December 27, 2012

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We know the year has yet to begin, but as we survey the concert/event horizon for the first quarter of 2013, we are already reaching for the Prozac. Only the Times Free Press’ Barry Courter and Lisa Denton will likely “Get Off the Couch” for these events:

• UTC’s McKenzie Arena continues to showcase its annual family and redneck fare, hosting the Harlem Globetrotters (Jan. 18), WWE Raw’s Road to Wrestlemania (Feb. 1), the Christian-themed Winter Jam (Feb. 12), the Monster Jam (March 1-2), and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (March 14-17). We’re aware the Roundhouse doesn’t book its own events, but it should. The venue could stage some awesome concerts if they’d (a) detach the arena from the school (similar to Finley Stadium), (b) drop the alcohol ban and, (c) aggressively seek out shows or hire a booking agency.

• The Memorial Auditorium has booked Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” (Feb. 12), which deserves to be seen only on PBS at 3 a.m., and “My Funny Valentine Comedy Jam” (Feb. 15), which seems neither funny nor a valentine to anyone who would like to see some actual concerts at the auditorium. Something called “Celtic Woman” (March 19) continues the Irish antics. We are pencilling in George Jones (March 22), but we’re also expecting the inevitable drunk-driving incident that will postpone Jones’ “Farewell Tour.”

• Across town at the Tivoli Theatre, the auditorium’s sister city-owned venue is bringing in some decent comedy acts—Brian Regan (Feb. 28) and Jim Gaffigan (March 17)—but it’s concert lineup leaves a lot to be desired. Now don’t get us wrong. We’re fans of both Merle Haggard (Feb. 13) and George Jones, but these legacy acts need to be balanced with a slate of genuinely relevant performers. The Black Jacket Symphony (Jan. 18) is all but becoming the theatre’s house band, for christ sakes.

As noted in DizzyTown last week, the city needs to get out of the business of managing the auditorium and the Tivoli, which, according to the TFP, are estimated to cost taxpayers almost $1 million each year in losses. Handing over management and booking to a professional agency would alleviate many of these woes, free the taxpayers of an unnecessary burden and give concertgoers a reason to rejoice and spend their concert dollars in Chattanooga.

Thankfully, the city now has Track 29 and the always vibrant Barking Legs Theater, along with the core live music clubs—JJ’s Bohemia, Rhythm & Brews and The Honest Pint—to satiate most live-music fans, but locals will continue to have to travel north to Nashville or south to Atlanta to see many of the artists and bands who might add Chattanooga to their tour itineraries if the right combination of management and rules were in place. Did we mention alcohol sales?

We are under no illusions. We acknowledge that Our Fair City is not now nor has it ever been (or likely ever be) a major concert tour destination. But each of these venues could quite easily transition into creatively managed and booked music and arts venues if the city and UTC both got out of the venue-management business. Dare we say each might become quickly profitable? Dare we say each might draw crowds from other cities (much as Jack White’s sold-out show at Track 29 last March did for Track 29)? Dare we say the city might benefit from those additional venues in the form of more hotel guests, more diners, more visitors to our city’s other attractions? Why yes, we dare say.

None of this would detract from the broad-based fare each venue currently books on a perennial basis. In fact, larger local crowds might even attract bigger and better family-oriented productions. And let’s get over the alcohol thing. It’s 2013, not 1913. Much like Tennessee’s outdated Blue Laws that allow beer but not liquor to be sold on Sunday and beer but not wine to be sold in grocery stores, Chattanooga needs to grow up and rise to the level of its peers in this arena.

Until these factors are addressed, the city will be underserved and deprive itself of the sort of mini cultural mecca it aspires to become. Resolutions need to be made and kept. These ones are smart, relatively simple and achievable. —The Editors

December 27, 2012

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