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Beale Street Music Festival: A first-timer’s view

  • Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom

I was really impressed – or I should say sort of surprised (with me growing up most of my life in the North) – by how diverse the crowd was at my first time attending a Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival.

Three 6 Mafia sang all of their hit songs and kept it pretty clean at the Memphis in May Music Festival 2012. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

 Levar Roseborough
 Levar Roseborough
by Levar Roseborough

Special to The New Tri-State Defender

(These days, Waukegan, Ill., is home for Levar Roseborough, whose dad, Warren Roseborough, is a TSD freelance photographer. Back in the Bluff City last weekend, son teamed with father to capture a first-timer’s view of the Memphis in May opening blast – – the Beale Street Music Festival.)

I was really impressed – or I should say sort of surprised (with me growing up most of my life in the North) – by how diverse the crowd was at my first time attending a Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival.

 Al Green
Al Green came out dressed to impress. He charmed the ladies by tossing red roses.

Yo Gotti, seemed to give his crowd exactly what they came to see and hear.

Little Richard’s rock and roll legend lives on.

It was a surreal experience to see a younger generation enjoy the same music that I used to listen to when I was their age. Three 6 Mafia performed a couple of hits that I remember enjoying when I was in my late teens, and early 20’s. They mentioned throughout their performance that there were children in the audience and that they couldn’t do their usual rated X or adult show because that show mentions some things that I couldn’t mention in the newspaper.

On Saturday, I got the chance to see old school music that my Dad grew up on and that I listened to while growing up. Al Green sounded the same but looked very different from the album covers my dad still has. He came out dressed to impress, with a black suit and red tie, performing in front of a hometown crowd. He charmed the ladies by tossing red roses. While viewing the concert, I again noticed how diverse the crowd was. It appeared there were more whites than there were blacks…everyone got along well and they danced and sang to his music.

The next person due up was Anthony Hamilton. I had a little time between acts, so I ran over to the other stage to catch another home time favorite, Yo Gotti. I didn’t realize how much I have grown up until I listened to his lyrics and the vulgar language that I was hearing, but I still enjoyed some of it. Listening to the crowd response, he didn’t need my approval. They were really involved and seemed to really enjoy his performance.

As I walked around the festival, I heard a lot of people talking about how blessed and lucky we were not to have rain for the first time in years. The next artist my Dad said he was going to cover was Valerie June. I had never heard of her but I was willing to give it a try. I said to myself, ‘I hope she sounds as good as she looks.’ Once she started to sing I knew we were in the right place. That woman can sing the blues and folk music. She seemed to be so intense when singing, barely opening her eyes.

On the third and final day, I followed my dad around to see whom he was covering. I heard the announcement that it was Little Richard. I’d seen the movie (about Little Richard) and I’d some of his televised performances, but I had never seen him live before. I said to myself, “So this is the rock and roll legend.” I watched how he had to be practically carried to the piano he was about to play. He waved to the crowd as they shouted his name, “Richard, Richard.” Then he started to sing and play his classic rock and roll music. The crowd danced and sang along with him.

I watched my dad do his job. I watched how he photographed the different artists, focused on capturing the essence of their performances. The next artist to perform was the legendary Herbie Hancock. He and his band captured my attention immediately. The jazz and fusion that they were playing had the crowd begging for more: “Herbie, Herbie, Herbie!”

I remember two of the songs (Hancock) played – “Chameleon” and “Rocket.” My dad has a lot of his music. I snapped my fingers and stomped my feet to the mellow groove. I looked out the corner of my eye and saw my dad, dancing and shaking his head. He stopped talking photos and seemed to really enjoy himself. I could tell that this was one of his favorite artists.

This is one of the best times I have ever had because I got a chance to hang out with my dad while he was at work. I may have to make Memphis in May an annual event

 Anthony Hamilton

 Valerie June sang the blues and folk music with intensity.

 The Beale Street Music Festival audience reflected the demographics of the region, not just Memphis. On Friday (May 4) the crowd enjoy the performance of Three 6 Mafia.

Saturday (May 5), festival goers are treated to the sounds of Anthony Hamilton and his band.


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