Just as the spring day teased us yesterday – with unrealistic hopes for sunshine and warmth for the next few weeks – I’ll tease you with news of a wonderful spring festival. I love Rhythm N Blooms and had an absolute blast last year for the three day weekend, dedicating separate articles to the first (highlights Felice Brothers and John and Jacob), second (highlights Holly Williams, Logan Brill and Ben Sollee) and third (hard to say – Black Lillies, Ben Sollee, Mutlu, Brett Dennen) days.
This year’s festival starts on Friday evening, April 10 and runs through Sunday evening, April 12. Tickets recently went on sale ($60 for all three days) and may be purchased on the Rhythm N Blooms website while updates are being posted via the Rhythm N Blooms FB Page. Once again, the venues for Friday and Saturday will be in the Old City. It worked smashingly well to have everything in one centralized area, which Chyna Brakeen, festival organizer, pointed out to me was a little bit of a compromise because she liked exposing people from out of town to our beautiful theatres, which she’d done in the previous festivals. Ticket sales are off to an amazing rate of five times as fast as last year’s very successful festival.
There are also changes in the festival for this year. The main stage, located underneath the James White Parkway was a big success last year and the sound was excellent and not so good. Excellent sound was to be found in front of the stage, while the further back fans positioned themselves, the more echo became an issue. This year, the stage will be shifted forward and alternative solutions like delay speakers are being explored. The sound should be better, but it’s hard for me to imagine being anywhere but in front of the stage, so I didn’t notice. What I did notice was that the parkway finally served a purpose – it sheltered me when the rain started. I’m not sure that made it worth the millions spent building it, but it was nice.
The biggest change, and one that will likely please some and not others, is that Sunday’s shows will be in the Old City, whereas they have previously been held at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens. For various reasons, including the difficulty of setting a main stage at two different sites on back-to-back days and the fact that the crowd maxed-out the Botanical Gardens space last year, the main stage will remain in the Old City for Sunday. Hours of the festival have also been expanded to slow the pace of the event.
Chyna further explained the attraction to staging all three days in the Old City: “We love being in the Old City and we want to create a great experience for three straight days, which is hard to do in two venues.” This seemed like a good time to focus on one space. Another change in the festival is that the very successful workshops, including the Music Business Panel hosted by Jonathan Sexton and the Entrepreneur Center, are shifting to the larger space inside the Emporium.
Three headliners have been announced and another is yet-to-be named. The Decemberists are in the midst of an entirely sold-out tour and the Rhythm and Blooms Festival is your only shot at seeing them this spring if you don’t already have a ticket. Knoxville-based band Dirty Guv’nahs will add a local touch, offering the hometown a rare chance to see the boys as they continue to tour nationally. Delta Spirit rounds out the headliners. In addition to being a great lineup, the band names all start with D. Coincidence?
I’m not sure, but the second group of performers were announced this week and they are all from Nashville, so themes do seem to be a part of this year’s festival. The Nashville bands announced include The Apache Relay, Humming House, Alanna Royale, Guthrie Band and the Family Tree, Daniel Elsworth and the Great Lakes and *Repeat Repeat. Nashville is what they have in common, but what they do not have in common with that city is country music. The artists represent quite a range of music, but none represent the genre for which their city is most famous.
More announcements are to follow, with the next coming as early as next week. In addition to more supporting acts, another headliner is yet-to-be-named and the final number will be from 35 to 40 different artists. The range of genres are very intentional. When selecting artists, Chyna says she focuses on the live performance, having seen many live, but vetting others through viewing concert footage to make sure “they can deliver” the live performance she wants festival-goers to experience. “People are learning to experiment and discover new music,” Chyna noted. She also said that 30% of last years audience was from out-of-state, which gives our city great exposure to a number of people from across the country.
In case you might be less familiar with some of these artists, here are some additional videos to whet your appetite. Grab your tickets. This is a festival you do not want to miss.