Whenever someone asks me what festival was my favorite to photograph, I always tell them it was the Riverbend Music Festival. I have never been to a festival as organized and enjoyable. I covered the festival for the first time in 2022. Therefore, when it came down to deciding which festivals I would attend this year, I couldn’t say no to Riverbend.
This years lineup are as follows: 49 Winchester, Amanda Shires, Big Boi, Blackberry Smoke, Brandon Davis, Brian Brown, COIN, Doom Flamingo, Gayle, Goose, Indigo De Souza, Jerry Harrison & Adrian Belew: Remain In Light, Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, Lucius, Luke Simmons & The Lovestruck, Maren Morris, Mavis Staples, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Rock En El Rio, Sweet Lizzy Project, Stephen Wilson Jr., Strung Like A Horse, The Afternooners, and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.
I walked down the familiar path towards the river where the entrance is located. I picked up my badge and made my way through the gate. I was relieved to see a familiar layout. There were three stages: Coca Cola, Ultra, and Chevrolet. In between those stages there was plenty of food, artists, clothing, and other vendors. Like last year, they also had plenty of water stations set up, which I was personally grateful for because it was a very hot weekend and water was essential.
Honestly, the heat was brutal this year. It did make it more difficult to move around from one stage to another but of course that didn’t stop me. What I was looking forward to this year was discovering new artists. I was not familiar with most of the lineup this year but it also made me happy to revisit some of the few artists I did know that I covered from previous festivals. Riverbend, once again, did not disappoint in their lineup. All of the artists this year were exceptional and unique.
It was nice to see COIN, Indigo De Souza, Lucius, Maren Morris, and the legendary Mavis Staples again. Once again, their sets were nothing short of remarkable. I had heard of Amanda Shires before but was not familiar with her music. All I knew was that she is part of The Highwomen and that she is married to Jason Isbell, who was last year’s headliner. It just so happens that Jason Isbell joined her on stage this year. I’ve got to say, I am a new fan of the fiddle and this was her specialty. Along with her killer voice and her rock n roll tone, it was the perfect combo.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats brought some of the best Americana music I have heard yet with some amazing stage presence. I have never heard or seen anyone play the trombone like Trombone Shorty that night. I was in absolute awe of him and the Orleans Avenue. There was so much energy on that stage. It was one of the best performances I’ve seen.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that Luke Simmons & the Lovestruck is one of the most underrated artists in this lineup. His music and vocals were mesmerizing. Luke Simmons is local to Chattanooga. His music can be best described as soul and blues. I would highly recommend checking out his music and giving him a follow on all the platforms.
During my break, I paid a small visit to the Yellow Racket Records tent to speak to fellow Nashville photographer, Michael Weintrob, in which he was holding a booking signing for his “INSTRUMENTHEAD & INSTRUMENTHEAD REVEALED” project. He showed me how the original book cleverly coincided with the new edition, to reveal the faces behind the instruments. He spoke a little about how he started in photography. I took a quick portrait of him and made my way back to the stages.
On the third and final day of the festival, we were met with some wacky weather. What started as another hot day ended with a sudden storm passing through. As is the Tennessee way. However, I did not expect there to be an actual evacuation. This happened to me once before at another festival, which happened to be in Chattanooga as well. And that festival was canceled halfway through due to bad flooding. Although it would have been disappointing for it to be canceled, I applaud the festival’s organizers for prioritizing the festival goers safety.
Blackberry Smoke was performing at the Coca Cola stage and I was in the midst of photographing them, when they suddenly stopped and announced that the festival is on standby due to possible severe weather. The festival was eventually evacuated for a little more than an hour. I waited in my car and checked in every few minutes for any updates. I was impressed by the diligence of how they handled the situation. They were constantly updating everyone on their socials of the situation. They reassured everyone that the festival will not be canceled. They kept their word. They gave the ok to return to the park and adjusted their lineup for the rest of the night. Unfortunately Blackberry Smoke’s set was cut short and Sweet Lizzy Project was canceled. However we did get to see Rock En El Rio, who I later found out was the same group as Sweet Lizzy Project, just a different project. The night ended for me with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.
Just like that, the festival was at an end. Riverbend has once again upheld their status as one of the best festivals I have covered.
Check out my full coverage of Riverbend below and I hope to see you next year at the festival!