Beale Street Music Festival 2022 | Day 1

Article Contributed by L. Paul Mann | Published on Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Beale Street Music Festival returned to Memphis after a nearly three-year pandemic-induced hiatus. One of America's oldest music festivals made its triumphant return marking its 44th anniversary. The three-day event, steeped in the polite mannerisms associated with the region's southern charm and gracious manners, overcame a plethora of obstacles, including those related to the Covid epidemic, logistical problems, and weather issues. The festival, which takes place during the first weekend in May, is usually situated in Tom Lee Park, on the banks of the historic Mississippi River, in downtown Memphis. However, the 2022 event was moved to a new but temporary location in Liberty Park near the Liberty Bowl because of an elaborate expansion project at the original site.

Beale Street Music Festival | Memphis, TN

Day 1 of the festival lost its main headliner just a few weeks before the scheduled event when the untimely passing of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins forced the cancelation of their summer tour. Sammy Hagar stepped in at the last minute to fill the void, and the first day went off like clockwork for nearly every set scheduled. The weather was almost perfect for opening day with bright sunny conditions and a steady breeze. The event continues to be one of the most economical and eclectic music festivals.

Al Kapone | Beale Street Music Festival

Just like in years past, there were three main stages of music from multiple genres and a blues tent with local and national veterans of the Blues music world. For most of the opening day, the Bud Light stage was the most popular providing a quadruple rap extravaganza for a massive crowd of tightly packed fans. Opening day featured a shortened schedule beginning at 5 pm to accommodate a regular work schedule for local music fans attending the event. Memphis rapper Al Kapone got the ball rolling with an energetic, late afternoon performance. Kapone was backed by a live band of veteran musicians that added a new dimension to his rap performance. The set included some of his more recent material with a selection of Bluff City classics like “M’s Up,” “Get it On The Flo," and “Get Crunk, Get Buck.”  Kapone, best known for the classic “Hustle & Flow” track “Whoop That Trick,” has become a hometown favorite, with the song evolving into an anthem for the city and the Memphis Grizzlies.

rapper Da Baby | Beale Street Music Festival

The Rap fest continued with a well-received set by East coast rapper Waka Flocka Flame. That was followed by a set from controversial rapper Da Baby. It was the first time the Charlotte-based rapper appeared at the festival, and his set was also well received by the energetic crowd. The young performer connected with the crowd early in the set, getting the crowd to yell “Free Shiesty” before launching into Pooh Shiesty’s song “Back in Blood.” Sheisty is a Memphis rapper recently sentenced to prison in Florida for firearms violations. In a fitting finale, Memphis rappers Three 6 Mafia closed the night on the Bud Light stage. The group played some of their biggest hits from their 30-year catalog. Many euphoric fans could be seen simultaneously watching live feeds on their phones of the playoff victory of the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team, adding to the excitement of the moment.

Amy Lavere | Memphis, TN

The Zinn stage saw the most eclectic lineup on day 1 of the festival. Memphis Americana singer, songwriter, and upright bass player Amy LaVere opened the festival with the very first set of the afternoon. Along with a band of veteran musicians, LaVere played a delightful collection of music combining a blend of classic country, jazz, and soul music.

Kurt Vile | Beale Street Music Festival

The former lead guitarist of The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, brought his band the Violators to the Zinn stage next. Vile played his version of Indie rock, backed by his current band of accomplished musicians, including Jesse Trbovich (guitar, saxophone), Rob Laakso (guitar, bass, keyboards), Kyle Spence (drums), and Adam Langellotti (bass).

Van Morrison | Beale Street Music Festivalk

One of the most anticipated sets of the day came next from a decidedly different genre of music. Classic rock icon Van Morrison led a big band through a set of some of his biggest hits mixed with new material. The soulful singer uncharacteristically bolted onstage immediately at the beginning of the set, playing a fierce riff on saxophone. Wearing a blue suit and his signature sunglasses and fedora, Morrison sang “Precious Time” from 1999. He also sang “And It Stoned Me,” his classic hit from 1970. In addition, he played “Wild Night,” penned in 1971. He also played some classic covers, "Help Me” by Sonny Boy Williamson and Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Morrison, later in the set, launched into a blazing blues medley that blended “Baby Please Don’t Go” with “Parchman Farm” and “Got My Mojo Working.” The ninety-minute set may have been one of the best performances from the feisty artist in recent years, a tribute to the respect given to the spirit of Memphis.

Sarah McLachlan | Beale Street Music Festival

Next, Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan closed the stage with a decidedly different folk-rock musical direction. It was McLachlan’s first post-pandemic festival performance. The singer played a 20-song crowd-pleasing set late into the tepid night air.

Black Pistol Fire | Beale Street Music Festival

Black Pistol Fire opened an evening of hard rock performances on the Terminix stage. The band is a Canadian-born, Austin-based rock duo. The group consisting of Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen is an evolutionary drum and guitar powerhouse following in the footsteps of White Stripes and Black Keys. Their hour-long set was one of the most energetic of day 1 of the festival.

The Glorious Sons | Beale Street Music Festival

The Glorious Sons, a Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario, followed with a surprisingly southern rock style, channeling The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. This five-piece band knows how to rock and was well received by the rock enthusiasts huddled against the massive stage. Los Angeles-based Dirty Honey brought a more blues-heavy rock sound to the stage next. The band consisting of singer Marc LaBelle, guitarist John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian, and drummer Corey Coverstone tore through a ninety-minute set of thunderous Blues infused rock tunes.

Sammy Hagar | Beale Street Music Festival

Finally, Sammy Hagar closed the stage with his band, The Circle playing a set full of rock anthems. Hagar opened with “There’s Only One Way to Rock,” and the crowd responded emphatically. While rap fans were celebrating the win by the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team over on the Bud Light stage with Three 6 Mafia, Hagar joined in the celebration. Hagar donning a Grizzlies shirt, shouted, “Damn the Grizzlies, these f****** better be good. If my friends in San Francisco saw me wearing this, they’d go crazy. “The band featured former Van Halen bass player Michael Anthony who Hagar has collaborated with for decades.

Michael Anthony with Sammy Hagar's band

Anthony took center stage to perform Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love” midway through the set, much to the delight of the rowdy crowd. Hagar added to the atmosphere by periodically tossing beer cans into the audience. Later, New Orleans trombonist and recent Grammy winner Trombone Shorty joined the celebration to jam with the band on a pair of songs. Hagar ended the set with a cover of the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero” as a tribute to the Foo Fighters with a video of Taylor Hawkins playing on the giant screen.

Earl “The Pearl” Banks | Beale Street Music Festival

Meanwhile, the Blues tent offered up some of the most genuine music of the festival with local and national veterans of the genre. The Blues tent is one of the unique aspects of the Beale Street Music Festival, separating it from other festivals. Practically, the venue is the most comfortable at the festival, with chairs for everyone, a tented covering impervious to inclement weather from hot sunshine to torrential rain, and features its own uncrowded back bar. Local legend Earl “The Pearl” Banks, who has been playing music on Beale Street for over 50 years, opened Day 1 in the Blues tent. Earl played a set of genuine old-school Blues that wowed the crowd.

Janiva Magness | Beale Street Music Festival

Janiva Magness sang next, an American Grammy Award-nominated blues, soul, Americana singer, and songwriter from Detroit. She was followed by Kenny Brown; an American blues slide guitarist showing off his North Mississippi Hill Country blues style.

J.J. Grey | Beale Street Music Festival

The final act in the Blues tent is always the festival's closing act, and by the time J.J. Grey and his band Mofro took the stage, the tent was packed full of Blues lovers. The band led by the charismatic Grey brought their American Southern soul-rock sound from Jacksonville, Florida, to close out day 1 of the Beale Street Music Festival 2022.

Beale Street Music Festival | Memphis, TN

Check out more photos from day 1 @ Beale Street Music Fest.