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.

The fest is one of the best values of any music festival out there, with prices less than half of what you’d pay at Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo. Not only that, but the lineups are typically stellar.

I’m a huge music fan, so while traveling a few years back, I made sure to stop by the Beale Street Music Festival in Tom Lee Park.

Here’s a summary of my experience attending the Beale Street Music Festival, and a look at the lineup for the current year.

2024 Beale Street Music Festival Lineup and Details

Memphis in May has decided to suspend the Beale Street Music Festival in 2024.

It will not take place, due to “record financial loss in 2022 and 2023… decline in attendance, increasing costs of artists fees, and the extraordinary $1.4 million bill to repair Tom Lee Park,” according to Kevin Grothe, vice president of sponsorships for Memphis in May.

So it remains to be seen whether the event might be brought back in 2025. Stay tuned!

Last year, the festival ran from May 5-7. The group of headliners included the Lumineers, Greta Van Fleet, and Robert Plant with Alison Krauss.

That was an extremely underwhelming group; neither the Lumineers nor Greta Van Fleet are big enough to headline festivals. It doesn’t surprise me that attendance was at a record low.

Compare that to 2022, when iconic acts Foo Fighters, Weezer, Lil Wayne, and the Smashing Pumpkins headlined, and you can se that last year’s group leaves a lot to be desired.

That said, the ’23 mid-card lineup was pretty good. It featured A-listers like Earth, Wind & Fire, Jazmine Sullivan, AJR, the Roots, the Struts, Gary Clark, Jr., Glorilla, and Young the Giant.

Further down the lineup were some personal favorites like Lucinda Williams, Yola, Living Colour, Cameo, and Los Lobos.

Jerry Lee Lewis beale street music festival
The legend Jerry Lee Lewis performs in 2009.

Past performers at the festival have included Jack White, Post Malone, Alanis Morissette, the Flaming Lips, and many others.

Tickets for the 3-day fest are quite a bit cheaper than many similar festivals, even including 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!

Common Questions About the Beale Street Fest

The Beale Street Music Festival is a three-day celebration of music, art, and culture in the heart of Memphis. Held annually since 1977, this festival has become one of the premiere music events in the South.

The event also features interactive activities such as food vendors and an artist village featuring local artisans and vendors selling merchandise.

Interested in attending? Here are some common questions.

How much are tickets? Prices vary, as they are sold in tiers. Generally, tickets start at $165 for a 3-day pass and go up to $225. The earlier you buy, the cheaper tix will be. Single-day tickets start at $80. Find tickets here.

Do you need to print out a ticket? Nope, you can enter with your digital ticket.

Where is the festival? It takes place at Tom Lee Park in Downtown Memphis, near the river.

What time does the music start and what time does the music end? On Friday, gates open at 5 pm. On Saturday and Sunday, gates open at 1 pm. All days, the music ends around 11 pm, though this is sometimes flexible.

Can you leave and re-enter the fest? Yes, if you have a 3-day pass or a VIP pass. If you have a 1-day ticket, you may not leave and re-enter.

Do you need cash? No, most vendors on site accept credit cards. There are ATMs on the grounds as well.

What should I bring? Guests may bring one sealed bottle of water. A portable cell phone charger is a good idea. Otherwise, just be ready for the weather, which may mean bringing a poncho, or and hat and sunscreen.

The following are NOT permitted: Selfie sticks, outside food, professional cameras, and backpacks or bags larger than 18 x 18 x 18 inches.

My experience at the Beale Street Music Festival

The last year I attended, I was treated to a solid and diverse lineup, including Elvis Costello, Snoop Dogg, James Taylor, Fall Out Boy, Bonnie Raitt, the Steve Miller Band, Al Green and George Clinton.

Tim McIlrath
Tim McIlrath of Rise Against performs at the 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. Yuck!

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.

Logistics of Visiting Memphis and Beale Street

Most people will take public transit or Uber to the Beale Street Festival. I actually drove and was able to find free street parking about a mile away, which was a 15-minute walk. Not bad at all!

While you’re in Memphis, don’t miss the other awesome music sites, such as Graceland and Sun Studio. Both are essential pieces of American music history and American culture in general.

And make time for the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the hotel where Martin Luther King’s life was taken.