This year’s Riverbend Festival brought to Chattanooga acts ranging from Brandy to Dierks Bentley to Cee Lo’s backside. And on Saturday night, the last night of the festival, the city’s biggest series of shows closed with O.A.R.
Wendy Godwin could not have been much happier. She has been a fan of the Maryland-based rock band for about 10 years. So when she saw the 32nd annual Riverbend lineup on Facebook two months ago, she begged her husband to bring her.
“I told him that would be an awesome birthday present,” she said Saturday evening, sitting beside Jason Godwin on the lawn in front of the Coke Stage two hours before O.A.R. was scheduled to take the stage.
O.A.R. took the stage in front of a full lawn at 9:30, opening with their songs “Dangerous Connection” and “About Mr. Brown.”
Lead singer Marc Roberge gazed out over the crowd.
“I’m looking around but all I see is people,” he said.
Allen Stone, of LaFayette, Ga. said he has been coming to Riverbend for about 28 years. This hasn’t been his favorite year, by a long shot.
“This is the worst year ever, as far as the headliners,” Allen Stone said. “At least, for us it is.”
Festival Executive Director Chip Baker also said this year’s festival wasn’t quite as good as some, but for different reasons.
First there was Cee Lo, who showed up about 45 minutes late to his June 8 performance, drank tequila on stage and dropped f-bombs throughout his show. He capped the evening by mooning the crowd.
But, Baker said, the weather was even more unpredictable and did more damage. It rained on four nights, causing crowds to shrink and hurting concession sales, which Baker said account for 22 percent of revenue.
Overall, however, he said the festival still went pretty well.
He said Florida Georgia Line’s June 7 show drew a record crowd — reportedly 20,000 — to the Bud Light Stage. Moon Taxi’s performance Friday on the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Stage also broke attendance records, he said.
Baker said he’s sad for the festival to close but happy to get a break, finally.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “There’s a lot of momentum going into it. That continues through the festival. Then, it stops.”
Since Thursday night, Baker has hosted some of the most respected festival planners in the world. Board members of the International Festivals & Events Association came to town this weekend for a pair of meetings.
Among other things, the association provides a chance for festival planners to exchange ideas. President Steven Wood Schmader said the board members were impressed with this year’s Riverbend.
He said the festival draws plenty of volunteers and is supported by city leaders.
This, he said, is key.
Also, Schmader said, Riverbend has done a good job of staying fresh, or at least taking risks with the acts it books. “Everybody has challenges,” he said. “That is not a good or bad. That’s a reality. … Thirty-two years is a long run for an event to still be going strong.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6472.