Making the leap from national to international touring is rough for musicians, and after new fees from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services take effect Dec. 23, it may get much more difficult for artists coming into the United States.
On Oct. 24, the USCIS announced that fees for many immigration applications and petitions will be increasing for the first time since November 2010, in order to cover the costs of USCIS services, such as fraud detection, case processing and national security measures.
One immigration benefit request that the increase will affect is I-129/129CW, the "Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker," which includes "artists or entertainers, either an individual or group, to perform, teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique," and "persons with extraordinary ability in ... arts," among other fields.
At face value, raising the I-129 fee from $325 to $460 isn't so great a leap, but when one considers that this fee applies to every band member and person that the band employs, the cost certainly adds up. The increase will also affect bands of all sizes in different ways, of course.
For example, say there are two bands performing in Jackson: Band A, which is moderately successful stateside and plays at a larger venue such as Thalia Mara Hall, and Band B, which is perhaps newer to international touring and plays at smaller venues such as Martin's Restaurant & Bar.
The fees may seem like less of a hit to Band A, but larger audiences also mean larger expenses. These acts tend to have more musicians onstage and have their own sound engineers, lighting engineers and other employees to boost the quality and value of a live show. That means either the band sheds crew members or shells out the $460 fee for each person.
Meanwhile, the less-well-known Band B won't be much better off. Even with a smaller crew and fewer members, the group still has those fees to tend with on top of regular touring expenses and smaller payments per show.
It's worth noting that record labels tend to provide some financial backing for their artists. However, that's less common among independent labels, and a large majority of touring acts are self-supporting.
For some foreign artists, the fee increase will undoubtedly mean that, come 2017, touring in the United States will no longer be tenable.
Two current titans in hip-hop are headed for Jackson.
Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz are currently on tour in support of their collaborative album, "Collegrove," a portmanteau of the neighborhoods where the two rappers grew up, 2 Chainz's College Park near Atlanta and Lil Wayne's Holly Grove in New Orleans, La.
The tour stops in Jackson on Wednesday, Oct. 26, for a performance at the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Building at Jackson State University (1400 John R. Lynch St.). The concert coincides with JSU's homecoming weekend and also features a performance from Jackson-native rapper Silas, who garnered national media attention last year with his single, "Gullah Gullah Island."
Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $65, and VIP tickets are $100. To purchase tickets, call 800-745-3000 or visit jsums.edu.
New Orleans-based hip-hop artist Boyfriend released a new single Wednesday, Aug. 17, that features fellow New Orleanian Big Freedia, known to her fans as the "Queen of Bounce."
The track, titled "Marie Antoinette," is an ode to lavish lifestyles and over-the-top indulgence, all built on a bass-heavy, harpsichord-laden track from New Orleans deejay DXXXY. And of course, the song includes a few references to its famously extravagant - and very deceased - namesake, such as the oft-attributed quote, "Let them eat cake," and the lyric, "I go so hard I might just lose my head."
Besides their shared hometown, the two artists have another common distinction: Both have run into censorship troubles over Mississippi performances this year.
In February, the Dollar Box Showroom in Hattiesburg cancelled Big Freedia's performance due to pressure from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control's laws regarding "gyrating." In April, Oxford restaurant and music venue Proud Larry's cancelled Boyfriend's show, which would have featured burlesque elements, to avoid similar problems with the ABC.
The August-September edition of renowned blues-music magazine "Living Blues" showcases a variety of significant figures from Jackson's thriving blues community, including King Edward, Dorothy Moore, Jesse Robinson, Louis "Gearshifter" Youngblood, Jarekus Singleton, Eddie Cotton Jr., jj Thames and Grady Champion, among others.
It’s only been about five months since the inaugural Jackson Indie Music Week brought music-industry panels, podcasts and performers from every genre to about 12 venues throughout the capital city, but preparations are already underway to make 2017 Jackson Indie Music Week, which takes place Jan. 8 through Jan. 15, even larger in scale.
As the summer starts, so does the music festival circuit. That's the primetime for many bands and solo artists to release new music, giving them a little something extra to promote while on tour. Here's a look at some of the big releases—and a few smaller ones that I'm looking forward to—for the coming weeks.
The Blues Foundation has released the list of winners for this year's Blues Music Awards following its 37th annual award ceremony, which took place at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tenn., on May 5.
Even casual blues fans will recognize many of the musicians honored that night. The list includes Grammy Award nominee Cedric Burnside, who won both Best Traditional Blues Album and Best Instrumentalist-Drummer; Buddy Guy, who won Best Album and Best Contemporary Blues Album for "Born to Play Guitar," the release that also won him a Grammy this year; and Allen Toussaint, who earned the highly coveted title of the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year.
At the same time, there are plenty of blues musicians that listeners may not be as familiar with among the winners, emphasizing just how much diverse talent exists within the genre, let alone the entire field of music.
Here is the full list of winners. Be sure to check out any you don't know!
Acoustic Album - "The Acoustic Blues & Roots of Duke Robillard" by Duke Robillard
Acoustic Artist - Doug MacLeod
Album - "Born to Play Guitar" by Buddy Guy
B.B. King Entertainer - Victor Wainwright
Band - Victor Wainwright & the Wild Roots
Best New Artist Album - "The Mississippi Blues Child" by Mr. Sipp
Contemporary Blues Album - "Born to Play Guitar" by Buddy Guy
Contemporary Blues Female Artist - Shemekia Copeland
Contemporary Blues Male Artist - Joe Louis Walker
Historical - "Soul & Swagger: Buzzin' the Blues" by Slim Harpo (Bear Family Records)
Instrumentalist-Bass - Lisa Mann
Instrumentalist-Drums - Cedric Burnside
Instrumentalist-Guitar - Sonny Landreth
Instrumentalist-Harmonica - Kim Wilson
Instrumentalist-Horn - Terry Hanck
Koko Taylor Award - Ruthie Foster
Pinetop Perkins Piano Player - Allen Toussaint
Rock Blues Album - "Battle Scars" by Walter Trout
Song - "Gonna Live Again" written and performed by Walter Trout
Soul Blues Album - "This Time for Real" by Billy Price & Otis Clay
Soul Blues Female Artist - Bettye LaVette
Soul Blues Male Artist - Otis Clay
Traditional Blues Album - "Descendants of Hill Country" by Cedric Burnside Project
Traditional Blues Male Artist - John Primer
After reports of the death of singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Prince began circulating earlier today, national news media sources swarmed to find the truth if there was any truth to the rumor. Sadly, the artist's publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure, has now confirmed to multiple sources, including CNN, that Prince had been found dead at his estate and studios in Chanhassen, Minn. He was 57 years old.
This news comes only a week after the music icon's plane made an emergency landing following a show in Atlanta. While many fans and news sites have speculated that his death resulted from a prolonged flu, police are currently investigating to confirm the cause.
Born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis in June 1958, the musician is known for his sexual lyrics and stage presence, as well as his blend of funk, rock, soul and R&B music elements. Over the years, he has won seven Grammy Awards for his music, including 1985's Album of the Year for "Purple Rain," which he had released the year prior in conjunction with a film of the same name. That album also won Prince an Academy Award for the best original song score in 1985. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
While his final studio albums, 2015's "HITnRUN Phases One and Two," were not the chart-topping successes of his younger years, they did receive mostly positive reviews across the board.
Prince also has a more direct—and more curious—connection to the city of Jackson. Last August, a viewer asked WAPT to look into a mugshot of Prince that had been making the rounds on the Internet, and anchor Ryan Houston obliged.
The mugshot was, in fact, real, Houston reported, and came from the musician's arrest after a show at the Mississippi Coliseum in March 1980, when Prince had been opening for Rick James. While boarding a plane departing from Jackson, keyboardist Matthew "Dr. Fink" Fink, who played in Prince's band, The Revolution, told the late legend that he had seen a megaphone in the overhead compartment.
Prince allegedly suggested that he put it in his carry-on bag, and a woman aboard the plane alerted authorities, who then detained both Fink and Prince for questioning. Police chose not to file charges.
As TV singing competition "American Idol" wraps its 15th and final season, we look at the contestants representing Mississippi in the final three.
Only a few weeks after Big Freedia resolved her battle with Hattiesburg over a wrongly cancelled performance, which is now back on, the New Orleans hip-hop artist has become embroiled in a battle of a different kind.
On Wednesday, March 16, Freedia pleaded guilty to the theft of about $35,000 in Section 8 low-income housing vouchers from 2010 to 2014, New Orleans TV station WWL reports. Officials released her on a $25,000 bond, with her sentencing scheduled for Thursday, June 16. Freedia now faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine in addition to the value of the vouchers.
According to WWL reporter David Hammer, federal prosecutors repeatedly referred to Freedia, a prominent member of the LGBTQ community who identifies as a woman, in masculine terms, as her legal name is Freddie Ross Jr.
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, on the other hand, first asked Freedia how the court should address her and chose to refer to her as "Ms. Ross" despite her statement that she had no preference.
Freedia admitted to the court that from February 2011 to December 2014, she received $695 per month in federal housing vouchers by claiming only $12,000 to $14,400 in assets annually, well below the $21,700 to receive Section 8 assistance.
When Africk asked if Freedia understood that her crime went far beyond financial oversight, she said that she did and accepted full responsibility.
As of press time, Big Freedia hasn't made any statement to suggest that her legal situation will affect her performances at Martin's Restaurant & Bar in Jackson on Thursday, March 24, and at the Dollar Box Showroom in Hattiesburg on Friday, March 25.
After 18 years in the international alternative music scene, Motion City Soundtrack has announced that the band will enter an indefinite hiatus following its upcoming 29-date United States tour.
The tour will begin May 5 in Portland and end June 24 in Minneapolis, the city where vocalist Justin Pierre and guitarist Joshua Cain, the two remaining founding members, first began playing together as Motion City Soundtrack in 1997. Over the course of the band's career, Pierre and his cohorts released six studio albums, the most notable being 2007's "Even If It Kills Me," which reached No. 16 on the Billboard Charts, and 2010's "My Dinosaur Life," which debuted at No. 15. The group released its final album, "Panic Stations," on Sept. 18, 2015.
"It has been a quiet winter for us," the band said in a press release. "We've had some time at home after a very busy 2015. With this time, we've been able to think about the past, present and future of Motion City Soundtrack.
"All of this thinking has led to several conversations, and these conversations have led us to a very bittersweet realization: We have no idea what the future holds, but for now we are done. Needless to say, we're feeling all the feels - you may be, as well. If so, or if you've ever been touched by our music, we ask you to come out and sing along with us one last time in 2016."
For more information, visit motioncitysoundtrack.com.
Fresh off a controversy in Hattiesburg, in which the owner of the Dollar Box Showroom said he was pressured to cancel her show, Big Freedia is returning to Mississippi with a vengeance. In what the New Orleans bounce artist is calling "Twerkloose" performances, her manager Reid Martin told the JFP today that they have added a March 24 show at Martin's in Jackson, the day before the rescheduled Hattiesburg performance.
Get ready, Jackson.
Amidst the general political chaos of the presidential primaries and visits from Bill Clinton and Donald "Drumpf" Trump, Grammy Award winner CeeLo Green also made a stop in the city of Jackson. As is usually the case with the eccentric singer and songwriter, he didn't come alone.
Wherever Green pops up, whether it's a TV appearance or an interview, his Yorkshire terrier, Harrison Zulander, or "Zu" for short, is usually tagging along and looking simultaneously nonplussed and adorable. He even came to Jackson for Green's performance at Hal & Mal's on Tuesday, March 8.
Zu isn't just a tag-along trophy pet, however. When not eliciting smiles from famous folk such as Ashanti, Steve Aoki and Blake Shelton, he's a social-media socialite, with more than 1,400 followers on his Instagram and another 254 followers on his Twitter.
The Yorkie is also a spokes-puppy and model for Los Angeles-based Dogs of Glamour. Zu is featured prominently on the website for the high-end canine accessories brand, rocking pieces from the Dogs of Glamour product line, such as jackets, t-shirts and classy carrier bags.
Oh, and if anyone was curious, Zu is available for "speaking" engagements.
The local hip-hop community has been singing the praises of "Gullah Gullah Island," the latest single from Jackson rapper Silas Stapleton, who performs as SilaS, since it began making the rounds last November. Now, having garnered attention from major national music publication Vibe, SilaS fans can expect a second wind for the song's popularity.
"Gullah Gullah Island" takes inspiration from the 1990s Nickelodeon children's show of the same name, and like the TV program, the track presents a vision of an imaginary island where black families are free to celebrate their heritage and free from systemic racism and the myriad issues that African Americans face in modern America.
Vibe's article came only a day after SilaS released his full 13-track album, "The Day I Died," which is currently available for purchase at dear-silas.com. The official release party and concert for the album is Friday, March 11, at Martin's Restaurant & Bar (214 S. State St.). For more information, find the event on Facebook.
After cryptic statements here and there and word of a return to New York, Fondren's First Thursday founder Ron Chane announced that his monthly event would be back in Fondren once more, though rumors of its demise weren't entirely unfounded.
Chane, who also owns local businesses Studio Chane, Swell-O-Phonic and Soma Wilai, took to Facebook to tell the event's many attendees that FFT will be reinstated starting March 3 and will continue each month through December 1.
"A new monster is coming," he wrote.
"54 days ago, things were left in limbo. The load of running the event was bearing, and the need for support was eminent. Leaving FFT as a cliff-hanger was intentional as strategy, as well as not knowing for sure it would return (without community help). We proved it could be revived and thrive. The new challenge was to build it around community involvement with shared ideas.
"Hence, the future of a new FFT is now. We have divided the district into four main zones: Duling, Fondren Plaza, State Street and the Capri Strip. The hybrid energy of shared decisions in each zone will now fuel the ever-changing shape of the event. Zones will make their own decisions on activities, music, vendors, food, etc. This will take the load off for us, allowing FFT itself to focus on the PR and creative direction so necessary to offer you an out-of-the-box experience. We will still stand for the same platform of offering a positive night of neutrality and equal community without political, religious or social activism. The same community-conscious rules will apply for music, vendors, etc.
"We ask that our supporters please be patient as we put the finishing touches on the structure, protocol, etc. We are not open quite yet. Our FFT.city site will resurface with new information and direction next Friday February 5th by noon. All inquiries will then be greeted with an auto-reply that points you to the link necessary. Two-way communication will start at that point.
"FFT will now go all months March 3rd - December 1st (including July 7th) and will remain 5pm until. The event will focus more heavily on the arts now. Vendors will still be represented, now on a rotating basis due to increased activities and available spacing.
"I still plan to focus on split-timing in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a source of pursuing creative ventures and creative inspiration both for myself and the event. As stated before, we will soon play again as less than perfect adults (kids, dogs, community lovers, corporation-haters, weirdos, creative liberal minded scarf wearing types, etc.)."
"Thanks again for reading long posts with bad grammar and misspelled words and for supporting unrealistic ideas."
From its industry panels to artist showcases, the team behind the first Jackson Indie Music Week, which ran Jan. 11 through Jan. 17, wanted the festival to recognize the talent and achievements already active in the capital city. Of course, nothing things says “recognition” like a shelf full of trophies, so JIMW was happy to oblige with the Jackson Indie ICON Awards on Thursday, Jan. 14.
The award show took place at Duling Hall and was a tribute to four of Jackson’s music-industry trailblazers: Freddie Young, Arden Barnett, Charlie Braxton and Bebop Record Shop owner Drake Elder.
Young has produced a variety of albums for Jackson hip-hop and R&B artists and was a big player in the local music scene in the 1970s, providing lead vocals for the funk act Sho-Nuff, which featured an ensemble of Jackson music stars, including bassist Sky Chambers, who presented the award alongside Bridget Archer of “Soul Train” and Jackson State University J-sette fame.
Barnett is the show promoter behind entertainment company Ardenland, who also appeared on JIMW’s “Do the Knowledge” panel where he discussed his philosophy on booking events. Ardenland mostly brings national touring acts, which has caused some to question why the company doesn’t do more for local acts. There are already great venues for local artists, he said at the panel, but he saw a niche and knew he could fill it.
Braxton, a McComb native, is an author, poet and music journalist best known for his various high-profile stories for hip-hop music publications such as The Source, Vibe and Murder Dog. In his articles, he often discusses the cultural impact of artists including OutKast and Notorious B.I.G. as much as the elements that made them singularly influential in the music world.
Elder’s name was a surprise addition to the proceedings—JIMW organizers had announced the other award recipients prior to the event—but given his legacy and deep connection to the local scene, his inclusion was more than welcomed. When the owner of the now-closed Bebop Record Shop died on Aug. 14, 2015, at age 62, friends, family and music lovers across Jackson mourned his loss and celebrated his commitment to music. Fellow ICON Award winner Barnett even held a memorial concert at Duling Hall on Aug. 19.
Despite somewhat of a rough start, the "Do the Knowledge" panel, one of the first major events for the inaugural Jackson Indie Music Week, delivered some useful advice for music-industry hopefuls.
If you totally spaced and forgot to attend the grand opening of the Grammy Museum of Mississippi in Cleveland, originally proposed for early this fall, don't worry. There's always next year.
Earlier this month, the museum’s board of directors announced that the state-of-the-art, 27,000-square-foot facility on the campus of Delta State University would not be ready for visitors in September as expected. By Tuesday, Sept. 22, they had settled on its new grand-opening weekend, March 5 and 6, 2016.
“The intricate details of the exhibits themselves are very complex and involve multiple-process phases from start to finish,” Lucy Janoush, president of the Grammy Museum Mississippi Board of Directors, said in a press release. “In order to make this project the showcase it should be, consultants and contractors need more time to finish the exhibit.”
Plans for the Grammy Museum Mississippi, the first satellite site of the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, began in 2009, when Mayor Billy Nowell and the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce approached Allan Hammons of Hammon & Associates advertising firm about developing a music museum akin to the B. B. King Museum in Indianola, which Hammons helped design and coordinate as its interim executive director.
Hammons eventually led the charge in approaching the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences about building a sister site to the Los Angeles Grammy Museum, which opened in 2008.
For more information on the museum's process from concept to near-completion, read the Jackson Free Press’ cover story, "Follow the Gold-Record Road: Creating the Grammy Museum Mississippi," from March 18, 2015.
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Steve Earle is the latest voice to join the flag debate, though his voice comes in the form of a good-old-fashioned protest song. On the track, titled "Mississippi, It's Time," the Virginia-born musician denounces the Confederate battle emblem's position on the Mississippi state flag, which has been a point of contention yet again following a white-supremacist gunman's slaying of nine African Americans at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17.
“I grew up in the South and lived there until I was 50, and I know that I’m not the only southerner who never believed for one second that the Confederate battle flag is symbolic of anything but racism in anything like a modern context,” Steve Earle said in a press release. “This is about giving those southerners a voice.”
Earle and his band, the Dukes, release the song for download on iTunes this Friday, Sept. 11, with all proceeds going to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The lyrics feature a number of powerful and to-the-point phrases, such as, Mississippi, don't you reckon it's time that the flag came down because the world turned 'round? We can't move ahead if we're looking behind," and "I wish I was in a land that never held a soul in bondage ever. I wouldn't have to drag these chains behind. Mississippi, it's time."
Near the track's close, though, Earle trades any semblance of metaphor for blunt outrage: "What the hell, Mississippi? Mississippi, you're out of your mind. Mississippi, God d***, even Alabama and South Carolina (have) come across the line."
As people from without and within the state push for the removal of the Confederate flag—and the dark ideals it represents—the decision ultimately rests with state lawmakers who can't seem to come to an agreement.
Earle, a pupil of famed songwriters Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, has had countless hits on the country music charts, both from his own releases, such as his debut record, 1986's "Guitar Town," and from hits for legends like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris.
Visit Southern Poverty Law Center's website to listen to "Mississippi, It's Time."