Riverbend has been late to the electronic dance music party, but officials at the festival hope they have found a solution that will make not only EDM fans happy, but local DJs as well.
Friends of the Festival, which produces Riverbend, will present Silent Disco Powered by Silent Events during the first weekend of the festival, June 6-8, and they have the option to offer it the following weekend as well. Providing the music will be six local DJs, who will be selected by fan votes at two "tryouts" set to take place at JJ's Bohemia over consecutive weekends in May. The exact dates have yet to be determined.
"We know how far behind we are with EDM, so we decided to go right into the community to give them what they want," Riverbend assistant talent and production coordinator Jeff Styles says.
Silent discos are a fairly new phenomenon popular at festivals like the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, which will be June 6-8 in Manchester, Tenn. Participants are given a set of headphones which allows only them to hear the music played by a DJ.
Riverbend actually had a small scale silent disco under the Market Street Bridge in 2012. It was presented by Chattanooga State Community College.
At this year's Riverbend, the festival is handling the Silent Disco and expanding it. Two DJs will be programming music simultaneously, while dancers with headphones can choose which DJ to listen to. So half the crowd could be dancing to a Bassnectar or Skrillex song while the other half is dancing and singing along to a Journey track, for example. It's as much a spectator sport as it is a dance party, even though the viewing audience can't hear the music.
"It's fun for the dancers, but the real show is for the people watching them," Styles says.
Riverbend talent and production coordinator Joe "Dixie" Fuller says he plans to have a light show accompanying the DJs and possibly a video screen. The whole production will take place in front of the Bud Light Stage from 9:30 to 11 p.m. while the headlining act is performing on the Coca-Cola Stage.
"I think it's great Riverbend is stepping up for the city," says Sean Stewart, an evening on-air personality at WDOD-FM 96.5, and an EDM fan. "This makes the festival more appealing to fans of all genres and all ages. If someone 19 to 24 isn't into Widespread [Panic] or one of the country acts or eating a giant turkey leg, they can go and listen to this and have a good time. It opens it up to a bigger demographic.
"It's so much fun. You put these headphones on and dance like you are in your room and no one is watching."
Facilitating the DJ selection process will be David and Joel Ruiz of 423PK, a local music promotions organization. Local DJs can apply at 423pk.com. The brothers will choose the 16 DJs who will perform at JJ's. The plan is to have one perform inside the club while the other sets up for his set in the outside stage area.
"It should go really smoothly," David Ruiz says. "For this first year, we only want local DJs and, to be eligible, they have to fill out a 423PK profile, which is free."
Joel Ruiz estimates there are about 300 DJs in the area. "We will not have any trouble finding 16 really good musicians for this," he says.
Fans will choose their favorites, with the top six earning the confirmed first weekend slots. The next six will be alternates with the chance to perform the second weekend if the crowds turn out as expected, Styles says.
Riverbend will take place June 6-14.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-413-6354.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...