¦ What: Road to Nightfall battle of the bands.
¦ When: Semifinal rounds 8 p.m Fridays-Saturdays, March 7 -8, 14-15. Final round 9 p.m. Friday, March 21.
¦ Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.
¦ Admission: $7.
¦ Phone: 423-267-4644.
¦ Websites: www.nightfallchattanooga.com, www.rhythm-brews.com.
¦ March 7: The Vino Takes, Birds With Fleas, Danimal Pinson, Iron Fez, Okinawa, Scenic and The Scarlet Love Conspiracy.
¦ March 8: Paul Hadfield, Jordan Hallquist & The Outfit, Remembering January, Endelouz, Marlow Drive, The Band Raven and Hot Damn.
¦ March 14: Ryan Oyer, Rick Rushing & The Blues Strangers, Eight Knives, Function: With a C, Socro, The Average and Decibella.
¦ March 15: Natural Habitz, The Iscariots, Smooth Dialects, Stereo Dig, New Planet, Kindred Pilots and Pack of Wolves.
2011 WTM Blues Band
2012 Strung Like a Horse
2013 Amber Fults & The Ambivalent Lovers
For the last three years, the Road to Nightfall has brought together dozens of local bands to vie for the affection of the community and a headlining spot during the summer concert series.
Although it technically is a competition, the Road to Nightfall also has introduced many bands to each other and developed a greater sense of community among local musicians.
Given these positive side effects, calling it a Battle of the Bands seems like a misnomer, says Jonathan Susman, the event's founder and media coordinator for organizer Chattanooga Presents.
"Those introductions have led to bands that are still friends or are even trading members," he says. "You're seeing the camaraderie between artists. There's a commonality that is discovered during these shows.
"I hate to even talk about the competition part of it. I don't like to emphasize it because it's more the community-building aspects of it that are important to me."
The fourth annual Road to Nightfall begins with four rounds of preliminary competitions on the next two Fridays and Saturdays, March 7-8 and 14-15, at Rhythm & Brews. Each night, groups of seven bands will play 15-minute sets to try to win a popular vote that will name a single finalist for the evening.
Unlike previous years, bands were asked to apply only if they could guarantee that they could play 90 minutes of material as a Nightfall performer. The organizers also specified that contestants limit themselves to one cover during the preliminary rounds.
"Before, we left that open-ended," Susman says. "We had full-on cover bands come in that we didn't realize were cover bands. [That] isn't in the spirit of a headlining Nightfall act."
On Friday, March 21, the four finalists will play longer sets that will be judged by a jury, not popular vote, for the chance to win a cash prize, a headlining slot at Nightfall and - new this year - eight hours of recording time at a local studio.
With more than 60 applicants, this year's pool of Nightfall candidates was about 50 percent larger than last year. Susman says he attributes this surge of popularity to the music community recognizing the ways past winners have benefited from the exposure they received through the competition.
"I hear from bands who say they don't expect to win but want to get in front of more people, different people," he says. "Other bands have come up and seen the attention that bands like Amber Fults (& The Ambivalent Lovers) and Strung Like a Horse got and how they're attracting bigger crowds.
"I think that people who might have been a little leery of it at first are now part of it."
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.