Best Of The Fests: Moon River 2021

Losing an hour driving to Chattanooga on Saturday and entering the Eastern Time Zone meant that I was really hugging corners on I-24 eastbound to get to Allison Russell’s midday set at Moon River Festival. But parking at my overnight lodgings and catching a quick Lyft to the Tennessee River-front Coolidge Park proved to be easy and breezy, even if the still-summery weather was not.

In its seventh year in 2021 (accounting for the missed year of 2020), this roots music and Americana-leaning gathering was founded by Memphis native musician Drew Holcomb and has grown to include many rising artists and mainstay fest headliners alike.

Featuring just two sizable stages each facing plenty of lawn — and ample shade, under trees and the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, for laying out blankets and surviving the afternoon — one of the virtues of Moon River Fest is that music never overlaps. One set begins at the very time another, across the festival grounds, ends. So the “whichever shall I choose” quandary only comes to into play if you opt to, say, ride the rail for your favorite band and sacrifice seeing the act currently performing on the other stage by holding down your spot for 45+ minutes.

With bike valet, walkable options from points downtown and trendy neighborhoods along the North Shore, plus easy ride share drop-off spots, Moon River was accessible and welcoming as city fests go. Especially with a vaccination card (or negative COVID-19 test) check for all attendees at the gate, I found this to be a pleasant, low-drama affair as a solo traveler.

The consecutive days of live music opportunities also seemed appropriate for Patagonia-hipsters with young children (diapered dancing to “Wagon Wheel”? ✔️), gaggles of preppy teens swarming stage to stage in matching jorts + halter top ensembles, college bros checking out SEC football at the adjacent outdoor sports bar, and cool Boomers with the best low lawn chair set-ups claiming their sight and sound lines for the duration of each day.

I could not catch everybody I hoped to see, but my Instagram story Highlights showcase some photos and videos from my 34 hours in the ‘Noog. Here were the sets I did enjoy over the weekend:


Allison Russell
Amythyst Kiah
Shovels + Rope
Lake Street Dive
Lord Huron


The Seratones
American Aquarium
Molly Tuttle
Old Crow Medicine Show
Dr. Dog

Were you at Moon River or any other festivals recently? How are you feeling back out in groups and large events? Speak your mind via voice memo at!