Just Around the Riverbend

Just Around the Riverbend
Words by Erwin J. C. Davis

Music festivals and southern nights go together like tea leaves and sugar. With the return of showcases like Hangout, Bonnaroo, and Midtown Music Festival, summer concerts in the South are back in full swing. Case in point: The 39th Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  

This year marks the first time the big light will shine since before COVID, and it’s not just picking up where it left off. The three day series of music, food, and art in the Scenic City is upping its game to compete with the big boys of southeastern singalongs. A new capacity max to ensure smooth trekking of the riverfront stages, free water refill locations, barrierless venues to get you closer to the performers—Riverbend has a new face, and its eyes are on you. 

Captain Mickey McCamish, director of the festival and fellow Chattanoogan, says that the entire goal of the return is to put  emphasis on the festival goer; to provide an experience more than just a concert. Captain McCamish has been crucial in the revamp and talks of how the event was in need of a makeover.  “We’d gotten comfortable, I think,” he says. “It had been around for so long that you just get a little set in your ways. One thing I’ve always tried to do is listen to the average person who wants to attend. I listen to what they want to see, what they want to  do, and what they want to hear. And we do our best to adapt and change for the betterment of our showcase.”

Over the last four decades, Riverbend has put on a powerhouse  lineup of performers, from rock legends of the 80’s like REO Speedwagon to the king of blues himself, B.B. King. This year, the week’s headliners are of a new generation and a new crowd. With the average age of participant being in the mid-twenties to late-thirties, the team at Friends of the Festival (the organization responsible for Riverbend) have booked some monster names in today’s pop, indie, and folk scene—headlined by Brothers Osborne, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and Cage  The Elephant. Additionally, the local talent is on full display with hometown acts and artists working their magic on the edges.  

A triumphant return is the goal. A happy customer is the non-negotiable. 

Captain McCamish, having served his country in the Navy, knows what it takes to lead a ship to victory, and he understands the undertaking of making a statement in the concert’s return. “It takes an understanding of adjustment to know how to lead. We’re not just here to do what’s been done and keep the ship afloat. We want to go forth, and we only want to do so with the customer in mind. Without them, there is no Riverbend 40th. I’d like to thank everyone who has stayed with us and supported the festival through the last couple years. They will not be  disappointed.” 

Riverbend 2022 takes place between June 2nd and June 5th. Tickets are on sale now at riverbendfestival.com.