It's almost 1:30 a.m., and I'm just in from spending the past couple of hours at Nu Cuisine Lounge, where guitar whiz Chris Henry entertained on the patio, which was packed with young lovelies and plenty of others. Henry, the runner-up in the Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase in March, blended his stunning, layered original material with covers of Dave Matthews and Van Morrison's "Moondance," among his sets. His frenetic style also broke two strings while we were watching. Henry has a Riverfest date Sunday at the amphitheater with a trio backing him. Check him out; you'll be amazed.
As for Riverfest, I took the north side and Train, while Stewart Deere reported mostly from the amphitheater and Kool and the Gang., though he had time to drift up north as well.
Here's how Stewart saw things from the south side:
The first night of Riverfest kicked the festival off relatively incident-free, drawing everyone from families with strollers to college students wearing shirts with slogans such as "Yeah but not with you" and "WHAT did I do last night."
Well, it was iincident-free except for the man who injured himself after he fell while trying to climb over the fence around the North Little Rock riverfront park area as Train played. Festivalgoers on the park's grassy hill listening to Train's hit "Drops of Jupiter" began to turn away from the stage as an ambulance and firetruck pulled up and took the man away.
Train's show focused on their non-offensive, crowd-pleasing pop rock music. Their banter even reflected this vibe with comments such as "that's a beautiful skyline" as the lead singer looked towards the Little Rock side.
The show also featured a faithful encore of Aerosmith's "Dream On" which climaxed with a burst of streamers and confetti on the audience.
On the Little Rock side of the festival, Lagniappe's bluesy music included a medley of country covers ("You Never Even Called Me By My Name" and "Mamas Don't Let your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys"") and a rap cover (Tupac's "How Do U Want It"). The thin crowd was scattered throughout the band's 6:30 performance on the KOKY 102.1 FM/ Power 92 FM stage, but the stage audience had grown to a sea of bodies as the 9:30 performance of Kool and Gang kicked off on the same stage with songs dedicated to "the
Before the band took the stage, they hyped up the crowd with a hip-hop clothed dancer wearing a walkman as a collage of the band's hits played over the sound system.
I'd agree with Stewart's assessment of Train's style, adding that frontman Patrick Monahan was terrific working the crowd throughout Train's 70-minute set. They came out early with "Meet Virginia," their 1999 breakthrough hit. But what had to be the highlight of the show was a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On," which Monahan started with a few lines of another Robert Plant classic, "Whole Lotta Love." The band was dead-on with "Ramble On," as well as the closing encore cover of Aerosmith's "Dream On."
And who knew Train keyboardist Brandon Bush was from Little Rock? Monahan pointed that out during the show, giving each band member a chance to shine. Jimmy Stafford was exceptionally strong on the guitar, and Monahan and his drummer had fun with the obligatory drum solo. Monahan also regularly complimented the large crowd, which seemed to quadruple in about an hour from the number of folks we saw there during Needtobreathe's 43-minute set.
As we made our way back across the river bridge, we caught the strains of Kool's "Get Down on It" and then "Celebrate." Friday's crowd seemed to rival past year's if not top previous opening night bests. Two hours after Riverfest ended, the River Market district clubs appeared to be going strong.
You're welcome to provide your own comments on the shows, and let us know how the Del McCoury show went on the Triple S stage, if you happened that way.