Natives of western Tennessee know that a true marker that summer has arrived has always been the Beale Street Music Festival. For 43 years, BSMF has marked the first weekend in May, bringing together some of the best musical talent in the world to put on a three-day festival at the end of Beale Street in Memphis’ Tom Lee Park. Right on the banks of the Mississippi, the festival is notorious for almost always being accompanied by a rainy forecast. 2019’s festival was no different, but this year it was more magical than miserable, especially when highlighted by a special appearance from Tennessee native Miley Cyrus doing a duet of “Walking in Memphis” alongside writer Mark Cohn. The moment was especially touching as the rain poured and the crowd chanted along to the lyric “Touched down in the land of the delta blues, in the middle of the pouring rain.” This, along with so many other moments, made #BSMF19 one for the record books.
Setting the “Rain or Shine” Example
The encroach of bad weather is nothing new to music festivals; it is just a part of the game you play when hosting an event outside. As this writer has journeyed to festivals across the Southeast, he’s had to deal with all manner of weather events, from a short Bonnaroo evacuation to a complete closure at Pilgrimage. BSMF handles these weather events as well as any event out there, with true dedication to its fans that matches the fans’ dedication to the artists; this festival closes only when the patrons are in danger and reopens at the same speed. This year the festival managed to keep the rain away on Friday, though grey skies and the occasional droplet of water did slip through. With a never-say-die attitude, the festival started off Saturday with drizzly rain all throughout the afternoon, but gates opened on time and not a show was missed. Sunday brought with it the great festival Sunshine, and blues played as the Sun set in a glorious ombre across the Mississippi River.
Three Stages, a Tent, and a Shack!
With all these options, it is hard to not find something you like at Beale Street Music Festival. The main three stages are all of similar size, making every act feel like it is a main-stage act. The production value available at each stage also lends to this same feeling, with confetti and pyrotechnics flying from even the smallest stage during performances by Muck Sticky and Shinedown respectfully. Showcasing its love for variety, this year’s BSMF had bands ranging from the stunning guitar of Gary Clark, Jr. to the psychedelic styling of The Claypool Lennon Delirium, a tour-ending show from celtic rockers Flogging Molly, and rap hype from acts such as G Eazy and Cardi B, just to name a few. These are just a few of the multitude of names on the roster and could easily be replaced by any other number of acts such as Dave Matthews Band, The Killers, India.Arie, OneRepublic, Trippie Red, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise; the list is just a never-ending series of amazing acts.
Arguably the ultimate moment of the weekend was a surprise visit by Miley Cyrus and Mark Cohn as mentioned in the introduction. The event was sponsored by social media giant Facebook as they promoted togetherness in production of a promotional video. Fans squeezed in for the four-song set, and Cyrus proved to us that, no matter what you may think of her personality and public persona, she is an incredibly talented vocalist who can belt it with the best.
A Family Affair
If I had to pick one word to describe BSMF, it would be Family. This festival, while bringing in some of the biggest names in the world, in one of the biggest cities in the Southeast, still manages to maintain a very small-town and homey vibe. Everywhere you look people of all ages are greeting friends that they made no plans to see at the festival. The production crew as well maintains this feeling, with many crew and volunteers rocking BSMF hats that are older than a large portion of the patrons. Throughout the weekend I would hear many volunteers talk about how low their turnover rate is from year to year. This sense of community truly shines through in the experience. Last year my one complaint was that the trash got a little out of hand. This year there was none of that, and I have nothing to complain about. This festival is one of the best organized festivals in the Southeast, with a crew that truly cares about making sure that its patrons are given every dollar’s worth of their ticket money. If you are ever considering a trip to this bastion of the festival scene, do not even think twice. Join the BSMF family; it is one of the strongest out there!