Chattanooga Now City Beat: Riverbend critiques have already begun

Chattanooga Now City Beat: Riverbend critiques have already begun

January 23rd, 2014 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Music

Riverbend has released the names of several acts that will be performing during this year's festival, June 6-14, and for me part of the fun is tracking the reactions and comments that immediately follow the announcements. Criticizing Riverbend is as much a part of the event as attending for some.

Most of the comments could be written well before the names are dropped. With Riverbend, there is always the "too much country" cry, and there is always the "why can't they book a good act like (fill in the blank)." As to the first, the most popular radio station in town happens to be country, the country nights at Riverbend are always well attended, the CMA Music Festival is in Nashville the same week so artists are in the area, and people who go spend money, so that is why at least two of the nine nights will likely always feature country headliners.

Part of Riverbend's charm is also what makes it an easy target, and that is its diversity. It books acts across almost all genres, and while everybody says they like all kinds of music, really they don't, and often they don't with a passion. Someone might like country and hip-hop, but it's rare if they also like Top 40 pop or bluegrass, for example. And make no mistake, country and bluegrass are not the same thing.

Most of the indie-rock fans I know like little else, and they burn with a passion to tell you why the music you like stinks.

What has fascinated me for decades is the seemingly contradictory nature of many of the Riverbend critiques. A fair number of critics will lament the number of "oldies" acts. Where it gets really fun is when someone says something like, "Don't get Alice Cooper; he's like 150 years old. Get Little Feat instead." These are almost as funny as the "I hate Riverbend. I've never been" comments.

Last week it was announced that jam-band giants Widespread Panic would headline, and a friend immediately posted on Facebook: "I saw them open for Psycho Bible at the Gazebo in 1990." Now this guy is a music snob who would find fault in a lineup featuring all four Beatles, The Doors, Sinatra, Janis Joplin, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and Mozart, assuming Riverbend could raise the dead. Not liking someone because they've had the misfortune of being around for awhile is a little extreme.

The one truth about the schedule is this: If they book your favorite act, it's a great lineup.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.