What: McKay's Road to Nightfall
When: Preliminary rounds at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays March 1-2 and March 8-9; finals at 8 p.m. Friday, March 15
Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.
Admission: $7 each night
Venue website: www.rhythm-brews.com
Nightfall website: http://www.nightfallchattanooga.com
Friday, March 1
Blues Hammer Band, Bluesfrog & The Georgia Rhythm Crickets, Function,
Elk Milk, Summer Dregs, The Maycomb Criers
Saturday, March 2
Rick Rushing & The Blues Strangers, Rigoletto, Stereo Dig, Smooth Dialects, Woodford Sessions, Ryan Oyer Band, Sharkweek
Paul Hadfield & Tucker Hollow Band, Soul Mechanic, Ashley & The X's, Slim Pickins, Amber Fults & The Ambivalent Lovers, Uncle Lightnin'
Leon G. & The Numac Band, Birds With Fleas, Jordan Hallquist & The Outfit, Jennifer Hope & The FNGs,
Sinner of Attention, Gabriel Newell & Muddy Soul
Finals featuring four semifinalists from preliminaries
To the bands who enter the McKay's Road to Nightfall battle of the bands, the $1,000 prize and chance to headline the summer concert series is a pretty appealing carrot to chase.
For founder and organizer Jonathan Susman, however, Road to Nightfall's biggest benefit is less tangible.
"It's never really been a competition thing for me," said Susman, who also serves as media coordinator for Nightfall event organizer Chattanooga Presents.
"Headlining Nightfall is a big deal and a great thing to do, but what I get out of it is the bands meeting each other and their fans meeting each other," he added. "It's cool to see people today who play shows together now and who met during the competition."
The third Road to Nightfall will begin with four preliminary rounds, the first of which will take place Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, at Rhythm & Brews. Subsequent rounds will be held March 8-9.
The finalists of these initial nights will be determined by popular vote. On March 15, the semifinalists will compete again during a juried final round to determine who will receive the headlining slot.
Susman said the selection committee received 45 registration packets this year. These were whittled down to a final group of 25 bands representing a wide range of genres, from alternative singers/songwriters and blues to bluegrass and indie rock bands.
In previous years, the competition's early rounds were held on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Despite being a midweek event, they drew crowds averaging 150 to 300 people to the Market Street venue, according to manager Mike Dougher.
The decision to give the event a premium weekend slot was easy, based on that past performance, Dougher said.
"It's just a really quality product," he said. "You get to see all this great music ... and I know people will come out and support it. It gives us a good, solid weekend."
Susman said moving to a night when people presumably can be out later has also allowed him to increase each band's sets from 15 minutes to 20 minutes.
During the competition, Dougher said he regularly discovers several bands he previously was unaware of but whom he eventually ends up booking at the venue.
That sense of discovery and letting unlikely musical bedfellows share the same stage helps the Road to Nightfall create a stronger, more interconnected music scene, Susman said.
"I hope that's what this helps people focus on, that we have so much talent here in this city," he said. "The whole music-scene conversation is getting louder."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205.