It's no wonder that the live music scene in Memphis is spectacular, since it has perhaps the richest musical history in the country. From the blues clubs on Beale Street to smaller venues that locals love, scattered across the city, you can find live music almost anywhere and on any given night.
When one of the city's favorite venues closed in early 2013 after 15 years as a Memphis music institution, anyone with a music connection in Memphis mourned. Hi-Tone - a popular bar / restaurant where local and national bands known in the alt and indie rock world played almost every night - was one of the city's favorite low-key spots for live music.
The Fuzz with Harlan T. Bobo — Photo courtesy of Hi-Tone Cafe
Bookings were becoming more expensive, national bands were harder to land for the club's owner and the building had a myriad of issues, including crummy AC. While the owner was planning to keep the Hi-Tone name and focus on booking acts for other clubs, there was a huge sense of loss for this live music icon.
But the death of Hi-Tone was short-lived.
Following a soft opening in late 2013, the bar has returned in a larger, better space in a part of Midtown Memphis that's making a resurgence as an arts district - the Crosstown Arts District - anchored by the redeveloped Sears Crosstown building. This building will be turned into a mixed-use space featuring retail shops, artists' lofts and health-focused businesses.
Occupying two spaces in an unremarkable strip mall, Hi-Tone's new digs offer two performance spaces, both of which are more comfortable (and feature way better air conditioning) than the old building. The main room features a larger stage and a nice-sized bar; there's a second smaller space where bands will also play. Best of all, and praise the porcelain gods, there are more bathrooms than the previous venue.
The bar at Hi-Tone — Photo courtesy of Hi-Tone Cafe
There's live music three to five nights a week, depending on the schedule. Some evenings, there's an early and late show featuring two different bands. The annual Gonerfest - a celebration of acts who record on the local Goner label - is back at the club, and it also hosts events like record swaps and album release parties.
Like the old Hi-Tone, the new spot offers bar food - great pizzas, wings and the like - and opens at 11 a.m. on Sundays for brunch. There's a smoking lounge, parking (a huge bonus over the former space) and plenty of local beers from which to choose.