In general, I’m not too bothered about festivals. I don’t really relish the thought of spending 4 grubby days in a stinky field with loads of people fresh off their gap year, it’s just not me. However, on occasion I do see a line up that speaks to me.
That is not what happened when I saw the Beale Street Music Festival acts being announced, not because there was anything wrong with them, but because they weren’t really my ideal line up. Today, though, I’d like to talk a little bit about my first experience at a US Music Festival and why it was way better than I could have imagined.
I’m going to explain why this festival must be better than Coachella, Glasto, Benicassim… whatever.
Held in Tom Lee Park, Memphis, on the first weekend in May, the Beale Street Music Festival kicks off a month long event called Memphis in May. Originally a major blues music celebration, the BSMF has evolved over the years to incorporate acts from loads of genres and generations, and has even been voted the best all-age music festival in the USA. If you’ve ever dreamed of listening to a world class band or musician perform whilst watching the sun set over the Mississippi river then you should totally go to the Beale Street Music Festival.
We bought a full weekend ticket online for $95 each and got to see Slash, John Fogerty, Pixies, Hozier and Ed Sheeran among many other impressive and unkown (to me) musicians as well as some great local blues acts. I was told time and again that the 2015 line up wasn’t nearly as impressive as previous years (which I know to be true, since I’ve visited Memphis in May several times) There were the ole freebie kiosks giving away actually useful stuff like brownies, hand sanitizer and sunscreen and there was a pretty cool marketplace area between the main stages. The whole thing ran parallel to the Mississippi, so no matter which stage you visited, you had an incredible view (like the view of the bridge to Arkansas over Mud Island below).
In terms of atmosphere, it was so chilled. In the UK I’m accustomed to seeing people absolutely paraletic and very rowdy – whether that be in a jovial or more sinister way. Over in Memphis we found very few people were drinking more than 2 beers, and almost everyone wanted to stop, chat and enjoy the atmosphere with us. They lay out blankets, didn’t crowd up (much) and for the most part, there was no pushing or shoving. It was a real Woodstock feeling, and I spent the majority of the 3 days with no shoes on because I didn’t feel at risk of being trod on.
The one thing I did notice, though, is that the Americans smoke a lot of cigars at music festivals. Can someone please clear up what that’s all about for me? It’s gross!
Anyway, other highlights of the festival included fresh, hot funnel cake and discovering the stomach soothing goodness of Rolaids (the more delicious cousin of the UK’s Gaviscon) – which sort of went hand in hand because funnel cake is greasy. We also caught some serious rays, saw a working drone, made several dozens of friends who were fascinated by our Britishness and finally began to understand why everyone says you MUST see Ed Sheeran live.
I’ve never been to Coachella, but I doubt I’d choose it in favour of the BSMF. What’s the best festival you’ve ever been to?