Well, I finally made it back from the yearly highlight of the local music festival scene: Memphis in May's annual Beale Street Music Festival. And what a hell of a weekend it was. For me, this is my favorite way to see bands live. You get to see some of your favorite bands play, and to boot you get to experience live shows by bands you wouldn't normally be exposed to. It perhaps doesn't match the grandeur of a Jazzfest or Lollapalooza; but it's a worthwhile trip nonetheless. Some of the high/low lights of the acts: Friday May 3 Better Than Ezra - A personal fave, and one of the greatest crowd-involving bands around. Kid Rock - I was hoping this would be a highlight, but one couldn't help but feel like he phoned this one in. I heard rumor that he was battling laryngitis, and if it were true perhaps I would be more sympathetic. But damn, dude, out of the 10 songs played, do 5 have to be covers? Is your original stuff that boring to you? Gabe Dixon Band - Ben Folds-ish high-energy college sound. Definitely were loving being in front of a large crowd. Interesting, and enjoyable. Night Ranger - Boy, these guys haven't changed their hair since 1984. Talk about a blast from the past. Sadly, the only song I recognized was Sister Christian, and everything else sounded like a filler track. Shame, because Sister Christian still carries a power most band only wish to achieve. Saturday May 4 Hoobastank - Had never heard of them before. Laughed about their name for a week. I walked out of their show very impressed. High-enery hard-nosed rock with a tinge of funk. Very good set, and a highly reccomended choice. O.A.R. - not impressed, but honestly, I'm not a fan of Grateful Dead/Phish/Widespread Panic-type bands. They seemed to meander through a melange of instrument solos, repeated the same line numerous times, and made copious references for their desire to join the toking in the crowd. Puddle of Mudd - Very impressive set. Totally rocked out sound and a definite pleasure live. Very appreciative of the fans, and poured out a lot of energy on stage. Incubus - Once again, not a big fan, but they did put on a good show. Not very much crowd interaction, but it might not be their thing. Sunday May 5 Ratones Paranoicos - Umm. Ok. Definitely not my taste. I have nothing bad to say, because I just couldn't get into the show. Three Six Mafia - Let me be the first to say that I loathe gangsta rap. It gets on my nerves only slightly less that the guy that constantly clicks his pen in a quiet room. But man, what an infectious show. Very simplistic local group whose only interests seem to be women, alcohol, and rap. But they definitely love the crowd. And the only group to get crowd members up on stage to dance with them. A surprisingly fun set, but just don't ask me to repeat any of their lyrics to you, because I couldn't understand a damn thing they were saying. Morris Day and the Time - Who can't like Jungle Love. And what a stage show! Sure, they were definitely dated, but they still seem to love playing music, and are a hoot to see live. All that was missing was Appolonia gyrating and trying to sing. Bush - Very high-energy set. And Gavin Rossdale is quite the brave man for braving the crowd. His guitar looked like it didn't appreciate the effort, though. A fun set with the award for most topless women on shoulders, and for me that's never a bad thing. Stone Temple Pilots - So is it ok to wonder if Weiland would be more into the show had he not gotten rehab? Boy did he look tired. He just kind of stood around and sang, and although it was a good set, he seemed to be out of it. Now, obviously, I'm kidding about the drugs, no one should waste their bodies that way, but man, he's definitely looking a little worn down these days. Doobie Brothers - There's just something impressive about the harmonies achieved by a band that's been together 30-odd years that can't be matched except by time and familiarity. This was one of those bands where even non-fans say "Wow, those guys know live harmony" which is a talent that can be very hard to accomplish in this type of show. I was never a big fan, but never disliked them. But I'm glad I got to see them live. So, in summary, I had a hell of a time. I got moshed, got surfed, got offered (and refused them) various controlled substances, drank way too much beer, and had an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. If you're down this way next year, give the fest a try.