published Friday, May 11th, 2012

Phillips: Riverbend wages a deep-fried ninja surprise attack

As amazing -- or frankly, baffling -- as it may seem, Riverbend is just around the corner.

Frankly, I was astonished when I stopped to grab a drink at a gas station last week only to find this year's brochures sitting in an unassuming pile on the cashier's counter.

Maybe it was the lack of a true winter this year, but it's hard to believe that the event I associate the most with summer is fast approaching. In fact, there are just 28 days left until the masses converge on the waterfront for a smorgasbord of music (and fried ... well, everything).

Over the years, like all Riverbenders, I've had my fair share of good days and bad days at the festival.

There have been afternoons of brutal heat and monsoon-like downpours -- last year's Miranda Lambert show, for instance -- that make the experience seem like slogging through a self-inflicted crucible. Those aren't my favorite nights, but when weighed against the rare evenings with almost-too-perfect sunsets and a warm breeze blowing off the Tennessee, I almost understand what all the fuss is about.

So when I opened this year's brochure, it was with my usual mix of hopeless optimism that I would discover some gems to rave about and a fair bit of jaded fatalism that, yet again, I wouldn't care about the Coke Stage acts.

As usual, I was right on both counts.

Every year, I'm astonished by the sheer volume of artists slated to play, and 2012 was no exception as Friends of the Festival have managed to book more than 100 bands.

Here are a few who have already pinged my radar:

Futurebirds -- 6:15-7:30 p.m., June 8, Bud Light: These Athens, Ga.-based indie rockers have been at Track 29 twice in the past six months. Ever stop to wonder why?

Kaki King -- 7:30-9:30 p.m., June 9, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union: Fans who missed this innovative Atlanta-based guitar goddess's show at Barking Legs last year have no excuse for repeating their error, especially when they can do so whilst risking a punctured throats courtesy of delicious chicken-on-a-stick.

Joe Louis Walker -- 8-9:15 p.m., June 10, Unum: The Strut has undergone some changes this year, but blues fans shouldn't miss this San Francisco-based guitarist six-string howl, whether at the Riverfront or the next night on M.L. King.

The Most Important Band in the World -- 7:30-8:45 p.m., June 14, Volkswagen: Forget that it's the most presumptive (and imprecise) name on the schedule. This local classic-rock cover trio has chops to at least not embarrass itself with the claim. Seriously, check out the band's YouTube video of "Eruption/You've Really Got Me."

Am I intentionally forgetting to mention bigger names such as Gov't Mule (June 10) or Foghat (June 14)? No, of course not, but you know what to expect from guys with such history.

Nevertheless, I'm always interested in hearing others' thoughts on the schedule and what I may be overlooking (good or bad). Drop by a gas station, pick up a guide and shoot me an email with your thoughts.

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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