Why Les Claypool coming to Riverbend is more than just a show

Sean Lennon, Harry Waters, Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison coming also

NWA Media/MICHAEL WOODS / Les Claypool's Duo de Twang plays a set on the main stage of the eighth annual Yonder Mountain String Band Harvest Music Festival at Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas. He will be bringing a revamped version of Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade to Riverbend 2023.

When Les Claypool announced to the world two weeks ago that the tour schedule for Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade tour would include a stop in Chattanooga on June 4, it signaled a shift change for the Riverbend Festival.

While the announcement didn't include a venue, it wasn't hard for people to figure out that the date coincided with the festival's June 2-4 schedule. Fans around the country make a sport of trying to guess who will be playing at events like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. There are entire Reddit threads dedicated to such things with people making mock lineups and studying a favorite band's tour schedule to see if they might have an opening at the time of a certain event.

I've been writing about the local music scene since 1985 or so, and I've seen what I consider to be significant milestones over the years -- Itzhak Perlman playing the UTC Roundhouse, as the arena was called then. The Pointer Sisters drawing a huge crowd to Riverbend in 1984, R.E.M. at the arena in 1989, Elton John there in 1999 with co-writer Bernie Taupin making a surprise appearance. Jack White selling out Track 29 in minutes in 2012, and Moon River selling all 10,000 tickets at $99 a pop in its inaugural year here in 2018.

Riverbend has had several bands over the years that broke the country/classic rock mold the festival was best known for, but for me, The Flaming Lips playing Riverbend in 2017 was a breakthrough moment into what might be considered a current festival rock act.

There were others, but all of those were significant shift changes because they showed that big names were willing to play Chattanooga and people would pay big-city dollars to see them.

The full Riverbend lineup is again filled with acts that can be found at other festivals, including Maren Morris, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Trombone Shorty as the headliners. The lineup includes 49 Winchester, Amanda Shires, Amos Lee, Big Boi, Blackberry Smoke, Brandon Davis, Brian Brown, Coin, Doom Flamingo, Gayle, Goose, Lucius, Indigo De Souza, Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew, Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, Luke Simmons and Love Struck, Stephen Wilson Jr., Strung Like a Horse, The Afternooners, The Sweet Lizzy Project and Mavis Staples.

  photo  Staff photo by Erin O. Smith / Mavis Staples performs during the Moon River Music Festival Sunday, September 9, 2018 in Coolidge Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She will play this year's Riverbend Festival.

For me, the big news regarding the Claypool announcement was not only that the former Primus founder would be bringing his unique show and talents to Chattanooga, but that he would be bringing Sean Lennon and Harry Waters with him. John Lennon's son coming to our city is about as close to a Beatle as we're going to get, so for Fab Four fans, that alone is pretty darn cool.

Harry is the son of Roger Waters, who before last week was best known for his work with Pink Floyd.

In the past, we might have gotten a Claypool here, but it would be a one-off with just him doing a solo show of acoustic numbers while Lennon and Waters take a day off. Nothing wrong with that, but getting the same show that New York or Los Angeles is getting is different.

Even more significant is that we are also getting Harrison and Belew performing the Talking Heads' "Remain in Light" album. That too is part of the Claypool tour. They will perform on June 2 while Claypool plays June 4 at Riverbend.

Harrison and Belew were going to be part of the 2021 Bonnaroo show, and it was my do-not-miss set from the whole event. Sadly, flooding and heavy rains resulted in the cancellation of the festival that year. I love the Talking Heads and even more Belew's work with David Bowie, King Crimson and Frank Zappa.

He's a bigger deal in my universe than Claypool, actually.

Whether a lineup is good or bad is obviously subjective, but I do believe there are milestones for a venue, city or event, and this seems to be one for Riverbend and Chattanooga.

And, you didn't ask, but don't miss Goose, either.

  photo  (The New York Times/Kristine Potter) / Singer-songwriter Maren Morris will headline Riverbend 2023.