IF YOU GO
• What: Nightfall concert series featuring Honey Island Swamp Band.
• When: 8 p.m. today; Rick Bowers & The Saints of Main Street opens at 7.
• Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Boulevard, Market and Cherry streets.
• Admission: Free.
• Phone: 265-0771.
• Venue website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com.
Rick Bowers & The Saints of Main Street is a local rock band with elements of country and blues min. For more information, check out the band's Facebook profile, www.facebook.com/rick-bowers-and-the-main-street-saints.
Without getting exceptionally wet, San Francisco is about as far as one can get from New Orleans, both geographically and culturally. For about 18 months, however, a group of musicians displaced from the Big Easy by Hurricane Katrina were forced to call it home.
Rather than wallow in misery over their losses, however, they met at a bar at the end of 2005, formed The Honey Island Swamp Band and landed a Sunday night gig at San Francisco's Boom Boom Room.
Even though they were playing just three miles from the Pacific Ocean, from the stage, the band's mix of swamp rock, Western swing, bayou blues and zydeco made it feel a lot closer to home, said co-founder Aaron Wilkinson.
"That gave us a way to occupy ourselves and vent our frustrations," he said. "We wrote a lot of songs in that period that were related to our experience. It was an opportunity to get that stuff out there and turn it into something productive."
By mid-2007, the members of Honey Island began returning to New Orleans but decided to keep the band alive. In a sense, Wilkinson said, it felt as if they were contributing to the city's post-storm renaissance.
"People rebounded pretty quick and hit the ground running," he said. "It felt like we were a part of that. It was hard to be away, so it was a great feeling to be back and be part of what was going on."
In the years since that return, Honey Island has become one of the city's most-celebrated new artists.
In 2009, Louisiana culture magazine Off Beat voted Honey Island its Emerging Artist of the Year and awarded Best Album rights to its second release, "Wishing Well." For the last two years, Honey Island has walked away with the title of New Orleans' Best Roots Rock Artist at the prestigious Big Easy Entertainment Awards.
Tonight, the band will make its Chattanooga debut as the fourth headliner of this year's Nightfall Concert Series.
Whether in the studio or performing live, Wilkinson said he thrives on the enthusiasm emanating from his fellow band members. The continual swell of energy and excitement that results makes their shows a joy from both sides of the mike, he said.
"This is a release for us and for people who come to see us," he said. "It's supposed to be fun. We're not trying to bum you out or make you think too hard.
"There's a time and place for that, but we just try and have fun and take people on a trip with us for a couple of hours to have a good time."
Contact Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.