In Tune: Looking into Riverbend's crystal ball

In Tune: Looking into Riverbend's crystal ball

June 12th, 2014 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Outabout

Welcome to the Twilight Zone.

To you, the festival is almost over, but because of zany deadlines, I'm writing this before the first chicken-on-a-stick has been sold.

Every year, I pack this mid-Riverbend column full of my hopes and aspirations for the festival, knowing that by the time it's read, they will have already been proven to be well-founded or preposterous.

For example, how is the new wristband system working out?

After decades of employing admission pins, organizers have shifted over this year to plastic bands that must be scanned at the gate going in and -- before 10 p.m. -- coming out.

It's a move designed to cut down on double-dipping admission through shared pins, but even discounting the grossly exaggerated attendance figures reported by Friends of the Festival, that's tens of thousands of bar codes that must be scanned every night by two dozen or so volunteers. If the system doesn't come together smoothly -- a distinct possibility -- then the bottlenecking at the gates could be truly epic.

And how was Widespread Panic's show? Every year, organizers claim one headliner or another will set attendance records, but the Athens, Ga.-based jam rockers are one of this year's surest bets for living up to the hype.

If the band did manage to bring in legions of fans, was the audience well-behaved? Hopefully, everyone was too -- ahem -- "influenced" to be feeling particularly violent, but I once saw a man cold-cocked on Riverfront Parkway while Willie Nelson crooned twangily about peace, love and happiness, so I've learned to expect anything.

What about the Strut? Chattanooga's biggest bluesy block party used to be my favorite night of the festival, but it's undergone changes I find sad and distasteful in the wake of shifting stewardship over to the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

With the implementation of gated entrances and an admission fee, the crowds last year seemed smaller and significantly less racially diverse than the years when it was free. Hopefully, the kinks have been worked out and a bit of that festive flair is back, but I'm not holding my breath.

So, people of the future, a lot can happen in eight days, but I have my fingers crossed that this Riverbend is memorable for all the right reasons.

At least one thing should make that outcome more likely than last year: CeeLo Green's tour schedule shows that his butt cheeks will be hundreds of miles away. Don't fret; your delicate sensibilities are safe.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.