Mempho Music Festival. The fans and the concerts.
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Bob Mehr and John Beifuss offer up a selection of highlights (musical and otherwise) from the 2019 Memhpo Music Festival.
Natural Splendor: Despite the many big-name acts and talented performers appearing, the true star of Mempho was once again Shelby Farms Park. The main allure of the festival is the chance to take in live music in a remarkably serene and beautiful setting. Compared to the city’s other major music festival, Mempho doesn’t feel like a festival that has just been grafted on top of a park space. Rather, Mempho’s smart and organic integration of stages and pathways in and around Shelby Farms allows fans to experience both the music and the park in its purest form. — Bob Mehr
Valerie June: The West Tennessee native and longtime Memphis resident returned home for a joyful Sunday set at Mempho. June, now based in New York City, looked and sounded buoyant (in blue) back on her old stomping grounds. She delivered a late afternoon/early evening performance that showcased her still-distinctive folk-soul stylings to the delight of an adoring audience. — Bob Mehr
Magic Bus: The actual festival grounds were compact and even bucolic (at least before the sun set), with stylized elevated screens that resembled alien butterfly wings or fighting kites providing shade for listeners who didn’t mind sitting away from the stages. But reaching those grounds was something of a Woodstock-esque trek for most festivalgoers, who were directed to park in a field of ragged grass that looked like it more often was cropped by the snout of a grazing buffalo than flattened by the tread of a Subaru; from there, yellow school buses carried the music fans to the entrance to the festival, near the Shelby Farms visitors center. As far as I could tell, the shuttle system went off without a hitch; for Memphians who shun public transportation, it was a lesson in the convenience of well-run public transportation. — John Beifuss
Wu Wear: Band merchandise wouldn’t normally be considered the highlight of a music festival… but leave it to Wu-Tang Clan to stake a claim to the cleverest bit of Mempho-specific marketing. The hip-hop supergroup, who performed Saturday night, sold a mash-up of sorts: a T-shirt and hooded sweatshirt that took the old Memphis Grizzlies jersey, logo and artwork and turned it into a distinctive piece of Wu wear (thanks to Justin Bailey for the pics). The cleverly realized merch was not cheap, however, with the shirt costing $45 and the hoodie version retailing for a fairly whopping $85. — Bob Mehr
Message: “We came in peace, we’re gonna leave in peace, so put that peace sign up!” directed The RZA at the end of a 70-minute set by the Wu-Tang Clan that climaxed when Royal Studios head Boo Mitchell and Stax legend David Porter joined the all-star hip-hop combo for a shaky cover of Al Green’s ‘”Let’s Stay Together.” In contrast, DJ Paul, who followed the Wu-Tang Clan and functioned as the rapping ringmaster for a succession of guest performers, seemed less interested in promoting world peace than in getting a piece of the action. Introducing a song about female body parts that was used in a Will Smith movie, Paul said: “They gave us $500,000 for that (song), and I spent it all on cocaine.” — John Beifuss
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