Thursday, May 08, 2008


Here in the mid-south, we don't worry about earthquakes or hurricanes, but tornadoes are a different story. In recent months, tornadoes have been wreaking havoc across the south, especially in neighboring Arkansas and Alabama. Well, on Thursday, May 8, it was our turn.

The tornado made national news, and people from all over the country were checking in on us to make sure we were okay. Fortunately, it either wasn't a very strong tornado, or it fully touched down only a couple of times, because there were no deaths or major injuries. In fact, this was the most severe devastation in town.

The destroyed building was one of a dozen that make up the Tupelo Furniture Market complex, which is sort of a convention center for the bi-annual furniture trade show that is a major economic draw for the region.

Most of the damage consisted of trees that had been uprooted or snapped in half by the powerful winds, such as these in front of Lowe's near the local mall.

In the Lowe's parking lot, several cars had their windows blown out, but fortunately the winds weren't quite strong enough to flip them over or anything.

Also fortunate was the fact that our neighborhood was completely untouched by the tornado! However, less than a mile away, residents were not so lucky.

One of the hardest hit neighborhoods was on the north side of town, where Carley's parents live, which is also where Rowan's daycare is located. In this area, trees and power lines were down everywhere! The house in the photo above is about 200 yards from Rowan's daycare. It was hit by a tree in the front yard, doing substantial damage to the roof.

Again, luck was with us, as neither Carley's parents or Rowan's daycare suffered any damage!

The day after the tornado, neighborhood streets on the west side of town were lined with branches and debris stacked by the curb, waiting for someone to come take them away.

Here's hoping for a long time until the next one!

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Sunday, May 04, 2008











Sometimes pictures say it all!

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Memphis in May
Sunday, May 4, 2008

Around this part of the country, late April/early May is festival season, and the annual Memphis in May Beale Street Festival is a big one. It's nowhere near as big as the grand-daddy of them all, New Orleans Jazzfest, but it's much bigger than some of the smaller festivals, such as Double Decker Festival and Cotton District Festival in the nearby college towns of Oxford and Starkville.

Set up just south of downtown on a small plain along the east bank of the Mississippi River, the festival runs for 3 days and consists of 3 large stages, as well as a "blues tent" and a "blues shack".

Not surprisingly, Budweiser was the main sponsor of the event, and Budweiser logos dominated the landscape wherever you looked. The Budweiser Stage at the north end of the festival was where we spent most of the afternoon. As for the distant pyramid structure in the above photo, it wasn't part of the festival. The Pyramid Arena used to be a major concert venue as well as home to NBA and NCAA basketball teams. However, since the new FedEx Forum opened a few years ago, the Pyramid is now abandoned and hasn't had any events in over a year. Maybe they should turn it into a theme park? (A casino is another popular idea.)

In addition to music, food and beer were in abundance. Unfortunately, the food selection was no comparison to New Orleans Jazzfest. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, since Memphis is no comparison to the cultural melting pot of New Orleans. Here, the regional specialities are BBQ and deep-fried catfish, and just about everything else for sale was typical low-grade county fair-style food such as burgers, sausages and pizza. Fortunately, there was a microbrew/import tent to offer some alternative to the dozens of Budweiser vendors.

The festival also included a shopping area with arts, crafts and clothing, which Carley took advantage of.

You can always count on Beale Street Festival for some big-name performers along with a good selection of quality, talented acts that are not-so-mainstream. This year was no exception, with Santana, The Roots, Black Crowes, Lou Reed, Buddy Guy, Matisyahu, John Butler Trio, My Chemical Romance, and Aretha Franklin, among dozens of others.

However, due to our severe time constraints, these were not the bands we came to see. We could only make it for Sunday afternoon, which worked out perfectly for seeing one of our all-around favorite bands, Umphrey's McGee.

You may recall that we posted a glowing review of Umphrey's after seeing them at a festival near Tallahassee last November. Their unique blend of hard-hitting prog-pop and professional musicianship continues to keep them in our top 3 list of currently touring bands. You can hear some of their music at

Since they had a mid-afternoon slot, Umprhey's only played a little more than an hour. They opened with the melodic "In the Kitchen" before shifting gears into several of their more progressive numbers. After a few songs, the explosive prog of "Plunger" gave way to a reprise of the tuneful "In the Kitchen".

Near the end of Umphreys' set, Cody Dickinson (drummer of North Mississippi Allstars) sat in with his electric washboard for the psychedelic-country instrumental "End of the Road", making it even more psychedelic with some wild, haunting effects. Thanks to the electronic enhancements, you'd never be able to tell those sounds came from a washboard if you closed your eyes!

Here is a complete setlist for the Umphrey's McGee performance:

In the Kitchen (1) ->
Syncopated Strangers
Plunger ->
In the Kitchen (reprise)
Hurt Bird Bath (2) ->
Rocker (part II)
End of the Road (3)
Mulche's Odyssey

(1) with Glide (The New Deal) tease
(2) with Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) tease
(3) with Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) on washboard


In addition to Umphrey's McGee, we also caught a 90-minute set from a long-time favorite of both of ours, Michael Franti and Spearhead!

Hailing from San Francisco, Michael Franti has become somewhat of an icon, combining a positive, socially conscious activist message with an upbeat blend of hip-hop and reggae.

Franti's powerful charisma and excellent vocal delivery has made him a mainstay on the festival circuit for the past ten years. With his powerful message of peace and unity, we decided a Franti show was the best “church” we could’ve asked for on a Sunday!

"Make some noise!"

Carley was definitely feeling it!

Near the end of Spearhead's set, Franti probably made the memory of a lifetime for this young girl and her family by inviting her onstage to sing and dance.

So cute!


After the show, the ever-down-to-earth (and extremely tall) Franti waded into the crowd to bond with his fans. Shortly after this, we hit the road for the 2-hour drive back home to Tupelo.

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