Chattanooga Times Free Press entertainment reporter Casey Phillips spoke with Adam Kinsey, co-owner and operator of the new Track 29 venue, about how the community has responded to the new venue, the state of presells for the first few shows and the first time a band took the stage.
CP: How does it feel being so close to opening?
AK: It feels amazing. I know I'm biased, but it really feels like one of the best facilities in the Southeast. It really is amazing to see what we've gotten done, I think. I couldn't be happier right now.
CP: When did you book Jamey Johnson? What was the mindset behind using him to kick off the venue?
AK: I think we booked Jamey Johnson in June. I think it was the middle of June. I actually think I might have been at Bonnaroo when we got confirmation that the offer was accepted. We started talking to Jamey's agent back in May, but it was officially confirmed in June.
I think AC Entertainment obviously was very involved in selecting Jamey Johnson. Also, he was the right person, as far as who we thought the public would really enjoy.
We knew that he'd been here before and had done well. He played at the Tivoli about a year and a half ago. That definitely had a part of it, but at the same time, a lot of people like Jamey Johnson. I think he crosses a couple of demographics and puts on a good show.
CP: What's your take on the level of excitement from the music community about the venue?
AK: (Laughs.) I'm sure people tell me what they think I want to hear, but people sound excited. Ticket sales do reflect that. For Jamey Johnson, Corey Smith and the Drive-By Truckers, all three of those ticket sales reflect that people are excited.
When people see the room when we've given tours to people in the last week or so, they really start to understand what we're about to bring to Chattanooga. I think that helps gets people even more excited.
People are starting to understand what Track 29 is and what it can be. It can't be anything if people don't come out and support us.
CP: How are ticket presells for Jamey Johnson? What about the other shows?
AK: I can't say anything specific, but I feel extremely confident of where Jamey Johnson is right now. i feel confident we'll sell out there. It's the same with Corey Smith.
Every day, I get daily ticket reports, and we're selling a lot of tickets. I think people are starting to find out about us regionally. We have a lot of ticket buyers coming from Kentucky and Atlanta. It's really amazing to see how far the reach is on ticket sales in that demographic.
CP: Does that reflect the customer demographic you anticipated?
AK: Long term, yes, but by no means did I think it would catch on this quickly as a regional draw. That's another reason we selected Jamey Johnson. We thought that he would attract guests from the region.
I'm surprised how far people are coming and how quickly people are finding out about us outside of the Chattanooga area.
CP: What do you attribute that to?
AK: I think it's two things. One, the reach that Jamey Johnson and Corey Smith have. Two, the world that we now live in with being so socially connected with Facebook and emailed newsletters and things of that nature, people can find out about things much easier and quicker than they used to. Also, our email newsletter database grows weekly, by the hundreds, which is great.
CP: What do you hope to learn from this first show?
AK: (Laughs.) We know things will go wrong for our first show. We know things will go wrong at our first ten shows, I'm sure, but we hope to learn from every show how to provide a better experience for the guest and for the artist. We've said, from day one, that we built Track 29 to give the best possible experience for the bands that play our stage and the customers who walk through our doors. We hope to learn how to do that better with every show.
CP: Have you had a chance to hear the space yet? What does it sound like?
AK: We had our first band (the Male Men) in the room last Saturday. I eloped back in April, so my wife and I used Track 29 as a guinea pig for our wedding party this past Saturday. We had a full band in there and a couple hundred people. That helped us learn what works and what doesn't work.
The band did great. We've also tested it with iPods and CDs and what not. With a full band in there, you can start to hear how full and crisp the audio is. We can get it as loud as we want it, but what's great is that when we make it loud, we don't lose any audio quality to distortion. It's still very clear. That's nice to hear.
Our sound engineers always said it would be a great system, but all the professionals have all been amazed by how nice it is.
CP: Where are you guys going to set the stage for this first show? Maximum? Halfway?
AK: We'll have it all the way back. Jamey Johnson will be set at 1,800 people, Corey Smith will be set at 1,500 and Drive-By Truckers will be set at 1,000. I'm really excited about the Drive-By Truckers show. It's a Saturday show. We have Corey Smith on Friday and Drive-By Truckers on Saturday. That whole weekend will be really special. It's also UTC's first home game that weekend. We're really excited about that. We think both of those shows will play well with the UTC home crowd.
CP: You guys have bookings listed for November. How far in advance are you looking to book?
AK: We had someone pop up in September who didn't work out, but we are pretty close to booking something else in September. October we're still working on. We did just confirm a band for April of next year, and we just submitted an offer for a band in May next year. People are getting their spring tours set up, and we're excited to be part of them.
CP: Is it too early to tell me who you've booked in April?
AK: It's way too early for that, but it's a big one.
CP: What kind of reaction have you been getting from bookers? Are they excited to see a venue of your size with a beer and liquor license in Chattanooga?
AK: Absolutely. Since day one that we were open for business and letting talent buyers know about us, they've been really excited. They hadn't even seen the room yet, but they want to play here because of the audio system and the amenities we're offering the band. Overall, the demand has been really nice.
CP: What still needs to be done, construction wise? Is everything done or will there still be rough edges on Sept. 1?
AK: By Sept. 1, we should be done with everything. Right now, we still have a couple of things to finish up. By Sept. 1, a lot of things should be done. If there is something that isn't done by Sept. 1, it will be very hard to notice.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...