Bluegrass Underground, the concert series that has welcomed guests from Del McCoury to Lucinda Williams to Widespread Panic for subterranean concerts within Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tenn., is about to get new digs beneath Monteagle Mountain.
Todd Mayo, creator and executive producer of the PBS music series, says he's found a new permanent home in The Caverns. Besides the natural acoustics it provides, the new venue will accommodate a larger audience in response to increasing demand for tickets to Bluegrass Underground and for other live music concerts across expanding genres.
"This is a dream come true to find a cave system that expands and improves the live and televised musical experiences of underground performances we have been curating since 2008," Mayo said in a news release. "Our new home at The Caverns will enable us to add infrastructure with permanent power, professional audio and lighting with enhanced food and beverage concessions that have never before been possible, including a longtime request from our patrons: cold beer."
The Caverns' enhancements will greatly benefit the PBS experience as well, said television producer Todd Jarrell.
"In the past, we taped the entire 12-episode season over one weekend due to the difficulty and expense of bringing literally tons of cabling and show gear a quarter-mile into the cave," Jarrell said. "But The Caverns' permanent infrastructure presents us the flexibility to match calendars with some of the world's greatest performers, enticing them underground to offer our fans a 'deep down' lifetime experience throughout the year."
The Caverns, located in Grundy County near Pelham, Tenn., at the base of Monteagle Mountain, is 10 minutes off Interstate 24 at Exit 127. The location is 30 minutes closer to two of Bluegrass Underground's major markets: Nashville (75 minutes away) and Chattanooga (45 minutes away). It's also a 2.5-hour drive from the major population centers of Atlanta and Birmingham, 45 minutes closer than before.
"Bluegrass Underground is now far more easily accessible to the vast majority of our regional patrons as well as our national and international fly-in fans," said Joe Lurgio, general manager and associate producer of Bluegrass Underground. "And for the first time, Bluegrass Underground will be more easily accessible for patrons with physical disabilities."
Mayo said that securing a permanent home with full production infrastructure will provide stability and long-term security for Bluegrass Underground, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018. He projects as many as 50 performances for 2018, expanding the "underground experience" to span more musical genres including symphonic music, comedy shows and some truly unexpected underground surprises.
The Caverns actually adjoin a number of connected cave systems, most of which are slated to remain accessible to qualified cavers.