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Beale Street Music Festival Lineup Released

March 5, 2011

You know, it’s arguable that the greatest music festival in Tennessee is not Bonnaroo.

Now that you’re done rolling your eyes, just consider this…

Right, Bonnaroo has a vaster lineup; four days scattered with some of today’s biggest artists. This year’s tenth anniversary celebration includes slated performances by Eminem, Arcade Fire, Lil’ Wayne and My Morning Jacket.

However since 2003, the Beale Street Music Festival, which is held annually in Memphis, Tennessee as part of the city’s month-long “Memphis in May” celebration, has been treating concert-goers to some of the most eclectic lineups this side of the Mississippi River. (The festival is actually held on its beautiful banks.)

It ain't the Bonnaroo "archway," but don't be fooled. What lies beyond it is of such quality, there is little, if any comparison on the music festial circuit.

This year’s 2011 edition, which takes place April 29-May 1, is arguably its biggest yet. “Diverse” just isn’t a justifiable word to describe this lineup. Appearances by John  Mellencamp, Stone Temple Pilots, The Flaming Lips, Wilco, Cee Lo Green, Mumford & Sons, Cake, Ludacris, Everclear and Slightly Stoopid are just the beginning…

Beale Street isn’t just for the blues anymore…

The bill even includes a couple head-scratchers, at least for you music purists, such as pop sensation Ke$ha and songwriter Jason Mraz. Yet, you can’t deny Beale Streets widespread appeal to audiences old, young and everything in-between.

Intriguing reunion show? Check.

Sublime drummer Bud Gaugh and bassist Eric Wilson will perform with Rome Ramirez, who has undertaken the position of lead vocals and guitar since 2009 for the late Bradley Nowell. The legendary Long Beach sound, revived in the sweet southern town of Memphis.

You got to love it.

As a city sponsored event, its gratifying to see the festival continue its proud tradition of spotlighting local talent, with Memphis rap legends 8Ball & MJG, as well as Al Kapone, slotted for performances. (Three 6 Mafia made appearances in ’04, ’06, ’07 and ’09.)

Back to the Bonnaroo comparison.

We can all agree that there is, realistically, no way that a three-day, city sponsored music festival can compete with an enormous, four-day festival such as Bonnaroo, which draws over 80,000 attendees annually to it’s vast fields in Manchester, Tennessee.

Yet, like in all business, check your bang for your buck.

In the last three years, Bonnaroo tickets have average out to around $240, with applicable fees. Meanwhile, Beale Street has been showcasing the likes of Iggy Pop & the Stooges (’07), James Brown (’06), ZZ Top (’03), Al Green (’09) and the Roots (’05, ’08) all for around $30 per day. (Weekend passes edge-out around $70.)

I know, right????

After personally attending BSMF in 2007 and 2009, I have become a devout believer in the city-sponsored music festival. A lineup of this magnitude draws thousands from across the Southeast to your city. Another element I will never forget about BSMF, beer for $5 a cup. Compare that to the $7 I paid at Bonnaroo, for a lukewarm Budweiser, plastic bottled, that I had to fight for amongst hundreds of other sweating mongrels surrounding the helpless beer tent.

There’s just something about the smaller-scale, city-sponsored music festivals that echoes a pure, flavorful and personal live music experience. Another that comes to mind is Louisville’s Forecastle Music Festival, which I covered in 2010.

Major kudos to Memphis in May International Festival Incorporated, for arranging their biggest and in my stout opinion, most appealing lineup in their history. Other cities should follow suit in this design of active celebrations in music and the arts. The attraction of thousands, if not millions, to your city for widespread celebration brings not just joy, but profits and jobs.

It’s going to be a beautiful spring…

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