Celebrating the Unique Culture of Memphis at the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival #MMHF13

Unlike New Orleans’ Jazz Fest, the Beale Street Music Festival does not feature a considerable amount of local Memphis talent (and almost no roots artists at all), so it is fortunate that there is another festival held on Labor Day weekend every year, known as the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival, sponsored by the embattled yet resilient Center for Southern Folklore. This amazing, free, two-day festival features the music, dance, visual art and foodways of the Mid-South, spread out among two indoor and four outdoor stages on the Main Street Mall in downtown Memphis. Although there is usually at least one headline artist (this year’s was Bobby Rush), the festival line-up is heavily geared to artists from Memphis or the immediate vicinity, and includes all styles from bluegrass to blues to hip-hop to indie rock and jazz. Even drill teams and drumlines make appearances during the afternoon. Not as well known as perhaps it should be, the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival is arguably the best reason to make a trip to Memphis.

Come Downtown, Pay to Park and Get Robbed-Or Why Memphis Needs New Leaders

Recently the Commercial-Appeal printed an editorial about soon-to-be-implemented changes that are coming to downtown parking. The newspaper gleefully reported as progress that Memphis will replace the old-fashioned coin parking meters with sophisticated newfangled meters that can accept credit cards. Of course, the quid pro quo for this, said the editorial, is that there will be no more free parking downtown after 5:30 PM, nor on weekends, nor on holidays. So this “progress” so hailed by the CA is actually a tremendous step backwards for the city of Memphis.
How quickly our leaders have forgotten that the cost of parking is one of the things that helped kill downtown Memphis in the first place. Shoppers no longer saw the point of driving downtown and paying for parking to shop at Goldsmith’s or Lowenstein’s when you could go do that at one of the new suburban shopping areas, where parking was provided for free.
The other thing that killed downtown Memphis was that people didn’t feel safe, particularly after several spates of downtown rioting in 1968-1969 and again in 1971. And on that point we have Friday’s incident where students at the All-West Tennessee Band and Orchestra Convention at the Cannon Center were beaten and robbed outside of Huey’s directly across from the Peabody Hotel. So Mayor Wharton and other city leaders are essentially saying, “Come downtown and spend money, but we’re going to sock it to you for parking 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you might get robbed to boot.” Who likes that proposition? Anyone?

The Memphis-based Center for Southern Folklore (@southernfolk) is the sponsor of the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival. Their storefront on South Main Street is worth a visit, but if you can’t get to Memphis, visit http://www.southernfolklore.com/, or http://www.facebook.com/southernfolklore?ref=ts, or https://twitter.com/southernfolk. Consider making a donation. The Center for Southern Folklore is non-profit, and if they did nothing but put on the festival every year, they would be a worthy cause. As it is, they sponsor many other concerts and events all year long.