Summer playlist: RiverMUSIC rides again

Riverside ramblers: Brooklyn's Orgone promises “an eight-piece funk juggernaut" at the RiverMUSIC season kickoff. Photo by Daniel Dare

RiverMUSIC rides again

Few things symbolize Asheville better than the intersection of culture and nature, and RiverMUSIC offers the best of both. Hosted by RiverLink, the free series presents five Friday night concerts at the Sculpture and Performance Plaza in the River Arts District, plus the Saturday afternoon RiverFest. Now in its third year, RiverMUSIC will feature both local and national acts — everything from funk to bluegrass to classic and Gypsy rock. Local craft brewers and food trucks will be on hand to enhance the experience.

Kicking off the summer series on Friday, May 30, is the Los Angeles-based Orgone, a horn-and-percussion-heavy funk project. In an email interview, guitarist and bandleader Sergio Rios described the group as “an eight-piece funk juggernaut, a well-oiled machine whose individual parts combine into an undeniable engine for bodies to gyrate and bounce to — infectious dance music and deep grooves with honest, raw musicianship.” Orgone began as an instrumental band, but it has increasingly relied on singers to help write songs and interact with the audience. The newest member, vocalist Adryon de Leon, is an especially thrilling addition. Rios calls her “an amazing and powerful soul singer who can take the audience into dizzying ecstatic heights — she’s a great balance and complement to the dirty, syncopated heat of the rhythm section and horns.”

Asheville is lucky to have Orgone come to town for a free show — the band is booked all summer, crisscrossing the country a few times and hitting half a dozen summer festivals throughout the Northeast and Midwest. In between those tours, the group plans to complete work on a new album before heading down to Florida’s Bear Creek Music Festival in the fall. But Rios is excited about returning to Western North Carolina. “We’ve played in Asheville and Black Mountain about seven or eight times now,” he says, and the area is full of “lovely folks [and] wonderful music fans — people ready to get down.”

RiverLink, a nonprofit promoting the environmental and economic revitalization of the French Broad, initiated its summerlong concert series in 2012. “Part of RiverLink’s mission is to bring folks down to the French Broad River to discover its splendor,” says Dave Russell, the organization’s director of volunteer services. “For many years, the ‘too thick to drink, too thin to plow’ reputation of the French Broad as a dirty body of water was prevalent. The river has gotten much cleaner: It’s now a destination for tubers, boaters and swimmers.”

Among this season’s performers, Russell says he’s especially excited to hear The Billy Sea on July 11, a trio featuring lap-steel player Billy Cardine. “He is a world-class instrumentalist best-known for his awesome Dobro licks,” says Russell. The percussionist River Guerguerian will also perform with Jeff Sipe’s Global Percussion Ensemble, the opening act. Additionally, Russell notes that former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle — a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee — will take the stage Aug. 29 with his band. “And let’s not forget Saturday, Aug. 9, when RiverFest features the Anything That Floats Parade,” adds Russell.

Besides bringing free live music to the banks of the French Broad, RiverLink sees the concert series as another opportunity to call attention to its primary mandate: encouraging people to use, respect and love the river. Russell hopes more folks will arrive by bike and boat this year. “We have installed a river access point to accommodate those who canoe or raft or tube up to attend the show,” he says, and another local nonprofit, Asheville on Bikes, will be setting up bicycle parking corrals at every concert. Over its first two years, RiverMUSIC showed considerable growth and lots of local interest, and RiverLink hopes to continue calling attention to the French Broad while hosting excellent concerts throughout the summer.


Orgone with The Horse You Rode in On


RiverLink Sculpture and Performance Plaza in the River Arts District


Series begins Friday, May 30, 5-10 p.m. Free.


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