Feeding the hungry and nourishing the spirit have quite a bit in common. And when the latter brings attention to the former, both purposes can be fulfilled.
That’s the goal of Music Feeds, a concert series presented by Commercial Bank benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. Now in its second year, the six concerts in the series, sponsored by Bush Brothers and Company and Delta Dental of Tennessee, will take place at the Tennessee Amphitheater in Knoxville’s World’s Fair Park beginning Saturday and continuing through early October.
Aaron Snukals, director of development, marketing and events for Second Harvest, said this year’s concert series will help the organization fulfill its ongoing mission to provide food to those who might otherwise go hungry. An active member of the Feeding America initiative, Second Harvest has committed to that cause since its founding in 1982.
“Every ticket sold will go to feeding those less fortunate in our 18 counties,” Snukals said. “We cover 18 counties. Over 19 million pounds of food went out of our warehouse last year.”
Here Come the Mummies will kick off the series Saturday. A popular eight-piece, Nashville-based funk band, the group keeps the names of its individual members a mystery, due in part to conflicting contractual obligations. As a result, the musicians’ monikers tend to veer toward the silly side. Given the names of various players — Mummy Cass (guitar, lead vocals), Eddie Mummy (drums, vocals), Spaz (keyboards, vocals), K.W. Tut (bass, vocals), The Pole! (bass), Midnight Mummy (sax, flute, percussion, vocals), The Flu (sax, clarinet), Ra (sax), High Priest of Death (trumpet), Mummy Yo (sax, sousaphone, flute), B.B. Queen (trumpet) and Mummy Highlander (sax), among others, there’s ample indication that the band prefers to be preserved in a more satirical state.
Onstage, the musicians maintain more of a crypt-like presence, dressing themselves in bandages to preserve their mummy-like mystique. The guise is ghoulish, but gets in a groove all its own.
In the bio posted on the band’s website, the group offers some insight into its origins — sort of, anyway. “Some say they were cursed after deflowering a great Pharaoh’s daughter. Others claim they are reincarnated Grammy-winning studio musicians. Regardless, HCTM’s mysterious personas, cunning song craft, and unrelenting live show will bend your brain, and melt your face. Get ready, for Here Come The Mummies.”
The band’s Mummy Cass elaborated on that description, but the explanation found a tongue — or what’s left of his mummified tongue — still lodged firmly in cheek.
“Baby, we used to play wedding feasts and parties in ancient Egypt, back when we were mere mortal men,” Mummy Cass told The Daily Times. “Things got a little out of hand with the Pharaoh’s daughter at a dance one night, and well, he cursed us to walk the Earth forever. Forever’s a long time, but maybe we’ll have the last laugh after all. We’re kinda having a good time at the moment.”
A list of the band’s early influences proved a little more revealing.
“So many,” Mummy Cass replied when queried. “P-Funk, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, The Commodores, Sly and The Family Stone, Ohio Players, Ray Charles, Mavis Staples — the list goes on, man.”
Nevertheless, further embellishment about the band’s career proved elusive at best.
“When we got cursed, our popularity had the flight characteristics of a free-falling safe,” the aforementioned Mummy Cass replied when questioned about the band’s trajectory. Likewise, his colleague Midnight Mummy shared a bit more of the plot, while still taking a similar stance.
“We have come roaring back to life in the last decade or so,” Midnight maintained. “Because we always have something up our sleeve ... besides dusty bones.”
That would appear to be the case, at least in theory. The band has proven exceedingly popular, due to both its music and an unrelenting grip on its schtick. After all, when one’s a musical mummy and bound up with sheets, the wrap and the rap make a perfect pairing.
“We have performed all over this state and left a trail of overexcited eardrums, inhibitions in tatters, and more than a couple of broken hearts, too,” Mummy Cass said. “But hearts mend, baby, and everybody danced and had a good time. That’s what counts.”
What also counts is the cause, and on that subject Mummy Cass revealed a heart still beating beneath those linen layers.
“Feeding hungry people?” Cass replied when asked about his own commitment to the cause. “If that ain’t important, you should ring your soul up to see if anybody’s at home.”
For his part, Snukals said the ultimate goal of this concert and the others that follow is singular and serious.
“The concert series keeps our mission of feeding children and adults in East Tennessee in people’s minds when they normally don’t think of us,” he said. “We hope this series becomes a Knoxville summer tradition.”