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Beale Street Music Festival continued its big comeback Saturday.
The three-day festival kicked off Friday at the Fairgrounds in Liberty Park. Saturday — which saw a late temporary evacuation from the fairgrounds due to the weather — included performances from Megan Thee Stallion, Smashing Pumpkins, NLE Choppa, Soccer Mommy and many more.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s highlights.
Megan Thee Stallion
Nearly two hours after her scheduled 10:45 p.m. set time — thanks to a severe weather delay, Megan Thee Stallion finally arrived to the screaming delight of a vocal, if predictably smaller than anticipated, contingent of fans.
“First of all, I just want to say thank you all so much for coming back,” she said to cheers. “Y’all ready to have a good mother******* time? Are y’all ready to get lit?”
Megan Thee Stallion’s performance was definitive, and its impact immediate, as the crowd erupted and remained in a heightened state as she served up a succession of sharp, highly provocative hits — from “Freak Nasty” to “Sex Talk,” “Eat It” to “WAP.”
Read Bob Mehr’s full review here.
— Bob Mehr
The Saturday night headliners on the Terminix Stage, the Smashing Pumpkins began their storm-delayed show at 11:41 p.m. — almost 90 minutes past its scheduled start time.
The first words out of the mouth of Pumpkins frontman/mastermind Billy Corgan might have sounded sinister to neophytes, but they were welcome to the band’s fans: “The world is a vampire,” Corgan sang. A few hundred fans joined him on the chorus of the song, the 1995 hit “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” a seemingly unlikely choice for a group singalong: “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage…”
Corgan looked the part. His head — as usual, for the past 20 or so years — was shaved. His face was painted with several stylized and possibly occult glyphs. He wore an ankle-length dress or tunic embroidered with gilt floral patterns. He suggested an MTV “120 Minutes” version of Uncle Fester, or a rock-and-roll parody of Dr. Gogol, the deranged surgeon played by Peter Lorre in “Mad Love” (1935).
But in contrast to his outré appearance, Corgan was genial and chatty. He complimented the crowd for “sticking around,” and he complimented the weather. “Let’s hear it for the rain and thunder — I’m kidding,” he joked. He complained of being shocked by the equipment, but kept playing his famously expressive guitar. He was, in a word — in an unexpected word — a trouper.
As such, he and his bandmates trouped long past the Witching Hour. They performed some of the Pumpkins’ best material: “Today,” which was an “alternative rock” hit, and the surging “Cherub Rock,” a guitar tsunami of a song. They also delivered a sludgy, grungy cover of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” a song written by David Byrne, a rock eccentric generally regarded as more lovable than Billy Corgan. Generally, but maybe not on this strange Beale Street Music Festival night.
— John Beifuss
Death Cab for Cutie
For the four songs Death Cab for Cutie played before being called off stage due to severe weather, the band was electric.
Opening with 4 minutes of instrumental work before moving into “I Will Possess Your Heart,” the band had the crowd clapping along. They then relied on a mix of nostalgic early-aughts hits and some more recent tunes to keep the crowd energized for the duration of the (unfortunately cut short) four-song set.
“This band is called Death Cab for Cutie and we’re from Seattle, Washington,” lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Gibbard said at the start of the set.
The crowd was a mix of those old enough to remember the heyday of Death Cab and those born after their original hits. Revealing the power of Death Cab’s timeless lyricism, everyone was singing along. To the fans, it didn’t matter that lead vocalist and guitarist Gibbard penned “The New Year” nearly two decades ago, the song resonated just as strongly today as it did then.
— Gina Butkovich
Austin rockers Spoon delivered what might have been Saturday’s most satisfying set, during their evening turn on the Bud Light Stage.
With post-sunset skies threatening to rain, the band’s performance was delayed briefly, and Spoon front man Britt Daniel noted that, “It looked like we might not play.”
But the band did end up taking the stage after a short interval and followed with a flawless 60-minute run through its catalog, with an emphasis on its latest LP, “Lucifer on the Sofa.”
Daniel also took time to note his recent travels to the Bluff City. “I’ve been to Memphis three times this year and can’t wait to come back,” he said, shouting out a few local spots, including Hernando’s Hideaway. “That’s Dale Watson’s place, he’s a friend.”
One of the handful of top-tier contemporary rock bands that don’t pander to their audience, Spoon has somehow continued to grow as a unit, both on record and in concert.
The band — a sharp five-piece led by Daniel and drummer Jim Eno — flashed plenty of power on old favorites like “The Way We Get By,” and newer standouts like “The Hardest Cut,” topping things off with a shattering, brilliant cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation.”
— Bob Mehr
NLE Choppa turned in one of the highest-energy performances Saturday at Beale Street Music Festival.
The 19-year-old Memphian rapped and did his little jig from the viral TikTok song and challenge “Beat Box 4,” but his moves didn’t stop there. He continued his on-beat jump and shoulder shimmy.
Choppa had an infectious electricity to his performance, hosting one of the many twerk contests this weekend and getting the whole crowd to go bar-for-bar with him on his anti-police song “Capo,” “Final Warning” and “Shotta Flow 6.”
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Near the end of his set, he performed his latest single, “Slut Me Out,” “because we’re in Memphis,” he said.
He also brought out special guests including Baby Hot and White $osa.
— Astrid Kayembe
Crunk really ain’t dead, and Duke Deuce made sure the Beale Street Music Festival crowd knew it. Deuce came out wearing a Benjamin-note bandana and performed songs from his staple trap-crunk catalog including “ARMY” and “GANGSTA PARTY” and his genre-blending collaboration with Rico Nasty, “Falling Off.” The Memphis rapper’s dedication to the Southern crunk sound shines through in a way that doesn’t feel gimmicky or overdone.
As a heavy drizzle descended on the Zyn Stage, posters handed out during the rapper’s set that featured his face dampened, but Deuce’s energy kept the party going, as he jovially busted some dance moves.
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“We don’t give a f*** ’bout no rain,” one of his twin DJs, Big Tootz, said before launching into his song “It’s nothing.”
The crowd, in agreement, started chanting “f*** the rain, b****.“ Near the end, the DJs led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Deuce, who turns 30 on Sunday.
— Astrid Kayembe
Although Project Pat — part of the extended Three 6 family Mafia — did not perform with the Memphis group Friday night, he performed some of the collective’s most popular hits including “Slob on my Knob” during his set Saturday.
Audience members of all ages were rapping along to Pat’s classics like “Chickenhead,” “Ooh Nuthin’” and “Choose U.” He lent the stage to some younger local rappers under his MoneyTrain Empire label and students from LYE Academy, who showed off their jookin’ skills for a number of songs including “If You Ain’t From My Hood” and “Break Da Law 2001.”
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Pat and his hype man performed a brief tribute to slain rapper Young Dolph, asking Memphis to do better.
La Chat, one of the two female members of Three 6 Mafia, also joined Pat for a couple songs.
Pat made sure to shout out the Memphis Grizzlies and came out wearing a Grizzles T-shirt with a 9 on the front and 01 on the back, along with matching gold Nikes.
— Astrid Kayembe
Fans stood in semi-silence at the Bud Light Stage, waiting for Sophie Allison — known by her stage name Soccer Mommy — to begin her performance. But a delay during soundcheck pushed the start time back about 10 minutes. Although facing a shortened set, which ended up being 55 minutes, Soccer Mommy delivered a combination of hit songs and new music.
Allison kicked the performance off with “bloodstream,” a track from her second studio album “color theory.” She would go on to play five songs from this album, along with two from her first studio album, “Clean.”
Although Soccer Mommy is viewed as a solo act, she took time while tuning her guitar in the middle of her set to introduce the band she was performing with.
“If you know their names, hopefully, you’ll scream them more,” she said. “That would be really awesome.”
The set closed — as the drizzle began — with Soccer Mommy performing “Shotgun,” a single from her unreleased album “Sometimes, Forever,” which releases in June.
— Lucas Finton