For a festival sometimes derided for resuscitating classic-rock dinosaurs or bringing the same acts back year after year, this year's lineup looks like one of the most diverse and novel in years, with a much greater emphasis on contemporary pop and indie rock than has been the norm.
Friday night's lineup is topped by an eclectic trio of major contemporary artists in the form of roots-rock superstar Crow, rock-radio royalty My Chemical Romance, and hip-hop's most beloved house band, the Roots. Friday's lineup also boasts two of the hottest emerging names in local music in the form of Americana marvel Amy LaVere and comic hip-hop group Lord T & Eloise.
Saturday's lineup is led by Santana, a classic-rock band with contemporary appeal, but is perhaps most interesting for a daring array of alternative acts lead by Velvet Underground founder and alt-rock godfather Lou Reed. The Saturday lineup also includes a younger trio of hipper-than-usual artists: Memphis-connected indie chanteuse Cat Power, Georgia power trio the Whigs, and Canadian twins Tegan & Sara.
Sunday night's lineup provides the grand unintentional comedy of a diva juxtaposition of Aretha Franklin, the grand dame of American music, and Fergie, the ubiquitous diva of recent Top 40 radio.
Throughout the festival, the lineup is typically strong on blues (Buddy Guy, Bettye LaVette, Watermelon Slim), though the roster of regional icons (headed by returnees Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Lee Riley) is leaner than has been the recent norm.
A (so far) full lineup for this year's Beale Street Music Festival follows. Love it? Hate it? Let us know.
Friday, May 2nd: My Chemical Romance, Sheryl Crow, The Roots, Keb' Mo', Richard Johnston, Hellogoodbye, Jonny Lang, Ben Folds, Charlie Musselwhite, Robert Wolfman Belfour, Flyleaf, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Project Pat, Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials, Lord T. and Eloise, Amy LaVere, JJ Greg & Mofro, Lurrie Bell.
Saturday, May 3rd: Santana, Disturbed, Matisyahu, Bettye LaVette, Richard Johnston, Lou Reed, Seether, the John Butler Trio, Pinetop Perkins & Hubert Sumlin w/ Billy Gibson, Blind Mississippi Morris, Buddy Guy, Simple Plan, Arrested Development, Watermelon Slim, Cat Power, The Whigs, Colbie Caillat, Back Door Slam, Duman, Saving Abel, Tegan and Sara, Kenny Neal, Muck Sticky, Oracle and the Mountain, Al Kapone, Preston Shannon, Eli "Paperboy" Reed.
Sunday, May 4th: Fergie, Michael McDonald, the Black Crowes, Doyle Bramhall, Richard Johnston, Finger Eleven, Aretha Franklin, O.A.R., Magic Slim & the Teardrops, Robert Belfour, Gavin DeGraw, Jerry Lee Lewis, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Nick Moss & the Flip Tops, Rue Melo, Duman, Umphrey's McGee, Samuel James, Carney, Billy Lee Riley, Pete Francis, Calvin Cooke.
"There was a period of time, when we first started playing, that all the touring influenced us a lot," he says. "We were playing with different bands on the rock-and-roll scene night after night and at festivals bands that we'd never even heard before, like Rage Against the Machine ..."