March 1, 2012

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The Camp House

Enter this popular Southside coffeehouse and you’ll notice the scrumptious, heady aroma of the different coffees that are brewing before stopping at the desk, signing up to play, paying and picking up your voting slip. At the end of each open mic night both audience members and players alike vote for the best performance and one talented player goes home with a little extra gas money. And what an assortment of talent you will see.

Christian Collier presides over the show, usually beginning the evening with original poetry of his own. Hailing from Slidell, La., Collier earned a degree in English from the University of Tampa. He’s been in Chattanooga since the late 1980s and has been emcee for open mic night at Camp House for the last four months.  

“I like to keep the operation simple,” Collier said. “We frown upon competing with non-original material here, so it’s almost mandatory to perform original songs, poetry and comedy.”

The Camp House is home to an expansive, roomy stage and well-worn brick walls that surround the entire venue. Various tables, benches, chairs and sofas offer comfortable observation artfully scattered in the room. Waiters busily rush back and forth bringing plates and cups to patrons. An excited tension fills the room.

On a recent night, Collier opens with an original poem to the mostly young, intellectual audience before turning the stage over to poet (and Pulse art critic) Michael Crumb. Crumb recites a melancholy poem entitled “A Rabbit Contemplates Sunset.”  The audience responds in kind and the music begins.  

Jessica Weaver, bent over her Martin guitar, sings original songs penned about the loss of love. Morgan Stanley sings a soulful tune a capella she wrote in the car on the way to the venue. Her voice is loud, confident and harmonious. She’ll be tough to beat. Other acts are equally intimidating, ranging from (sometimes frantic and emotional) spoken word over a strummed guitar to Dylan-esque performances from a flannel-clad duo.

 “For the price of a foot-long Subway sandwich you can come in here and listen to some quality acts,” said Collier. It’s a very inexpensive way to see some of the best talent Chattanooga has to offer.”

Besides coffee, The Camp House offers a nice but small assortment of import beers. You can also bring your own wine and sip your favorite vintage while listening to the performers.

The Camp House is located at 1427 Williams St. Open mic night is every Tuesday from 7:30 to 10 p.m.  For more information call (423) 702-8081 or visit

The Office

There’s a lot of talent in this tiny, smoke-filled room hidden inconspicuously behind The City Café Diner in the Days Inn hotel on the edge of downtown. From Hip-Hop to Delta blues to the sweet strains of country, a plethora of music can be heard resonating from the tiny stage. In these comfortable yet cramped confines, it’s almost like entertainers are not on stage at all, but playing as part of the audience. It gives the term “intimate” a whole new meaning.

Mark “Porkchop” Holder, a talented Delta Blues guitarist and somewhat of a local institution, presides over the weekly open mic here. A Tennessee native raised on traditional southern gospel, he’s a real music veteran who has toured Europe half a dozen times and performed in all the contiguous 48 states.

Dressed the part, Mark is clad in overalls and a white T-shirt. A genuine person, he is easy to talk to. “People that come to The Office are experiencing real communication from one human being to another,” he said. “This is reality in here. Everything else is just an abstraction. If you really want to develop your art, you’re gonna have to play in front of people.”


March 1, 2012

Comments (2)

Comment Feed

Open Mics


This was very informative and I am glad to have been a part of it!

Derrick Keeton more than 2 years ago

Chris Kelly

As always Mr. Kelly has done a stellar job of bringing us extensive information about hot topics of the day. While some like the concept of American Idol, I much prefer the open mic nights. It is something akin to writing an email and writing a letter by longhand. Open mic is much more up front and personal. Cudos to Mr. Kelly for a comprehensive presentation on the subject. Again, I can't wait to visit your area again thanks to Mr. Kelly.

Shelley Wright more than 2 years ago

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