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Music Scene: Dozens of venues showcase talent
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Sunday, March 25, 2012    |   
Chattanooga's newest venue, Track 29, has a moveable stage that can accommodate crowds as small as 800 up o a full house of 1,800. It also offers full-service VIP rooms above the main floor.
Chattanooga's newest venue, Track 29, has a moveable stage that can accommodate crowds as small as 800 up o a full house of 1,800. It also offers full-service VIP rooms above the main floor.
Photo by Tim Barber.

Situated within a two-hour drive of four larger cities, Chattanooga is ideally positioned to attract touring musicians to any of dozens of venues throughout the city.

From neighborhood jazz festivals and singer/songwriter open mikes to weekly big band orchestras and nationally renowned marquee acts, the Scenic City has something to offer practically every musical taste.

Thanks to a thriving regional folk and bluegrass music scene, many clubs and theaters regularly host nationally renowned acoustic artists. Cover bands are also a common fixture at some venues, but there also is a growing community of local independent artists ignoring genre lines in favor of creative original music.

Here are a few of the venues that showcase the city's musical diversity.

Track 29, 1400 Market St. (521-2929) -- Chattanooga's newest music venue is also one of its largest. Equipped with a moveable stage and a design that maximizes even distribution of sound, Track 29 can accommodate crowds as small as 800 up to a full house of 1,800. From coat check and a massive bar to full-service VIP rooms above the main floor, Track 29 offers amenities unavailable at many other venues. In the first six months since opening in September, it has played host to a slew of nationally renowned artists, including John Prine, Lucinda Williams, M. Ward, The Avett Brothers and They Might Be Giants.

Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St. (267-4644) -- This is one of Chattanooga's premiere showcases for live music. Manager Mike Dougher draws from local, regional and national talent pools to fill his calendar. Last year, the venue hosted a number of area up-and-comers such as Slim Pickin's and The Nim Nims, as well as nationally known artists such as Sam Bush and a slew of cover bands. Rhythm & Brews adjoins Big River Grille & Brewing Works, which provides the microbrew beers from which the venue derives its name.

The Palms at Hamilton, 6925 Shallowford Road, #202. (499-5055) -- Located one exit north on Interstate 75 from Hamilton Place mall, the Palms offers fine dining and near nightly entertainment on one of two in-house stages, The Palms Lounge and The Coconut Room. The menu emphasizes surf and turf dishes, but the music schedule is a blend of live performances by area singer/songwriters and lounge acts as well as weekly swing music by the Monday Nite Big Band. When the weather is warmer, the Palms also has a pair of patios, one smoking and one nonsmoking, for dining and entertainment.

Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave. (624-5347) -- From David Grier and Norman Blake to The John Cowan Band and Michael Cleveland, this is the place to be for acoustic bluegrass, folk and singer/songwriter acts in Chattanooga. Thanks to a booming independent producers' series, this is also among the only sit-down venues in town to see high-profile old-time and Irish musicians and is becoming a destination for regional jazz acts. Barking Legs also doubles as a dance space and frequently hosts avant-garde companies and an open invitational monthly group for improvisational art. Despite being able to squeeze in a little more than 175 people, a show at the part-time venue/part-time dance studio has the intimate feel of a house concert.

  • photo
    Butch Ross, left, plays dulcimer while Matt Evans plays guitar during a bluegrass jam session at the Market Street Tavern in Miller Plaza.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

The Electric Cowboy, 5600 Brainerd Road, #A4. (499-1995) -- Whether you're eager for a ride on a mechanical bovine or just a few hours of shaking it on the dance floor to artists ranging from Alan Jackson to Flo Rida, there are few places as happening as the Electric Cowboy. In keeping with one of Chattanooga's most popular pastimes, the Electric Cowboy also has karaoke performances on the weekend and a weekly contest Thursdays.

Terminal Brewhouse, 6 E. 14th St. (752-8090) -- This narrow, three-story brewery stands adjacent to the iconic Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and has quickly established itself as a hip up-and-comer at the leading edge of the recently reinvigorated Southside neighborhood. Although Terminal rarely hosts live entertainment, it does offer six microbrew beers -- one of which is seasonal -- pub-style food and a chic, modern atmosphere.

The Camp House, 1427 Williams St. (702-8081) -- Another recent addition to the Southside scene, The Camp House has become a popular gathering place to hear local and regional singer/songwriters, blues musicians, classical duets and trios and independent bands. Although it is relatively small, the Camp House's modern exposed brick-and-piping interior make it one of the hipper venues at which to enjoy live music. The Camp House also offers weekly workshops for the crafty minded as well as a Sunday worship service. And if you're a fan of good java, this is one of several independent coffee bars that have sprung up in and around Southside in recent years.

Raw Sushi Bar and Nightclub, 409 Market St. (756-1919) -- From tuna rolls in the chic, narrow confines of its downstairs eatery to a DJ-fueled dance party upstairs, Raw has the night covered from dusk to dawn. The venue features a weekly slate of entertainment ranging from karaoke to singer/songwriters and regional bands brought in by owner Jim Striker, a veteran booker with a long history on Chattanooga's music scene.

JJ's Bohemia, 231 M.L. King Blvd. (266-1400) -- When regional bands first hit the Scenic City, their debut performance is often at this cozy casa. Bohemia owners John Shoemaker and Jeni Brown have established themselves as savvy bookers with an ear for great regional talent in genres ranging from alt-rock and indie to roots Americana and blues. In the last year, acts that have taken the stage at the recently refurbished venue include "School House Rocks!" songwriter Bob Dorough, blues legend T. Model Ford and Nashville power pop artist The Features. Just don't expect liquor; this place is suds-only.

Comedy Catch, 3224 Brainerd Road. (629-2233) -- Chattanooga's only full-time comedy club hosts comedians in four-night (sometimes three-night) stretches. Fridays and Saturdays host two shows a night. Thursday and Sunday nights are single performances. The club, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is now a nonsmoking venue, so visitors can enjoy clean-air shows any time. Notable acts to appear on the Comedy Catch stage include Tim Wilson, Pauly Shore, Ron White and a finalists and winners from numerous seasons of NBC's "Last Comic Standing."

Honest Pint, 35 Patten Parkway. (468-4192) -- One of the newest music venues/eateries to hit the Scenic City opened in December 2010 as the city's only Irish pub. In addition to a wide range of beers on tap, the menu features an upscale take on pub fare standards like shepherd's pie and fish and chips. The venue, which was born out of the highly renovated ashes of Parkway Billiards Club, is also focusing on serving tunes with its food, offering live music via a pair of midweek concerts in addition to bringing in the occasional bigger name act on the weekends.