published Friday, February 18th, 2011

Casey: Nightfall returns, offers headlining slot to local acts

Tennessee could hardly be described as having a "normal" climate, but thanks to a week of decidedly unwinter-like weather, my mind has been on spring lately.

The upswing on the thermometer may have some thinking about spring break or getting on the lake, but my first thought was of Nightfall.

Chattanooga Presents spokeswoman Ann Ball said the details of this season are still being ironed out, but she said she should know the particulars, including start date, soon.

Even if the first concert is on the early side, we're still months out from Nightfall's start, but that it seems bound to return this year is excellent news, indeed.

After the RiverCity Co. divested itself of the Chattanooga Downtown Partnership, its event-planning arm, last year, the future of all CDP events, including Nightfall, was uncertain.

Even though Chattanooga Presents formed fairly quickly after CDP's dissolution, during a recession, there is no guaranteed continuance of any annual event, which the absence of Swingfest, Appalachian Christmas and the Starlight Parade unfortunately proved last year.

I have been on pins and needles waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding Nightfall's future this year, so it was with great gladness that I greeted even a hint of its return.

As an added bonus, this year's Nightfall season will feature an interesting wrinkle: a local headliner.

In its 23-year history, Nightfall has always featured local openers for the out-of-town headliners, but through an upcoming battle of the bands called McKay's Road to Nightfall (sponsored by McKay Used Books and CDs), a local artist will land a headlining slot this year.

Artists have until Feb. 28 to e-mail a link to their electronic press kit, social network profile or website to bandsubmissions@chattanoogapresents.com. Once submissions are complete, Rhythm & Brews will host the preliminary rounds of the contest on March 23-24 and 30-31. Bands selected through popular vote by attendees at the prelims will compete in the finals on April 7.

Local musician and Chattanooga Presents marketing and media director Jonathan Susman said he conceived Road to Nightfall as a local analog to Road to Bonnaroo, which pits Nashville artists against one another for a slot at the Manchester festival.

Nightfall's audience averages about 2,500 people, which is a far cry from the 80,000-plus who swarm Bonnaroo every year, but for many local bands, it's a chance to stand in a spotlight far larger than they could otherwise get, Susman said.

"Even at Riverbend, they don't get that kind of time slot," he said. "I wanted to be able to showcase a local band. I wanted local bands to be able to meet each other through the competition and build up a community."

Thus far, Susman has received 30 entries, so competition should be fierce.

As far as I'm concerned, any opportunity to show off local talent warms the cockles of my wintery heart, and that has nothing to do with our abnormal climate.

about Casey Phillips...

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 ...

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