In hindsight, February of 2020 was not the most opportune time to launch a new business venture, especially one as unique and collaborative as Crosstown’s Ixora, a mixed-use space that includes a local maker’s market, the OAM Network’s podcast studio, and an event space known as “The Green Room.” However, despite the obvious challenges, owners Carla and Gil Worth have strived throughout the pandemic to find innovative ways to not only keep their shop running, but to also assist Memphis’ struggling community of artists and musicians.
With Ixora Sessions, the bi-weekly streaming concert series that they began in early May, it seems as if Carla and Gil have not only created the ideal concert series for our socially distanced times, but one that has the potential to continue on in perpetuity.
“Our opening day was February 8th, and we had the podcast studio built out, as well as a space that opens into a stage that we call the Green Room, and from there we were going to have live events,” Carla explains. “We hosted one Spillit, which is a live storytelling show that attracted a standing-room only crowd, and then two weeks later. Well…”
Of course we all remember the deeply surreal and fretful days of mid-February, but for the Worths, the anxiety was even more palpable.
“We thought everything was going to be okay, until it was clear that it wasn’t,” says Gil.
Thankfully, Ixora was not the entrepreneurial couple’s first business venture and acclimating to unexpected situations has become a particular well-honed skillset for them both. “I keep saying that the word of the year is ‘adapt,’ and Ixora Sessions was exactly that,” explained Carla. “One day Gil was like ‘let’s record some bands,’ which he has a lot of experience with, and we kicked things off with Louise Page, who drew a great crowd.”
The concept for Ixora Sessions was simple: Artists would come into the studio and perform a live set, which would be streamed live on Ixora’s Facebook and Instagram feed. While the shows are free, the audience is encouraged to make donations, which are split evenly between the artists and Ixora’s Rent Relief Fund. Depending on the size of the donation, each donor will receive a “Thank You Package” from Ixora, which ranges from branded stickers and keychains to OAM T-shirts and locally handcrafted gifts. “While we have to keep an eye on our own stability as a business, we also wanted to be able to provide a space for musicians that gives them a way to make some extra money as well,” explains Gil.
“We followed the theme that our neighborhood started – ‘Better Together.’ We are a collection of makers, podcasters, storytellers, musicians, visual artists, comedians and more. Together we share this space with one goal in mind; to grow and succeed by supporting each other.”
As of this writing, there have been ten Ixora Session concerts, which have included acts such as Blvck Hippie, Oakwalker, Rosey, and Lipstick Stains. “A big part of Ixora, the whole thing of it, is that we don’t curate anything, from the podcasts that come in to our art vendors. That’s true of the musicians who come in to play as well, all of whom contacted us first” Carla says. “I was only really familiar with three of the bands that have played so far,” Gil adds. “But each of them have been so good. We really want to keep it going as long as possible, and even once things open back up, I’d like to continue to live stream the shows and hopefully make them even more interactive in the future.”
As an example of what these increasingly interactive shows may look like, Gil points to “HEELStv,” an offshoot of Ixora Sessions that features Brennan Whalen and Joshua McLane of the band HEELS hosting what they refer to as “public access television on the internet.” “HEELStv is definitely part of the Ixora Sessions, but it’s more like the public access shows you use to see,” says Gil. ”Folks call in and talk to them, they play music, and it’s semi-scripted, so there’s some pre-written jokes and stuff as well, but above everything else we just want in to be fun and interactive.”
While the future can feel especially uncertain during these troubles times, small businesses like Ixora are helping to pave a path forward though adaptability, innovation, and a sense of community. And while Memphis’ musicians have once again proven to be a particularly adaptable bunch, services such as those provided by Ixora Sessions are becoming an important source for both exposure and income. As their website states, “We followed the theme that our neighborhood started – ‘Better Together.’ We are a collection of makers, podcasters, storytellers, musicians, visual artists, comedians and more. Together we share this space with one goal in mind; to grow and succeed by supporting each other.” If anything, Ixora Sessions proves that the upstart business’ mission statement is even more relevant than ever.
Take a look the schedule of upcoming Ixora Sessions:
Musicians wanting to participate in future Ixora Sessions can send an email and a sample of their music to email@example.com. Information regarding future shows and other events can be found at https://www.ixoramemphis.com or on Ixora’s Facebook page. All donations can be made through Ixora’s website as well.