For the first time, Riverbend's fireworks finale will launch with the push of one button.
James Jones, pyro technician for Pyro Shows, which has produced Riverbend's fireworks spectacle for 34 years, says the show is shooting with a digital system called Fire One.
"I hit one button, and it shoots the whole show. It's got a script inside of it so once the radio signals me to start, it synchronizes with the music. It will shoot a show just like we normally shoot it, except it fires on its own time code without me having to get a cue every time we hit a button. As long as I start when the music starts, it will continue to shoot every cue after that," he explains.
Jones says Pyro shows began using digital systems five years ago. He'll arrive in town Friday, June 15, to begin setting up the highly anticipated Riverbend finale, which launches at the conclusion of Bret Michaels' show on Saturday about 11 p.m.
Jones says 2,500 shells will be used in the roughly 20-minute extravaganza.
Also new this year: two waterfalls. The casading stream of sparklers will fall from the Market Street Bridge as well as the soundstage, he says. And be on time — the waterfall will kick off the show this year.
A third new feature of this fireworks show: It's going to shoot higher and spread out further across the night sky.
"Because the riverfront has grown up so much and trees are now covering some of the lower-level sightlines, we will be shooting less lower-level devices (such as the nauticals that shoot from the water) and spreading the three sizes of shells (3-inch, 4-inch and 5-inch) so it looks like a much larger show in the sky."
He's quick to add, though, there will still be some nauticals included.
When not shooting fireworks, Jones is a teacher and basketball coach at Clinton Middle School in Anderson County, Tennessee. He worked his way through college working at Pyro Shows, learning the ropes from the ground up, and is one of the company's highest-tier shooters.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Subhead for this one: Three big names left for Coke Stage
Three big hit-makers will wrap up the last weekend of Riverbend, beginning with Flo Rida Thursday, June 14, on the Coca-Cola Stage. Third Eye Blind and Bret Michaels follow on Friday and Saturday, respectively. All three shows will begin at 9:30 p.m.
* Flo Rida: Tramar Lacel Dillard — aka Flo Rida, a take on his home state of Florida — has sold more than 80 million records worldwide. His 2008 debut album "Mail on Sunday" reached No. 4, and its single "Low" was No. 1 for 10 weeks and broke the record for digital downloads at that time.
He's had three No. 1 singles, "Low," "Whistle" and "Right Round," and 11 singles to crack the Top 10; among them, "Good Feeling," "My House," "Wild Ones" and "Club Can't Handle Me." His newest single, released in March, is "Dancer."
* Third Eye Blind: The band that Rolling Stone named "Best Singalong" for its performance at New York's Governors Ball earlier this month takes the Riverbend stage on Friday night.
San Francisco's Third Eye Blind, or 3EB, has recorded four best-selling albums since forming in 1997. The alt-rock band's hits include party-starter "Semi-Charmed Life," "Slow Motion," "Never Let You Go," "How's It Going to Be," "Jumper" and "Don't Believe a Word."
* Bret Michaels: Bret Michael Sychak — but known as Bret Michaels by every Poison fan in the country — came to fame as lead singer of that metal band, which has sold more than 40 million records worldwide.
Poison scored 10 singles in the Top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart; six of them cracking the Top 10 including No. 1 single "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
Other Poison hits include "Nothin' but a Good Time," "Something to Believe In," "I Won't Forget You" and a cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band."
Michaels also has a series of TV credits to his name. He was a judge on "Nashville Star" talent show, starred in his own VH1 reality shows "Rock of Love" and "Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It" and he won NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice 3" in 2010.