It's no surprise that the city's live music scene centers around Beale Street, made famous as the home of the blues during the early 20th century. Beale is full of live music, whether it is the raucous beat from the house band at B.B. King's to the more mellow blues found at Mr. Handy's.
Beale is a great place to just grab a cold drink and wander - and the only district in the city where doing so is perfectly legal. It's usually late afternoon when the cops shut the street down (read: 3 p.m.ish), cutting off traffic so the district becomes pedestrian-friendly. And that's when more street musicians open their cases and tune up their guitars, and when bands of all types (and sometimes freelancers looking for some exposure) set up on the stage at W.C. Handy Park.
The Cooper Young area of Midtown is an excellent spot for alternative music, pure rock, local talent, and the occasional Irish pub band. And a variety of venues, from Minglewood Hall to the Mud Island amphitheater, host great national acts in larger venues that still are small enough to really feel the vibrations from the band.
Whether it is pure blues, indie rock or even crunk, Memphis offers breadth and depth when it comes to the live music scene.