published Friday, May 20th, 2011

Phillips: Riverbend side stages a cure to headliner doldrums

Last week, I lamented that this year’s Riverbend Coke Stage lineup was a bit of a letdown to me. Lest I be taken for a doomsayer, however, I was by no means suggesting the festival will be a wash — far from it.

As any true music aficionado knows, the best, most exciting shows at Riverbend are found on the side stages. Last year alone, it was there that I heard amazing performances by artists like Dumpstaphunk, Arturo Sandoval and Otis Taylor.

This year, the side stages have even more to offer. Here are 10 acts I’m planning my nights around.

1. The Secret Sisters (June 10, 7:45-9 p.m., TVFCU Stage). T Bone Burnett produced the latest album by this Nashville-based, mournful-voiced country/folk duo. Think along the lines of The Everly (Sisters).

2. Glamourlyke (June 11, 8-9:15 p.m., Unum Stage). This Atlanta/Chattanooga-based trio perform hip-hop, a genre that’s grossly underrepresented at the festival.

3. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (June 11, 9:30-11 p.m., Unum Stage). He-Man he’s not, but saxophonist Denson is the master of his own funky microcosm.

4. Jeff Coffin’s Mutet (June 12, 8-9:15 p.m., Unum Stage). Saxophonist/clarinetist Coffin is a member of Bela Fleck’s supergroup, The Flecktones, which automatically makes him a musical genius.

5. North Mississippi Allstars Duo (June 12, 7:45-9 p.m., Bud Light Stage). Black Crowes guitarist Luther Dickinson leads this Grammy-nominated blues/Southern rock band from — shocker — Mississippi.  

6. John Lee Hooker Jr. (June 12, 9:45 p.m.-midnight, TVFCU Stage, and June 13, 7:30-8:45 p.m., Bessie Smith Hall). The senior Hooker was a Blues and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and based on his son’s smoky vocals, the true-blue Delta sound definitely runs in the family.

7. Uriah Heep (June 15, 7:45-9 p.m., Bud Light Stage). Uriah Heep is up there with Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin as one of the defining forces of ’70s British hard/prog rock. With few exceptions, the lineup has been mostly solid for 25 years — a good sign.

8. Lubriphonic (June 16, 6:15-7:30 p.m., Bud Light). This funky blues outfit from Chicago has a super-tight lineup led by killer guitarist/lead singer Giles Corey. Go check out “Rain Keep Fallin’” on YouTube ... you’re welcome.

9. Bob Dorough & Friends (June 17, 7:15-9:15 p.m., Unum Stage). From “Three Is a Magic Number” to “Conjunction Junction,” Dorough penned and sang most of the songs that edu-tained generations of “Schoolhouse Rocks!” viewers. He also happens to be a killer jazz musician.

10. Carolina Chocolate Drops (June 18, 6-7:15 p.m., Bud Light Stage). After headlining Nightfall last year, this Durham, N.C.-based trio turned around and won a Grammy Award. They embrace the string band tradition while giving it a high-energy, modern spin.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I didn’t touch on A1A, Grupo Fantasma, The Stone Foxes, Dirty Guv’nahs or any of the dozens of amazing local acts who will be at the festival.

So if you’re feeling a case of headliner doldrums, relax. A pick-me-up is just a stage away.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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bpqd said...

Bonnaroo is June 9 through 12. Even Loretta Lynn will be there. That's what happened to the lineup.

If we don't pay these acts to come here, then what we'll get is a long week in the hot sun with mullets and funnel cakes and expensive beer cups that are too small.

Our primary Riverbend goers will be certain FM radio station listeners who have not heard a programming change since 1987. Okay, there was that one Kenny Wayne Shepherd album that got added in after we stopped spending on the music library. Aside from that, the programming expectations have been unchanged for over 20 years.

The Bessie Smith Strut is the best thing that we've got going during Riverbend. The only other music venue close are the Nightfall concerts.

The pins are $30. A seat near the stage that used to be free is now another $20 per night.

Parking. The only free parking is the one guy parked illegally on the shoulder of the road with his whole family and a cooler by the bumper of his car on fireworks night; because, he knows the cops won't tell him to move on (rightfully so) until the kids see the show. That spot will be on a strip of poorly designed asphalt at the Manufacturer's Road exit, where a sign post blocks off something that looks like a traffic lane but is not a traffic lane.

It's the only entertainment many can afford: sitting on the side of the road and hoping to catch a glimpse of the show. It's also the least of the headaches associated with going to Riverbend. On the fringe of the crowd, it's easiest to get out when it's time to get gone.

If we're paying $5 or $10 a night for parking, it's a hundred bucks to get out of the car, walk around, see many unattractive people standing in line. If you buy one drink a night or a seat for one of these acts, you're sure to clear $100 from your wallet. Then, you can sit there and wait in the heat.

Meanwhile, you know, while all this is happening, that this is happening to you because you are not cool enough to go to Bonnaroo.

It's flat out too expensive. We can park for free in some North Shore neighborhood and hit up the Donut Lady on Frazier if we want a mediocre funnel cake. The bill will come to less than a hundred dollars per week. Even if we bring the kids.

Listen to some Skynard and wear one of those novelty mullet baseball caps, and it'll be almost just like being there.

The only way to cure headliner doldrums: don't go, stay away from the downtown traffic snarl, and do something else for a week. Then, when it's all over, excepting maybe an hour or two at the Strut, we can return to enjoying downtown again.

And please, let us hope that downtown restaurants do a better job of handling their turkey leg pre-barbecuing contracts than they did the other year. Those contracts, while important to downtown restauranteurs, are not a substitute for preparing normal meals on Turkey Leg night.

Here's to waiting out Riverbend. Cheers.


May 21, 2011 at 4:33 p.m.
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