Riverfest went off with out any major glitches and without any rain, even sprinkles, for the first time in most festival goers’ memories. On the other hand, it may have been as hot as any Riverfest in memory, with temperatures in the low 90s at sundown, and humidity that was downright oppressive on day one.
Still, Riverfest officials will gladly take heat over raindrops any year. It meant that all the music acts that had been paid for got to play full sets.
As best as the Times’ roving band of music loving reporters could tell, the music acts all lived up to high expectations, including Dwight Yoakam, who started late (9:55 p.m. instead of 9:30) and ended very late (after midnight, whereas Saturday’s music was supposed to end at 11 p.m., when beer sales ended).
The Neville Brothers took their set a few minutes past the 11 p.m. closing time Saturday, offering a full New Orleans feel as well as Aaron Neville’s pop ballad hit “Don’t Know Much,” with the group’s male bass player taking the Linda Ronstadt part. Aaron’s son, Ivan, and his Dumpstaphunk band, made up of several players who also toiled later with the Neville Brothers, were funky-licious with a setlist that started with a strong version of “The Sopranos” theme song, included an amazing funked up “Fortunate Son” (John Fogerty) and a thank-you to the fans in a cover of Sly and the Family Stone. They deserved a better crowd than they drew, which was around 500 to 1,000 people at the far west end of the Little Rock side, under the exit ramp off the Broadway Bridge. The Lee Boys, who followed, also deserved a larger crowd and one that didn’t sit on its butts during most of a highly energetic and mostly instrumental show of gospel jam, but maybe it was just too hot for many fans to move.
California pop-rock band Train and frontman Patrick Monahan, playing Friday night in North Little Rock, let several female fans, at least one apparently inebriated, dance on stage early in the show, and Monahan continually praised Little Rock and told the crowd how lucky they were to live here. The crowd also learned that Train keyboardist Brandon Bush was from Little Rock, and that Monahan and Train could do dead-on covers of Led Zeppelin (“Ramble On”) and Aerosmith (“Dream On”).
Across the river at the same time, Kool and the Gang were giving what several observers said was a tremendous performance loaded with classic R&B hits, and some a little hipped up to more contemporary sound.
Sunday’s headliners didn’t let down on the momentum from the first two days, and the fireworks were shot off under mostly clear skies.