Blitzen Trapper headlines last 2016 RiverMusic at Carrier Park

PLUG AND PLAY: Blitzen Trapper is set to close out RiverMusic's 2016 season, performing on a stage that's powered by Sundance Solar. Photo courtesy of the band

Paddle up or pedal up. Bring a chair, blanket, hammock or maybe just commit to dancing. It’s time for this year’s last installment of RiverMusic, and the outdoor concert series — hosted by local nonprofit RiverLink — wraps up at Carrier Park’s Mellowdrome on Friday, Oct. 7.

“Blitzen Trapper is our biggest band of the year. And the Broadcast, our second band, they’re not exactly chopped liver. They really rock,” says RiverLink volunteer coordinator Dave Russell. “It’s definitely worth the price of admission — which is free.”

Even if you haven’t heard of the headlining band, it sounds familiar on first listen — and not just because we live in a haven for pedal steel and Southern twang. Blitzen Trapper frontman Eric Earley’s voice takes copious notes from Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, and even the group’s galloping rock pace feels comfortably worn in. Released in 2015, All Across this Land marks the eighth studio album since Blitzen Trapper’s members came together in Portland in 2000.

Local band The Broadcast, on the other hand, can’t be trusted for easy listening. Led by singer Caitlin Krisko, the group works blues and funk into its up-tempo shows. Expect that, after an opening set by local rockers The Get Right Band, who just released a music video for angsty single “Who’s in Charge?”

The free entertainment comes alongside food and beer for purchase, and RiverLink also invites a handful of arts and crafts vendors to the scene. It’s a familiar format, thankfully, as the nonprofit is otherwise experiencing big transitions.

Since its inception in 2012, RiverMusic has occurred directly beside the silty beneficiary of RiverLink’s efforts, specifically at the nonprofit’s own Performance and Sculpture Plaza, overlooking the French Broad River. The property is a patch of grass and gravel that, in true River Arts District fashion, was upcycled into a concert venue over time.

“I have [put] hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks into rehabilitating that property, because I absolutely love it,” Russell says.

However, “The River Arts District Transportation Improvement Plan, or RADTIP, is being implemented, and our parking lots and the Sculpture Plaza are under construction.”

Even after amenities like a greenway and picnic tables are complete, RiverLink won’t be able to stage its concerts there, he adds, calling the changes bittersweet. Carrier Park presents at least a temporary solution.

On Sept. 9, RiverMusic relocated to Carrier Park for the first time.
RiverMusic’s first iteration at Carrier Park was on Friday, Sept. 9. Photo by Kat McReynolds

“The feedback was all positive,” Russell says of RiverMusic’s initial move to Carrier Park’s Mellowdrome in September. “The shape of the bowl was really cozy and intimate. Things didn’t feel so spread out. It didn’t feel like we were in a pasture. It’s really set up to host events like that.”

That show brought another significant change for RiverLink, whose former executive director, Karen Cragnolin, recently stepped down after leading the nonprofit through its first 30 years. Her successor, Garrett Artz, was introduced to the crowd, and he’ll be at the forthcoming RiverMusic to meet more supporters.

Carrier Park is among several locations under consideration to host RiverMusic 2017.

Admission and parking are free at RiverMusic, but a $2 wristband is required before the purchase of alcohol. Proceeds benefit RiverLink. Visit riverlink.org for more information. 

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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