published Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Phillips: Festival offered 10 'firsts'

By the time you read this, Riverbend is over and your retinas are probably still hurting after last night's fireworks display, which I hopefully watched from the air-conditioned comfort of my living room.

Since this is the last Riverbend column I'll write, a logical topic would be a summation of my experience. With nine days and dozens of shows to work with, concisely doing so is a daunting task.

Since this is being written on the last day and lists are easy, I'll look back at 10 "firsts" I experienced this year.

1. My first year to not to see Roberto the Magnificent. To some degree, I actually missed the roaming, unicycle-bound prop artist, but I can't say I would have found his clumsy waiter routine any funnier if he'd been there.

2. My first Willie Nelson concert. Given that Mr. Nelson turned 76 on April 30, every show has the chance of being his last. Like thousands of you, I was glad to seize the opportunity to see him on opening night.

3. My first attempt to live on a cocktail of Diet Mountain Dew and ibuprofen. After injuring my foot the second night, that's about the only way I've been able to make it around without limping like a pirate. If painkillers affected the coherence of my writing, you have my apologies.

4. On a similar note, my first trip on the electric shuttle. God bless those free rides. I wouldn't have made it otherwise.

5. My first encounter with someone with demonstrably worse fashion sense than me. Running into an elderly man in coveralls wearing light-up bunny ears and trying to sell more of them was a reassuring sign that there really are people occupying lower rungs of the fashion ladder than me.

6. My first realization of a latent mastery of Texas trivia. Passing the "Texas or Not Texas" quiz at the Texas on Tour exhibit with 100 percent accuracy was surprising, indicating that I either lived there in a past life or have a phenomenal capacity for guessing.

7. My first year seeing the acts I wanted to see. From witnessing Adrian Belew's liquefying guitar skills to sitting spell-bound at the feet of Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros, I finally managed to make it out to hear almost everyone on my can't-miss list.

8. My first unimpeded walk along Riverfront Parkway during a headlining performance. Probably due to the reorientation of the stages, the usual traffic snarl was ... unsnarled.

9. My first encounter with a professional sand sculptor. Watching Mark Mason and the rest of Team Sandtastic do their thing was remarkable. Fortunately, the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union has them on a three-year contract, so if you missed their work, you'll have two more opportunities.

10. My first sunburn-free Riverbend. Thanks to liberal and frequent application of aerosol sunblock, I managed to avoid developing my usual crispy crust. Judging by the lobsterlike appearance of some 'benders, you weren't all so lucky.

All in all, this was probably the best time I've had at Riverbend since moving here in 2007. The artists were particularly good, the weather stayed dry and less-than-stifling and many of the quibbles I've had in years past were resolved.

Still, I'm ready to take a break, so I'll see you at the festival next year.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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