Neil Young (pictured above), Yo Gotti, Indigo Girls, Zedd, Beck, Violent Femmes, Gin Blossoms, Weezer, Panic! At the Disco, Grace Potter, Cypress Hill, Courtney Barnett, Jason Derulo and many more made Memphis a must-be-at city once again.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON
April showers may bring May flowers, but rain during Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival brings mud—and lots of it.
Memphis Music Fest is no stranger to the rain during the annual weekend event, but it doesn’t seem to keep any true music lovers away. The festival grounds actually hold up very well for the most part, but I do recommend packing a pair of rubber boots and a poncho.
So, on with the show. This is one of my favorite festivals of the year, due to the organizers and staff. This event always has a top notch lineup with a diverse line up of acts. How many festivals can you see Neil Young, Yo Gotti, Indigo Girls, Zedd, Beck, and a whole stage dedicated to the Blues, all in the same weekend. This Festival is also one of the best values around, with tickets for all three days for just over one hundred dollars.
There was no way I could have caught all the bands with three stages running at the same time, so I had to plan out my weekend to make sure I was able to take in the must see’s.
Friday’s must see’s for me were: The Struts, Gin Blossoms (above) Panic! at the Disco, Grace Potter, Weezer, and finishing up the night with Neil Young & Promise of the Real. I also happened upon Young and the Giant. I had never heard of them, but they had a really cool sound with a great stage presence. One of my favorite things about music festivals is that you can always discover new music and new bands.
Panic! At the Disco
Young the Giant
Saturday started off with Lunchmoney Lewis (below), who came out in his traditional bathrobe and boxer shorts. If you haven’t heard of him or seen his video for “Ain’t Too Cool,” please finish reading this article, then grab your coolest shades and check it out – you will be hooked.
Next up on was Better Than Ezra from Louisiana, whose biggest hit was in 1995 and titled “Good.” They were as tight as they were in the ‘90s. Up next for me was Moon Taxi, the indie-progressive rock band that is based in Nashville. They took the stage at 7:00 PM as the sun was starting to set and the crowds started to swell.
The group I was most excited to see this weekend was Cypress Hill (above); ever since I first heard their “Insane in the Brain,” the song has been imbedded in my brain. I was on my way to the photography pit in front of the stage when a white transport van pulled up next to me. As I moved to the side to allow the van to pass, it stopped and out stepped Cypress Hill. No waiting or warming up for the veterans, they exited the van and quickly walked to the stage and proceeded to rock the crowd—from the moment B-Real appeared onstage, the crowd was hyped, getting hits like “How I Could Just Kill A Man”, “Superstar”, “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That”, “Hits from the Bong”, and “Lowrider” and jumping nonstop and, er, waving their hands like they just don’t care.
Next up: local Memphian rapper Yo Gotti (above), His DJ whipped the crowd into a frenzy before he even hit the stage, dressed in all white and sporting a white ski mask. The huge monitor screen that projected behind him on stage played images of Memphis before switching over to a cool looking graphic screen. Yo Gotti was a perfect act to put on before the night’s headliner of the Bud Light Stage with Jason Derulo.
Jason (above) came, saw, and kicked ass: People had already stood in front of the stage for hours and hours just to ensure they were front and center for this show. With choreographed moves and lots of dancers, this show alone was worth the price of the three-day ticket. If you have turned on the radio in the last five years, you have heard one of his hits such as “Wiggle”, “Ridin’ Solo”, “Watcha Say”, “Talk Dirty”, and now “Get Ugly.”
I didn’t get to see headliners Megan Trainor on the Fedex Stage or Modest Mouse at the Rockstar Energy Drink Stage. I did to get catch a couple of songs from Violent Femmes (above) on the Rockstar Stage. It would have been an incomplete weekend if I hadn’t been able to photograph and jam out to “Add It Up.” With my legs feeling like I’d hiked Mount Everest, Saturday was now in the books. Time to catch a little sleep before a full Sunday of music.
Sunday kicked off with Blackberry Smoke (above) from Atlanta, with a cross of southern rock, country rock, and bluegrass and having toured with such names as Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, ZZ Top, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Next, I made my way over to the Rockstar stage to shoot the Indigo Girls (above). For a 4:15 Sunday show, there was still large crowd that was singing along to most of their songs and keeping time with the songs.
Next up on the Rockstar Stage was another act I couldn’t wait to see, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (above). This soul singer, with his soulful voice and talented band, is one you must make plans to see perform. His breakout hit “SOB” is great, but just the tip of the iceberg. After leaving Nathaniel’s set I made my way over to the Bud Light Stage to catch a little of Courtney Barnett before making my way to the Fedex Stage to catch Beck (below), whose hits include “Loser”, “Where It’s At” and “Devil’s Haircut”. (He also won album of the year in 2014 for the album Morning Phase.)
The final act of the weekend was Zedd on the Bud Light Stage. More and more festivals are turning to a mixture of DJ, dance, and EMD due to the popularity and the high energy vibe it brings to the crowd, and Zedd is a mixture of producer/DJ/musician who has done collaborations with such artists as Kesha, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, and Hayley Williams. He had a whole stage LED board which was positioned about 20 feet high, and the stage was rigged with flame throwers, smoke and confetti canons. The whole set became a non-stop dance party, and the LED boards conjured the vibe of an outer space journey.
Kudos, incidentally, to the people in charge of booking this year’s Beale Street Music Festival. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a great weekend.