May 12, 2012

2012 Beale Street Music Festival recap, Day One

It’s been over a week since the Beale Street Music Festival began in Memphis, and although our extended vacation lasted through Tuesday and work has kept me busy since, I figured I’d better start putting these blogs in the books before it’s too late.

We left at about 8:30 a.m. for the six hour drive to Memphis, despite a Gypsy’s proclivity for punctuality issues.  We wanted to make sure we got checked in early enough to chill out and catch our breath before the festival began. 

See, we’re ready to hit the road!

Our longest stop along the way was lunch in Cape Girardeau, Mo.  What would make us stop there?  Chick-fil-A.  We don’t have one in Springfield, Ill., and it’s like a pilgrimage to any Chick-fil-A fan from Springfield whenever they travel to stop at one. 

Showing off the Chick-fil-A cup 
I don’t quite get it; I like the sandwiches (and especially the slaw!), but it’s not a special attraction to me.  Then again, I’m the guy who will drive two hours out of the way to try a great barbecue joint I heard about, so to each their own. 

We checked in to the Sleep Inn at Court Square in downtown Memphis around 3 p.m.  I always love this place.  For being part of a chain, they get most everything right (although room service did uncharacteristically skip us one day).  As evidence of the quality of service, they were able to place us next door to where our friends were staying.  And you can’t beat the location, right on the Main Street trolley line about six blocks north of Beale.  It’s also easy walking distance to Tom Lee Park, where the festival is held.   

After a short rest, Gypsy and I got ready to pay our friends a visit and head toward the music.  Gypsy came packed and prepared, with her own stash of jewelry from her private collection. 

When she wears it, she really is her own best advertising.

Our friends Dan, Trish, Beth and Jake know how to party right.  We walked in to a rowdy card game of A**hole, and Dan had the bar open.  The chilled RumChata shots were especially delicious.  But mostly, I stuck with rum and coke for starters.  I figured the caffeine would come in handy later.

Notice the bar set up on the table.  It just shows all you need for a good bar is booze and a flat surface.  
After a few drinks, we walked to Tom Lee Park to see our first act of the festival, North Mississippi All-Stars. 

A faraway view of the North Mississippi All-Stars
I had been a fan for years, and this was one act in particular I did not want to miss.  And they were every bit as good as I had hoped – lots of lengthy jams that got everyone in the audience moving early.  It was a good “local” call to start the Bud Light stage.

But the pleasant surprise of the first day of the festival was Needtobreathe, who followed North Mississippi All-Stars.  I knew nothing about them before the festival but quickly became a fan.  They have a good roots rock sound, and you could tell they were genuinely having fun on stage.  I think they probably made a lot of fans that day.   My favorite moment was their “mash-up” of Muddy Waters’ “Got My Mojo Working” with “Folsom Prison Blues.”  Pretty cool stuff!

Continuing at the Bud Light stage, we saw one of Gypsy’s favorite bands, Florence and the Machine.  In case you don’t already know this, the lead singer’s voice was amazing.  I think Gypsy’s expectations were quite high, though, because she seemed a little disappointed in the show.  But, I should add the disclaimer that a long day, early drinks and several $5 beers may have been taking its toll on us.  The annoying pushing in the crowds and people cramming toward the stage probably did not help.  But we backed off and put on our best smile.

See?  Still smiling!
Since the long day was starting to wear on us, we decided to end the night early.  A long way up the hill from the festival’s entrance on Beale Street, and a $1 apiece trolley ride later, and we were back at our hotel to rest up for Day Two – which I will post about next time.  

No comments:

A commoner dines at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern, Monroe, Wis.

I wasn’t sure a place existed that could be the perfect representation of Wisconsin life, but then I traveled through Monroe, Wis., one week...