Sunday, June 01, 2008

Summer music festivals: Rockin' & rollin' in the Southeast

Yesterday's article about the "world's strangest festivals" inspired me to write about festivals and concerts within a tankful's driving distance that I might visit this summer.

If rock and roll is in your blood, and Tennessee and north Georgia are on your mind, you might want to check out these coming events.
  • Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, Tennessee, June 12-15 — This music, comedy, cinema and art festival is known for music and mud. Rolling Stone magazine called the first Bonnaroo in 2002 "one of the 50 moments that changed the history of rock and roll."

    This year's four-day event features dozens and dozens of musical acts including Pearl Jam, Widespread Panic, B.B. King, Phil Lesh & Friends, Death Cab for Cutie, Metallica, Jack Johnson, Robert Plant & Alison Kraus, Willie Nelson, Derek Trucks, Kanye West, Little Feat, Back Door Slam, Aimee Mann, Drive-by Truckers, Jakob Dylan and others. Comedy acts include Chris Rock, Janeane Garafalo, Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis, Jim Norton, Brian Posehn, Mike Birbiglia, Reggie Watts, John Mulaney, Michelle Buteau, Joe DeRosa and Leo Allen.

    Unless you're actually going to this event, forget traveling between Chattanooga and Nashville before, during and after Bonnaroo. Interstate 24 is pretty much a parking lot in the Manchester area most of the week.

  • Closer to (my) home is Chattanooga, which hosts the Riverbend Festival from June 6-14. Expect more polo shirts than t-shirts, less (visible) drug use, and certainly less mud than at Bonnaroo. This two-week festival is sponsored by major beer and soft drink companies, with Moon Pie® and Little Debbie® frankenfoods kicking in extra cash to support the Chattanooga Christian Community Foundation's "Faith & Family Night" on Tuesday, June 10.

    Musical acts include The Black Crowes, Angel, Jack Aikens, Rob Aldredge, Bachman-Cummings, Rodney Atkins, Black Diamond Heavies, Blues Nation, Joe Bonamassa, Boom, Corinne Chapman, Alex Chilton and the Box Tops, Mark Farner (formerly of Grand Funk Railroad), The Dismembered Tennesseans, A Fall from Grace, The Derailers, Futureman and the Black Mozart Ensemble, Galactic, Little Big Town, Live Oak, and more.

    For $28 (through June 5) you can buy a Riverbend Festival Pin that will get you into the Riverbend Festival every day, or after the 5th you can buy single day passes. The pin is definitely more economical overall, if you plan on attending more than one day. Kids 10 and under are admitted free.

  • If you like music events that are less crowded and less expensive (free!), then check out the 20th year of Chattanooga's Nightfall Series. Each Friday night from May 23rd through September 26 (except during the Riverbend Festival), free 2-act concerts take place in Miller Park in downtown Chattanooga. Bring your chairs, or just sit on the wall, or stand up, and groove to the tunes. Wine and beer are sold, but you can't bring your own drinks.

    Apparently the Nightfall concerts is a popular destination for weekend motorcyclists. Each time I've attended there have been hundreds of motorcycles neatly parked along Market Street near Miller Park.

    This year's headliners include the Mike Farris Band, Soulive, Karla Bonoff, Michelle Shocked & the Lee Boys, The Whigs, Back Door Slam, Robben Ford, Groundation, Hal Ketchum, Asylum Street Spankers, Blue Mountain, Bonerama, Basia Bulat, Ruthie Foster, The Belleville Outfit, Claire Lynch Band, and Big Al Anderson & The Balls.

  • Map to Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Map to Manchester, Tenn.
Image: Billy Redden, who played "Lonnie the banjo boy" in the 1972 film "Deliverance," starring Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox and Jon Voight.

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