Memphis in May: Hidden Gems of the 38th Annual Beale Street Music Festival

Posted on April 28, 2015

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BY: MAGGIE RIPPETO
It’s almost that time of year again; the Beale Street Music Festival is just around the corner! For Memphians and music lovers all over the world, this is a much-anticipated event. The Beale Street Music Festival, the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Competition, and the Sunset Symphony combine to create what is known as the Memphis in May International Festival. The festival was created in the early 70’s by the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce as a promotional umbrella for the numerous events Memphis hosts in the heart of the city during the month of May. The festival began with a modest budget and as it has grown exponentially over the past thirty-eight years. Today, it is a seven million dollar non-profit organization with dozens of sponsors and vendors and is recognized across the country and around the world as one of North America’s top festivals. The Beale Street Music Festival is held at Tom Lee Park at the foot of infamous Beale Street, overlooking the beautiful Mississippi River. The talent ranges in genre with rock, blues, soul and modern artists.

Along with some of the anticipated headliners this year, such as Ed Sheeran and Lenny Kravitz, there are several hometown Memphis bands participating, including Ghost Town Blues Band, Preston Shannon, Prosevere, and Ana Popovic. Ghost Town Blues Band is a seven member, modern blues band that has been described by Living Blues Magazine as having “a sound that blends the earthen fortitude of Mississippi hill country stomp, with the excitement of hot ‘n’ heavy electric Chicago blues, wrapped up in a funky package.” They incorporate second line horn entrances, cigar box guitars (guitars literally made with cigar boxes), and electric energy. They are regular entertainers at Huey’s on Poplar Ave and Rum Boogie Café. Some of their popular songs include “Memphis Blues,” “One More Whiskey,” and “Hard Road to Hoe”.

Preston Shannon, a veteran Memphis musician, has been called the King of Beale Street due to his regular performances at BB King’s Blues Club. His raspy voice has been described as a cross between Otis Redding and Bobby Womack. Shannon has been perfecting his vocals and guitar skills since 1993, and some of his deep soul classics over the years include “Honky Tonk,” his rendition of “Purple Rain,” and “You Gotta Move”.

Prosevere, a band of four who have been together for eight years, prides itself on their live shows. They describe themselves as ‘energetic hard rock stalwarts’ and travel regionally and all over the eastern United States playing shows, as well as making their footprint in independent radio. Prosevere frequently performs at the New Daisy Theatre. Some of their popular songs include “I Was Wrong,” “The Question,” and “Shots”. Ana Popovic is an internationally recognized, Serbian-born Memphis native. Popovic was introduced to blues by her father and started playing the guitar at age 15. She tours internationally and faces the cover of several magazines including Blues Blast Magazine and Live (Serbia). On her record Unconditional, she said she was inspired to make the guitar shine and to not just let the guitar serve the song. She is authentic in her use of electric slide runs, jazz, and acoustic stomps. Popovic is known to keep her audience guessing as to where her songs are going because of her diversity in style. Some of her international hits include “Unconditional,” “How’d you learn to shake it like that,” and “Bring Your Fine Self Home”.

With this group of fun and diverse bands playing, this year’s Beale Street Music Festival will be one you do not want to miss! Daily, 3- Day Passes, and V.I.P tickets are all available for purchase online at http://www.memphisinmay.org/beale-street-music-festival.

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Posted in: Music