Memphis musicians await return of live music

Memphis musicians await return of live music

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - As more visitors make their way to Memphis during this pandemic, a major component of Memphis’ culture remains absent -- live music. It has picked back up in a smaller capacity in Nashville, but for now in the Home of the Blues it won’t be back until phase three of the Back-to-Business plan.

“Music is part of Memphis’ DNA,” President and CEO of Memphis Tourism Kevin Kane said.

And music is the livelihood for thousands of people who call the Bluff City home.

“Missing the crowd that’s a big thing and financially it’s a hit,” Memphis musician Brad Birkedahl said.

While Memphis rolled out phase two of its Back-to-Business plan days before Nashville, live music is part of phase two in the Music City. To adhere to CDC guidelines, only two musicians are allowed back on stage at a time in Nashville.

Memphis Tourism recently announced a $500,000 marketing push to get visitors back to Memphis as it starts to reopen in hopes that leaders here may look to Nashville about rolling out live music.

“Of course we’re not doing everything that Nashville does and they don’t do everything that Memphis does,” Kane said. “We were certainly hoping that would be considered and it still may be considered since we’ll be in phase two a little longer.”

“I wish we could do something like that here but we just have to wait to make sure everything is safe,” Birkedahl said.

Shelby County health officials said live music is not planned to roll out any earlier than phase three.

“If an individual is singing and they have COVID-19 disease, that’s a good way to expel a lot of the virus into the room,” Chief of Epidemiology at the Shelby County Health Department David Sweat said.

Birkedahl with the Brad Birkedahl Band had a recurring gig on Beale Street before the pandemic. While Beale Street opens back up, he’s still sidelined.

He hasn’t been on stage since St. Patrick’s Day and will be ready when music is back in the Home of the Blues.

“I guess if anything we’re getting vocal rest,” Birkedahl said.

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