Local Chattanoogans could not believe the transformation of Coolidge Park on the weekend of September 9th and 10th, 2023. Typically a tranquil and uncongested space in the middle of the city, the park was teeming with people who gathered from far and wide to enjoy over 20 performances in the span of two days. The heart of downtown Chattanooga was enlivened with the annual Moon River Festival.
The collective joy felt throughout the weekend was clearly visible in the ceaseless dancing, singing, and laughter. The feel good energy was contagious, and the excitement was electric. As a family friendly space, people of all ages were thriving at Moon River. The atmosphere was easy-going and laid-back, yet lively all the same.
The first performance of the festival was Sunny War. Her sound was bluesy with a psychedelic groove, reminiscent of 60s staples such as Hendrix and the Dead. Sunny War’s unique voice was deeply powerful and mesmerizing, it was as if she cast a spell over the crowd. With her relaxed instrumentals and hypnotizing vocals, Sunny War was the perfect way to ease into the weekend.
Another band we saw on day one of Moon River was Flipturn. Even in the midday heat with the sun beating down hard, the indie-rock group had the crowd jumping with their infectious high-energy and vivacious riffs. A highlight of the band’s performance was their cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. According to a fan at the festival, the cover was “unexpected and epic.” It was apparent that Flipturn was a crowd favorite. Festival-goers had been waiting at the barricade for their set to begin since the end of the previous set.
Unfortunately, soon after Flipturn the festival was put on pause due to an oncoming storm. However, Moon River was quick to keep attendees updated, and before we knew it the festival was back on as if nothing happened.
The first act we saw post-storm was Houndmouth, and it was a performance not to be forgotten. Everyone knew the words to their hit Sedona, and the lyrics thundered through the festival grounds, paralleling the thunderstorm that had struck the area just a few hours before.
Spirits were high on day two of Moon River as more and more performances took to the stage and anticipation loomed for that night’s headliner, Hozier.
Larkin Poe absolutely rocked. Originally from Knoxville, TN but currently based in Nashville, the sister band inspired a thrill within the crowd with their blues-driven headbangers and strong themes of empowerment. Even hours after their set ended, there was a lasting hum about their performance throughout the festival grounds. The sisters definitely left a deep-rooted impression on many Moon River attendees.
Nickel Creek was another crowd favorite. The Southern Californian bluegrass group really knew how to fuel the energy of the audience. Despite not having a drummer in the band, the group never lost sight of the beat and the crowd could still feel the groove even with the absence of drums. Every member of Nickel Creek had an intricate part to play, and each instrument layered together harmoniously.
Hozier closed out the Moon River weekend with an unforgettable set. Many festival-goers had been camping out for Hozier for hours in the hot sun, and it was well worth the wait. His bewitching stage presence and celestial songwriting left the crowd enraptured.
Thank you to Drew Holdcomb and the Moon River team for hosting another festival for the books.
Written By: Lula Baldriche
Interview w/ Larkin Poe A view of Poplar Stage The final day of the festival
WMTS's General Manager (Taylor Wood), Press Director (Lula Baldriche), and Technical Director (Sterling Martin)