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 over 150,000 fans to the banks of the Big Muddy. This year's lineup should only help continue the festival's popularity, bringing roughly 60 acts from a variety of 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 — along with a "blues shack" — 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, fans of jam bands or eclectic, groove-oriented rock can find their oasis at the Budweiser Stage with the surefire three-band bill of jazz-funk trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, Philly rap/soul/blues fusionists G. Love & Special Sauce, and headliner Ben Harper, who brings elements of both Jimi Hendrix and country blues to the jam-band formula. On other stages, there's a generational divide. Young music fans will want to check out two of current pop's biggest hitmakers on the Cellular South Stage when flamboyant pop star Katy Perry pairs up with emo-punk stars the All-American Rejects. Their parents may be more interested in classic-rock legends the Steve Miller Band on the Sam's Town Stage.
On Saturday night, fans of classic R&B will have a tough choice to make as funk legend George Clinton and resurgent Memphis soul titan Al Green headline the Budweiser and Sam's Town stages, respectively. Maybe toggling between the two stages is the best option, as a fascinatingly diverse lineup of acts are on tap: blues belter Susan Tedeschi, East L.A. rockers Los Lobos, and alt-rock godfather Elvis Costello on the Sam's Town Stage and Memphis soul band the Bar-Kays and hip-hop's house band the Roots. Hard-rock fans will want to stay put at the Cellular South Stage, though, for a murderer's row of modern rock bands: Saving Abel, Shinedown, and headliners Korn.
On Sunday night, the choices are clear: Rap fans won't want to miss the pairing of Memphis Oscar winners Three 6 Mafia and superstar Snoop Dogg on the Budweiser Stage. Classic-rock fans can see the blockbuster combination of Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor on the Sam's Town Stage. And younger rock fans can once again camp out at the Cellular South Stage for hard-rockers Hinder and superstars Fall Out Boy.