Photo | Gabriel Tynes/Lagniappe
Groundbreaking Atlanta rapper Big Boi, pictured at Hangout Fest in May, will headline the Jake Peavy Foundation Stage on Saturday, Oct. 6.
Four years ago, Ten65’s spontaneous conception introduced a free downtown music festival, filling a hole left days earlier by the sudden demise of the cash-strapped BayFest. Since, headliners have included George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Counting Crows, Blind Melon, Sublime with Rome and Cage the Elephant.
This fourth installment proves Ten65 is evolving, weaving a thread in the fabric of Mobile that should last well into the future. In addition to the music, this year’s festival will also emphasize art and technology.
Ticket packages are available offering upgrades including front-row viewing, access to a VIP grove, food and air-conditioned restrooms, but the main events remain free.
Ten65 will be collaborating with the Mobile Arts Council for the festival’s inaugural art market in Ryan Park. In between bands, the crowd will have a chance to slip through the canvas, clay and color of Mobile’s art scene.
In addition to artists selling their wares, patrons will also witness live art installations. To accommodate the market, organizers have moved the Jake Peavy Foundation Stage — previously set up next to Moe’s Original Bar B Que — west one block, closer to Ryan Park.
On Saturday, the Ten65 Tech expo will debut at the Riverview Plaza Hotel. A ticketed event, the expo is organized by technological frontrunners from along the Gulf Coast with the goal of promoting the local technology community through education and networking.
Those in attendance will have the chance to interact with technology leaders from the Azalea City and beyond. Participants will explore technological innovations through seminar tracks, including Entrepreneurs in Technology, Diversity in Technology, Emerging Technologies, Deep End Development and Security in Technology.
Along the way, speakers from Reddit, Dropbox, Nurx, Sweet and other corporations will participate. Ten65 Tech will also feature a live “Ask Me Anything” session with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman. The event will conclude with a drone race in Mardi Gras Park.
But music remains the primary draw of Ten65 and this year’s lineup offers something for everyone.
• Jake Peavy Foundation Stage
Molly Thomas 6 p.m.
In the late ‘90s, this singer-songwriter/violinist gained notice through her work with the Southeastern alternative jam rock outfit Slow Moses. Afterward, Thomas’ violin could be heard resonating through tracks from an assortment of bands including Guster, Blue Mother Tupelo and Sharde Thomas.
Eventually, Thomas began focusing on her own music with the release of “Shoot the Sky” and “Make Everything Bright.” Today she leads her Rare Birds project with assistance from Rick Hirsch (Wet Willie) and has been spending time at Jake Peavy’s Dauphin Street Sound recording tracks for their debut album. Expect a set filled with upbeat alternative country with a rock edge.
Wet Willie 7:30 p.m.
The Ten65 crowd should get ready to keep on smilin’ with one of Mobile’s most iconic bands. Almost 50 years ago, Wet Willie relocated to Macon, Georgia, where they were instrumental in pioneering Southern rock.
This group’s smooth, soulful rock jams helped them earn a spot on the legendary roster of Capricorn Records. After signing to Capricorn, such Wet Willie hits as “Keep on Smilin,’” “Country Side of Life” and “Leona” echoed across radio waves across the nation.
When he reflects on the band’s history, frontman Jimmy Hall says the band’s persistent return to the Ten65 stage (they have performed every year) is a chance to get back to where it all started. Hall is also taking a small break from an extensive worldwide tour as vocalist for the Jeff Beck Group.
“A big part of [returning to Ten65] is Mobile being the birthplace of Wet Willie and the music that we made,” Hall said last week. “Playing anything in Mobile for the hometown crowd has always been a big plus for us. It’s something that we always enjoy, even when we were out doing the national tours. Coming back to Mobile was always just a joyful experience.”
Wet Willie should have an impressive lineup of familiar faces and special guests in its ranks. Hall said he hopes guests such as guitarist Ben Jernigan (Yellowhammer) and keyboardist Chris Spies will be joining Wet Willie on stage. Hall also teased that vocalist Jennifer Hartswick might stop by to add to their jams. He also said he expects his sons Alexander and Ryan to add their talents to the mix.
As far as the core Wet Willie lineup for Ten65, Jimmy’s brother Jack Hall will cover bass duties. Their sister, Donna Hall, will once again lend her vocals and T.K. Lively will keep a smooth beat on the drums. Guitarist Rick Hirsch will also be on hand to provide a little magic from the fretboard.
“I love it when Rick Hirsch can be involved,” Hall said. “He’s such a feather in the cap of Mobile music and music history. I’m glad to see him doing some other things. He’s playing with Molly Thomas before we do.”
Hall says the band likes to “mix it up.” Past performances have featured favorites such as “Keep on Smilin,’” “Country Side of Life” and “Weekend,” a rare tune for the band to play live. In the end, Hall said, the crowd will hear “some songs you know, and some songs that you haven’t heard in a long time.”
Walker Hayes 9 p.m.
Country singer-songwriter Walker Hayes admits Ten65 is a good excuse to visit his hometown, the place that inspired much of his music. Currently living in Nashville, Hayes said it has been a long journey but not one without successes. Last year his single “You Broke Up with Me” reached platinum status. Today, he has plans to move forward with a new album. No matter how far he moves up the country charts, one of Hayes’ top priorities is maintaining a connection with his roots.
“As an artist, one of our top priorities, whether we say it or not, is to make our hometown proud,” Hayes said. “It’s a bittersweet breakup and say, ‘Hey, I gotta go do this somewhere else, but I’m proud of where I’m from.’ It’s definitely good just to get home and play a show where all my songs are about.”
Hayes’ latest single, “90’s Country,” is definitely one inspired by his formative years in the Azalea City. From his first kiss to rides home from baseball practice at Municipal Park, Hayes said such country stars as Sammy Kershaw, Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks were there setting the mood.
“As far as country is concerned, ‘90s country is something that I will hold in a special place in my heart,” he said. “Mobile is where I heard all of the songs that I reference. I remember where I was when somebody said, ‘Hey, listen to this’ or when something was a hit on the radio.”
At Ten65 Hayes will be accompanied by a full band, but his show will take on the air of an intimate performance, with Hayes providing the backstory for many of his songs.
“There’s fun times where I don’t talk for a couple of songs, but then, I’ll give an explanation of ‘90’s Country’ and sing some of those songs together,” he explained. “We have a nice, full-band experience that always has a level of intimacy that’s unique to my show.”
• Alexander Shunnarah Stage
The Red Clay Strays 7 p.m.
Mobile’s The Red Clay Strays will be an electrifying opener for the Alexander Shunnarah Stage. From Mobile to Nashville, this group of young musicians provides a high-energy performance filled with rockabilly and a definite nod to classic country legends.
The Strays are among several local bands signed to Skate Mountain Records. Fans have been waiting patiently for their debut and may get their wish very soon. The band has been laying down tracks with singer-songwriter Adam Holt at his Studio ’78 in Daphne. If you missed them at SouthSounds in April, Ten65 will be a perfect chance to sample some of their originals.
Top of the Orange 8:30 p.m.
Over a decade ago, Top of the Orange used its Southern-tinged mainstream rock to gather a dedicated fan base. When the band parted ways, Top of the Orange boasted Josh Ewing (vocals), Brandyn Ulmer (guitar), Ryan Campbell (bass), Chad Sutley (drums) and Kevin Hurt (guitar).
After six years apart, the members of Top of the Orange will be bringing its rock ‘n’ roll back to the masses. Dedicated fans and new listeners will be impressed by this band’s adrenalized live show and a collection of rock sounds that made them a local favorite throughout their run.
• Jake Peavy Foundation Stage
Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet 2:30 p.m.
Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet’s mix of rock, indie and folk has made them a local favorite. Last year this five-piece broke industry standards with the double-album debut consisting of “The Great Room” and “Somebody Else’s Dream,” both recorded at Rick Hirsch’s Studio H2O.
Now the group is getting ready to release a follow-up to its freshman efforts. This time the band retreated to Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana. While the group’s studio efforts are impressive, their spirited stage presence and live delivery provide a new context for its music.
Boneyafterparty 4:25 p.m.
Boneyafterparty will be returning to the Azalea City for its Ten65 debut. This Florida collective featuring the talents of Boney, Cai-Mil and Prodi-G features an expert mix of hip-hop and R&B. This trio slides chilly, suave flows of hip-hop in-between soulful, poignant croons.
Boneyafterparty has promoted such singles as “One Time,” “Boosted” and “Blue Rain” through online entities like YouTube and Soundcloud.
Rebirth Brass Band 5:30 p.m.
Ten65 will transport the crowd to New Orleans’ Maple Leaf Bar on a Tuesday night, a special evening always reserved for the Rebirth Brass Band. Founding member Keith Frazier said the synergy between the band’s raucous New Orleans brass sound and its audience make every Tuesday at the Maple Leaf a special affair.
“It’s a combination of locals and people who are new to New Orleans, conventioneers, college kids,” Frazier said. “They’ll get together and not think about race or economic status. It’s all about the music, and it makes for a good time.”
Since the ‘80s, the group of Grammy Award-winning brass enthusiasts has contributed its festive sounds to New Orleans’ rich musical heritage. The and began with Frazier and his brother Phillip in the marching band at Joseph S. Clark Senior High School. Even though several members have since come and gone, they are usually replaced by family and friends. Frazier said these connections have helped nurture Rebirth’s sound, which incorporates elements of funk, jazz and hip-hop.
“I think it helps the sound, because when you know the person that you’re playing next to, everybody knows how the person next to them plays,” he said. “There’s not a lot of conversation while we play. We just know each other.”
Frazier does have a warning for the band’s Ten65 audience. He says the band specializes in bringing crowds to their feet and forcing them to dance for the entirety of Rebirth’s set. Whether it be a music hall or a festival stage, the Rebirth Brass Band’s mission is to make sure their crowd has a good time.
“Every time we have to play, you have to keep in mind to be excited, and we love to see the excitement that we bring to our fans,” Frazier said. “We even bring excitement to people who aren’t our fans.”
Mayer Hawthorne 7 p.m.
Soul singer Mayer Hawthorne will be returning for his first performance in the Azalea City in more than six years. His debut performance at the Saenger Theatre in 2012 earned rave reviews.
While many modern soul acts focus on ‘60s-era Motown, Hawthorne has crafted a unique style focusing more on the ‘70s. Throughout his catalog, he conjures the spirits of soul icons such as Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield to add a classic edge to his modern soul. With four studio albums in his catalog, this Grammy-nominated artist will have Ten65 moving and grooving in the streets of downtown Mobile.
Big Boi 8:30 p.m.
The Jake Peavy Foundation Stage will reach a climax with a performance by Big Boi. As a founding member of OutKast and the Dungeon Family, Big Boi helped pioneer Atlanta’s funky, soul-infused Dirty South sound through the release of such iconic albums as “Southernplayalistic” and “ATLiens.”
After the release of the smash-hit double album “SpeakerBoxx/The Love Below,” OutKast parted ways. But Big Boi continues to pump out memorable hip-hop anthems such as “All Night,” which can be found on his latest album, “Boomiverse.”
With Big Grams, this innovative verbal assassin also worked out-of-the-box with ambient rockers Phantogram. Big Boi, who also performed at Hangout Music Fest in May, will offer high-energy hip-hop anthems underscored by timeless beats.
• Alexander Shunnarah Stage
Marlow Boys 3:45 p.m.
Marlow Boys will bring their undeniably Southern mix of mellow folk and rootsy rock with seasoned local music veterans Phil Proctor (guitar), Stan Foster (bass), Karl Langley (percussion) and Joe Langley (guitar/lap steel/harmonica). Marlow Boys, who also have a standing Wednesday night gig at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, have been promoting their sophomore release, “Green Room, Vol. 2.”
Symone French 5 p.m.
Azalea City soul diva Symone French is sure to set the crowd on fire with her performance. French first gained notice in the local scene with Infant Richard & the Delta Stones. After parting ways, French decided to give a solo career a try, which has proved successful. A stylish vocalist and frequent collaborator with local musicians, French has the talent for pulling all the emotion from her heart and soul, translating it through her voice.
Johnny Hayes & the Loveseats 6:30 p.m.
Mobile native Johnny Hayes began his music career through acoustic shows during his college years at The University of Alabama. After relocating to Nashville, Hayes began honing his skills. A few years later, he formed his backing band, the Loveseats, and dove into the deep soul sounds of such legends as James Brown and Otis Redding.
His powerful vocals brought him national attention through his appearance on NBC’s talent competition “The Voice.” Now, Johnny Hayes & the Loveseats are making their own brand of Southern soul through an original self-titled debut. Hayes and his crew will charm the crowds with classic soul vocals accented by the Loveseats’ backing vocals and impeccable instrumental skills.
J. Simon 8 p.m.
J. Simon will serve as Ten65’s ambassador of the local hip-hop music scene.
“I’m honored to represent Mob County and Saraland, Alabama, where I’m from,” he said. “I’m honored to be a part of this event. We’ve been trying to figure out when it was going to happen and if it was going to happen and then getting that phone call.”
Even though his first venture into music was with a trumpet in his hand, J. Simon says hip-hop was always within him. He first began experimenting with poetry during his preteen years, but as he entered college at the University of South Alabama, J. Simon began to weave his poetry into lyrics. During that time, he got his first break in a performance at a talent show through a chance sighting by a former running back for the Dallas Cowboys.
“I was discovered by a gentleman by the name of Sherwin Williams,” he recalled. “I got into a talent show because my friends encouraged me to do it. It went from that to recording with Sherwin Williams.”
J. Simon started promoting his music in the days before social media and music-sharing apps, when it was all about making connections with people by passing out flyers and selling physical mixtapes. It was also during that time that he took on the alter ego “Rellik the Dirt Road Pimp.” However, J. Simon felt taking on a persona prevented listeners from experiencing “the man behind the mask.” Unmasked, J. Simon said his music and following began to flourish with authenticity.
“A lot of times when you do that it’s death to your career,” he said. “It helped me jump-start and boosts me up to a totally different level that I don’t think that I would’ve been at if I was still Rellik the Dirt Road Pimp. So, a lot of people still call me Rellik, which is fine, but the world knows more about J. Simon than Rellik at this moment.”
He will soon be releasing another single from his “Simon Says” mixtape, a follow-up to his latest release, “Name on It,” featuring Young Dro. If “Name on It” serves as a preview for his Ten65 performance, J. Simon should hit the crowd with Mobile-centric batch of roughneck bounces.
• Café Stage
Since the days of BayFest, the Café Stage has been considered the people’s stage. Local musicians from all walks use the Café Stage as a chance to showcase their talents in a festival setting. The open, welcome nature of this stage sometimes results in a number of impromptu sit-ins from members of the local music scene.
From blues to rock to country, the Café Stage features a grand kaleidoscope of sound from across genres. On Friday, the Café Stage will feature the music of Mimi Alidor, The Lizards and Pick of the Litter. Saturday’s lineup will bring Acoustic Café, Retrobution, Dat B and Rogerwood to the Café Stage.
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