For nearly 40 years, Arkansas’ largest festival was held over Memorial Day Weekend. Organizers have changed tune this year by separating Riverfest into two events and taking the holiday weekend out of the mix.
The biggest reason for the change is the rising cost of bands. Riverfest Executive Director DeAnna Korte says increased band costs had caused officials to continually raise the festival entry price to afford the music that festivalgoers have come to expect. Riverfest’s Board of Directors decided last summer to move the children-specific activities to their own day to accommodate attendees and make Riverfest more affordable.
Springfest took place in April to accommodate the face-painting family crowds and featured the 5th Annual 5K Fun Run followed by crowd favorite Ruff on the River Pooch Parade.
Riverfest 2016 will light up downtown on the banks of the Arkansas River on June 3-5. The wine and beer event Flowing on the River kicks off the festivities on the 3rd. The re-fashioned music festival was designed with a more concerted effort to attract regional music lovers. It features the most current music lineup to date, with quirky rock band The Flaming Lips and country sensation Chris Stapleton as headliners.
Acts will perform on one of two stages: Frio Light Stage on the lawn of the Clinton Library and Arkansas Federal Credit Union/Lake Liquor Amphitheater Stage.
Chris King, owner of River Market staples Stickyz Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicken Shack and The Rev Room, is responsible for booking talent. He says he’s excited to see how festivalgoers react to the changes this year and notes it will be a good indicator to gauge the support level of a major music festival in Little Rock.
Chris says Riverfest guests will be entertained all day with good music. “There’s no filler here. It’s all great stuff.”
The lineup includes Knox Hamilton of Little Rock and Barrett Baber of Fayetteville, whose national careers on the rise, Chris says.
Members of Knox Hamilton “blend laidback guitar riffs and catchy bass lines with rhythmic drum beats and soaring vocals to produce sound that’s as likely to make you want to visit the beach as it is to move your feet,” a bio states. They will play from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Sunday on the amphitheater stage.
Barrett Baber will take to the Clinton Library stage from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Sunday. Better known for his success as a finalist on NBC’s “The Voice,” Barrett commands audiences with his soulful, country sound. He was also the winner of the national CBS Grammy Gig of a Lifetime in 2014.
Barrett’s inspiration for singing and creating music started with frequent visits to Memphis, not far from his hometown of Marion. “From Sam Cooke to Levon Helm, you can hear the past blazing through Barrett’s tone, all wrapped in a fresh style delivered by one of the Southeast’s hottest artists,” his bio states.
Here’s the lineup of other Arkansas-based bands slated for Saturday, June 4, and Sunday, June 5:
Bonnie Montgomery, 2-2:45 p.m. Saturday, Clinton stage – This classically trained singer with a country/Western spin has traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, sharing the stage with many artists. Her composition of the modern folk opera “Billy Blythe,” about Bill Clinton’s childhood, previewed in New York and has earned her the attention of national publications.
Arkansauce, 1:15-1:45 p.m. Sunday, amphitheater stage – This four-piece string band from Northwest Arkansas blurs the lines between bluegrass, newgrass, folk, American and country. An Arkansauce show features improvisational guitar, banjo and mandolin leads complete with powerful harmonies and heart-felt songwriting.
Randall Shreve & The Devilles, 2:15-3 p.m. Saturday, amphitheater stage – Their music, described as “Vaudeville Rock,” is derived from influences such as Queen, Muse, The Beatles and Jeff Buckley. The live shows of this Fayetteville-based band are known to transport fans back to the grit and glamour of Old Hollywood.
The Uh Huhs, 1:15-1:45 p.m. Saturday, amphitheater stage – This four-member punk rock garage band from Little Rock took home the grand prize and were named the 2016 Arkansas Times Showcase winner back in February. Their music is influenced by The Stooges, The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Nerves, The Creation, Bee Gees, The Beatles, The Smiths, Neil Young, Ty Segall and more. The band includes Snack Hale, Zach Hunter, Tyler Nance and Trent Whitehead.
Matt Stell, 1:15-1:45 p.m. Saturday, Clinton stage – This boy from Center Ridge is living the music life with his band, headquartered just outside of Morrilton. His love for all kinds of music runs deep, and the band draws from many sources of inspiration. You’ll find Matt Stell’s sound somewhere between country, Americana, blues, folk, gospel and rock ’n’ roll.