Every year, it begins with denial, and it ends - grudgingly - with acceptance.
I'm sure Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross didn't have me in mind in 1969 when she theorized the five stages of the grieving process, but her model pretty much perfectly mirrors how I react to the trickle of announcements of who will headline Riverbend each summer.
In the past, I would try to ignore it as long as possible (denial). Then, I would rant and rave about having to write about it (anger). At some point, I inevitably would suggest my own lineup additions (bargaining) before realizing I wasn't the festival's target audience (depression).
It wasn't until much later that I concluded that nothing I could say or do would change the situation, so I should just get on with it (acceptance).
About two years ago, I began streamlining the process.
So far this year, Friends of the Festival has announced four headliners: Christian rock/R&B artist TobyMac, jam band Widespread Panic and country singers Gary Allan and Justin Moore.
Everyone's musical tastes are different, and some people undoubtedly were excited by these announcements, but I can't imagine three styles of music I could care less about.
And if I don't like a genre to begin with, what does it matter if we booked one of its biggest names? A diamond-studded Brussels sprout may be prettier than its brethren, but you'd be hard pressed to convince me it tastes any better.
Every year, it's just new leads in an annual reprisal of the same tired play: a handful of country acts, a big-name Christian group, a backsliding classic rocker, a second-string R&B artist and a former "American Idol" finalist, who they will take great pains to convince you is still "fresh and exciting."
I stopped getting excited about Riverbend's headliners years ago because it feels as pointless as expecting revolutionary artwork from a paint-by-numbers kit. Still, even long ago having accepted that, it's a bit disheartening to know I'm probably never going to be excited by the artists who presumably are the festival's biggest attractions.
Thankfully, I've also learned that it's just as pointless to get upset as it is to get excited. I still like to pretend Riverbend isn't coming - not REALLY - but I've come to all but skip over the middle steps of the Kübler-Ross model and just accept the festival for what it is.
Call it the Phillips two-step.
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205.