What I Hope to See at Rhythm n Blooms 2016

Ragbirds, Scruffy City Ramble, Knoxville, November 2012
Ragbirds, Scruffy City Ramble, Knoxville, November 2012

As with so many festivals, each participant’s musical selections set them on a personal journey unlikely to be replicated by any other attending fan. We each have different preferences and bring different backgrounds to the shows. We may have seen a large number of the bands or have seen very few. If we’ve seen many of them, do we see the ones we have previously enjoyed or skip them for the chance to find a new favorite?

Some venues have chairs, some don’t, some are outdoors and some are inside, some are small and cozy (or cramped, depending on your perspective) while others are more spacious, so even the setting can shape who we decide to hear. Additionally, do you like to run around or settle into one spot? You might want to pick a venue you like and see who joins you on stage. It can be quite pleasant and relaxing to do so.

Obviously there is no correct answer and I’ll not pretend to offer you the “ultimate” or “perfect” guide to the festival. For me, I’ve already mentioned a couple of panel discussions I’m moderating, so each of those will have a small impact on my schedule. I do tend to run around from venue to venue and I also often choose to hear a new artist over one I’ve heard many times. An example of a band I’ve seen before and will miss is Guy Marshall. They are one of my favorite bands from anywhere and I’d encourage you to hear them, if you are able. I try to hit the headliners, but I really like to find up-and-coming acts. So, with all that, here are some of my thoughts and plans for the Rhythm n Blooms (buy your tickets here) festival . . .

The Ragbirds open on the first afternoon on the large Cripple Creek stage and they are fabulous. I’ve seen them before and I’ll be moderating when they are on stage, but catch them if you can. Like many artists at the festival, they will play more than one stage, so you might have a chance to hear them elsewhere if you miss this performance.

They are followed on that stage by Knoxville’s own Black Cadillacs who will rock that stage very nicely. I’ll be late for that if I make it. Ed Snodderly at Boyd’s Jig and Reel offers a quieter choice for that slot, so you can rock out with the Cadillacs or take the gentler route with a little finger picking.

I’ll have to hear Friday’s headliner on the Cripple Creek Stage. The Old 97s are a band I’ve danced around the edges of, hearing them referenced, suspecting I’d like them, but never having heard them live. Give them a listen to see if they are to your taste. It’s important to be sure because as clever and good as their music is, you will miss a lot to hear them and while each of the artists who overlap their show – The Meadows Brothers, Corey Branan, Dave Eggar, Daniel Miller and the High Life and the Christian Lopez Band – all have shows later, it will be hard to fit them all in.

Immediately after that show three great options emerge: The Ragbirds in Barley’s, which offers a great chance to see them in a small venue. Overlapping, and not much later Mic Harrison and the High Score, who always do a fine show, will play the new Jackson Terminal Stage while Cory Branan will play Pilot Light. Either will be excellent and you might want to play it by mood: Mic will rock out and Cory plays gravely-voiced, lyrically significant, acoustic music. Neither are playing again, so I will probably go against my usual trend and split time between the two shows.

The problem becomes more complex with shows by Banditos and Matt Honkonen starting before those end. Fabulous local singer/songwriter Matt Honkonen, local super talented and fun Electric Darling and local fun hip-hop artist J-Bush offer pretty clear genre choices to end the night. I’ll probably play that final slot as a choice between genres and venues I’m in the mood for at the time.

Saturday the music starts at 2:00 PM, but I’ll miss Elliot Brood and Paleface, both fine artists, because I’ll be working my panel. I plan to start with Green River Ordinance on the Cripple Creek Stage, then flip over to the Jackson Terminal stage for Crane Wives, who I’m very excited to hear. I think I’ll slow my running around at that point, return to the Cripple Creek Stage and enjoy Lone Bellows, The Mavericks and Mutemath consecutively.

I’ve got to ferry some folks in my car after that, so I’ll have a little gap before I return for Koa at Pilot light. I’m particularly excited about that show. I’ll end the night, along with everyone else, at Jackson Terminal for the Midnight Merry Go-Round: David Bowie Edition. Last year’s Midnight Merry Go-Round was a highlight of the festival, so forget how tired you might be by then and just do it. (If you don’t get a historical reference from the name of this show see here for info on the Mid-day Merry-Go-Round.)

Sunday the action starts at 2:00 PM and I’ll join Dave Eggar at the Jackson Terminal. I’ve seen him several times, now, but  I can’t help seeing him again. His musical virtuosity combined with a show that defies description is well worth the repetition. From there I’ll catch Jakubi – one of the artists with which I wasn’t familiar and one about which I’m most excited. I’m expecting to become a fan.

From there I’ll go back to Jackson Terminal for Mutlu, to Pilot Light for part of Jubal’s set, then back to Jackson Terminal for Darlingside. I’m hoping and expecting the Jackson Terminal stage to be a good one for listening and for photographs. More back and forth will follow with G Love and Special Sauce at the Cripple Creek Stage, whom I really love and have for a long time, back to Jackson Terminal to squeeze in a little Sam Quinn before returning to Cripple Creek for Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

I’ll probably have to cut it off there to rest, write and start processing photographs. If you have any juice left at that point, Quiet Life and Elliot Brood, both fine artists, will close the festival at Barley’s. It’s certainly worth a listen if you can make it to those.

Dave Eggar, Blue Plate Special, Visitor Center, Knoxville, May 2015
Dave Eggar, Blue Plate Special, Visitor Center, Knoxville, May 2015

I should add that throughout the festival there are other teasers like the seminars which will likely hold strong appeal to some of you and little to others. I think I have an idea what to expect with “Silent Disco,” but I’m not sure and I’ll have to check that out as well as the “secret shows” at Lox Salon. Jack Neely offers music tours, and any tour with Jack is always excellent. So, there is always something to enjoy and I hope I’ll see you out and about. Say, “hi,” if you spot me. It should be a great weekend in the city.

As with last week, given the amount of music I’m writing about and the time involved in this weekend’s festival, I will not post Saturday Sounds this week.