Decision-making causes varying degrees of anxiety in everyone. Some folks, of course, are making far more important decisions daily than which music act they ought to see at Riverfest, but I still see the symptoms of Riverfest-itis every year: Great acts are playing at the same time hundreds of yards apart and maybe a river in between; oh what to choose?
Then, there are the food choices, and the drink choices. Also, do we set aside one night as the adults-only night? That was one question several of us pondered last weekend in planning ahead, because our kids love the festival. Easy answer: If your children are going to start fussing at 9 p.m. Friday and cause you to miss Train, or Kool and the Gang, or Del McCoury, get a sitter. Take them Saturday or Sunday, and make sure to take them to the Kidzone stage, the Krispy Kreme dipping stand, and to hear Brian Kinder, whose songs will tug at the hearts of the kid in all of us.
Once again, the Riverfest organizers have scheduled some great acts against each other, but there is enough diversity to maybe make the decision-making easier. For example, bluegrass fans are sure to venture to see McCoury on Friday night while classic R&B fans no doubt will chill with Kool at the same time. But for those of you like me who just as easily can take your mandolin picking with your butt-shakin’ funk, you’ve got a choice to make.
I can always count on a couple of local music aficionados for good advice, and I offer their choices (in each case, they are in no particular order):
Michael Marion, the general manager at Alltel Arena, rates his five acts to see as Switchfoot, Train, Hannah Blaylock and Eden’s Edge, the Neville Brothers and Needtobreathe. Train and Needtobreathe are on the same stage Friday in North Little Rock on Friday, so that’s a doable show. Marion likes rock, which is what attracts him to Switchfoot and Train. As for Needtobreathe, “I just listened to them and I liked them.” The Nevilles have been a favorite of his “forever, they cross all the generations.” As for Hannah, “After seeing them at the [Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase], I was very impressed with their talents.” We appreciate the plug and note that the Showcase is well-presented all weekend (see related story in the Riverfest section elsewhere in this issue).
As for the No. 1 food choice, Marion gives a thumbs up to the turkey legs. “There is just something about a big ol’ well-smoked turkey leg, eating it outside.”
Kelley Bass, who has followed music in this market for more than a generation and preceded me in this column space before moving on to Acxiom Corp., has his top five: The first four are Train, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, Dwight Yoakam and the Doobie Brothers.
Train quenches Bass’ thirst for power-pop/power-rock. Ivan Neville, son of Aaron, and the whole Neville tradition will be on tap at the Triple-S Alarm Stage Saturday night. Having never seen Yoakam but an immediate fan of “Guitars and Cadillacs” and the Bakersfield sound, Bass says he plans to take in that appearance Saturday at the amphitheater. The Doobie Brothers remind Bass of coming full circle: “The Doobies at Barton was the first concert I ever went to of over 500 shows, summer of 1974. My mother dropped me and my friend Jimmy Rogers off. ‘China Grove’ and ‘Long Train Running’ were hits then.”
For Bass’ fifth must-see show, it’s not a music act. It’s the Boehmer (pronounced bay-mer) Family — a mother, father and children who juggle, ride unicycles and do amazing stunts. One son, an amputee, juggles four or five balls with his one arm.
“The grand finale that the father does, which I won’t give away, you just can’t miss that,” he says. “If you could claim to do this, like on a float trip, where it would fit, if you pulled it off your friends would probably owe you $1,000. It’s incredible. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Boehmer Family.”
Trust Bass, who will be the chairman of the Riverfest board for its 30th year next year.
As for me, I’ll be seeing Train and all the bands coming with it on Friday in North Little Rock, the Cosmonauts at 1 p.m. Saturday in North Little Rock, then spending time at the Kidzone with kid in tow while trying to catch the Dempseys and the Famous Unknowns at the amphitheater, the whole Ivan Neville-Neville Brothers deal Saturday night at the Triple-S Alarm Stage, then back to the Triple-S stage on Sunday for the Sean Rock Trio, a quick dart over the amphitheater for Chris Henry, then back — if my legs can stand it — to the Triple-S stage to see the Boondogs, Chris Denny, Sisters Morales and Pat Green, all before the fireworks boom overhead. And the Boehmer Family at some point, of course.
I wouldn’t miss any of it.