AprilOverton Square Crawfish Festival
The crawfish, the crawdad, the humble mudbug has many names, but it's something of a universal signifier of spring. Once the tents go up, the band strikes up, and the freshwater crustaceans get boiled, then spring has sprung in the South. This year, Midtown's annual crawfish festival benefits A Betor Way foundation.
Overton Square, April 13th, noon-6 p.m. www.overtonsquare.com.
- Overton Square Crawfish Festival
Southern Hotwing Festival
The 17th annual celebration of the chicken hot wing, the drummie, and everything in between. The festival is organized by nonprofit Wings Over Memphis and benefits Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis. Tickets include three "wing bucks," which enable ticket holders to sample three wings at the festival.
Tiger Lane, April 13th, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. $10. www.southernhotwingfestival.com.
- Southern Hotwing Festival
Southern Literary Festival This festival dedicated to Southern literature was founded in 1937, and travels between different universities, which play host to it. This year's edition, held at Christian Brothers University, boasts a packed lineup of guest speakers, readings, and Q&As. Author Chris Offutt is the keynote speaker. (For more information on the SLF, see my Books column on p. 36.)
Christian Brothers University, Thursday-Saturday, April 11th-13th. www.southernliteraryfestival.org.
Kaleidoscope Food Festival
The Binghampton Development Corporation throws this third-annual festival to celebrate diversity in the Binghampton neighborhood, one of the most diverse in Memphis. The festival features multicultural chefs and entrepreneurs, as well as live performances and storytelling. Oh, and the whole thing happens at Wiseacre Brewing Co., so it's a given that there will be plenty of great local beer on hand.
Wiseacre Brewing Company, April 13th, 1-5 p.m.
V & E Artwalk
The annual festival celebrating and raising funds for the quiet trail that runs through the Vollintine-Evergreen district is one of my favorite neighborhood festivals. There are food and beer vendors onsite, performances by local musicians, and rows and rows of artists' and crafters' booths, all in a tree-lined neighborhood park.
V&E Greenline, April 13th, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. www.vegreenline.com,
Lucero Family Block Party
Every spring, hometown heroes Lucero throw down in the heart of Midtown. As it does this year, the Block Party usually coincides with Record Store Day and a handful of other Memphis fairs and festivals, making it a great rock-and-roll start to the festival season. This year's performance features special guests Blackberry Smoke, Will Hoge, Austin Lucas, Ben Abney and the Hurts, and the Mighty Souls Brass Band. May your beer stay cold, your Record Store Day bag stay full, and your ears be free of tinnitus.
Minglewood Hall, April 13th, $33-$151. www.minglewoodhall.com.
- Nicole Kibert
- Lucero Family Block Party
Fifteenth annual crawfish festival, benefiting Palmer Home for Children. The bash features live music, all-you-can-eat crawfish, fare from DeSoto County's best restaurants, a sponsor's VIP section, and more.
Panola Street, Hernando, Mississippi, April 13th, 6-11 p.m.
Juke Joint Festival
Clarksdale comes alive for the Juke Joint Festival, an annual celebration of jukin', jivin', and raunchy blues and rock-and-roll. With 13 daytime venues and more than 20 participating venues after dark, it's fair to say that the festival takes over the nearby Mississippi town for a raucous good time.
Various locations, Clarksdae, Mississippi, April 11th-14th. www.jukejointfestival.com.
Beale Street Wine Race
Irish novelist James Joyce was famously not much of one for exercise, but he said, "White wine is like electricity." Hopefully wine can give the runners a jolt (and a buss) at this boozy foot race Downtown, in which local restaurants and bartenders compete for cash, prizes, and glory.
Downtown, April 14th, 1-4 p.m. Free.
Africa in April
This cultural awareness festival celebrates its 33rd anniversary this year. The festival highlights a different African country every year, and 2019's festival salutes the Republic of Nigeria. It's a family-friendly festival with live performances, food and merchandise vendors, and the annual International Diversity Parade.
Robert R. Church Park, April 19th-21st. www.africainapril.org.
Sponsored by Whatever smoke shop, this heady festival is officially the biggest cannabis-centric event in the state of Tennessee. It's an all-ages educational event to raise awareness about the benefits of cannabis, with over 90 vendors, live music, informational speakers, comedians, and an after party hosted by local hip-hop sensation Marco Pavé. Festival favorites Chinese Connection Dub Embassy headline the event.
The Greensward at Overton Park. April 20th, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Spirits & Soul Festival
This whiskey tour stops in Downtown Memphis for a weekend of tastings, meet-ups, and demonstrations dedicated to the most American of spirits.
Various locations, April 25th-27th.
Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival
Celebrating 27 years, this festival is all about crawfish. With crawfish eating, crawfish bobbing, and crawfish racing, the Rajun Cajun makes the most of the mud bug.
Downtown on Wagner Place and Riverside Drive, between Union and Beale, April 28th, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
MayMemphis Made May Day
Memphis Made hosts this event celebrating music, bikes, bees, and brews. As part of May Day, the Cooper-Young-area brewery is home this year to the arts and music festival Bristerfest and to the Tour de Coop bicycle tour, visiting beehives, community gardens, and chicken coops throughout the city.
Memphis Made Brewing Co., May 4th.
Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival
The Beale Street Music Festival, or simply "Music Fest," as it's usually called, is the reason for the season. Grab your poncho or grab your sunscreen. Rain or shine, the festival draws crowds of Memphians and Southerners to the banks of the Mississippi for three days of genre-spanning performances from up-and-comers, old favorites, and local legends. The Killers, Cardi B., Lord Huron, Gary Clark Jr., Bettye Lavette, and Levitt Shell alums St. Paul & the Broken Bones are just a handful of the performers this year. And the Gibson SG-wielding Liz Brasher, soul sensation William Bell, and ultimate groovers Southern Avenue are just a few examples of the impressive local talent on display. I'll catch y'all at Tom Lee Park.
Tom Lee Park, May 3rd-5th. www.memphisinmay.org.
- Brandon Johnson
- Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival
Memphis Greek Festival
The Greek Festival celebrates its 61st anniversary this year. Sixty-one years. And I thought the Flyer's 30 years were impressive (That's right. Didn't you see the tab on the cover?). That's 61 years of dancing, cultural cuisine, the Kostas Kastanis Band, and more. If you haven't checked out this little cultural festival tucked away off Highland near Summer, isn't it about time you did? Donate three canned food items to the Mid-South Food Bank for free admission.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, May 10th-11th, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. www.memphisgreekfestival.com.
Memphis Margarita Festival
Guests can sample from the city's best margarita-makers, vote on their favorite, and the Memphis Flyer will crown a winner at the end of this fest. Each ticket to the festival is good for 15(!) margarita samples, so it's as close as Memphis gets to Margaritaville. Food will be available for purchase, and there will also be a cash bar with full-sized drinks available. This festival, held Downtown in Fourth Bluff Park, is guaranteed to be awesome squared, rimmed with salt, and served up chill.
Fourth Bluff Park, May 11th, $34. www.memphismargaritafestival.com.
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
It's all about the party at Barbecue Fest. Seriously. The cooking is serious business, but for the pulled-pork pros competing in Barbecue Fest, the cooking is second nature. That means it's important to tool up for the sauce-wrestling, the karaoke contests, and the drinking. And oh, lord, is there ever drinking. Pro tip: wolf down some 'cue to soak up the suds, and try not to lose your flip-flop in the mud.
Tom Lee Park, May 15th-18th. www.memphisinmay.org.
The folks at MiM put the tradition of honoring a foreign country on hold for the year, and are celebrating the Bluff City in honor of the city's bicentennial. As part of the bicentennial festivities, MiM introduces a new event: Celebrate Memphis, honoring Memphis' rich heritage and colorful history as we ring in a new century of soul.
Tom Lee Park, May 25th. www.memphisinmay.org.
Memphis Italian Fest
With cooking demonstrations, bocce games, the Luigi 5K, and music from Ben Abney and the Hurts, Hope Clayborn and Soul Scrimmage, and more, there's plenty to entertain at this cultural festival in East Memphis.
Marquette Park, May 30th-June 1st. www.memphisitalianfestival.com.
Tenth annual Brewfest, with beer from dozens of local, regional, and national craft breweries. Hungry festival-goers can forage for something to soak up the beer at the food trucks onsite, like Central BBQ, New Wing Order, and Cousins Maine Lobster. Drunk Uncle performs.
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, May 11th, 4-7 p.m. $25-$100.
Juneteenth Urban Music Festival
The Juneteenth festival is an event that truly earns its slogan, "celebrating freedom." Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., and every year, the Memphis edition of the festival is held Downtown in Robert R. Church Park, with musical performances, food, job fairs, kids talent contests, and the Ultimate Dance Showdown. Robert R. Church Park, June 14th-16th. www.memphisjuneteenth.com.
WEVL Blues on the Bluff
Okay, full disclosure, I host My Morning Mixtape on WEVL, Memphis' listener-supported radio station, so maybe I'm not the most impartial observer. But, that said, Blues on the Bluff is a party. And it's not just the music. There's a reason so many couples choose to get married at the Metal Museum. The grounds afford a sweeping view of the river and the bluffs, and old trees dot the lawn, offering shade. July, when Blues on the Bluff is usually held, is hot, but the wind off the river offers some relief. And last year, Memphis Made teamed up with WEVL to create a special edition version of Junt, the Midtown brewery's cream ale, to celebrate the volunteer radio station's biggest fund-raiser party. Oh, and then there's the music. They don't call it Blues on the Bluff for nothing.
The Metal Museum, date and time to be announced. www.wevl.org.
Memphis Flyer Burger Week
One of the best burgers I've ever had, I ate sitting on the tail of my uncle's pickup truck, at a rodeo in White River, Arkansas. We were there to fish, not for the rodeo, but we'd gotten into town too late to eat anywhere but at the rodeo concession stand, the last place open at dusk in the sleepy town. I was theatrically starving, as only a 12-year-old on a fishing trip can be, and that burger, once I ate it, was 17 different kinds of satisfying. I've been chasing that same kind of burger high ever since, and Memphis Flyer Burger Week has offered my only way to come close to recapturing the beefy bliss of that rodeo burger. What really puts the carmelized onions on my bun, so to speak, are the $5.99 Burger Week prices. So, if you want to recapture your own slice of hamburger heaven, join me for some brand-new burgers and some old favorites all week long, at participating restaurants all over the Memphis area.
Various locations, July 10th-16th. www.memphisflyerburgerweek.com.
Women's Theatre Festival of Memphis
Considering the time women spent excluded from theater in the early days of the art form, it's about time that they had their own theater festival. And, good news. The Women's Theatre Festival of Memphis is now officially an annual occurrence. It's four days of plays, readings, dance, and networking.
Various locations, July 11th-14th. www.womenstfmemphis.org.
Some readers may know about Elvis Aaron Presley's identical twin brother, Jessie Garon Presley, who was delivered stillborn. Now, I don't mean to suggest that my dad was too into Elvis, but my name is Jesse Aaron Davis. All that to say, I'm not entirely sure when I went to my first Elvis Week event, but I have vivid memories of watching concert and movie footage in big venues and tiny restaurants, and I've been to at least one Elvis laser light show at the Pink Palace planetarium. And all that was before the planetarium got a state-of-the-art overhaul, and the folks at Graceland built their entertainment complex. (It's nice. They hosted the Flyer's Best of Memphis party two years ago.) And though I'm more of a Stax guy these days, I still love the way Memphis becomes Elvis-centric for a week. And I love the way Elvis fanatics from the world over converge on the Bluff City for special performances, Elvis film screenings, and the Candlelight Vigil.
Various locations, August 9th-17th. www.graceland.com.
Memphis Bacon & Bourbon Festival
The Flyer's responsible for a lot of great things, but this pairing of bacon and bourbon has to be one of the best. Bourbon is strong and smoky; bacon is savory and smoky. They go together like peas in a pod, like crafts and drafts (but more on that later). The fourth-annual edition of the Flyer's Bacon & Bourbon Fest will contribute a portion of all proceeds to the Memphis Farmers Market. So, besides being a celebration of one of the tastiest pairings since peanut butter met chocolate, it's a party for a good cause.
Beale Street Landing, August 24th, 6-9 p.m., $34. www.memphisbaconandbourbon.com.
If a party keeps getting thrown year after year for 36 years, then it has to be doing something right, right? In that case, the Ostrander Awards, an annual celebration honoring the best in the local theater, are on a winning streak. Held at the Orpheum, usually on the last Sunday in August, the Ostranders are a Memphis theater tradition. Named after beloved Memphis theater icon Jim Ostrander, a long-standing member of the local theater community, these awards honor excellence in a variety of categories, in both the community theater division and the college theater division. All aspects of stage production will be recognized.
The Orpheum, August 25th, $15. www.memphisostranders.com.
The Sherman Brothers must have been thinking about the Delta Fair when they wrote that "a fair is a veritable smorgasbord." With live music from rock to bluegrass, the Royal Hanneford Circus, fair food galore(!), livestock shows, competitions, and the Delta Dash 5K and 10K, the fair has something for everyone.
Agricenter International, August 30th-September 8th. www.deltafest.com.
30 Days of Opera
Month-long opera celebration with free events, including performances at the Levitt Shell, during the Central Gardens Home Tour, and during Cooper-Young Festival. Various locations, September 1st-30th, www.operamemphis.org. Germantown Festival
So you thought all the fun fairs were Downtown or in Midtown? Not so, Flyer-Friend. With the 48th(!) annual edition of this festival, Germantown gets in on the festival action. The G-town fest jump-starts the September season, as the festival season shakes off the mid-summer doldrums and kicks it into high gear for the home stretch. The Germantown festival boasts arts and crafts, a kids corner, an auto show, and probably the only weenie dog race in Memphis.
Germantown Civic Center Complex, September 7th-8th. www.germantownfest.com.
Southern Heritage Classic
This weekend-long celebration is ostensibly about the football rivalry between Jackson State University and the Tennessee State, but there's so much more going on. The Southern Heritage Classic is a cultural celebration, a tailgating extravaganza, and it's jam-packed with food, live music, and more. Oh, and did we mention this year is the 30th anniversary of the festival? Oh, yeah.
Liberty Bowl, September 11th-14th. www.southernheritageclassic.com.
I live in the nearby Rozelle neighborhood, so Cooper-Young Fest is pretty much my home turf. And I love C-Y Fest for the food, the friends I unexpectedly bump into, and the live music. And to me, this neighborhood festival always marks the change from summer to autumn. It's usually a sunny affair, the summer's last hurrah. And though I court heat stroke every year, there's something kind of nice about that.
Cooper-Young District, September 14th, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. www.cooperyoungfestival.com.
Okay, so it's not exactly cool in Memphis in late September, but the cool weather is on the way and there's just something right about the lights and smells and sounds of a fair on an early autumn night. With live music, fair food, and rides and lights to spare, the Mid-South Fair is just the kind of fair I'm dreaming of.
Landers Center, September 19th-29th, www.midsouthfair.com.
Mid-South Pride Festival
One of the most fun gigs I ever played was at the Mid-South Pride Festival, about five years ago. The weather was mild, the lawn of the FedExForum was a riot of color, and the crowd seemed happy to dance. Best of all, there was an undeniable feeling of goodwill in the air. And though I haven't been back to Pride Fest in some years, I imagine that feeling of goodwill is pretty much standard for the festival. As if that's not enough, there's a parade, vendors, and live music.
Downtown, September 28th. www.midsouthpride.org.
I discovered one of my new favorite bands at Gonerfest 15, last year's edition of Goner Records' annual festival celebrating alternative music. The band in question, French garage-rockers En Attendant Ana, played the penultimate show of their first U.S. tour at the Hi-Tone, and their harmonies, tasteful trumpet licks, and alternatingly crunchy and jangly guitar riffs hooked me. After their set, I interviewed members of the band in the alley behind the Hi-Tone, around the corner from a homemade barbecue cooker hitched to the back of a pickup truck. Smells of cooked meat wafted into the alley; bass throbbed through the walls of the venue. That year, I also saw people crowdsurf to the ecstatic yet haunting sounds of L.A. synth rockers Cobra Man. I heard Harlan T. Bobo play an intimate acoustic set and a barn-burning full-band set. I saw Bênní make talk boxes look cool. And if that doesn't make you excited for Gonerfest 16, I'm not even sure it's worth mentioning Lydia Lunch, Aquarian Blood, or Memphis Made's special edition, Gonerfest commemorative beer.
Various locations, September 26th-29th. www.goner-records.com.
- Gonerfest 16
Mid-South International Festival
This festival celebrates the multitude of cultures that mix and mingle in Memphis. With great food, music, and performances representing various cultures, there's something on offer at this festival for just about everyone. Railgarten, September 29th.
Memphis Japan Festival
The cherry trees lining the streets make the Botanic Garden an ideal spot for the Memphis Japan Festival, a celebration of Japanese culture. The festival presents Memphians with a family-friendly, hands-on way to experience Japanese culture, with food, music, entertainment, martial arts, and more.
Memphis Botanic Garden, September 29th.
Outflix Film Festival
This film festival is a celebration of film and LGBTQ culture and art. Founded by Brian Pera in 1992, Outflix has come a long way since it was housed in the University of Memphis psychology department and called Twinkie Museum: First Annual Queer Experimental Film Festival. Various locations, dates to be announced. www.outflixfestival.org.
Pink Palace Crafts Fair
With great food, handcrafted goods, craft demonstrations, and a petting zoo and train for the kids, the annual Pink Palace Crafts Fair makes for an ideal daytime date, just in time for autumn weather. Audubon Park, October 11th-13th. www.memphismuseums.org. Agricenter Harvest Festival
The 16th annual Harvest Festival is the quintessential fall festival, with pumpkin-painting, hayrides, arts and crafts, and a bluegrass band.
Agricenter International, October 19th, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. www.agricenter.org.
The participating breweries for the 10th annual C-Y Beerfest haven't been announced yet, but judging by the long list of brewers from 2018, there look to be plenty of options for the discerning beer nerd. And since the proceeds benefit the Cooper-Young Community Association, it's a drink for a good cause.
Midtown Autowerks, Saturday, October 19th, 1-5 p.m. $45-$50. www.cybeerfest.org.
I spoke with Mike Smith, who's overseeing MEMPHOFest, Memphis' new(ish) music festival. Smith couldn't say much about the lineup yet, but he's excited about MEMPHO's role in the Bluff City. "We feel like we have a cool little niche we're trying to fill," Smith says. "We try to be on the cutting edge of booking artists, in all demographics — rock, hip-hop, Americana." When I complimented Smith on the festival's inclusion of local talent — I'm thinking Chinese Connection Dub Embassy, Cory Branan, and Boo Mitchell, for starters — he said his childhood in Memphis influences the booking decisions. "Growing up in Memphis, there's so much great talent around us," Smith says. "It would be horrible not to take advantage of that." But Smith plays his cards close to the chest. When pressed about this year's performers, all he says is, "We're finalizing the lineup."
Shelby Farms Park, October 19th-20th. www.memphofest.com.
- Eric Allen
Memphis Tequila Festival
There are a handful of songs about tequila, but most of them either have no lyrics or are super depressing (I'm looking at you, Eagles). So let me just say that with DJs, spooky face painting, a costume photo booth, and samples from more than 30(!) different types of tequila, the Memphis Flyer's Tequila Fest is a party to get anyone in the spirit of the season. Each ticket purchaser will be able to choose 15 tequilas to sample from. Proceeds benefit Volunteer Memphis, so every sip counts.
Overton Square, October 25th, $34. www.memphistequilafestival.com.
RiverArtsFest is an art walk, a street festival, and an educational opportunity all rolled up in one. The festival's website claims it's the largest outdoor juried artist market and urban street fair in the Mid-South, and with more than 180 contributing artists, live music, and demonstrations and hands-on activities, that's a fair claim to make. And being a stone's throw from the Mississippi in the usually gorgeous last week of October certainly contributes to the romance and scenery factors.
Riverside Drive, between Jefferson and Beale, October 26th-27th. www.riverartsmemphis.org.
Indie Memphis Film Fest
In an email exchange with Indie Memphis Executive Director Ryan Watt, I gushed about some of my favorite moments from previous festivals (Boots Riley hosting screenings of Brazil and Sorry to Bother You, and a showing of Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me come to mind). Watt, however, was professional, and did his best to respond to my excitement with some actual information about this year's edition of the ever-growing film festival. "We recently closed submissions to our Black Filmmaker Residency in Screenwriting. Barry Jenkins [who directed 2017 Best Picture winning Moonlight] is selecting two winners to develop screenplays of feature films to shoot in Memphis; they will participate in the festival events," Watt told me via email.
Watt added that Indie Memphis is reprising last year's successful Black Creators Forum, "to continue building support for black artists interested in working in film. This is an interdisciplinary event for black musicians, writers, and designers alongside the filmmakers to encourage collaborations." Watt stressed that, though there are always some showings from the film world's underground, the festival is for everyone: "The main thing we want the community to know is the festival is accessible and a lot of fun. Some people may have a perception that it is only for the film industry, and that is not the case."
Various locations. October 30th-November 4th. www.indiememphis.com.
- Indie Memphis Film Fest
Memphis Parent School Expo
Parents, save the date for this inclusive School Expo presented by Memphis Parent magazine.
Meet face-to-face with school staff, see informational videos, and pick up take-home materials for planning your child's education.
Memphis Botanic Garden, November 2nd. Free. www.memphisparentschoolexpo.com.
Crafts & Drafts
At Crafts & Drafts last year, I caught up with a friend who works at Crosstown Arts, drank a tasty craft beer, got my photo taken by Michael Donahue (and shared on his Instagram page, @flyerdonahue), and not only all that, I bought a lovely handmade coffee cup. Mark that down as a big, ol' score in my book. Oh, and before exploring the arts fair, I ate a burger from Farm Burger in Crosstown. Now, I can't guarantee that you'll have exactly the same excellent experience that I did, but isn't it worth a shot? You're not going to get your photo taken by Michael Donahue by staying home and sitting on the couch.
Crosstown Concourse Patio, November 9th. Free. www.memphiscraftsanddrafts.com.
Levitt Shell Live Music Series
The Levitt Shell's website says, on white text set against a dancing flower, that the lineup for this year's free concert series will be announced April 26th. To say that I'm excited is to indulge a gross understatement. The Shell's free concert series is a seasonal staple. Overton Park sits in the center of the city, biking distance from many folks. The Shell's amphitheater shape, serious sound upgrades in recent years, and all those soundwave-absorbing park trees make for a concert series that can achieve acoustic bliss. Each season's programming spans genres, bringing a diverse array of artists to the Bluff City, total music nerd nirvana. And did I mention it's free? Or at least pay what you can, and for the level of community entertainment the folks at the Shell are offering, I'm always happy to toss a few dollars into the donation buckets when they make their rounds. So, yeah, I'm excited.
Overton Park, dates and times to be announced. Free. www.levittshell.org.
The Peabody Rooftop Series
The Peabody has been steadily racking up wins for Best People-Watching in the Flyer's yearly Best of Memphis competition, which makes their spring and summer Rooftop Series a go-to stop for live music, views of the Mississippi, and party vibes.
The Peabody, Sundays through August 15th.
River Series at Harbor Town Amphitheatre
This Goner Records-sponsored music series has already kicked off, but there are still a couple of events. On April 28th, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone, of Wilco and the Memphis-based Mellotron Variations fame, will perform. Memphis garage-rock legend Alicja Trout opens. And on May 19th, Obruni Dance Band and Yazan will perform. Proceeds benefit the Maria Montessori School. (For more information on the River Series, see Flyer music editor Alex Greene's post in the Music Blog on www.memphisflyer.com.)
Harbor Town Amphitheatre, seasonal. www.riverseries.org.
Time Warp Drive-In
It's no secret that I love the Time Warp. No, not the song from Rocky Horror Picture Show (Well, yes, the song from Rocky Horror, too), but the monthly cult cinema celebration at Malco's Summer Drive-In. The series started this year with the annual "Soul Cinema" night in February, and March saw the "Back to the Back to the Future" night, a screening of the entire Future trilogy, but the series runs for the rest of the year. The next screening is April 20th, with "Don't You Forget About Me: The Teen Films of John Hughes."
Malco Summer Drive-In, monthly, $10. www.malco.com.