Memphis in May: Beale Street Music Festival
Photos credited to Beale Street Music Festival Facebook page
Memphis, Tennessee. Home to some prolific influences to the music game to date. From blues to poppin’ collars, another classic southern city with so much culture. The city just so happens to be set by the mighty Mississippi River with neighbors Arkansas and Mississippi essentially down the street. With the river you have a few cool bridges that light up with patterns at night. Beale Street is fun downtown and it’s just a ten minute walk or so to Tom Lee Park, home of Beale Street Music Festival.
Tom Lee Park is a long park placed right next to the Mississippi River. The river served as a natural coolant during the hot patches of the weekend. The river bridges served as backdrops to the right of the three main stages. As you can imagine, everything was laid out in a straight line throughout the park; stages, food & beverages, port-o-lets, merchandise, etc. Flow of traffic stayed pretty steady until you got near the front of the Bud Light Stage at times.
The spacing of the stages was pretty well planned. Bummer for the Blues Shack adjacent to the Bud Light Stage as it was the only stage to experience major sound bleeding. Only a little overlap if you stood to the furthest side of the three major stages, even then it wasn’t annoying. The Coca-Cola Blues Tent was the only covered stage and it had good acoustics with minimal noise interference as well. The tent also had lawn chairs spread out to watch the acts which was relaxing at times.
As mentioned before, flow of traffic was not too bad all weekend. I did feel like a fish upstream at times, but nothing too harsh. Crowded bathroom lines were never an issue since port-o-lets were dispersed throughout the park. Same thing with food & beverage lines. Several options with cuisines, cold drinks, and free samples! A few words on some things I ingested…had some awful overpriced brisket nachos. I won’t waste anymore words on the matter. Enjoyed a salivating strawberry popsicle from Mempops, which was on point. I ate awesome arepas. I tried a tasty sample of Barefoot Pinot Grigio, pinky up of course. Finally I had some new M&M’s and my choice is #VoteCrunchyEspresso. Oh yeah, the free water provided was good too.
The crowd was definitely enjoyable and not a problem at any point. It was a fine environment for children to be present. I was never being shoved or heard about mischief like pick pocketing or worse. Surely a few inebriated individuals strolled the festival, but in their defense it was Cinco de Mayo weekend. I did see a few people passed out or needing help, but nothing seemed scary like I’ve seen at some festivals.
Every day it felt like everyone was on the same page, almost like a blanket of unity covered Tom Lee Park. I’m sure the music helped as artists spread positive messages like camaraderie and love throughout their sets. What appeared as a horrifying moment even turned into a classic story for a little boy on someone’s shoulders as Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips rolled his way above the crowd while in a plastic bubble. He talked it out with the kid briefly and continued the show. Super cool moment and I wasn’t even the kid on shoulders!
The few interactions I had were all awesome. People complimented my shirt saying “What’s up dood?” Media and staff I encountered were cordial and helpful. Most importantly for me was meeting some cool people from Arkansas, Brad and Keilie. They were nice enough to let me kick it with them and even saved me from lodging in this sketchy place! Even on the streets, I met so many genuine people. Aside from the Hustle & Flow feel of Memphis, I really liked the environment.
Shoutout to all acts for the weekend. Overall the music only disappointed with small hiccups; otherwise it was amazing and nostalgic. Minor mishaps included: Alanis Morissette‘s set had some acoustic issues, Logic had so much to say, and Erykah Badu started 40 minutes after her scheduled set time. The genres of rock, rap, blues, and a sprinkle of country mixed with decades of musical talent was perfect glue for the melting pot crowd.
It was awesome hearing different instruments throughout the weekend. Some underutilized instruments stood out to me. The harmonica and tambourine were commonly used, Cake with their trumpeter Vince DiFiore, and Neil Fallon of Clutch made the cowbell really cool to be playing. Stage props and the designs alongside stages also created some great eye candy.
Some brief words…
Young Dolph – It was badass seeing his big crown prop on stage that read “King of Memphis”. Great set for Sunday vibes as the sun was shining.
Jack White – It’s always something to appreciate when someone is on the stage absolutely shredding a guitar.
Cake – They have more songs I like then I knew I liked. You might have heard one or two, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” and “The Distance”.
Post Malone – I didn’t actually watch his set, but I could hear it waiting for Erykah Badu to start and he sounded great. Best show I heard but didn’t see for sure.
Some of the weekend standouts (in my opinion)…
Porcelan – I heard other media speaking about catching Porcelan‘s set, so I gave it a go. Upon arriving at the FedEx Stage I saw a blonde haired mocha skinned chick with the mic in her hand. Good listen from what I heard at her set. She had a memo from a woman’s point a view, “We don’t always wanna be hollered at when we go out.” She spoke those words before performing “Girls Night Out”. I think she’s new on the scene so lookout for the Memphis based artist.
Alanis Morissette – She looks good with short hair. It was amazing to see her not only sing, but play harmonica and guitar. Even more awesome, she continued playing without missing a beat when it seemed another guitar member was having sound malfunctions. The crowd was so engaged and loving every word that poured from her mouth as plenty people sang karaoke with her. Watching Alanis Morissette in the rain is definitely one for the memory bank.
Ludacris – I’ve been a fan of Ludacris since he was Chris Lova Lova on the radio. It was tight seeing Skinny Black (Hustle & Flow reference) getting the crowd hype with his red star crotched pants. I want those pants by the way. He definitely received a lot of love from the dirty south crowd.
Juicy J – It was my first time seeing him perform and it was pretty tight. He looked fresh in his Sunday clothes. The crowd was very engaged with plenty of the songs he started. Even back to his Three 6 Mafia days playing songs like “Weak Azz Bitch” and “Poppin’ my Collar”. Another great set glad I caught, especially in Memphis.
ODESZA – Always an awe inspiring set. They played some new stuff as well as some old. The visuals were interesting changing from water to gigantic beings walking and more. We were lucky enough to even get the drumline for the night. I walked over to Erykah Badu for about two seconds until I heard “Sun Models” cranking up. It was bittersweet for them closing as it signified the end of the festival.
The Flaming Lips – Favorite set of the festival for sure. Wayne Coyne came out wearing an eye patch dressed like Mozart from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I’m fairly new to them, but I would see them anytime they are at a festival. Their music alongside props, antics, and trippy visuals makes their shows worth seeing. They blasted huge balloons and confetti into the crowd Sunday night. Super cool and harmonious magic hour show. See The Flaming Lips if you have the chance!
Beale Street Music Festival is a big deal for Memphis in May. Each day had the same tone of music with different vibes every day. Although the rain dampened the first two days, it didn’t stop people from coming out and having a good time; especially for Cinco de Mayo. The amazing weather Sunday turned Tom Lee Park into a full on day party that ended in chill fashion. After attending Beale Street Music Festival it definitely gets my stamp of approval!