Chattanooga Now Courter: Will growing pains hurt downtown?

Chattanooga Now Courter: Will growing pains hurt downtown?

January 6th, 2012 by Barry Courter in Chattnow Outabout

Last year around this time, it was easy enough to predict that the local entertainment scene would undergo some significant changes. Knowing that Track 29 would open in late summer or early fall made making such a claim simple. Being able to predict exactly what that impact would be was more difficult.

Claiming that I knew there would be an increase in violence downtown related to clubs was a bit of a surprise, though it probably should not have been. Anywhere there are large crowds and alcohol mixed together in the later hours, there is likely to be violence. There have been fights at downtown clubs forever. The stabbings and shootings in such numbers are new. And frightening.

So what will 2012 bring? In the coming year, there are several things worth watching, and some are related to Track 29. For instance, nearly every other venue will try to benefit from the successes that Track 29 has seen.

Track 29 has been open four months, and in that time it has shown that people will buy somewhat pricier tickets and they will buy them in advance. Both are fairly new trends. We've also seen that music fans from outside the immediate area will travel to town for a show. There is no reason to think that won't continue.

Being able to attract younger audiences willing to pay higher prices and get their tickets early is a big deal. Filling up your place is also huge.

It's possible that other places will see increased crowds either before or after shows at the venue. What will be worth watching is how the city handles this, especially as it relates to what is currently happening downtown. The city has shown it plans to deal with problems swiftly.

This is not to place any blame on Track 29 for the incidents that have occurred at Fathom/Mosaic/The Warehouse, Music Midtown or Fire & Ice, but it has added to the traffic downtown, and the city is struggling to deal with how to handle it. Closing certain venues might simply move the problems and not eliminate them.

One other thing worth watching, at least for me personally, is whether local music fans will develop a sense of sophistication that crowds at other venues have regarding how to act. The Avett Brothers show at Track 29 was a success on nearly every level. It sold out in record time, people lined up hours in advance to get up close, the sound was great and the band put on a lively, high-energy concert.

For its part, most of the audience had a blast, singing along to many of the songs, especially the more raucous numbers. Singing along to "Kick Drum Heart" is one thing. Trying to sing louder than the lead singer on numbers such as "I and Love and You" is bad form.

Standing in the middle of the audience near the stage and trying to impress your neighbor with how many times you've seen the band or what you got for Christmas as the group sings an acoustic version of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" is just not cool.

Unfortunately, a large contingent in the back thought talking through the entire show was a good idea. Why stand in line and pay $35 to talk over the band?