Our music guru searches far and wide to find out what's hot, what's happening, where to go and who to see this summer.
Anytime is a good time for music—but summer-through-fall is definitely festival season. There’s nothing quite like spreading a blanket on the ground, reaching in to the cooler for a tasty beverage and settling in to enjoy some of your favorite tunes with anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand of your closest friends. Whether you are day tripping or rolling out the tent and sleeping bags for an extended stay, these next few months offer the best variety of music and entertainment possibilities all year.
Bonnaroo and Riverbend are wrapped up for another year, but the upcoming season will feature a multitude of concerts, festivals, hootenannies and shindigs in and around the area for your listening pleasure. This is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list, but is submitted for your approval as a look at some perennial favorites, as well as some newcomers you might not have heard of yet.
For 26 years, Chattanooga’s Nightfall series has paired top-notch regional and national talent with some of the best local talent Chattanooga has to offer. The free, family-friendly Friday night concert series continues to be a Chattanooga favorite, and with eight performances left this summer, combining a diverse field of entertainers from across the country with Chattanooga favorites (most of whom have been or will soon be featured in this very paper), there is something to suit everyone’s taste. nightfallchattanooga.com
One could hardly mention Nightfall without a tip of the hat to the Chattanooga Market where music is as much a part of the festivities as the farms and food trucks. From April to October, twice a week, attendees are treated to local and regional acts encompassing a broad and diverse range of musical styles and backgrounds helping to earn the designation as one of the top ten public markets in the U.S. Their long summer of music and art culminates in the annual favorite Culture Fest on Oct. 5. chattanoogamarket.com
The Secret Stages festival takes place in Birmingham Aug. 1-2 and features 60 up-and-coming Southeastern acts from Louisville to Little Rock, Memphis to Mobile. Chattanooga’s very own Gold Plated Gold will be taking the stage there this year. Described as a “walking, pub-crawl-style festival” Secret Stages endeavors to introduce festivalgoers to as broad a range of musical acts as possible to—and the clincher? Advance tickets are $25 ($35 at the gate), making this one of the biggest bangs for your buck you’re likely to find anywhere. secretstages.net
Cherokee Farms remains one of the best-kept secrets in the region—if such a busy and popular venue can be considered a secret. Located in the rolling hills of LaFayette, Ga., the farm features beautiful scenery, on-site primitive camping with bath facilities, a pond for “swimmin’ and fishin’” and is remote enough to be private, but close enough to town so that any of the dozen things you forgot to bring can be obtained with a 15-minute drive. The placement of the main stage in relation to the surrounding hills makes for near-perfect acoustics.
Too late to go this year, but Chattanooga’s own home-grown festival Roots Fest is held at the farm every May and this powerhouse of local talent, featuring jam bands, bluegrass, blues, hip hop, EDM, folk, rock and just about any other genre you can think of is certainly one of the bigger and better bashes in the area. roots-fest.com
Truth is, Cherokee Farms hosts so much music and so many festivals, an entire guide could be written about this single location. Perusal of the Jam Base website reveals that Cherokee Farms has hot music action going more or less every weekend in perpetuity, but for the sake of brevity here’s an update on the latest and greatest going on down in LaFayette.
The second annual Fly Free Festival celebrating music and the arts will be held at the farm on Oct. 10-12. The festival will sport 20-plus regional acts covering all genres. Several bands from Chattanooga will appear at the event. Additionally there will be live art, workshops, yoga, kids’ entertainment and vendors from across the Southeast. flyfreefest.com
Later that month, The Kingdom Music and Hearts festival comes to the farm. Running from Oct. 31-Nov. 2 and boasting seven stages featuring over 50 headliners and more than a hundred additional acts, KMH is arguably the largest EDM festival in the region. ticketfly.com/event/496419-kingdom-music-hearts-lafayette/
Local music venue JJ’s Bohemia might not seem like it ought to be on a festival list, but the venue, the crowd, the acts and the back porch all conspire to bring a festival feel to a brick-and-mortar building. John and company have a host of upcoming events worthy of any festival.
The ever-popular SoCro is throwing his CD release party at JJ’s on July 12. The genre-defying All Them Witches (are they blues? Metal? Southern rock? Psychedelica? At the very least…) comes to JJ’s July 31.
The big, breaking news (remember you read it here first, kids) is that the legendary Man or Astroman will take the stage at JJ’s on Aug. 8. Tickets are a ridiculously low $15 and if you want one, better get it now, as this show is guaranteed to sell out well in advance. August will round out with appearances by Jonny Fritz, lady punk band The Coathangers, the comedy of Duncan Trussell and the always-lovely Birdcloud. jjsbohemia.com
In a similar vein, our larger local venue Track 29 has a lengthy list of big names coming to town. Atlanta metal legends Sevendust kick off August with a scream and a bang. Other acts of note coming in August and September include Chevelle, Justin Townes Earl, Reliant K, and St. Paul and The Broken Bones. They'll all headline the Southside’s favorite venue. track29.co
What summer would be complete without Chattanooga’s own Southern Brewers Festival? The two-day festival scheduled for Aug. 22-23 features an incredible selection of microbrews, craft beers and music from such well-known and beloved acts as Gov’t Mule and jam-band favorite moe. southernbrewersfestival.org
The 20th annual Wine Over Water event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 27. Although the schedule of musical performers hasn’t been released yet, it’s a sure bet that this will be another “can’t miss” event. wineoverwater.org
The annual RiverRocks event isn’t a music festival per se, but live entertainment has always been a large part of the festivities and this year the fun kicks off on Oct. 3 (riverrockschattanooga.com), followed by the seventh annual 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival on Oct. 4-5 at Ross’s Landing. The lineup is a who’s who of bluegrass music in the region, including the legendary Dismembered Tennesseans. 3sistersbluegrass.com
The cultural renaissance of the last two decades has resulted in a full itinerary for our fair city and the surrounding areas. There is literally ALWAYS something going on, with new events and festivals cropping faster every week. Quite frankly, if you are bored it’s because you aren’t paying attention. With Nashville, Knoxville, Atlanta, Huntsville, Birmingham, Asheville and Murphy all a relatively short driving distance from Chattanooga, there is a never-ending stream of music and art to suit all ages and tastes.
Just remember to stay hydrated, bring sunscreen and maybe stash away a packet of wet naps (you’ll know why when you need them). With beautiful weather, beautiful scenery and an unbelievable concentration of talent, music in Chattanooga is one of Tennessee’s modern treasures.