published Thursday, June 6th, 2013

In Tune: Riverbend's here ... when did that happen?

So, Riverbend starts tomorrow. Also, there's a mouth-breathing elephant crouched in the corner with a towel over its head, trying desperately to avoid notice.

The city's biggest festival usually arrives with all the stealth and subtlety of a sugar rush, but this year, it seems to have slipped onto the riverfront with muffled paddles under cover of night. The normal fanfare with which Friends of the Festival trumpets the event seems somewhat muted, the traditional horn section replaced by a chorus of lackadaisical crickets.

That's not to say there's nothing to be excited about or worth drawing attention to this year. As many people have pointed out, this year's headliner lineup is arguably the most current in years, in terms of how many artists have actively charting material. If you told me six years ago that Riverbend would host Cee Lo Green, my response would have been, "No way. From Gnarls Barkley? That's -- crazy," after which I would have laughed uproariously at my grasp of punny humor.

Cee Lo's a get, for sure, and probably the Coke Stage artist I am most excited to see, primarily because he represents a facet of music that actually appeals to me. The rest of the headliner lineup, for all its currency, is composed of the usual mix of country heavy-hitters (Jake Owen) and a handful of once-were's (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and almost-are's (O.A.R.). With the exception of rumors that Weezer might have played, the headliner announcements hit with the impact of a dip in a sensory deprivation tank, leaving me feeling neither under- nor overwhelmed -- just whelmed.

But that's Riverbend. Rising ticket prices and changes to the way security is handled notwithstanding, Friends of the Festival has its routine down pat. Executive Director Chip Baker and company know what is going to get crowds in the gates, and most people in Chattanooga don't share my taste in music.

Maybe that's a clue to the lack of fanfare. Little has changed this year, content-wise, except the one-year Meo Mio Stage experiment going the way of the dodo. This year's festival has a decided air of placidity that is either comforting or disconcerting, depending on whether you like things the way they are or are itching for a change.

I'm withholding judgment until tomorrow, but you shouldn't feel the need to hold it in. Are you looking forward to the next nine days or are you, like me, feeling a bit of festival ennui? Email me, and we'll compare notes.

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

about Casey Phillips...

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 ...

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