Cellular South Stage • 6:10 p.m.
San Francisco-based songwriter and 12-string guitar wiz Matt Nathanson has been recording since 1993 but has gained new exposure over the past few years from multiple songs featured on the NBC sitcom Scrubs. Nathanson's original material tends to be introspective, but he's also known for funny, cover-laden live shows that often feature crowd sing-alongs of '80s hits.
Cellular South Stage • 7:45 p.m.
Initially begun as a side project for Andrew McMahon, singer/keyboardist for California-based emo group Something Corporate, Jack's Mannequin quickly eclipsed its predecessor. A debut album, Everything in Transit, was released to critical acclaim in 2005, although McMahon was forced to cancel touring plans after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Following a bone-marrow transplant, McMahon went on the road as an opener for O.A.R. as his first single, "The Mixed Tape," stormed its way up the MTV charts.
Cellular South Stage • 9:20 p.m.
A former Christian music artist, singer-songwriter Katy Perry went secular earlier this decade and, after a rocky rise through the music-biz ranks, she got attention with her 2007 Internet hit "Ur So Gay" and then broke through big-time in 2008 with the sassy megahits "I Kissed a Girl" and "Hot N Cold." Those two number-one singles pushed her secular debut album One of the Boys into the upper reaches of the Billboard charts. Equally known for her colorful, theatrical stage presence (a mix of vintage fashion, cleavage, and fruit), Perry has emerged as a smarter, more calculating take on the contemporary pop tart, even supplying songs to other artists, such as co-writing the current Kelly Clarkson hit "I Do Not Hook Up."
The All-American Rejects
Cellular South Stage • 10:55 p.m.
Singer Tyson Ritter and guitarist Nick Wheeler formed the rock band All-American Rejects at the beginning of the decade while high school students in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The band made the leap in 2005 with its Interscope debut Move Along and its surging title single. The creative video for the emotional single was a huge success, landing atop MTV's Total Request Live charts for four days and winning the band a "Best Group Video" award at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. The band returned late last year with the follow-up album, When the World Comes Down.
Sam's Town Stage • 6:10 p.m.
Rise Against is probably one of the most unlikely hit rock bands of recent years. The Chicago-based quartet is a straight-edge, vegan post-hardcore band that cut its teeth earlier in the decade on the venerable punk indie label Fat Wreck Chords before signing with major-label Geffen. Helped along by multiple stints on the Warped Tour and an appearance in the skateboarding-themed film Lords of Dogtown (the band played an '80s California punk band and contributed a cover of Black Flag's "Nervous Breakdown" to the film's soundtrack), Rise Against broke out with their 2006 album The Sufferer and the Witness, which debuted in the Billboard Top 10. The band returned last year with the Appeal to Reason album.
Sam's Town Stage • 7:50 p.m.
British metal revivalists the Cult referenced such classic bands as Led Zeppelin and the Doors when they hit their stride in the mid-'80s, first with, um, cult singles such as "She Sells Sanctuary" then straight-up metal hits like "Love Removal Machine." Frontmen Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy reformed the band in 1999 with a new rhythm section, and the band's catalog was re-released in 2000, spurring a new boom of recording and touring during the past decade.
Steve Miller Band
Sam's Town Stage • 9:30 p.m.
Formed in San Francisco during the 1967 "Summer of Love" as one of the era's signature white blues bands, the Steve Miller Band would morph by the middle of the next decade into one of the biggest rock bands via such classic-rock-radio staples as "Fly Like an Eagle," "Rock'n Me," and "Space Cowboy." The band extended its hit streak into the 1980s with the 1981 smash "Abracadabra" but couldn't quite keep afloat during the MTV era. In the past couple of decades, the band has focused more on being a live act and with their deep catalog of crowd-pleasing tunes is a perfect fit for outdoor music festivals like the Beale Street Music Fest.
Medeski, Martin & Wood
Budweiser Stage • 6:30 p.m.
Jazz-and-jam trio Medeski (keyboard), Martin (drums), and Wood (bass) has become one of the most popular instrumental bands in the land since forming in 1991, impressively uniting avant-garde jazz with a jam-band-style emphasis on drawn-out grooves. Though sometimes considered jazz outsiders, the band has consistently outdrawn most of its mainstream counterparts.
G. Love & Special Sauce
Budweiser Stage • 8:15 p.m.
When the idiosyncratic Philadelphia-based blues/rock/rap trio G. Love & Special Sauce scored college-radio hits in 1994 with the singles "Cold Beverage" and "Baby's Got Sauce," they didn't seem to have much staying power. But the band is still going strong a decade-and-a-half later. The band reached an even wider audience in 2005 when they were featured in a Coca-Cola commercial performing their own version of the company's classic "I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing" jingle.
Ben Harper & Relentless 7
Budweiser Stage • 10 p.m.
Combining folk and funk, blues and rock, Ben Harper has added Jimi Hendrix-style jolt to the rootsy jam-band sound made popular by bands like Blues Traveler and Widespread Panic. A cult artist for years, Harper's audience boomed with the success of the 2000 single "Steal My Kisses." Known as a terrific live performer, Harper and his band have been a Beale Street Music Fest highlight in the past. Expect nothing less during this return performance.
Blues Tent • 6:15 p.m.
A former Memphian, Bonnie Bramlett sang back-up for the likes of Albert King and became an Ikette behind Ike & Tina Turner in the '60s. Later, she formed the duo Delaney & Bonnie alongside her new husband and toured with the likes of Eric Clapton and Blind Faith. Bramlett has spent time as a gospel artist and actress (appearing on the sitcom Rosanne) over the years, but reemerged in secular music in 2002 with I'm Still the Same, an album of jazz- and blues-inflected pop that drew on her trademark soulful vocals.
Blues Tent • 7:55 p.m.
The son of famed harp player Carey Bell, this Chicago bluesman is an explosive guitarist in the mode of Buddy Guy and Otis Rush and has recorded for many of the genre's trademark labels.
Ronnie Baker Brooks
Blues Tent • 9:30 p.m.
Son of formidable blues guitarist Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks is a familiar name on the Chicago club circuit. He credits his father as his best friend and mentor, although electric guitar greats like Albert King and Buddy Guy are also heavy influences, as heard on Brooks' '98 debut, Gold Digger, and its Handy Award-nominated follow-up, Take Me Witcha. Live, expect energetic versions of "Make These Blues Survive" and the biographical "Like Father, Like Son" from this insightful performer, who carries the torch with pride.
Blues Tent • 11:10 p.m.
The reigning Blues Music Award "Entertainer of the Year" (his 2007 album Painkiller was also tapped as "Contemporary Blues Album of the Year"), this San Francisco Bay area hotshot is one of the stars on the contemporary blues scene, mixing scalding Stevie Ray Vaughn-style electric guitar with more soul-based vocals.
James "Super Chikan" Johnson and Richard Johnston
SoCo Blues Shack • 6:15-10:25 p.m.
Two of the Mid-South's most authentic blues musicians — Clarksville, Mississippi-based James "Super Chikan" Johnson and Memphis' hill-country iconoclast Richard Johnston — will alternate sets at the Blues Shack all night Friday.