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The Moon River Festival: My Experience

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, myself and my cohort John Cantor made a two-hour pilgrimage down to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Moon River Festival, representing Middle Tennessee State's student-run radio station, 88.3 WMTS Murfreesboro. We stayed at the festival for about six hours, during which we had the pleasure of seeing a lot of different acts that John was familiar with, but I was not. I'd like to share my experience during those six hours that I was there.

For those who didn't know, the Moon River Festival was started in 2013 by musician Drew Holcum in Memphis. When the festival began growing year after year, Drew decided to move it to its current location in Coolidge Park in Chattanooga, right along the Tennessee River. The overall environment of the festival itself is such a spectacular sight to see. It's not very big, only having two performance stages, but both are within view of the Tennessee River and the huge walking bridge that goes over it, where patrons go to get a bird's-eye view of the festival. The food there was very good. I treated myself to some fresh-made tater tots and some naked ribs, while also drinking canned water for the first time. In addition, someone actually recognized me from my radio show on WMTS, during which exchange we both expressed our love for Black Sabbath.

The first artists that John and I saw were the New Respects, a band of siblings and their cousin that hail from Nashville. We caught them as they were beginning a great cover of The Beatles classic, "Come Together." They were very entertaining to listen and watch, with all of their band members jumping and prancing around the stage like puppies let loose.

After a break, I decided to split off from John and caught Lissie, who is a songwriter hailing from Rock Island, Illinois. I didn't get a chance to catch that much of her set, due to John and I interviewing Devon Gilfillian. What I saw of the performance was very good.

Devon's publicist led us to an area outside the festival where the artists could hang out and be away from the audience. We sat down at one of the many couches underneath the tent and John recorded the interview. John did most of the talking, with me asking Devon questions about his influences and some of his favorite places to perform. He mentioned Chicago, and expressed his love for deep dish pizza, which made me happy. After about ten minutes, we took some pictures, including the one at the top of this post and went our separate ways.

Following the interview, we caught the performance of Drew and Ellie Holcum, featuring some great covers of Sting's "Fields of Gold" and Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again." The other originals played that show were great as well. Drew and Ellie drew a huge crowd.

The last performance we caught that day was of the man himself, Devon Gilfillian. His performance was absolutely mesmerizing and energetic. His guitar playing was off the charts, and the passion for the music being played was undeniable. His 45-minute set went by very fast, with the highlight being a cover of TLC's "Waterfalls," which got everyone in the crowd singing until their vocal chords gave out.

John and I left that day feeling very good. Moon River was a great experience, and it makes me happy to see that Chattanooga can host a festival with such a great environment and atmosphere. I will definitely make an effort to go again.


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