In Tune: Local artists bask in Riverbend spotlight

By Casey Phillips Article posted on Thu. June 19th, 2014
Matt Downer and Clark Williams, members of the Old Time Travelers, perform under the Market Street Bridge during the final day of the Riverbend Festival on Saturday.
Matt Downer and Clark Williams, members of the Old Time Travelers, perform under the Market Street Bridge during the final day of the Riverbend Festival on Saturday.
Photo by Erin O. Smith.

So how was it, Chattanooga? Was this Riverbend one for the books or one you'd rather forget?

With the exception of a drenching in the early hours of Faith and Family Night, I'd say this was one of the festival's better iterations. As usual, I avoided the Coke Stage like the plague, but fortunately, the wealth of amazing artists on the side stages meant there was plenty to distract from the -- to me -- middling offerings on the barge.

One of my favorite things about Riverbend is how it shines a spotlight on local artists, and this year, officials said about 40 percent of the acts that played the festival live within 50 miles of Chattanooga.

Case in point: Paul Hadfield and The McCoys' set was a fantastic way to kick things off Friday night. Before the festival, I'd never heard of Hadfield, but his band's country-fried roots rock quickly convinced me that these musicians were well worth writing about for reasons beyond being the first band on the first night playing the festival for the first time. Writers love hooks to hang stories on, but as a music lover, it was nice to know they deserved the attention for artistic reasons as well.

I could heap similar praise on Amber Fults & The Ambivalent Lovers and the Von Wamp Experience, both of whom were characteristically excellent and helped to demonstrate what I'm always harping on about when it comes to the quality of local artists.

Fults and Wamp performed on Wednesday, a night that featured arguably the festival's strongest lineup, including Allen Stone, The Black Cadillacs, Nikki Hill and The Family Stone. Any one of those acts would have been enough to get me out of the house and into a club, so it was a treat to hear them on the same night, even if I wish they'd been spaced out throughout the week to give me adequate time to enjoy them all.

Many of the issues I was worried about this year -- and which I detailed in last week's column -- were proven to be unfounded.

Despite reports that the scanners used to admit guests using the new wristband system were slightly temperamental, the long lines I expected to see at the gates never materialized.

With the exception of a break-in and robbery after the fact, this year's Bessie Smith Strut was at least on par with last year, if not slightly improved. It's not quite the event I used to cherish, but it's at least creeping in the right direction.

That's my take, folks. What's yours? Consult your scorecards and send me an email with your Riverbend evaluation.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

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