In Mississippi, music isn’t just something you listen to or play. Perhaps unlike any other region in the country, music is so deeply rooted in a sense of place, it’s as elemental as the air that sustains us.

 

It’s no surprise the Birthplace of America’s Music boasts such a staggering number of annual music festivals celebrating the rich heritage of blues, Americana and even classical—from college town celebrations to multi-week, multi-city concerts and events.

Bridging the Blues, Tunica

Bulldog Bash, Starkville

MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI MUSIC FESTIVAL, GREENVILLE

Double Decker, Oxford

Tupelo Elvis Festival, Tupelo

 

BLUES Bridging the Blues | bridgingtheblues.com Jackson Rhythm & Blues Festival | jacksonrhythmandbluesfestival.com Mighty Mississippi Music Festival, Greenville | mightymississippimusicfestival.com This land of sweeping deltas and the hill country is where the blues was born and continues to thrive in rural juke joints and city venues alike. Established in 2012, the annual Bridging the Blues Festival is a showcase unlike any other. Built around several larger blues-based events, including the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival along the Mississippi River in Greenville, this two-week constellation of events in late September and early October spans three states (Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee) to bring together blues fans of all kinds. Every August, Downtown Jackson also comes alive with a booming lineup of R&B artists capturing the particular rhythm of this landscape. Performing across five stages for several days, Jackson’s Rhythm and Blues Festival is the perfect place to experience local, regional and national music. AMERICANA Jimmie Rodgers Music Festival, Meridian | jimmierodgersmusicfestival.com Tupelo Elvis Festival | tupeloelvisfestival.com Hard to imagine, but in the small triangle of land between Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans, nine distinct genres of music came to life. Not only blues, but also jazz, country, rock’n’roll, R&B/soul, gospel, Southern gospel, Cajun/zydeco and bluegrass. Today, the Americana Music Triangle is still the seat of these traditions. The Gold Record Road is the best route to take as you explore them. Every May since 1953, Meridian honors its most famous musical citizen and “Father of Country Music,” Jimmie Rodgers, with a family-friendly festival including a talent competition, theatrical performances, a symposium and, of course, country music. Every June, Tupelo celebrates its own native son, Elvis Presley, with a festival showcasing the African-American rhythms, gospel and hillbilly music which inspired him. Over the course of several days, people from many states and countries flock to Tupelo to take in some of the region’s top performing artists. Visitors also see who will be chosen from the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest to represent Tupelo in the Memphis competition in August. COLLEGE TOWN FESTIVALS Bulldog Bash, Starkville | msubulldogbash.com Double Decker Arts Festival, Oxford | doubledeckerfestival.com FestivalSouth, Hattiesburg | festivalsouth.org Mississippi’s college and university towns also play a large role in bringing people from surrounding communities together, in celebration of the region’s complex layering of musical traditions. Every year beginning in April, three college towns—Oxford, Hattiesburg and Starkville—showcase the distinctive sounds of the American South, all in their own unique ways. The festival now regularly draws more than 60,000 people—Double Decker, in Oxford—began more than 20 years ago, in the bed of an old pickup truck. Now a two-day showcase of music and the arts, Double Decker takes place each April on Oxford’s historic Courthouse Square, and has grown to be one of the region’s most well-known music events. From the end of May through mid-June, Hattiesburg opens its doors to local residents and cultural tourists from all over the country and abroad during FestivalSouth, the state’s only multi-week, multi-genre music, art, film and food festival. In September, the community of Starkville welcomes more than 30,000 visitors to the state’s largest free outdoor concert in its Historic Cotton District. Featuring an MSU Football Dawg Rally, the family-oriented “FanFare,” and live music across several stages, Bulldog Bash—always on a Friday before an SEC foot- ball weekend—is an all ages event you won’t want to miss. CLASSICAL / SYMPHONY Natchez Festival of Music | natchezfestivalofmusic.com Pepsi Pops, Ridgeland | msorchestra.com Mississippi may not be as widely known for its classical music lineage, but it’s alive and well in the skilled hands of the state’s symphony orchestras and the annual festivals and events they hold. Now in the 26th season, The Natchez Festival of Music weaves together the diverse traditions of classical music and opera from the four nations which once staked a claim on the city—France, Spain, Britain and the United States. Every year, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra also puts on a series of “Pops” events, featuring popular music, show tunes, and better-known classical works performed by the symphony’s Pops Orchestra.The annual Pepsi Pops, held each spring at the Ross Barnett Reservoir at Old Trace Park in Ridgeland, begs visitors of all ages to throw down a picnic blanket and settle in for an evening of open-air music and fireworks.

 

 

Pepsi Pops, Ridgeland

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