that the Godfather of Hip-Hop was Kurtis Blow. If you didn’t know the reason Run calls himself DJ Run is because he started as Kurtis Blow’s DJ. (A little hip hop history there) Kurtis Blow entered the Levitt Shell rocking a fresh white with sky blue striped adidas warm up and shell toes. He had his hat pulled low and began with his signature growl, “Errrr rah,” and the show started. The show was set up by Suga T from Vallejo. My wife wouldn’t let me write without mentioning this. Suga T is a member of the Click another legendary Hip-Hop crew founded by E-40. (Most of the Memphis people didn’t know any of her songs, but she still put on a show, back to my bucket list).

Kurtis Blow used his one mic to show what Hip-Hop was about, getting out in the park and partying without any drama or problems. I don’t know how old he is but he even B Boyed doing top rock movies and breakin’, finishing with a classic freeze pose out of the footwork. As he sang through a catalog of songs including ‘the Breaks’, I couldn’t help but think why would anyone want to see a lot of these emcess today 20 years from now? Kurtis Blow has been performing for 40 years and still controlled the crowd with the ease of a true master.

While I had heard about the Levitt Shell often, I hadn’t visited before. All of the shows there are free. During the performance they accept collections. I’m sure some of the funding for the organization comes from the city.

What I like about the Shell is that in the heat of the summer, right around 6:30 the shell begins to provide a shadow on the front lawn. The trees also shade the grassy area where everyone lounges. There isn’t a bad location in the park because the ground gradually inclines creating a natural arena seating (camping) area. This is another reason Memphis has the potential to be a great city. Over 50 concerts will be played at Levitt Shell this summer. Whatever a person’s musical taste is there are concerts that cater to all preferences.

If you are visiting Memphis, make sure you take the time to go to the site to see who is performing. I promise you’ll enjoy yourself.

The Levitt Shell at Overton Park