Beale Street Music Festival | Day 2 | 2017

Article Contributed by L. Paul Mann | Published on Sunday, May 21, 2017

Day 2 of the Beale Street Music Festival began on a beautiful sun-drenched afternoon with the mighty wind of the days before subsiding. Just after 2 PM, early concert-goers were treated to the first set of the day in the Blues tent by the Daddy Mack Blues Band. The Memphis blues veterans are led by singer-guitarist Daddy Mack Orr, who has been compared to Albert King in sound and style. The band is a fixture on Beale Street and an authentic taste of local blues music. The Blues Tent features its own full-service bar and an IPA beer, and a shot of premium whiskey could be purchased for about the price of a ballpark Budweiser. The tent opens onto the bank of the Mississippi river, and some concertgoers choose to lounge in the sun on the grassy bank. The shelter offers up an impressive view of the shipping traffic along the river and the spectacular bridges connecting the city to Arkansas across the waterway. Next on the Blues tent stage to play was another Memphis treasure, Blind Mississippi Morris, who sings and plays a smoking harmonica.

He was followed by an extraordinary set by Carlos Elliot Jr. and his band. The singer-guitarist who describes his sound as Columbian Hills Blues music has much in common with Carlos Santana in guitar style, but with a Columbian roots music twist. While the band jammed, the animated Elliot would frequently jump into the audience and spend around the crowd even playing on his back. The set sent much of the crowd into a dance frenzy. Virginia-based Corey Harris and his band took over the stage next with an intense blues sound mixed with tinges of Reggae music. Chicago blues prodigy Ronnie Baker Brooks played next. Ronnie is the son of the legendary musician Lonnie Brooks who just passed away a month before the festival. Ronnie showcased his singing and guitar talent and brought out some special guests who appeared on his new album. These included Memphis rapper Al Kapone and rocker Big Head Todd. The awesome set featured Brooks playing his guitar all throughout the tent.

The schedule Saturday featured 26 performances crammed into the five stages, so music fans had to choose which performances to watch, as many of them were conducted simultaneously. The River stage opened with Memphis rockers Dead Soldiers. Their clean southern rock sounds have been compared to rock greats, The Band. In a nod to Cinco de Mayo which was the day before, the next band to play the stage appeared in Mexican ponchos and Sombreros with a bottle of Tequila. The Cape Cod Indie rockers Highly Suspect, played an irreverent and totally fun set jumping into the crowd and crowd surf with abandon. The Los Angeles rockers Silversun Pickups took over the stage at sunset and played a blistering set of guitar-drenched rock, led by charismatic singer-guitarist Brian Aubert. With a vibe not unlike the Smashing Pumpkins, the band is well known for their ferocious live performances and they did not disappoint the Memphis crowd. As night fell the New York Indie rockers, X Ambassadors took over the stage immersed in a stunning light show. The ever-growing crowd surged towards the stage as the talented quartet rocking into the night. The Bellingham Alternative rockers, Death Cab For Cutie closed the stage with a set much more intense than they usually play. The large adulate crowd seemed to be entranced by the vocals of lead singer Ben Gibbard.

The Bud Light stage featured a jam-packed diverse line-up for Saturday. Memphis rapper Lil Wyte opened the stage with an energetic set. The Kongos played next. The group of 4 South African brothers may be the heir parents to the African-tinged pop rock sounds of Johnny Clegg and Savuka. That band brought the unique South African rock music to the world in the late 70’s. The brothers have taken the sound into new territory with a much more sophisticated beat. The only act to cater to EDM fans at the festival played the stage next, with a well-received set by Griz. The experimental sax player played alongside his DJ, who mixed dance-inducing beats to the delight of a young crowd in the afternoon sun. Rap wizard Wiz Khalifa closed the stage in front of a huge crowd with a jaw-dropping set along with a tight band of backing musicians.

The main Fedex stage featured a diverse line up as well throughout the day. Memphis musician Amy Lavere opened with a set tinged with classical music and other incorporated genres. The charismatic John Paul White of Civil Wars fame brought his biting and introspective southern rock lyrics to the stage next. Los Angeles Indie rockers Dawes played a pleasing set next. The Drive-By Truckers brought their Athens southern roots music to the stage as the sun began to set. They were followed by an animated set by The Revivalists. The seven-piece New Orleans band are also music festival veterans who know how to wow the crowd. The Kings of Leon closed the stage with their intense rock sound in front of a large crowd. But for many, the closing sets by Wiz Khalifa and Death Cab For Cutie which was occurring simultaneously on the other stages were much more appealing. The musical choices on Saturday seemed to be overwhelming, but most everyone in the audience seemed to find a niche that they enjoyed.