It's festival week in Tennessee with two of the largest in the country taking place: Bonnaroo this past weekend, our own Riverbend continuing through Saturday. This was my 13th Bonnaroo and is my 37th Riverbend. I've done zero CMA Fests in Nashville, which was also last weekend.
I've seen plenty of changes at both over those years, which is very likely why both are still around. Adapt or go away, right? Since Bonnaroo is fresh on my mind, let's talk about those changes.
Security is at the forefront of many people's minds these days, and it certainly was in Manchester, Tennessee, at Great Stage Park. Only clear bags and backpacks were allowed inside Centeroo this year, for example.
Metal detectors were at every gate, though as you can imagine, the volunteers who manned them for 12-hour shifts got tired pretty quickly of the constant beeping from cell phones, cameras, car keys and anything that set them off, so there wasn't a lot of policing going on.
Still, most everyone understood and appreciated the idea of having them. Also, the gates to get in and out were closed overnight, which was new this year.
Most people don't know it, but while you don't see a lot of security personnel on site, it doesn't mean you are not being watched. Apparently there is a pretty high-tech camera system and a control room on The Farm that lets security monitor nearly everything. They can tell if you are eating mushrooms on your spicy pizza, for example.
The two most-talked-about changes this year were the lighting added to the trees in Centeroo and enhancements made in General Admission camping. Lighting may seem like a small thing, but I'm not talking about a single white uplight. These were colored lights that totally lit up the trees, animating the entire space.
Out in GA, which used to be like visiting a Third World country, they added barns that served as venues for music, comedy, cooking demonstrations and art showcases. Cage the Elephant and several other acts did surprise shows out there. Also, the bathroom and shower situations were much improved.
-I need to clarify something I wrote in last week's column: Local blues singer/songwriter/guitar player Drew Sterchi is in the talking stages with well-known producer Tom Hambridge.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-413-6354.