The Scenic City's signature summer music festival may have celebrated its 35th anniversary last year, but that doesn't mean there aren't new surprises in store. Here are our top five things to check out when the event again takes over the riverfront June 9-17.
1. If you didn't catch the Flaming Lips' sold-out show at Track 29 back in 2013, don't miss the alternative psychedelic rock band — named one of "the 50 bands you should see before you die" by Q Magazine — performing on the Coca-Cola Stage, just before the band jets across the pond to the UK's Glastonbury Festival. The Flaming Lips don't hold back with their live shows, which often include elaborate lighting, costumes, balloons, giant puppets and a human-sized bubble allowing frontman Wayne Coyne to enter the crowd. The spectacle is sure to make for a spectacular finale for the festival, which concludes with fireworks following the band's set June 17.
2. For the first time in many years, the festival is again featuring late-night acts from 11 p.m. to midnight on the Chevy Stage, located on the green at Power Alley in front of The Blue Plate. Hear your KZ106 favorites live with classic rock cover bands Legacy (June 9) or the Bo Ashby Band (June 11), or sing along with your favorite karaoke and dance tunes as Convertibull takes the stage (June 15). Check out local country group the Tyson Leamon Band (June 10), the authentic blues sound of the Delta Rockers (June 14) and Jason D. Williams' mix of honky tonk and rock n' roll (June 16).
3. Join Riverbend in celebrating our servicemen and women with the festival's Military Appreciation Night June 16, which complements the patriotism of Coca-Cola Stage performer Toby Keith, says Amy Morrow, marketing director for Friends of the Festival. The U.S. Army is among the sponsors of this year's Riverbend, and will be set up with representatives on-site. Every night of the festival, servicemembers and veterans can get one-day passes at a discounted price of $20.
4. Check out lots of free samples from a variety of vendors, such as bottled flavored teas from Gold Peak Tea. They're the perfect (as in, free) accompaniment to gator on a stick, which must be tried at least once.
5. Fulfill a young musician's dream with the Creative Discovery Museum's new Camp Riverbend, which gives kids ages 10-14 the opportunity to explore the stage, work with the lighting and stage crews, and chat with some of the performers. Campers will also get to visit the new Songbirds Guitar Museum, where the future songbirds will get a chance to try their own hands at performing onstage. Kids will also love the sand sculptures of Coca-Cola Stage performers, located on Riverfront Parkway heading away from the Coca-Cola Stage toward the Hunter Museum, where a new selfie-worthy sculpture is added every day of the festival.