May 13, 2012

2012 Beale Street Music Festival recap, Day Two

The Beale Street Music Festival is the kickoff event for Memphis in May, a month-long celebration in the city that also includes the famous World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.  This is my long-winded way of setting up the popular nickname for Beale Street Music Festival – Memphis in Mud – because as a rule it rains, buckets, during the festival. 

Well, for the first time in four years attending the festival, we were blessed with abundant sunshine every day, and the weather gods replaced the excess rain with excess heat.  But I’ll take it anytime over three days of wading through mud at Tom Lee Park.

So it was a clear blue sky that greeted Gypsy and me when we left our hotel for Day Two of the festival and lunch on Beale Street with our friends Marc and Aissa.  We met them in front of the King’s Palace Café, which I’m pretty sure got its name long before another “king” became synonymous with Memphis.  The neon sign actually boasts of the fact that it’s air conditioned inside.  Despite how tempting that sounded, we sat, and ate, outside to watch the Beale Street zaniness and soak up the sun.

Marc's brother Chuck, Marc and Aissa

We started off with a good, spicy Bloody Mary, which only turned up the heat level.

Then, we ordered an appetizer of fried green tomatoes with a zesty horseradish dipping sauce.  And I’m not kidding, these were the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had. 

They were so good, I almost forgot to take the picture.
For lunch, Gypsy ordered the appropriately named King of Clubs sandwich …

And I had a bowl of the crawfish etouffee, which compared favorably with any I’ve had in New Orleans.  They also didn’t skimp on the crawfish (they are in season now, after all).

All in all, it was a delicious and filling lunch, and a good base for the adult beverages we were about to have at the festival.  As the skies grew overcast, we made our way inside the gate and to the Orion Stage for Kenny Wayne Shepherd, another “must see” act for me this year. 

Trust me, he's really there on stage! 
As a fan of rock music deeply rooted in the blues and Kenny Wayne Shepherd specifically, this show gave you just what you’d expect.  It’s not Gypsy’s favorite thing, though, so she left halfway through the set to check out Son Volt at the Bud Light Stage.  But I made sure to catch, “Deja Voodoo,”  “Blue on Black” and a raucous cover of “Voodoo Child” before catching up with her.  When I found her, I could tell she was happy with her decision.

I found a happy Gypsy

Son Volt
After Son Volt, I made a brief pit stop at the Southern Comfort Blues Shack to check out Blind Mississippi Morris to complete my blues fix.  And with a name like that, you know you’re going to hear some damn good delta blues.   

We then took advantage of the one-time reentry privilege and went back to our hotel room to rest up for the night’s shows.      

All aboard the trolley!
After a short rest, we reconvened with our friends Dan, Trish, Jake and Beth from the room next door and, as fate would have it, we decided to include a little Cinco De Mayo celebrating with our festival fun.  So, before we made it back to the grounds, we stopped at the Bardog Tavern for Patron tequila shots. 

This may have not been the best idea of the trip, as none of the girls would drink their shots.  Oh well, more for the boys.

And when you have too much tequila, you do crazy things like the limbo at the trolley crossing. 

We did, in fact, eventually make it back to the festival and reconvened with Marc and Aissa for Al Green’s performance at the Horseshoe Casino Stage.  Al Green is another hometown hero from Memphis, and although Gypsy and I had seen him last year, it was worth checking out again.  It’s my opinion you have to see the living legends while you get a chance. 

We closed the festival with Jane’s Addiction at the Bud Light Stage.  I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan beyond “Been Caught Stealing” (which was performed excellently to a huge crowd reaction) but they do put on a visually spectacular show. 

You can see a lot of lights and not much else.  I never did well with photography in journalism school.
It was also the night of the Supermoon (whatever that means), which prompted Perry Farrell to reference Chicken Little and the sky falling.  I can only speculate as to what else inspired Perry to make these comments ;-)

One of our biggest disappointments of the trip came after we left the festival grounds toward Beale Street to get a late night meal.  As we approached the closed off blocks of Beale, we could hear the cops blaring, “Beale Street is at capacity!  No more people allowed on Beale Street!”

Really?  You have a capacity during one of the busiest weekends of the year?  How can Memphis not be prepared to handle large crowds like this?  I wonder how the bar and restaurant owners on Beale felt about this?  I couldn’t help but think this would never happen on Bourbon Street where “capacity” is however many people can fit on the street. 

A lot of people who were going to go there went elsewhere.  Trust me, by the time we sought a meal elsewhere, every other place around Beale had long lines to get it.  We had to settle with deli wraps from the City Market on the Main Street trolley line two blocks from our hotel.  It was good, and the City Market is a nice convenient place for a traveling commoner to pick up a few items, but it just wasn’t what we had out appetites set on.  It was a disappointing ending to a full, fun day and night.  

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