May 3 Lee Fields & the Expressions with Drew Sterchi
May 10 Oliver Mtzukudzi & the Black Spirits with Ogya
May 17 Cody ChesnuTT with Summer Dregs
May 24 Kansas Bible Company with Nim Nims
May 31 Brothers Comatose with Woodford Sessions
June 7 Elizabeth Cook with Dismembered Tennesseans
June 14 Walter "Wolfman" Washington with Deacon Bluz Band
June 21 Amber Fults & the Ambivalent Lovers (Road to Nightfall winner) with Dana Rogers
June 28 Lake Street Dive with Ten Bartram
July 5 Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes with Lumbar Five
July 12 Wheeler Brothers with Birds w Fleas
July 19 Special Guest with Smooth Dialects
July 26 Swear and Shake with Jordan Hallquist
Aug. 2 The Cleverlys with Lou Wamp & Swing Shift
Aug. 9 Aaron and the Spell with Function
Aug. 16 Holly Williams with Cody James Harris
Aug. 23 Leagues (UTC night) with Moonlight Bride
Aug. 30 Screaming Orphans with Rigoletto
It's hard today to imagine summers in downtown Chattanooga without a free Friday night concert at Miller Plaza, but it wasn't always so.
Twenty-five years ago, planners were looking for a way to show off the beautiful new stage at Miller Plaza and to bring people downtown to shop and dine. Miller Plaza is owned and managed by the River City Co., downtown's economic development company.
From 1988 to 1990, River City presented three or four free shows at Miller Plaza to test the waters. In 1991, the full series was created, and Carla Pritchard came on board as part of the Chattanooga Downtown Partnership.
In 2010, River City wanted out of the events business and parted ways with the partnership, so Pritchard started Chattanooga Presents and has continued to program Nightfall.
River City President and CEO Kim White says downtown Chattanooga owes a lot to Nightfall.
"I don't think people give Nightfall enough credit for what it did," she says. "Bringing people to downtown when there really wasn't much of a reason to come."'
Now, as part of its 25-year celebration, Nightfall will have more dates than ever before, starting at its earliest date, May 3, and running through Aug. 30. And, for the first time, it will also continue during the nine-day run of Riverbend in June, which Pritchard says is a reflection of how far the city has come in terms of supporting multiple events.
"We've communicated with Riverbend and the city and everyone is on board," she says. "We are not trying to be a pioneer in the revitalization effort now, but we are a part of everything else that is happening downtown. We have grown as a city, and our identity as a music city has grown."
The idea behind the original Nightfall Concert Series was the same as it is today, according to Pritchard who, with the help of a selection committee, has been programming the music since '91. The goal has always been to introduce people to new music while also getting people downtown in the hopes that they will shop or eat before or after the concerts in the area.
Shopping and dining choices were not as numerous in 1988 as they are today, and Dave Santucci, vice president of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, gives Nightfall some credit for the change.
"It animates downtown on Friday nights. People come early, catch the show and enjoy one of the new restaurants," he says. "The efforts that they started 25 years ago are paying off."
He says with the addition of Riverfront Nights at Ross's Landing on Saturday nights and the Chattanooga Market on Sundays at First Tennessee Pavilion, visitors can find good, free music all weekend. "That is the reputation we want," Santucci says.
Because the concerts are free, Pritchard says, she has been free to look for acts that are good but might not have massive name recognition. This year's lineup is representative of that.
White echoed what many have said over the years about the lineup. "Most of the time I've never heard of the act, but I know they will be good, and the next year they win some big award or headline some festival," she says. "Carla has a good ear for music."
Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or at 423-757-6354.