Moon River Music Festival: When I Learned to Appreciate the Banjo

Posted on July 1, 2014


moonBy Michelle Quina photography by Jenny Bitzer

Moon River Music Festival was put on by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors at the Levitt Shell on Saturday June 7th and in case you haven’t heard by now, it was a huge success.

The Levitt Shell was built in 1936 at the site of Elvis Presley’s first professional rock-n-roll show. Every weekend during the summer, Levitt Shell hosts more than fifty free concerts and events. The outdoor concert venue brings together the Memphis community to celebrate music and education. The day-long Moon River Music Festival had a superb line-up consisting of music sensations and up-in-coming talents. The excitement surrounding the event convinced my friends and me to check it out.

Although the weather was not ideal, a large crowd was already packing the lawn in front of the Levitt Shell with chairs, blankets, and food trucks when we arrived. Rob Baird was performing as we situated ourselves in the grass. Baird is a talented singer-songwriter from Memphis, TN. His mellow and unique sound started off the day on a great note. Later, Vision Music College student, Apollo Almighty, took the stage and performed two of his original songs. Talk about a beautiful voice. The lawn became silent listening to him sing. They must be doing something right over at Vision Music College. We later heard from another local artist, Myla Smith. I had heard of Myla before, but this was the first time I had seen her play in person. The cute singer-songwriter who is almost too petite for her guitar belted on stage and showed what Memphis music is about.

The following act was one of my favorites of the day, Judah and the Lion. The band members’ charismatic personalities kept me intrigued the entire time they were performing. The band’s folk sound was something I do not take the time to appreciate often. I enjoyed it so much I ended up purchasing a CD on the way out. One of my favorite things about Judah and the Lion was that they incorporated the banjo into their songs. They jumped and danced around stage the entire time they performed. In between performing some of their own songs, they busted out in a rendition on “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, and accompanied their raps with a banjo- the moment I truly became a fan.

Unfortunately, there was an hour rain delay when Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors came on stage. I didn’t end up staying for the entire show but those who did said it was worth it. Luckily, I was able to see them perform a few songs. They really know how to put on a show, and a music festival for that matter. I sincerely hope they continue to host Moon River Music Festival each year and look forward to what else they have in store for Memphis music lovers.

Posted in: Music