Memphis in May: Attending the Beale Street Music Festival

The three-day Beale Street Music Festival is an integral part of Memphis in May, a month-long celebration in the biggest city in Tennessee.

I’m a huge music fan, so while traveling in 2009, I made sure to stop by the Beale Street Music Festival in Tom Lee Park. Here’s what I found.

My experience at the Beale Street Music Festival

In 2009 I was treated to a solid and diverse lineup, including Elvis Costello, Snoop Dogg, James Taylor, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fall Out Boy, Bonnie Raitt, the Steve Miller Band, Al Green and George Clinton.

Tim McIlrath

Tim McIlrath of Rise Against performs at the 2009 Beale Street Music Festival.


The music was good, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It rained heavily, turning the entire park into a mud pit. I ruined two pairs of shoes that weekend.

Most other music festivals cope with rain by putting down mulch, large wooden boards, or other substances to give people a way to get around without trudging through mud. I wish the Beale Street Festival had been more proactive in dealing with the mud, but I still had a good time enjoying the music.

2011 Beale Street Music Festival Details

This year’s festival runs from April 29 – May 1. The 2011 event boasts an impressive lineup with John Mellencamp, MGMT, Ke$ha (my guilty pleasure), the Flaming Lips, Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, B.o.B, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cee-Lo Green, Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Ludacris, New Pornographers and many others.

Jerry Lee Lewis

The ageless legend Jerry Lee Lewis performs in 2009. He'll be back at the 2011 festival.


Tickets for the 3-day fest run a measly $69 (plus Ticketmaster fees). I’ve been to a number of music festivals around the country, and, for my money, the Beale Street Festival is one of the best values anywhere. (Assuming the weather cooperates…)

Check out the official sites for more details on Memphis in May and the Beale Street Music Festival.

Just make sure to bring an old pair of shoes in case it rains!

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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