The Beale Street Music Festival kicks off next weekend, and it's definitely the region's biggie. But if you're looking for a more relaxed outdoor music festival experience, two of the area's best are set for Saturday, April 24th.
The 5th Annual South Main Arts Festival isn't really about music but rather a celebration of one of the city's most compelling and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. However, there will be plenty of live music incorporated as well, with a jazz-heavy lineup that should include Voodoo Village, The Charlie Wood Trio, and The Billy Gibson Trio. Ace mariachi band Los Cantadores is also on the bill. The festival runs from noon to 7 p.m. all along South Main Street.
The same day, down on the lovely courthouse square in Oxford, Mississippi, the ninth annual Double Decker Arts Festival will be held, with a typically impressive lineup of roots-oriented music acts. Memphis will be represented by the bluegrass/alt-country Tennessee Boltsmokers, who will kick things off at 11 a.m. Later that afternoon, on the same stage, the fest boasts a back-to-back pairing of two of the most prominent female alt-country singers around. Gillian Welch, who got a boost from her participation in the O Brother, Where Art Thou? phenomenon, has grown into her roots style since the overly self-conscious retro strategy of her mid-'90s debut, Revival. But I prefer the more straightforward style of Allison Moorer. The sister of Shelby Lynne, Moorer had a similar experience attempting to make it in mainstream Nashville but being a bit too individualistic to fit in. After a few critically acclaimed albums for MCA Nashville and then for Universal, Moorer is on indie Sugar Hill, which released her latest, The Duel. The alt-country contingent is rounded out by Robert Earl Keen, a Texas songwriter who has been a star on the non-Nashville country circuit for years.
But the real must-see in Oxford is a different brand of roots: The chitlin-circuit blues of Bobby Rush, one of American music's great showmen. Rush, presumably with hoochies in tow, will take the stage at 5 p.m., so plan accordingly.