This week, the home of the blues once again expands its musical palette, as Beale Street welcomes a free monthlong series of country concerts with “The Rebel on Beale.”
The 2013 edition marks the 11th annual effort to bring country music to Beale’s Handy Park. The program was launched by Performa Entertainment in 2003 and for the better part of that decade, local country station KIX 106 was the chief sponsor of the event. Last year, Southaven-based The Rebel 95.3 FM/ Y105.5 FM signed on to present the shows.
Over the years, the concerts have become a showcase for up and coming talent, with future stars like Lady Antebellum, Big & Rich, Luke Bryan, The Band Perry and Jason Aldean having made their earliest local appearances there.
Unlike last year’s eight-week run, this year’s series will go only four weeks. But, says Performa head John Elkington, that’s partly to allow for a variety of music series in the park.
Elkington notes that Performa will soon announce a late summer blues music concert series, and also plans on staging a jazz series in the fall.
“In between, we’ll have a number of rock and roll events, showcase rising local and regional talent,” says Elkington. “We have music in Handy Park every day, but we need to have even more special moments and events, and putting together these musical series are a good way to do that.”
“The Rebel on Beale” shows kick off Thursday with a performance by Canadian combo Emerson Drive. The veteran band released its seventh studio album, Roll, last fall, which earned them a Juno — Canada’s equivalent of a Grammy — for country album of the year.
Nashville vocal duo Steel Magnolia — featuring Joshua Scott Jones and Meghan Linsey — will perform on June 27.
The group, which is currently working on its sophomore album, will be joined with special guest appearance by Phoenix Stone, who released his debut EP Honky Tonk Superstar and first single “100 Proof Moonshine,” earlier this year.
To mark the July 4 holiday, there will be an early 6 p.m. start to a concert headlined by county star Mark Chesnutt. One of the kings of the early ’90s “hat acts,” Chesnutt has released a dozen albums and scored eight No. 1 singles on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs charts during his career. The Independence Day concert will be followed by a fireworks show along the Mississippi.
The Rebel shows will wrap up on July 11 with an appearance by singer-songwriter Keith Anderson, who has penned hits for Garth Brooks and Big & Rich, among others, and released a pair of major-label albums of his own.
Elkington says the concerts will feature a number of amenities, including new vendors and specialty food trucks.
“In general, we’re trying to really reapproach the marketing of Beale Street. It’s been there 30 years now in its current form, and though we draw 4.2 million people a year, there’s a lot of people who haven’t been there — who haven’t tried the food, tried the music, who haven’t visited the Beale businesses that have been around for a long time. So we’re hoping through these various efforts to reintroduce it in a different way.”
“The Rebel on Beale” Country Concert Series
Handy Park, 200 Beale. Shows start at 7 p.m., except the July 4 concert, which begins at 6 p.m. Admission is free.
Thursday: Emerson Drive
June 27: Steel Magnolia, Phoenix Stone
July 4: Mark Chesnutt
July 11: Keith Anderson