On March 20, The Rev. Horton Heat, Larry and His Flask and another band whose name isn't quite fit for print helped Rhythm & Brews celebrate 11 years of serving up great music and fantastic microbrews.
Or was that 12 years? Maybe 13? Manager Mike Dougher can't be sure exactly how long the Market Street venue has been open, but one thing is for certain: R&B has been going like gangbusters lately.
"We're staying busy -- a lot of people, a lot of people," Dougher said. "I'm just happy to be here."
Dougher said he's packed the house with recent events such as the Johnny Cash Birthday Bash, a St. Patrick's Day blowout with Glowing Bordis and Strung Like a Horse and marquee performers such as Hank (Williams) III. In fact, he said, there has been at least one sellout every week for almost two months.
So why is that a big deal? Because the success of any venue is a sign of a healthy music scene.
Dougher recognizes this. Whereas some might see other venues as competitors, he is generally quick to tout their success, citing a "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" philosophy.
"I'm thrilled with what they do at JJ's Bohemia," he said. "Every city needs a place like that."
Looking back on the last decade -- or 13 years or however long it's been -- Dougher said the most definitive change has been the decision to limit attendance to the 21-and-up crowd.
It has been hard to lose a segment of the population with disposable income and its collective ear to the ground on the hottest new bands. Dougher said that, along with the decline of radio audiences, has made it more difficult to justify taking risks on obscure up-and-comers.
Instead, he turns to surefire crowd-pleasers, including a rotating cast of cover artists such as Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi), Wrong Way (Sublime) and Abbey Road Live (The Beatles). Some people have criticized R&B for relying on these artists, which account for about 20 percent of the venue's bookings, but as long as people are enjoying themselves, Dougher said he feels like he's doing his job.
"[Cover bands] pay for the other stuff," he said. "No one has yet to explain to me how a room that's full of people having fun is a bad thing. When you do an Abbey Road [Live] or a Who's Bad and see how much fun they're having -- that's why we're here."
Personally, I have many fond memories of Rhythm & Brews. When I first came to Chattanooga as a college student in 2006, it was to see The Features play there. Two years later, I sat at a table next to the stage with eyes closed and jaw gaping at how much Ben Taylor sounded like his daddy, James.
It's also where The Rounders and Infradig played their last shows. It's where Glowing Bordis played its first show, rising from the ashes of Up With the Joneses, which ended its decade together on the same stage.
Not matter how long it's been around, those experiences make me hope the venue continues for years to come. I think we all could use more memories like that.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...
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