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 includes 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, three shades of rock headline the main stages. Jam and roots-rock fans can check out Widespread Panic, who will close the night on the Sam's Town Stage following sets from Blues Traveler and guitar giant Jeff Beck. Those who like their rock noisy and aggressive can see a resurgent Limp Bizkit on the Cellular South Stage. And fans of smoother, radio-friendly rock can see the Goo Goo Dolls finish off an eclectic lineup on the Budweiser Stage that includes Memphis rap pioneer Al Kapone and classic party band the B-52s.
On Saturday night, the three big stages also provide clear distinctions. Metal and hard-rock fans can enjoy a triple bill of Puddle of Mudd, Seether, and Alice in Chains on the Cellular South Stage. Those looking for something a little more mellow can enjoy a blue-eyed-soul double bill headlining the Sam's Town Stage, with Michael McDonald followed by the most successful duo in pop history, Hall & Oates. But the most adventurous music fans might want to camp out at the Budweiser Stage, where bluesy, rootsy jam bands the North Mississippi Allstars and Gov't Mule will alternate with literate Southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers and flamboyant psychedelic-rock institution the Flaming Lips. Meanwhile, over at the FedEx Blues Tent, three generations of Memphis blues greats — Alvin Youngblood Hart, Blind Mississippi Morris, and Bobby Blue Bland — take the stage.
On Sunday night, festivalgoers can have their choice of roots, rhythm, or rock. Roots is at the Budweiser Stage where bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss will lead her ace backing band Union Station through a headlining set, following singer-songwriter extraordinaire John Hiatt and rootsy indie-rockers Band of Horses. Rhythm is on display on the Sam's Town Stage, where a couple of R&B legends — Memphis' Booker T & the MGs and '70s and '80s stars Earth, Wind & Fire — will close the night. And the Cellular South Stage will bring the rock in the form of platinum-certified Mississippi stars 3 Doors Down.