February 28, 2013

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The Road to Nightfall isn’t a battle of the bands, but a showcase for the growing community of talented musicians in Chattanooga. That was Jonathan Susman’s vision when he returned to Chattanooga after moving with his band, The Hopsing Project, to Nashville for several years. It was in Music City that he heard about a competition called Road to Bonnaroo. Staged by a local club, it served both as an incentive and a showcase for area musicians.

When he returned to Chattanooga nearly three years ago, Susman took the idea to Carla Pritchard and The McKay Road to Nightfall, as it is formally known, was born. This year, 25 bands will compete for a headlining slot this summer and $1,000. And, like the young musicians who entered the competition before them, they too will make new friends, form new alliances and play for people who might otherwise never have heard them—just as Susman intended.

The competition also serves as a showcase for Rhythm & Brews, where many of the featured bands frequently appear. After scheduling the shows on an off night for the past two years, this year manager Mike Dougher has given The Road To Nightfall center stage for two consecutive Fridays and Saturdays beginning this week. The four finalists will face off on Friday, March 15. All shows start at 8 p.m., with bands playing 15-20 minute sets.

While the competition will almost certainly challenge the musicians, it’s also a gift for the audience. For two successive weekends, six of the best bands in Chattanooga will perform on the same stage, and the admission is less than the cost of a CD.

If some of the names are unfamiliar, this brief primer should help. The bands are listed in the order in which they’ll appear on the nights noted. A similar summary will appear next week for the final two nights of the competition.

Friday, March 1

Blues Hammer

Proclaiming “the time has come for the Gods of Rock ‘n’ Roll to reclaim this world from the bubble gum fluff of today’s modern music,” Blues Hammer returns to the blues rock favored by Brits and Americans alike in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Gary Bartley (keyboards/guitar), Brian Lessig (drums), Joe Meagher (guitar/lead vocals), Jeremy Montgomery (guitar/vocals), Keith Montgomery (bass/vocals)

Blues Frog & The Georgia Rhythm Crickets

While there are echoes of both “Beggar’s Banquet”-era Stones and early Allman Brothers Band, this funky, Delta-leaning blues band often comes closer to the slippery, greasy gumbo of the Lowell George-era Little Feat.

Joe Hartsock (drums/percussion), Chad Howard (lead guitar/vocals), Josh Baker (lead, slide guitar/vocals), Paul-Erik Bakland (guitar/vocals), Jason Arp (bass)


"We specialize in bringin’ the noise to keep people on their feet,” the band’s Facebook page says. Five-piece with “special guests” playing funk, blues, jazz, rock and R&B.

Brittany Ammons (vocals, tambourine), Justin McBath (bass guitar/vocals), John Rose (keyboards/trombone), Darren Self (vocals/guitar), Hunter White (drums)

Elk Milk

Characterized (by them) as “the sound of stones struck together and sticks beating rugs, with harmonies,” Elk Milk’s music is a grungy, bass-heavy mix of The Police and Black Sabbath.

Isaac Houck (guitar/vocals), David Houck (bass/vocals), Ivan Garcia (drums)

Summer Dregs

Described on their website as “aggressively ecstatic indie pop,” the music they make is synth-based, punky art-pop in the mode of a band like Ra Ra Riot. Carl Cadwell and Josh Green have played together in a couple of excellent bands (Infradig and The Distribution). The Distribution may have been more of a crowd pleaser, but this little band is easily the most musically imaginative of the evening.

Carl Cadwell (keyboards), Stephen Nichols (vocals/guitar), Travis Knight (bass ), Josh Green (drums)


February 28, 2013


April 24, 2014


April 25, 2014


April 26, 2014


April 27, 2014


April 28, 2014


April 29, 2014


April 30, 2014

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