Live at the Beale Street Music Festival 5/5-5/7/17, Memphis
Text & Photos by Mark Jackson
What if I were to tell you there was a magical place where you could see bands such as Soundgarden, Kings of Leon, Wide Spread Panic, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, Death Cab for Cutie, Sturgill Simpson, Highly Suspect, Machine Gun Kelly, and many more artist including a tent stage dedicated to only blues music, eat the best BBQ you have ever tasted, walk on a world famous street that is also home to the blues, and visit Elvis’s home all for about one hundred and fifty dollars or less.
Well you should start saving now and planning your travel for the 2018 Beale Street Music Festival that happens the first weekend of May every year. This is without a doubt one of the best value music festivals in the U.S. and often overlooked for the great music festival that it is. This festival that has the Tennessee Arkansas bridge as a backdrop takes place right downtown on the river, just blocks from the world famous Beale Street. This festival has some of the friendliest, most professional, and helpful staff of the festivals that I have the pleasure of covering each year. BSMF always has a great selection of food vendors and alcohol at reasonable prices, but the must have food that you have to try before leaving Memphis is just a short walk from the festival. First and foremost is the BBQ available at many of the restaurants along Beale Street. My personal favorite would have to be The Pig on Beale also know as Pork with an attitude. The second must have would be Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.
Now back to the festival. As I arrived downtown Memphis on Friday afternoon and checked into the Media trailer, I couldn’t wait to get to the stages and start a weekend full of diverse music acts. This festival always has a great mix of Blues, Rock, Pop, and Rap across four stages.
There are too many bands and stages for one Photographer/journalist to cover it all, so I had to choose which stage and artists to cover. The highlights of Friday for me were The Strumbellas, Grouplove, MGMT and Snoop Dogg, Talk about running the gamut.
Saturday would bring me to the River Stage first to catch one of my favorite bands being none other than Highly Suspect. Johnny came out looking like Clint Eastwood in one of his western movies. Johnny was definitely in a great mood and ready to perform as he strutted and danced around the stage as a DJ played music while the roadies finished their setup. Johnny even came to the edge of the stage to take some pictures of the crowd and of course a selfie with the huge crowd behind him. With the stage now ready Johnny, and brothers Richard and Ryan Meyers wasted no time rocking the crowd with the many hit songs they have under their belts. At one point during the show Richard and Ryan even crowd surfed while Johnny sang and played guitar. This band was one of the highlights of my weekend. I can’t wait to see these guys again!
Next up for me was Silversun Pickups. Silversun has a great sound and I have been hooked on their song “Circadian Rhythm”. Many have compared them to Smashing Pumpkins. Silversun Pickups are out on tour this summer. I suggest you check them out if they come to your area.
8:40 p.m. brought up a hard choice for me as X Ambassadors and 2 Chainz were performing at the same time. I do love X Ambassadors, but decided to check out 2 Chainz on the Bud Light Stage. 2 Chainz had a DJ hyping up the crowd before he came out and when he came out he proceeded to blow the crowd away. The Swelling crowd spilling in from other stages were whipping in a happy frenzy during his entire performance and we still had Wiz to go!
Wiz Khalifa picked up right where 2 Chainz left off and was a perfect way to end a Saturday night with the massive crowd dripping in sweat from jumping up and down, rapping, and dancing for three plus hours.
Sunday kicked off at 2:15 at the Bud Light Stage with Marcella & her lovers. Marcella has a divine Memphis soulful voice and powerful stage presence. I suspect we will be hearing more from her in the next few years.
Next up would be Machine Gun Kelly on the FedEx Stage. MGK is out on tour in support of his brand new album Bloom. MGK is a rapper, singer, “wildboy” and crossover mainstream singer/rapper with the huge hit “Bad Things” with Camila Cabello. If you have not seen Kelly live you are missing out! MGK is one of if not the most energetic performer I’ve ever seen. I always look forward to covering him and his full band.
Alter Bridge with lead singer Myles Kennedy was next up and the park was quickly filling up as people were steadily streaming in from the Famous Beale Street bars and restaurants. As the sun began to set it was time for Tori Kelly on the River Stage and Ben Harper & the innocent criminals on the Bud Light Stage. Next up was Bush. Bush was another highlight of the weekend for me. I have been a fan ever since hearing their album Sixteen Stone released in December of 1994 with songs such as “Comedown and “Glycerine”. Gavin Rossdale’s voice sounded as tight as ever and he has mastered the rock and roll guitarist. Bush (Gavin) wins best high jump and best light show of the weekend as well.
Last but not least was the Headliner of the weekend, Soundgarden! Chris Cornell and the guys brought their A game and the crowd was ready for a rocking good trip down memory lane, with songs like “Spoonman” and “Outshined” this was one of the best Rock performances I have been privileged to attend.
Tragically, Cornell passed away this week following a performance in Detroit, an apparent suicide. Soundgarden had been scheduled to make appearances at Rock On The Range and Rocklahoma, and I was greatly anticipating those performances. R.I.P.
Gavin of Bush
(this could be YOU in the audience… were you there?)
Snoop (who else?)
Chris Cornell (RIP)