Being a consumer of pop culture can feel like an exhausting proposition. With the improvements to and decreased price of cameras and recording equipment, independent films and songs are being created at such a pace that there's no chance, mathematically speaking, of experiencing everything that comes out.
Consequently, we tend to shy away from moving too far off the beaten track when it comes to our consumption of pop culture. Instead, we stick to what we know or are told we'll like. We watch what Netflix suggests, buy tickets to the handful of films that make it to national theater chains, and we allow radio airplay or Spotify recommendations to guide our listening habits.
That makes for a lot of undiscovered territory on the pop-culture map, and every once in a while, it's nice to wander off — or be forced off — the trail to try something new and unexpected.
In that sense, events like Riverbend are fertile ground for musical discovery. However you feel about the festival, with 100 artists performing there, chances are you probably don't know many of them. That leaves plenty of opportunity to find something new and unexpectedly amazing.
On June 15, for instance, a storm shut down music on every stage but the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Stage beneath the Walnut Street Bridge. That chance meteorological event introduced me to The Trongone Band, a Virginia-based Southern rock quartet who haven't put out an album yet and, thus, passed totally under my radar.
Their set — at the time, the only live music at the festival — proved them to be every bit the equals of Blackberry Smoke, who preceded them with a much more highly publicized show on the main Coke Stage. Trongone exuded such passion and in-the-moment zeal that their music came across as fresh and authentic in the way Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers probably did 50 years ago.
Whether because of their outrageous talent or the fact that fate seemed to have drawn so many of us under the bridge that evening, Trongone's show felt like a religious convening as much as a concert. It exhibited the textbook feedback loop between artist and audience that results in the steady buildup of energy that live music fans live for. It was a thrill to experience firsthand, and it was only with great reluctance that I eventually left to ensure Brett Eldredge didn't electrocute himself on the recently soaked Coke Stage.
Riverbend is done and gone now, but if you have any musical discoveries of your own from this year that you'd like to share, shoot me an email. I'd love to hear about them.
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.