Beale Street Music Festival: From GloRilla to Los Lobos, 12 acts you shouldn't miss

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After four years, the Beale Street Music Festival finally returns to Tom Lee Park this week. Though the park and the festival’s setup will look and feel different this year — owing to the ongoing redevelopment of Tom Lee — the cross-section of musical acts appearing will be as wide-ranging as ever.

This year’s lineup is highlighted by a strong contingent of hip-hop acts, both regional and national, several iconic Memphis performers, and plenty of roots and Americana stars.

Here is a look at what we consider some must-see shows, with top picks for each of the festival’s three days.


Earth, Wind & Fire: 9:15 p.m., Bud Light Stage

Earth, Wind & Fire will bring it back to their Memphis roots as they play the Beale Street Music Fest on Friday.
Earth, Wind & Fire will bring it back to their Memphis roots as they play the Beale Street Music Fest on Friday.

Though they would go on to achieve worldwide stardom, sell 90 million albums and take up residence in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Earth, Wind & Fire’s roots lay in Memphis’ Foote Homes projects, where late group founder Maurice White was born. The band — now led by his brother, bassist Verdine White and singer Philip Bailey — continues to carry on that musical legacy and remains a show-stopping live act. Earth, Wind & Fire promises to close out the first night of music fest with a set of infectious R&B hits.

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The Bar-Kays: 7:40 p.m., Bud Light Stage

Memphis music royalty, funk band The Bar-Kays are still thrilling crowds six decades into a dramatic and triumphant career. The onetime '60s Stax soul group, who went on funk success in the ‘70s and ‘80s, continues to be led by bassist and founding member James Alexander. The band’s latest single, “Choosey Love,” was produced by Alexander’s son, noted hip-hop record-maker Jazze Pha. Fans can expect a powerful set of classics from “Soulfinger” to “Too Hot to Stop” when the group takes the music fest stage on Friday.

The Sensational Barnes Brothers: 6:10 p.m., Bud Light Stage

Gospel-soul vocalists The Sensational Barnes Brothers live up to their name. The singing duo have become stalwarts in the recording studio, backing up Memphis soul great Don Bryant, collaborating with Latin Grammy-nominated band Making Moves, and working with The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. The group’s own work for the Bluff City’s Bible & Tire Recording Co. has also won critical praise with its 2022 debut, “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” cementing its place as one of the last year’s best local records.


The Roots: 10 p.m., Bud Light Stage

Tariq Trotter (Black Thought) and Ahmir Thompson (Questlove) of The Roots.
Tariq Trotter (Black Thought) and Ahmir Thompson (Questlove) of The Roots.

Hip-hop legends The Roots return to the Beale Street Music Festival for the first time in a decade. The group — led by drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and rapper Black Thought — has been nominated for 16 Grammys, won three and earned every other major honor in the music business. The group will be playing songs from across their critically acclaimed 11-album discography as they headline the fest on Saturday night.

GloRilla: 8:45 p.m., Bud Light Stage

GloRilla looks to cement her status as the city's top female rapper with a music fest set on Saturday.
GloRilla looks to cement her status as the city's top female rapper with a music fest set on Saturday.

Saturday's music fest will be a big day for Memphis hip-hop acts, and none are currently bigger than GloRilla. Big Glo's viral hits “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” and “Blessed” launched her into national consciousness in early 2022. After signing with Yo Gotti's CMG label, she scored a Top 10 Billboard record with “Tomorrow 2,” a remix collaboration with hip-hop queen Cardi B. Last fall, GloRilla earned a surprise win at the BET Hip Hop Awards, taking home the Best Breakthrough Artist award and was nominated, along with Hitkidd, for a Grammy for the year’s Best Rap Performance. Her Saturday night slot of music fest promises to be one of the more anticipated performances of the weekend.

Finesse2Tymes: 7:30 p.m., Bud Light Stage

Another rising star in the rap world, Finesse2Tymes will bring some Bluff City bluster to the music fest stage on Saturday. Last year the Memphis native and current Houston resident signed to Mob Ties/Atlantic Records and released his record “90 Days.” The success of tracks like “Get Even” and “Back End” have earned the rapper numerous plaudits, including picks as Apple Music’s “Hip-Hop Artist to Watch” and an Amazon “Breakthrough Artist,” as well as making Spotify’s list of “Most Necessary” artists. His homecoming show looks to be another can’t-miss concert.

Big Boogie: 4:50 p.m., Bud Light Stage

Born in Louisiana but raised in Memphis, rapper Big Boogie is another Yo Gotti protégé who is looking to blow up in 2023. Boogie singles including “Mental Healing” (which has registered nearly 80 million views on YouTube), “Pop Out” and “PTPOM” have showcased his mic skills, while appearances on the CMG comp “Gangsta Art” and at Gotti’s annual birthday bash concert have upped his profile further. His Saturday music fest set could offer another breakout moment.


Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: 8:40 p.m., Volkswagen Stage

Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant has gone the roots route over the last two decades, both as a solo act and as part of a highly successful duo with country/bluegrass queen Alison Krauss. Coming 16 years after their first effort together — 2007’s award winning "Raising Sand" — the Plant and Krauss combo put out “Raise the Roof” in 2021. The  project netted the pair three Grammy nominations. Plant and Krauss will headline Sunday’s finale at music fest.

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Los Lobos: 8 p.m., Blues Stage on Beale at Handy Park

Generally considered one of America’s great and most underrated bands, Los Lobos returns to the Beale Street Music Festival this year, as they mark their 50th anniversary. The group — which launched in East Los Angeles in 1973 — is no stranger to music fest having played memorable shows over the years. This year they will headline the new Blues Stage on Beale at Handy Park.

Gary Clark Jr.: 7 p.m., Volkswagen Stage

Gary Clark Jr. will help close out music fest on Sunday.
Gary Clark Jr. will help close out music fest on Sunday.

Austin-bred blues rocker Gary Clark Jr. continues to be a perennial festival favorite. Clark — a four-time Grammy winner — appeared at the last music fest at Tom Lee back in 2019. He will return this year, still supporting his politically charged 2019 album, “This Land,” as he preps a new LP as well.

Lucinda Williams: 5:20 p.m., Volkswagen Stage

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams will play music fest on Sunday.
Acclaimed singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams will play music fest on Sunday.

Another music fest veteran, acclaimed singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams returns to the stage following a tough couple years that saw her suffer and recover from a stroke. Williams recently published an acclaimed memoir, “Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You,” and recently announced a new album, “Stories from a Rock n Roll Heart,” which comes out in June and features guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Jesse Malin, Angel Olsen, Margo Price and Tommy Stinson, among others.

Yola: 5:15 p.m., Bud Light Stage

A set by U.K.-born and Nashville-based Americana songstress Yola promises to be one of Sunday’s highlights. The six-time Grammy nominee continues to win raves for her work, which include her 2019 debut, “Walk Through Fire” and the 2021 follow-up, “Stand For Myself,” both produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. In 2022, Yola also made her big screen debut, appearing as Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic “Elvis.”

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Your guide to the Beale Street Music Festival 2023 lineup