Waking up to a storm on the morning of a music festival is never a nice feeling, and for us Moon River ticket holders, that happening on Sunday meant that we would be spending our day drenched outside, waiting around for updates, and trying to keep our phones dry. 

I’ve been an avid festival-goer for around six years now, so I’ve seen my fair share of delays due to inclimate weather. What I’d never seen, though, was an entire day of music canceled due to the threat of thunderstorms in the area, which aside from around an hour of heavy rain, never really amounted to anything. I was sitting outside of the gate to the grounds at Coolidge Park when the announcement was made that it was over, and that we’d be issued prompt refunds for the day we were missing. I was pretty angry, and I felt that the situation had been severely mismanaged. 

I drove home in a huff, prepared to write something scathing about how ridiculous the cancellation was, how I felt cheated, how local food trucks and other vendors would be losing out on a ton of revenue, and how unfair it was for smaller artists who had traveled to Chattanooga not to be able to play their sets. Almost as soon as I arrived home, though, I saw a notification that some of the artists who didn’t get to play were going to perform a few songs at Memorial Auditorium for free. 

I hopped right back in my car, thrilled that I’d still at least be able to see some music, and it turned out to be one of the most unique, special festival experiences of my life. By the time I got back downtown, a huge crowd had already gathered outside the auditorium. After waiting by the doors for around an hour, festival ticket holders were funneled through make-shift security lines into first come, first serve seating inside. I knew that Local Natives would be playing a short acoustic set, and seeing as they were the only reason I bought a festival ticket in the first place, I was really excited to see them. 

What I didn’t expect, though, was how much I enjoyed seeing all of the other acts. Apart from Local Natives, who I’ve been a fan of for a long time, Drew Holcomb, who plays every year, and a surprise show by Leon Bridges, who was set to headline the festival for Sunday, I’d never heard of any of the other performers, and I was blown away. There’s something so gratifying about seeing artists in a raw, unplanned, unrehearsed setting. These performers, out of the kindness of their hearts, threw together acoustic setlists with less than two hours to prepare. 

It was unlike any show I’d ever been to, and the crowd was absolutely eating it up. The most special part of it all was seeing the reactions on smaller artists’ faces when the audience would cheer. Every seat in the auditorium was full, meaning there must have been upwards of 3,000 people in attendance – a much larger crowd than some of the performers were probably used to playing for. Being in such a supportive, enthusiastic environment like that was a really good reminder to me of why I love live music, and why I love Chattanooga. So, while I’m still bummed to have missed out on a day of music at Coolidge Park, I’m extremely impressed by the organizers of the event for throwing together the show at Memorial Auditorium so quickly, and I’m grateful to have been there. 

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