Beale Street Music Festival
May 5, 2017
Words/photos by Josh Mintz
Beale Street Music Festival is an annual poor weather magnet. Each May, as Memphis in May begins with the music fest held on the Mississippi River, it’s not so much an if or when it will rain – it’s more like “how much rain are we going to get?”
So, as the forecast for this year’s weekend appeared to predict sunny skies, fingers were crossed. The day before the the festival opened it did indeed rain, but as the gates opened on Friday, May 5, the weather was gorgeous, the wind was pleasantly blowing off the river, and there were smiles all around.
Greensky Bluegrass opened their tour on the River Stage with Bill Monroe’s “Working on a Building,” and immediately tore into a blistering set that set the tone for the weekend to come.
Playing a solid set that was equal parts If Sorrow Swims and Shouted, Written Down, & Quoted with a few covers thrown in for good measure, the band was in sync from the opening notes. “Past My Prime” featured the effects-laden dobro of Anders Beck, who shined throughout the set.
One of the brightest moments came via cover, as the band tore through a bluegrass-ified version of the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care.” Driven by Mike Devol’s thundering bass line, the song featured solos by the entire band, building and building until Beck brought the house down.
Near the end of the set, the band broke out “Worried About the Weather,” maybe inserted in the setlist given the aforementioned constant precipitation that is as much as part of Beale Street Music Fest as the music is.
“Living Over” closed out the set, featuring delicate playing by all band members but especially mandolinist Paul Hoffman, the set was a stellar display of musicianship. With fest-goers and fans alike reveling in the beautiful weather, Greensky kicked Music Fest off right.
Working on a Building, Past My Prime, Room Without a Roof, Handle With Care, Demons, Wings for Wheels, Worried about the Weather, Take Cover, Windshield, Living Over