While Memphis is always a hotbed for great live performances from homegrown artists, this July is especially notable for the number of nationally renowned acts hitting town. Here are our picks for the five most notable concerts heading to the M-Town over the next several weeks.
Preauxx with Unapologetic at the Overton Park Shell
7:30 PM on Saturday July 1st
Although it’s a bummer that the Overton Park Shell’s Orion Free Concert Series is coming to an end for the summer, you have to give the organizers credit for ending the season with a bang. Memphis rapper Preauxx (along with help from his Unapologetic compatriots) will be bringing the heat on Saturday night with a performance that shouldn’t be missed. By this point most of you should at least be vaguely familiar with the type of concerts that Unapologetic routinely puts on, but if not, you’re in for a treat. As with his labelmates, Preauxx is an unorthodox talent that is breathing fresh air into a genre that often feels stagnant or over-derivative these days, proving that Memphis hip-hop extends far beyond the current trap sound dominating airwaves.
Steve Earle at Lafayette’s Music Room
7 PM on Sunday July 9
In many ways, Steve Earle is reminiscent of a bygone era when artists such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger delivered folks and country music with an urgent (and unmistakably leftist) political message. One of the most celebrated singer/songwriters of his generation, Steve Earle has won over legions of fans during the past four decades with his populist lyrical stances and genre-bending musicianship. Oh, and he also played the role of Bubbles’ sponsor in The Wire, which is also pretty cool. To see a legend like Earle in an intimate space like Lafayette’s is a rare treat, so don’t miss out!
Stephen Marley at Minglewood Hall
8 PM on Tuesday July 18
Stephen Marley, the son of reggae icon Bob Marley, first appeared on record in 1979 when he was only six years old and has been creating music ever since. The Grammy-award winning artist is notable for taking the reggae music of his family and blending it with more contemporary genres such as hip-hop and neo-soul to create a sound uniquely his own. While reggae purists were initially disapproving of these innovations, Marley has since become a beloved figure within the genre and has worked alongside heavyweights like Erykah Badu, Rakim, Rick Ross, the Fugees, and many more.
Erykah Badu at FedEx Forum
7:30 PM on Friday, July 21
Over the years, Erykah Badu, the undisputed Queen of Neo-Soul, has achieved what few artists in music history have been able to. She emerged in the mid-90s with her classic debut album “Baduism” and has continued to reinvent herself at every turn since, bringing R&B music into new and exciting directions with every subsequent release. As someone who has had the privilege of seeing Ms. Badu live twice now, I can also confidently say that she is also one of the most dynamic live performers around. As a bonus, she will be supported on tour by Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), a fellow Soulquarian who has also aged as an artist with grace.
Big Freedia at Growler’s
7 PM on Saturday, July 22
In the early 2010s, I spent several years living in New Orleans and soaking in that city’s unique and treasured local music scene. While Lil’ Wayne, who was riding high off of the success of Tha Carter III, was the city’s most well-known star at the time, it was bounce artist Big Freedia who was winning over the hearts (and ears) of locals. With undeniable charisma and seemingly endless energy, Freedia seemed positioned to be bounce music’s first nationally-recognized star. Sure enough, with co-signs from Beyonce, Drake, and many others, Freedia would soon become a nationally beloved act. Fresh off of her excellent new album “Central City,” Big Freedia will soon bring her electric act to Memphis. A word to the uninitiated: If you plan on attending this show, be ready to shake your ass.