Monday, August 11, 2008

EW Day 1 report by ElvisSessions

Elvissessions has posted 2 reports already about Elvis week and has given me permission to repost them here, since I'm not there to do my own reporting yet.

Thanks, Chris!

File this under "no where to go but up." We pulled into town rested and ready for the kick-off party, which was moved from the Hard Rock Cafe to EP's Delta Kitchen and Bar because of "capacity reasons."

Anyone who remembers our dispatches from previous years knows we're the most enthusiastic boosters and gentlest critics of Elvis Week events.

But finally: our first truly negative review.

First, it's easy enough to imagine that the "capacity reasons" were too much capacity, not too little. Although in the first half-hour, there were people sitting at almost every table in the VIP area, that was a very temporary condition and there was pleny of room elsewhere in the restaurant.

That's not EPE's fault, certainly, and many Elvis Weeks start slowly and still build to remarkable clilmaxes.

But it's hard to overlook the event's other shortcomings.

First, the band, billed as Elmo and the Shades, was way off the mark for an event advertised as an Elvis Week "kick-off."

Any Elvis connection appeared to be coincidental. Yes, there were run-throughs of Johnny B. Goode and Big Boss Man. But for the most part it was more a tribute to Memphis music in general, especially to the Stax sound.

The band was good. The second set, for example, opened with some remarkable solo guitar work. But simply put, who ever imagined the Theme From Shaft was going to put anyone in an Elvis frame of mind?

As far as the food for the VIPs .... ummmm ... ick.

The nacho cheese, for example, tasted as if it had been reconstituted from powder. The only less-appetizing possibility was that the grit in it could be explained some other way.

Some of the desserts, obviously pulled from a refrigerator (freezer?) shortly before the event, had been turned to mush by condensation that had collected on them. Only a few lemon bars survived at all.Small barbecue sandwiches just weren't good, and the same could be said for most of the rest.

At first, rather disappointed at the paltry selection, we were temporarily heartened by the arrival of a new tray about a half-hour into the event. Our hope turned to dismay as we realized that even after tasting it, we could not state for certain what it was. (Pork, perhaps?) Certainly, it was none too savory, and we set most of it aside.

There's no sense belaboring the point; Elvis Week isn't about fine dining. However, it was hard not to spend the evening calculating where the $40 per "VIP" had gone.

The wait staff was friendly -- and forgiving on our bar tab. And it's always great to start to see the familiar faces begin to gather.

But clearly we weren't alone in our negative assessment. The audience thinned out fast. We lasted longer than most, but we threw in the towel not long after midnight. We'd love to hear from anyone who actually made it through to 3 a.m. But our guess is most of the wait staff got a chance to turn in early.

After leaving Beale Street, we paid our traditional first late-night visit to Graceland to check the week's pulse. By this measure, things look promising. Still a good crowd at the tent, and still a performer on the stage.

We couldn't stick around long, as we have to be up for the 8:30 a.m. gospel "brunch." (By the way, EPE, if it's 8:30 a.m., it ain't a brunch )

We hope to be back soon with more (better) reports.
Audubon Drive posted a comment to this report:

I was there too, but I had the cheap ticket so was forced to sit by the bar. Literally forced to: I was upstairs visiting, hanging out and the bouncer noticed that I didn't have the "VIP wristband". Which is not a bad thing to sit by the bar, just couldn't stay all night. Had a Tupelo tour to do the next day (today).

The band was good, I have heard them many times here in town. Half the band played with Isaac Hayes on the Theme from Shaft" recordings. No, its not Elvis related, but Memphis related. You may have missed what "Elmo" the lead singer said: that he played for one of Elvis' New Years Eve parties at the old Club Manhattan. So there was a little Elvis after all.

In all, I got the better of the deal by getting the cheaper ticket.

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