Last week, I lamented that this year’s Riverbend Coke Stage lineup was a bit of a letdown to me. Lest I be taken for a doomsayer, however, I was by no means suggesting the festival will be a wash — far from it.
As any true music aficionado knows, the best, most exciting shows at Riverbend are found on the side stages. Last year alone, it was there that I heard amazing performances by artists like Dumpstaphunk, Arturo Sandoval and Otis Taylor.
This year, the side stages have even more to offer. Here are 10 acts I’m planning my nights around.
1. The Secret Sisters (June 10, 7:45-9 p.m., TVFCU Stage). T Bone Burnett produced the latest album by this Nashville-based, mournful-voiced country/folk duo. Think along the lines of The Everly (Sisters).
2. Glamourlyke (June 11, 8-9:15 p.m., Unum Stage). This Atlanta/Chattanooga-based trio perform hip-hop, a genre that’s grossly underrepresented at the festival.
3. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (June 11, 9:30-11 p.m., Unum Stage). He-Man he’s not, but saxophonist Denson is the master of his own funky microcosm.
4. Jeff Coffin’s Mutet (June 12, 8-9:15 p.m., Unum Stage). Saxophonist/clarinetist Coffin is a member of Bela Fleck’s supergroup, The Flecktones, which automatically makes him a musical genius.
5. North Mississippi Allstars Duo (June 12, 7:45-9 p.m., Bud Light Stage). Black Crowes guitarist Luther Dickinson leads this Grammy-nominated blues/Southern rock band from — shocker — Mississippi.
6. John Lee Hooker Jr. (June 12, 9:45 p.m.-midnight, TVFCU Stage, and June 13, 7:30-8:45 p.m., Bessie Smith Hall). The senior Hooker was a Blues and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and based on his son’s smoky vocals, the true-blue Delta sound definitely runs in the family.
7. Uriah Heep (June 15, 7:45-9 p.m., Bud Light Stage). Uriah Heep is up there with Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin as one of the defining forces of ’70s British hard/prog rock. With few exceptions, the lineup has been mostly solid for 25 years — a good sign.
8. Lubriphonic (June 16, 6:15-7:30 p.m., Bud Light). This funky blues outfit from Chicago has a super-tight lineup led by killer guitarist/lead singer Giles Corey. Go check out “Rain Keep Fallin’” on YouTube ... you’re welcome.
9. Bob Dorough & Friends (June 17, 7:15-9:15 p.m., Unum Stage). From “Three Is a Magic Number” to “Conjunction Junction,” Dorough penned and sang most of the songs that edu-tained generations of “Schoolhouse Rocks!” viewers. He also happens to be a killer jazz musician.
10. Carolina Chocolate Drops (June 18, 6-7:15 p.m., Bud Light Stage). After headlining Nightfall last year, this Durham, N.C.-based trio turned around and won a Grammy Award. They embrace the string band tradition while giving it a high-energy, modern spin.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I didn’t touch on A1A, Grupo Fantasma, The Stone Foxes, Dirty Guv’nahs or any of the dozens of amazing local acts who will be at the festival.
So if you’re feeling a case of headliner doldrums, relax. A pick-me-up is just a stage away.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...