ideal-LIVING.com ideal-LIVING • spring 2014
There’s one hard and fast fashion rule to fol- low when attending the Beale Street Music Festival: Wear boots. Rain boots, to be exact,
and the sturdier, the better.
Music Fest – as locals call it – is the kick-off weekend
of the month-long Memphis in May International Festival.
67 musical acts will take to three stages over the opening
weekend of the festival, but none with the predictability of
Mother Nature, who insists on making an appearance with
a predictable opening act of drenching thunderstorms that
turn the festival’s outdoor venue (a beautiful park beside the
Mississippi River) into a mud pit.
But this is Memphis, and we’re known for our grit. So
we pull on our boots and welcome Mother Nature’s special
effects as much as we do all that makes up Memphis in
May – the musicians, the country’s top barbecue cooking
teams, a myriad of cultural events, and a sunset symphony.
The official festival of the city of Memphis began in 1977
as a last-gasp economic development effort to revitalize a
decayed downtown and to bolster the city’s international
business ties. Planners chose Japan as the country to be
honored, and a music festival was the main event, where
blues great B.B. King took to the stage at midnight in front
of a modest crowd of 6,000.
In 2014 – the 38th year of the festival – more than
100,000 people will attend Music Fest, the honored coun-
try is Panama, and more than 100 cultural and educational
events will occur throughout the city alongside the signa-
ture events of the Beale Street Music Festival, the World
Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and the Sunset
“Memphis in May International Festival works closely
with the Greater Memphis Chamber, and serves as a catalyst
to develop international trade and educational opportunities for the Mid-South,” said Jim Holt, President & CEO
of Memphis in May. “Our job is to open the door for establishing relationships using our Festival’s unique program
elements, which helps to positively promote Memphis to the
world and brings the world to Memphis.”
The Beale Street Music Festival
It makes perfect sense that the street that gave birth to
the blues intersects with the venue for the Beale Street Music
Festival. Tom Lee Park is a gorgeous stretch of green space
on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi, right at the foot
of Beale, and plays home to the festivals three main events.
Bands and solo artists perform on three stages over three
days of the first weekend of May, so for serious music lovers,
think of it as a marathon instead of a sprint. Planning is essential, and the festival’s website offers excellent color-coded
schedules for mapping out a strategy. The always-eclectic
lineup pays homage to the city’s musical roots of blues, rock
n’ roll and soul; John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Lee Hooker and
Blind Mississippi Morris have all played, as have hometown
favorites Al Green, Three Six Mafia and B.B. King.
Beale Street Music Festival delivers, once again, with