There are many questions and much excitement surrounding this year’s Riverbend Festival, which begins this Friday. Will CeeLo Green drop an f-bomb on stage? What happens when a fan shouts out a request for “Freebird” at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert? Does the world stop turning? Will Florida Georgia Line let me perform the hit “Cruise” with them, considering my most excellent cover version of the song? Here is a list of some of the side-stage performances I’m looking forward to this year. What about you?
The Hot Club of Cowtown (Saturday, June 8, 7:30 p.m., TVFCU stage)
Ask me which band I’m THE MOST excited about seeing at Riverbend this year, and my answer will be, without hesitation, The Hot Club of Cowtown. This three-piece features the virtuosic fiddling of Elana James, the slicing guitar of Whit Smith and the upright bass of Jake Erwin. The vocals are sultry and swing with the rhythm. Hot Club of Cowtown plays music that is both vintage and timeless. You’ll see me down front making a fool of myself with interpretive dances. Come dance with me. Watch the band perform “I Can’t Go on This Way” and “Orange Blossom Special.”
10,000 Maniacs (Sunday, June 9, 7:30 p.m., Bud Light stage)
The 10,000 Maniacs performance is kind of a wild card for me. No, Natalie Merchant is no longer with the band. She left in 1993 to pursue what became a successful solo career. I thought 10,000 Maniacs just kind of fell of the face of the earth after that. Guess what, though? They’re back! Sure, they have a new lead singer, Mary Ramsey, but the trio of Jerome Augustyniak, Steven Gustafson and Dennis Drew is still going strong after 30 years together. This year, the band released their first album in 14 years. “Music from the Motion Picture” includes some wonderful songs like “I Don’t Love You Too.”
Beppe Gambetta (Wednesday, June 12, 6:30 p.m., Unum stage)
I met the amazing Italian guitarist Beppe Gambetta in 2003 when he was performing at Barking Legs Theater. There’s still a bootleg of his performance around the house somewhere. I became an instant fan of his guitar playing-which is INSANE-but also Gambetta as a person. He is completely infatuated with bluegrass flatpicking, in particular the local legend Norman Blake. Gambetta’s 2003 album “Blu di Genova” has been one of the most influential records for me in terms of the technical, acoustic guitar. He is a genius and deserves your presence at his Riverbend performance this year. Other great songs are “Church Street Blues” and “Hills of Tara.”
Larry Carlton Trio (Thursday, June 13, 9:30 p.m., Unum stage)
Larry Carlton is a guitarist that is most famous for the guitar part to Steely Dan’s “Josie” and his impressive list of credits as a session musician in Los Angeles during the ’70s and ’80s. For his Riverbend performance, Carlton will play with his trio-a mix of jazz fusion, blues and classic rock. I remember his performance at Nightfall a few years back as being an incredible display of talent. Carlton has always been “the background guy,” but nobody does it better and with more suave and class. Listen to “Walk with Me” and “Cold Gold.”
Moon Taxi (Friday, June 14, 9:30 p.m., TVFCU stage)
A product of Belmont University in Nashville, Moon Taxi is an indie/rock band with elements of jam rock and progressive rock. In other words, Moon Taxi is cool. I remember several great nights of shows at JJ’s Bohemia with this band on the bill. Moon Taxi released their sophomore album, “Cabaret,” in 2012, and they appear to be taking it easy since touring the album. According to their website, this Riverbend performance is one of only three scheduled for the next few months. This should be a good time. Hear some more songs: “Mercury” and “Gunflower.”
Sean Phipps is a writer, tobacconist and ghost tour guide living in Chattanooga. Originally from the Tri-Cities, he spends much of his free time smoking cigars, awkwardly embracing his girlfriend and torturing his therapist. He has no criminal record. You can contact him via email and Twitter with comments and questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.