SHEENA BARNETT: Tupelo could be a cool city – one day

By Sheena Barnett

Riddle me this, Batman: is there anything to do in Tupelo? The answer depends on who you ask.
The question came up at a recent Performing Arts Commission meeting at the Link Centre, and commissioner Shawn Brevard said she felt there was plenty to do in Tupelo. Besides, she said, just look at all of the plans and events discussed at the meeting: the Link Centre’s diverse and always entertaining Monthly Music Mix concerts; Tupelo Symphony Orchestra performances; the Tupelo Film Festival and indie film screenings.
We didn’t even touch on productions by Tupelo Community Theatre, Pied Piper or our ballet companies, or exhibits at the Oren Dunn Museum, Auto Museum, GumTree or Caron | Prince.
The list goes on.
But, as Sly Stone said, there are different strokes for different folks.
Some may prefer a concert by a big-name performer at the BancorpSouth Arena, or bowling, shopping for comic books and music, playing disc golf, seeing a movie – yet again, the list goes on.
And yet, there’s “nothing” to do in Tupelo?
I cover arts and entertainment for the Journal, so I try to squeeze in every major Aamp&E event from Iuka to Starkville, from Oxford to Fulton, and in between.
Trust me, if something’s not happening Tupelo, it’s happening elsewhere, like in Corinth, which has one of the best local community theatres I’ve ever visited, or Oxford, with places like Proud Larry’s bringing in incredible bands.
I’ve been to lots of local arts events – like the stellar Monthly Music Mix shows – and wondered why they’re so sparsely attended.
But I’m the first to admit Tupelo ain’t exactly hopping with everything I want to do all the time.
Just last week, I went outside Tupelo for my entertainment: first, Oxford (to shop at Jack White’s Third Man Records Rolling Record Store, which was parked outside The End of All Music, probably the best indie music shop around), then, Memphis (to see Star and Micey and The Lumineers).
I get it that a lot of people come to Tupelo to raise their families, so they have no interest in going to a concert on a Wednesday night that starts at 9 p.m. and doesn’t end until 11:30 (and that’s an early show). But there are plenty of us willing to do just that, but we have to drive at least two hours away.
Could Tupelo ever be considered cool?
I think the Down on Main concert series is a step in the right direction.
I’d like more music venues – not bars – with a booking agent who loves all kinds of music. I’d love many recording studios with bands hoping to get that “Tupelo sound,” whatever that may be, like Memphis, Chicago or Muscle Shoals.
A general change in attitude would be refreshing: enjoying entertainment and the arts is celebrated, not considered a time or money waster.
Could Tupelo ever be considered hip, cool, edgy or just plain entertaining?
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
sheena.barnett@journalinc.com.