Whether it’s the powerful licks of an electric guitar, energetic sounds of a drum solo, a pair of bongos, or that one voice that rings in your ears –the love of music, in whatever shape or form, is one of the reasons concert events, such as the Riverfest festival, held in Little Rock every Memorial Day weekend, find success.
Riverfest, a celebration of arts and a salute to veterans, offers up a good time. That’s why an estimated 250,000 visitors attend annually, according to the event’s website. This past weekend, it seems, was no exception.
Jim Fountain, of Knoxville, Tenn. is one that traveled to the state to be a part of it all. He’s here to see the band “Heart,” one of the main headliners.
“They play old school music. It‘s really good–much better than that new school garbage,” he says Sat. night, around 8pm, about an hour and a half before Heart is scheduled to appear on the Bud Light Stage located at the Clinton Presidential Center Park.
Fountain has two friends by his side, who have traveled with him. There’s a lot of complimentary chatter. Comments such as: “I saw Heart back in 1976-1978. The song Barracuda is amazing,” float about.
Sponsored by Riverfest and radio stations, The Point 94.1, FM 100.3, and 107.7 FM, the Heart concert is the last event, the second evening of the festival. Other notable groups who have already played or will be performing on other stages at various times include the B-52’s, James Aldean, The Little River Band, and more.
Fountain and his friends paid a modest $25 for tickets–good for admission to all performances all three days. They say it has been more than worth it.
As a Riverfest perk, water stations were set up throughout the grounds, providing water at no charge to patrons. “River Money,” however, is needed for concessions and other merchandise–a small detail that’s keeping Rich McCauley, a local volunteer, busy exchanging cash for river currency at his booth.
Around 9pm, Sat. night, he states, “We have already had over 60,000 people today. Last night, we sold nearly $5,000 worth of river money every 30 minutes.”
McCauley enjoys volunteer work, is excited about working during the Heart concert, and is here because he is doing a favor for his friend Jennifer McConser, one of the event coordinators handling media for Riverfest.
When we speak, she’s helping to arrange a meet and greet for James Aldean. McCauley and McConser are two of the thousands of dedicated volunteers working to make Riverfest memorable, under the direction of this year’s festival chairman, Ashley Parker and Co-Chairman, April Findlay.
A family friendly event, a variety of bands have performed here throughout the years such as Loverboy, Hootie & the Blowfish, LifeHouse, Pat Benatar, Pat Green, Trick Pony, Hank Williams, Jr., Blues Traveler, and others in addition to a healthy mix of local talent.
A perfect example is Jason Akins, a local talent from Eve’s Descent, making an appearance in the VIP section of the Heart concert. Standing alongside Charlotte Malion and her best friend, they seem to be enjoying the show.
“I grew up on Heart and I love them,” Malion says between songs. The reasons are many. Perhaps the most heartfelt is a story about how her oldest daughter sings the same Heart songs that she loves…Proof that this band has a timeless appeal.
Heart performs for more than an hour to a packed, standing room only crowd. All-time favorites such as Wild Child, Alone, Never, and Magic Man are among the many songs heard.
Unpretentious and as beautiful as ever, Lead singers of Heart, Ann Wilson and her younger sister, Nancy, deliver a high quality show. Their voices are smooth–resonating tones as clear as a cd compilation, from start to finish. At the end, an encore performance of “Crazy on You” concludes the event with tremendous applause.
Kim King, one of Fountain’s friends from Knoxville, is excited. “I love Heart. They sound like they did 30 years ago. To hear them was beautiful,” she said. “I even caught a pick. Nancy threw it.” After this, she’s looking forward to the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga, a nine day music celebration, June 5-13.
It’s late as Heart exits the stage amid a crowd enthralled and excited. Among the many behind the scenes are Independent photographer, Nelson Chenault and mid-day radio personality, Jeff Allen, who works at local classic rock station, 94.1.
The two are taking photos and making plans to attend their next event–a classic rock festival called Rocklahoma, scheduled July 9-12, 2009 in Pryor, Oklahoma.
Chenault, who has attended a number of concerts around the world, states, "My specialty is sports, concerts, and other event photography, though many of my clients are corporate and commercial clients. I cover pro and college sports for a wire service called US Presswire. Through shooting events for them, I have been fortunate enough to land several major covers including the Sports Illustrated Commemorative BCS Championship cover last year, and several USA Today Sports Weekly & College Preview issues."
He continues, "As for the concerts .. that is what I started shooting as a little tyke in high school. I have been published in most rock magazines that you can think of .. and had five of my images used in Motley Crue’s biography "The Dirt" .. which for me was one of my favorite achievements. I cover all events at Alltel Arena for the arena itself, and other shows that I chose to cover outside of the venue, I usually submit to a wire or specific magazine or newspaper request."
Photography, he states, is enjoyable, adding that “no two days are the same (which keeps me interested)." His work is available for viewing at www.nelson.photoreflect.com.
“Riverfest has been great," he says. "I’m looking forward now to Rocklahoma.”
The Rocklahoma concert, located in Pryor, Okla., will feature over 90 bands on four stages, including such favorites as Beautiful Creatures, Night Ranger, LA Guns’ Tracii Gun, Twisted Sister, Skid Row, Lord Tracy, Nelson, Great White, Thin Lizzy, Stryper, members of Boston, and more.
There’s a reason Chenault and Allen are so excited–this event, sponsored by VH1 Classics and Miller Lite–is known as the “Woodstock” of Eighties Rock Music.
According to Tulsa Today publisher, David Arnett, “Tulsa Today will be one of the media groups covering it.”
Rocklahoma Event Coordinator, Rob Miller, has extended a personal invitation to the Tulsa Today staff as well. “We’re going to let them know you’re coming. We’ve got media coming in from around the world,” he said.
Tickets for Rocklahoma can be obtained at www.feverfest.com. Cost is about $40 a day for general admission. The “Catch The Fever Festival Grounds” is located four miles north of Pryor, Okla., and has 6,200 assigned and numbered seats, as well as general admission on the lawn for over 50,000. Campsites are available, too.
How Rocklahoma will compare to Riverfest has yet to be seen. Sadly, weather triggered cancellations of remaining Riverfest acts during the Memorial Day weekend, such as headliner for Sunday–The Little River Band.
The cancellation made the Heart concert, one of the biggest events of the festival–aside from a firework display on Sunday evening, musically orchestrated by local radio station 94.1. The fireworks finale was moved up from it’s original scheduled time, due to weather concerns.
Regardless of the downpours, droves of folks lined up for a taste of festival food and good ole classic rock.
On stage Sunday, Wayne Nelson, the lead singer and longest standing member of the Little River Band spoke to over a 100 rain drenched fans, waiting to see the event. The cancellation of the show was a tough call to make.
In an interview following the event, granted exclusively to Tulsa Today, Nelson states, “We’re talking with the city right now about rescheduling a performance for later in the summer. The band was very disappointed that they didn’t get to do the show on Sunday…but it was just too dangerous with rain blowing into the front of the stage. Electricity and water don’t like each other so much!”
He adds, “Please let people know that we were there and tried to make a show happen, but mother nature would not cooperate…and that we’re probably going to be back later in ’09 to try it again.”
According to various websites, The Little River Band, of Australia, formed in Melbourne in 1975. They are named after a road sign for the Victorian township of Little River and are one of the first Australian rock groups to find success in the United States, selling more than 25 million records and scoring more than 13 American Top 40 hits such as “Cool Change,” “Lady,” “Help is on the Way,” “Lonesome Loser” and “Take it Easy on Me.”
One thing is certain, from Riverfest follow up concerts, to Riverbend and Rocklahoma, concert goers everywhere have a lot to look forward to.
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