How would you describe the music scene in Chattanooga?
There are all kinds of answers, of course, from vibrant to lacking to getting better.
Now, how would you describe Chattanooga as a music town? Is it a place where people come specifically to hear music and, if so, what kind and why?
Over the last several months, lots of people have been talking about these very things. Chattanooga has always had quality music and quality musicians playing it. The local bands and venues have not always been supported as well as in some other towns, but that appears to be changing. That's not the point here, however.
With the city being talked about and pointed to more and more as an arts town, a gig-city town, an outdoor town and/or a hipster town (whatever that means), people are talking about Chattanooga's current and future image as a music town.
Memphis has the blues, Nashville has country, and to a much lesser degree contemporary Christian. Atlanta has its urban and hip-hop scene, and Knoxville is somewhat known as an indie rock or college music town. So what is Chattanooga known for, musically speaking?
The dominant radio station here features country music, which is largely why Riverbend programs at least two country acts on the main stage each year, but we don't have a lot of live country music shows or bands. I'm not sure you could argue that we have a lot of any one kind of live music except maybe bluegrass, or Americana, and they are not the same thing.
What we do have is a variety of music, and we have a lot opportunities to hear it. We have all manner of festivals and concert series. During the spring, summer and fall, you can find quality music for free or very cheap almost every weekend. Promoters are no longer as worried about competing against other events, either. For example, Nightfall this year will not take the two Riverbend Friday nights off for the first time ever.
We also have a lot of live music in a very concentrated area, specifically in the downtown vicinity. We hear from out-of-towners all the time about how much they appreciate being able to get a hotel room downtown, park the car for the weekend and easily find restaurants, bars and music venues within walking distance.
So that's what we are: A town with a lot of musical variety in places that are easy to get to. Now, we just need to work that into a catchy slogan.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...