Live music blooms in Memphis during the spring and summer, with some of the country’s best outdoor music venues right here in the Bluff City. The season starts with a bang with the Beale Street Music Festival and lasts until September at venues throughout the city and beyond. You can fill your evenings with music of every type, bring the kids or leave them at home, and enjoy the uniquely Memphis vibe of summer in the city.
Beale Street Music Festival
Grab your cutest rain boots and get ready for mud and music along the Mississippi River. Music Fest’s three days tend to be a crazy combination of teenagers, college kids, hipsters and boomers. This year’s lineup is one of the best in ages, so if you haven’t been in years, this is a must-hit. Ed Sheeran, Lenny Kravitz, The Avett Brothers, John Fogerty, Ryan Adams, Hozier and the Flaming Lips are just some of the dozens of acts that will take to the stages in Tom Lee Park May 1 to 3. Tickets are $95 for all three days, or $45 for a single day. View the complete lineup for Music Fest here.
Summer Concert Series at the Levitt Shell
The free summer concert series at the iconic Levitt Shell kicks off May 16 with Memphis Renaissance and Harlem, featuring a performance by the New Ballet Ensemble and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra with conductor Mei-Ann Chen. Concerts continue throughout the summer, Thursday through Sunday evenings (see the full lineup here), and with very few exceptions, all shows are free. A few shows offer rain dates, too. Featured performers this year include St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Victor Wainwright, Raw Oyster Cult, Stax Academy and Davina & The Vagabonds. Most shows start at 7:30 p.m., and guests can come anytime to claim a spot. Blankets, lawn chairs and coolers are allowed, and all shows are family-friendly. A number of food trucks and food vendors set up around the shell’s perimeter, so you can always grab a drink or a bite to eat if you don’t bring your own picnic.
Live at the Garden
The actual gardens at the Memphis Botanic Garden take a bit of a back seat in the summer to MBG’s Live at the Garden concert series. The summer music series got a big upgrade last year with a new permanent stage and other enhancements; tables are sold out again this year (there is a waiting list, and you can sign up here). Lawn seats for all the shows are still available, however—and the lawn can be just as much fun, in our opinion. The lineup for the 2015 Live at the Garden series doesn’t come out until tomorrow, and tickets go on sale then, as well. Previous performers have included Michael Bublé, Harry Connick, Jr., Goo Goo Dolls, Jennifer Nettles, Styx and Darius Rucker, so look for a mix of rock and country acts again this year. All tickets for lawn seats are $45. Pit tickets—for those who want to stand right in front of the stage—are $75. Guests can bring coolers, food, lawn chairs and blankets. Food vendors are scattered throughout the park, and you can even preorder meals on the Live at the Garden website. All concerts take place rain or shine, unless severe weather threatens, in which case the show will be rescheduled.
Peabody Rooftop Parties
Each Thursday, from April through August, the rooftop at the Peabody Hotel turns into one of the city’s best outdoor concert venues. With sunset views of the Mississippi and dance-into-the-night bands, there’s no better place to kick off a weekend than the Peabody Rooftop. While all decades are represented, the crowd at these parties tends to heavily favor 20-somethings, and the vibe is more dance party than concert (and who doesn’t love a good dance party?). Tickets are $10 to $15, ladies get in free before 7 p.m. and special themed food and beverages are part of the fun. Find the full lineup on the Peabody Hotel website.
Discovery Park of America
If you haven’t been to Discovery Park of America—the massive museum/education center, garden complex and amaze-ment park in Union City yet—the summer concert series is a great reason to make the trek. The venue for the concerts is the Great Lawn, a gorgeous space surrounded by gardens and water features. Concert-goers can bring blankets and lawn chairs; coolers are not allowed, but food and beverages are sold on-site during the show. Tickets for all concerts cost $45. The lineup for the 2015 season is still being firmed up, but the season kicks off May 21 with a singer/songwriter show featuring Phillip Coleman, Don Henry and Paul Overstreet. Restless Heart performs on June 13, and a big July 4 show features Cowboy Dan and Katie Kendall, followed by fireworks.