Combining the best of Memphis music past and present with some of the most legendary performers in rock and soul history and a sampling of today's biggest bands, Memphis in May's Beale Street Music Festival has become one of the largest music festivals in the country, routinely drawing more than 150,000 fans to the banks of the Big Muddy. This year's lineup should only help continue the festival's popularity, bringing acts from a variety of musical genres and generations for a three-day celebration of the city's mighty music heritage.
The Beale Street Music Fest will divide acts among four stages — with an added "blues shack" this year — in Tom Lee Park, a 33-acre site that sits at the base of historic Beale Street and stretches along the majestic Mississippi River.
Friday night's lineup features a diverse trio of heavyweight headliners that may force eclectic music fans into a tough decision: On the Cellular South Stage, emo-punk stars My Chemical Romance will show off the melodic, empathetic style that has made them heroes to legions of young fans. On the Sam's Town Stage, singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow will tap into her deep catalog of hits. And on the Budweiser Stage, hip-hop house band the Roots will supply head-bobbing beats and rhymes. Those who arrive early can see a couple of Memphis' emerging stars in satirical hip-hoppers Lord T & Eloise and versatile roots chanteuse Amy LaVere.
On Saturday night, guitar fans can camp out at the Cellular South Stage for a trio of diverse legends: Chicago blues icon Buddy Guy, alt-rock godfather Lou Reed, and Latin-/classic-rock superstar Santana. Or blues fans could bypass Guy and stay at the Tennessee Lottery Blues Tent, where Watermelon Slim and Bettye LaVette bracket a set from Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin. Adventurous rock fans can show up early for a trio of hip indie/alt acts — power trio the Whigs, folk-rock sister duo Tegan and Sara, and cult-fave Cat Power.
Sunday, the Sam's Town Stage boasts a historic double-shot: back-to-back sets from Memphis-connected hall-of-famers Jerry Lee Lewis and Aretha Franklin. Elsewhere, pop superstar Fergie headlines the Cellular South Stage while Southern rockers the Black Crowes will debut new lead guitarist Luther Dickinson (of the North Mississippi Allstars) when they close out the Budweiser Stage.