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Riverbend Festival: 5 Can't-Miss Acts During Opening Weekend

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Here are five of the bands and musicians to check out during the Riverbend Festival's opening weekend:

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

Think you've seen a lot of shows?  NPR music critic Bob Bolien saw 662 last year (no, really) and ranked St. Paul & The Broken Bones just shy of his top ten.  A soul band from Alabama, they released their debut album Half The City in 2014, and "Call Me" made Ann Powers's list of favorite songs.  They also played an NPR tiny desk concert, which you can see below.  Catch them on Friday, June 5th at 6:30 p.m. on the Coke stage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vpXX5BjltM

Carolyn Wonderland

Another artist praised by NPR, Wonderland is from Austin, Texas.  Her singing has been likened to Janis Joplin and her guitar playing to Stevie Ray Vaughan.  See her perform and be interviewed on Mountain Stage in the video below.  Catch her Sunday, June 7th at 8 p.m. on the Unum stage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwujWT_OAd0

Sleepy Man

Originally, they were called Sleepy Man Banjo Boys.  When they first found bluegrass stardom and appeared on the David Letterman show, they truly were boys--none were old enough to drive (and the banjo player was only 9).  They're a trio of brothers from New Jersey, now teenagers.  Seventeen year-old guitar player Tommy is the oldest.  If you think they get attention only because of their ages, and not because of their talent, check out their TED performance below.  Catch them Friday, June 5th at 8 p.m. on the Unum stage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB8UTheTR7s

Leon Russell

Back in 2010, when Leon Russell collaborated with Elton John and produced the album The Union, how many times did WUTC play it?  Pretty darn often--sadly, our playlist archives don't go back that far, or I'd give you an exact number. 

But I remember The Union was a hit with our listeners.  We offered the album as a thank-you gift during a pledge drive, and despite the general wisdom that "nobody pledges for CDs because everybody downloads music now," copies of that disc ran out quick.

It's unlikely Elton John will make a surprise appearance and perform with Leon, although someone surely will start a rumor to that effect, similar to how people claimed Bono would show up the year B.B. King performed at Riverbend (remember that?  It was around the time of the U2/B.B. King collaboration "When Loves Comes to Town."  And at least one friend of mine swore she saw Bono in the parking lot of a Golden Gallon.)

So.  All this is a longwinded way of saying: if you're a WUTC listener, you're probably already going to see Leon Russell perform; consider this a reminder.  If you're not familiar with him, check him out and see why he's such a favorite.  He's had a distinguished career as a songwriter beyond his one album with Elton John.  In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and AllMusic calls him "the ultimate rock & roll session man."  Check him out Sunday, June 7th at 6:30 p.m. on the Coke stage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT5aYRgmgyM

Old Time Travelers

I'm always in a hurry a Riverbend.  Rushing from one stage to the next, I barely have time to grab a Chicken-On-A-Stick, much less stop for a few minutes and watch the street performers.  This year, I'm going to make it a point to find Old Time Travelers, who will be roaming around as street performers most nights at the festival.  I recently saw them on WTCI's Greater Chattanooga Web series, and now I'm hoping to see them live.  Catch them on the streets and sidewalks most nights.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHBFdoHrjSg

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