Phone call I receive at 4:30, when gates open at Riverbend on Friday: ‘Is Riverbend cancelled?” Of course, I said no, and asked why anyone would ask such a question. Answer – “Because it isn’t 100 degrees!”
On a beautiful summer night, with temperatures hovering near the wonderfully comfortable range, Riverbend kicked off with usual fanfare, but not much of the sweat. The weather, like the music, was spectacular!
I was able to catch some of Chasi Lynn’s great performance as her band kicked off the very first chords of Riverbend 2012. The Buckner Brothers put on a memorable show on the VW stage, with great vocals, fantastic guitar work, and the incomparable sax of band member Carle Vickers.
Heading down to the Meo Mio Cajun Spirits stage, I find a pleasant surprise – a big crowd at the brand new stage for one of the youngest bands at Riverbend this year, Remembering January. I saw them backstage before their show, and they were getting ready to walk up toward the Coke Stage to round up a crowd for their show. That little bit of marketing genius paid off, as they brought back an entire audience. Wow, what a show! These talented young men played their hearts out, with many originals, sprinkled with a few cover tunes. The enthusiastic crowd hooted and hollered and encouraged the band to “play harder”. They did, and the band rewarded the crowd with some New Orleans flavor – beads.
The new Meo Mio stage was crowded all night, too. As the only place the public can get a margarita or other specialty alcohol drink, the Meo Mio Stage had a “great vibe”, according to one guy I spoke with in the audience. I agree. Laid back, with great food right next to the tent, and a tasty drink to sip on, the Meo Mio stage may become my favorite destination at Riverbend. Oh yeah – Lil’ Malcom tore it up after Remembering January, too. The band had almost the entire crowd up to the front of the stage dancing.
VW stage manager Hayes Taylor cleared the crowd in front of the stage for a cool demonstration by the Discovery Museum called Fire & Ice. Explosions, liquid nitrogen, and a real Chattanooga Fireman made for a “bang up” time. They may be back next Friday, so stop on by around 8:30 next week.
Bartlee Norton and 64 Highway warmed up the Eric Church crowd with their brand of country music. By the time they went off the VW Stage, the crowd was pumped. Enter Eric Church, along with his million dollar new set, complete with light show and fire cannons. He didn’t disappoint either, as it was one of the largest Coke Stage crowds I have seen at Riverbend.
Note to self – If I ever have a 15 year old daughter in my future, (unlikely, due to my advanced age) I need to remember to double check her attire for the evening. A skimpy top, short-shorts that resemble bikini bottoms and cowboy boots probably won’t pass muster at my pretend house.
Cody McCarver had the entire city of Dunlap turn out for his great show, along with quite a few other towns, I think. That one made me proud, as I had pushed the Riverbend staff to include Cody at Riverbend this year. As always, it was a pleasure seeing my friend Bill Brewer, Cody’s drummer. I say Bill is the Yoda of drummers – the master. Cody may very well be back soon on the Coke Stage, I say.
After Eric Church went off, The Dirty South played the VW stage for a late set. All I heard was folks saying how great they were. Well, duh…I picked them to play, too. (Sorry to brag, but good is good and they did me proud.) They were rained out last year, so they got a rare return visit on a consecutive year. The Drive-by Trucker tribute band is simply marvelous, my friends. Pure talent!
I had a couple of disappointments from last night. I saw the Futurebirds on the Bud Light stage, but the fellow with the feathers on his arms was supposed to flap them really hard and fly off over the crowd. He never got off the ground, although their music was really cool.
Since it was opening night, I felt like Riverbend needed to tweak a few things. There was no line at some bathrooms down on the west end by the marina, but the line to the ones by the VW stage went all the way to Nashville. I heard many compliments about the new coke Stage sound system, but I also heard a few complaints that one side was either out or badly needing attention.
Some token stations ran out of tokens around 10 p.m., but others had plenty. That may have been partially due to the immense crowd. Knowing the pros at Riverbend, that will be corrected post haste.
Tonight, the headliner is Foreigner, but there is so much more than just the Coke Stage at Riverbend. I predict one of the highlights of tonight to be Pop Evil. Any Michigan Wolverine fan in Chattanooga should be there, as this band’s song is one they play at the “Big House”, the former football powerhouse’s home stadium. Don’t look for Pop music here. Yes, I snuck in “former”, as the SEC now rules college football (at least since Bear Bryant started at Alabama) and you know it.
Commander “Hot Rod Lincoln” Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen play the Unum Stage at 8 p.m., and that one goes on my recommended list, too. The Nick Moss Band headlines the new Meo Mio Stage at 9:30, so if Foreigner isn’t your cup of tea, head down to the west end.
Now, I get to put in a shameless plug for the Chattanooga All-Star band, playing on the VW Stage before AND after Foreigner. The musicians, the best of the best from local bands throughout the Chattanooga area, play a variety show that includes oldies, pop, blues, rock, and country. The band is very, very good and features award winning talent from throughout the area. They have Riverbend pay Orange Grove Center in lieu of their performance fee – all of it, from both shows. I’ll be there to emcee the event and look forward to seeing you there to.
For the entire line-up, go to www.riverbendfestival.com. Just click on “line-up”. You can then sort by day or stage or artist. A cool thingy you can get is a “pointsmap” for your smart-phone. It gives you a map of the festival grounds and who’s playing when and where. It’s free and available by clicking http://riverbendfestival.com/pages/pointsmap.
Don’t forget to check out lunchtime activities as Riverbend stars visit local establishments in town to sing a song or two and sign autographs. For a schedule just click on – http://riverbendfestival.com/pages/riverbend-outreach. Just look on the left side and click on any of the three for schedules, places and times.
For all the 411 on Riverbend, check out my Riverbend Survival Kit at http://chattanoogan.com/2012/6/6/227794/Chattanoogas-Live-Music-Scene.aspx . Just click and away you go!
See you there!
Email Bob Payne at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/davrik2000
Bob Payne dons his Riverbend Hat!
- Photo2 by Lou Gramm