After nearly two years, major music festivals are returning to Memphis this weekend.
The fourth edition of Mempho Music Festival will take place from Friday to Sunday at Radians Amphitheater at the Memphis Botanical Garden. Programming focused on independent roots and songwriters includes headliners Widespread Panic, Lucinda Williams, The Avett Brothers, Moon Taxi, and Waxahatchee, among others.
In August, Mempho took the head of music festivals nationwide, announcing that he would require all spectators to show “proof of a full COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result” before being admitted to the event.
“Bottom line: our goal is to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone,” says Mike Smith, Mempho Music Fest Production Manager. “We have protocols in place that will help protect fans, artists and staff – there are protocols in the back of the house as well. It’s all a challenge, but a challenge that we couldn’t even face last year.
Designed as a sort of fall counterpoint to Memphis during May’s Beale Street Music Festival, the Mempho Music Festival kicked off in 2017 at Shelby Farms Park, bringing music back to the bucolic setting for the first time in nearly two decades.
The festival continued at Shelby Farms until 2019, with a pretty impressive array of headliners over the years including Post Malone, Wu-Tang Clan, Jack White’s band The Raconteurs and Jason Isbell. However, last year’s festival was canceled due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 protocols at the Mempho Music Festival
Mempho’s return in 2021 will bring a variety of changes. In addition to the vaccine / negative test requirement, all participants are required to have a mask, at least for entry.
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“The mask is encouraged when social distancing is not possible – such as if you are queuing for food or drink,” says Smith. “Obviously, masks are mandatory inside [per county guidelines], for one of the few interior spaces we have available. And we encourage masking at all times for anyone who is immunocompromised. ”
New location for Mempho
Beyond health and safety protocols, the festival will have a different feel as it moves into a new home at the Radians Amphitheater in the Memphis Botanical Garden. Although the capacity of Radians is lower than that of Shelby Farms, Smith says the location offers many advantages.
“The amphitheater here is a great place, has a lot of equipment and puts us ahead of the game because the existing infrastructure is amazing.” Smith said. “I think it will be a repeat here for the next few years. Given the situation with COVID, the size and scope of what we want to do with the festival will be much more accessible [at Radians]. We believe that we will be able to promote the event in the best way here. ”
So far, there seems to be a lot of pent-up demand for the festival experience. Mempho is nearly sold out – only a handful of three-day passes are still available, while one-day tickets for Friday and Saturday are already gone. There are a few day tickets left for Sunday. Smith expects all three days to be full by show time, with 8,500-9,000 people expected daily.
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The Mempho Music Festival program
Along with a contingent of national headliners, the lineup is filled with the best talent from the Mid-South. On Friday, the Memphis Southern Avenue blues-soul combo will make an appearance in support of their recently released album, “Be The Love You Want.” On Saturday, singer-songwriter and native Bartlett star Julien Baker returns to the local scene. While Sunday will bring a much anticipated set of hikes Mississippi Blues Star Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. The 22-year-old Grammy-nominated guitarist has just released his second album for famous Chicago blues label Alligator Records, titled “662” (which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Blues chart).
For organizers Smith and Mempho, the chance to feature a wide range of acts and get back to normal – whatever that means in 2021 – is a welcome opportunity.
“We need to do things differently and keep all health guidelines in mind first and foremost,” Smith said. “But we’re excited about the lineup and the shows. We’re doing what we can to keep the live music alive.
Mempho Music Festival
Friday through Sunday at the Radians Amphitheater at the Memphis Botanical Garden, 750 Cherry Road
Doors open at 3 p.m. on Friday and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
Tickets: $ 185 for three-day passes. Day tickets are sold out for Friday and Saturday. Day tickets for Sunday are $ 80.
For full health and safety guidelines, entry requirements, and a full schedule, visit memphofest.com.