Even at 100 decibels, the hushed, 18-second intro to Janis Ian's "Breaking Silence" doesn't overwhelm the ears when heard through Track 29's custom speaker system.
During an Aug. 19 soundcheck for a 1,200-person, invitation-only trial run of Chattanooga's newest music venue, the folk/rock singer's vocals remained unmuddled, even at the same volume as a jackhammer.
Crafting a soundscape for a 22,000-square-foot facility that delivers the same experience at the foot of the stage as it does in one of four elevated, air-conditioned VIP rooms was difficult but worth the effort, said co-owner Adam Kinsey.
IF YOU GO
- What: Track 29 grand opening featuring Jamey Johnson and Kalisa Ewing.
- When: 9 p.m. Thursday.
- Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.
- Admission: $35.
- Phone: 266-4323.
- Website: www.track29.co .
- Sept. 9: Corey Smith with American Aquarium and Canaan Smith, 9 p.m., $17 advance/$20 at the door.
- Sept. 10: Drive-By Truckers with The Shakes, 9 p.m., $20 advance/$22 at the door.
- Sept. 24: M. Ward with Dawes, 8 p.m., $23 advance/$25 at the door.
- Sept. 30: Paper Diamond, 9 p.m., $12 advance/$15 at the door.
- Oct. 4: Ghostland Observatory, 8 p.m., $20 advance/$22 at the door.
- Oct. 5: Brett Dennen with Ben Sollee, 8 p.m., $18 advance/$20 at the door.
- Oct. 7: Marc Broussard with Chic Gamine and Scars on 45, 8 p.m., $15.
- Nov. 17: John Hiatt and The Combo, 8 p.m., $32 advance/$34 at the door.
- Nov. 18: Dr. Dog, 9 p.m., $15 in advance/$17 at the door.
Kinsey said he expects positive reactions from the public when Track 29 opens its doors Thursday for its first public concert by country star Jamey Johnson.
"It really feels like one of the best facilities in the Southeast," Kinsey said. "It really is amazing to see what we've gotten done, I think."
Head audio engineer Paul Gussack said acoustics were the prime concern during Track 29's construction process, which began in April.
Audio engineers coordinated with construction crews to choose materials such as perforated panels to cover the bar, open metal railings and sloped ceilings in the VIP rooms to diminish the echoes caused by the concrete floors and metal ceiling.
Track 29's maximum capacity is about 1,800 people, but as few as four people can move the custom-designed and custom-built stage forward by hand to create a space suitable for crowds of fewer than 800. For opening night, Kinsey said, the stage will be set at the rear of the cavernous room, which was formerly an ice-skating rink on the Chattanooga Choo Choo property.
About a week out from Johnson's performance, tickets were still available for Johnson's show, but Kinsey's business partner and co-operator Josh McManus said he expects a packed house.
"We've seen [presells] increase about 10 percent every day for the last week," he said. "It's a big head number, but I expect us to sell out."
In addition to booking midlevel regional and national touring artists, Track 29 will offer its larger stage to showcase local talent every month.
Local rock band The Bohannons performed at the trial concert, which was organized by the band's label, This Is American Music.
The Bohannons' lead singer, Marty Bohannon, said he was impressed by his experience, from soundcheck, during which engineers adjusted the sound system using iPads, to the performance to a crowd of more than 800 later in the evening.
Bohannon said he thinks Track 29 fills a long-standing void in the Chattanooga music scene.
"It's obviously a long time coming ... so we can compete with other markets," he said. "Having promoted shows here for 12, 13 years, it feels like we've finally pushed on to the next level."
Mike Dougher, the manager of Market Street venue Rhythm & Brews, was more cautiously optimistic.
Dougher said Track 29's ability to sell alcohol offers it an opportunity to fill a gap left by similar-size local venues, such as Memorial Auditorium (3,700) and the Tivoli Theatre (1,700).
Ultimately, its success will be determined by public support, not liquor or a crystal-clear sound system, Dougher said.
"You have to prove ... that people want it to be a destination," he said. "Everyone is hopeful, but you have to prove that people will come out.
"Routing wise ... [Chattanooga is] two hours from four big cities. That's the beauty of where we're located. That makes it, potentially, a great spot to land."
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 ...