published Monday, February 25th, 2013

Live variety show broadcast to showcase Chattanooga's music scene

The Steeldrivers call Nashville home, and the city helped influence their brand of bluegrass music, which is intense, dark and poetic with country and soul influences.
The Steeldrivers call Nashville home, and the city helped influence their brand of bluegrass music, which is intense, dark and poetic with country and soul influences.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Johnnyswim is based out of Los Angeles and features Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez, who play a mix of folk, soul and rock.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    St. Paul and the Broken Bones features Paul Janeway, who was born outside of Birmingham, Ala., and is blessed with a strong voice and an affinity for dirty jokes, Prince and Tim Waits. At one point in his life, he thought he might become a preacher, and his singing style reflects that.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Debut bands

1. St. Paul and The Broken Bones features Paul Janeway, who was born outside of Birmingham, Ala., and is blessed with a strong voice and an affinity for dirty jokes, Prince and Tom Waits. At one point in his life, he thought he might become a preacher, and his singing style reflects that.

2. The SteelDrivers call Nashville home, and the city helped influence their brand of bluegrass music, which is intense, dark and poetic with country and soul influences.

3. JOHNNYSWIM is based out of Los Angeles and features Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez, who play a mix of folk, soul and rock.

4. WTM Blues Band is a six-piece Chattanooga band that burst onto the local scene by winning the inaugural McKay's Road to Nightfall competition two years ago. They play old-school blues, soul and country.

If You Go

* What: Scenic City Roots. This month featuring St. Paul and The Broken Bones, The SteelDrivers, WTM Blues Band, JOHNNYSWIM.

* When: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 7.

* Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

* Admission: $10.

* Phone: 423-521-2929.

* Online: Watch live at sceniccityroots.com.

* On the radio: WPLZ-FM 106.9.

* On TV: Edited, prerecorded episodes will air at 9:30 p.m. each Thursday beginning in April on WTCI-TV 45.

Scenic City Roots, a monthly music series kicking off next week in town, has the potential to introduce the city's music scene to the state and the region.

That's the vision of Dave Santucci, vice president of marketing for the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau and also chairman of the marketing committee for the Chattanooga Music Council, a year old group of volunteers interested in promoting the local music scene.

He hopes and believes the series, which will be streamed live on the Internet and radio, then recorded and edited and rebroadcast on public television across the state each week, will show the world what Chattanooga has to offer.

"Tennessee as a state has a reputation built around music and Chattanooga has a music scene, but not on the same level as Nashville or Memphis," he says. "People are starting to understand, however, and we are putting our foot in the door thanks to Riverbend, 3 Sisters Music Festival, Nightfall and Riverfront Nights."

Starting March 7 at Track 29 and continuing on the first Thursday of each month, four bands, including one local act and three regional touring acts, will perform. The recorded show will be edited into four segments with each shown consecutively on WTCI-TV 45 at 9 p.m. each Thursday beginning in April. The Chattanooga Times Free Press is one of the sponsors of Scenic City Roots.

The series is being produced by Heng Dai Media out of Nashville, which also produces the Music City Roots series from The Loveless Cafe in Nashville and the Bluegrass Underground series from Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tenn.

Co-executive producer Todd Mayo says adding Chattanooga to his dream of creating a "Tennessee Music Trail" was an easy choice.

"It's a cool place. A hip place with natural beauty and an arts culture," he says. "Every time we came to Chattanooga we found a reason to come back. Every time we left we were already planning our next trip."

The evening will be "live television about a live musical variety show," he says.

Grammy-Award winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale will serve as the musical host for the show and will introduce the acts. At the end of each show, he will be joined by all of the musicians on stage for a Scenic City Jam.

Nashville veteran disc jockey and television host Keith Bilbrey, who worked with the Grand Ole Opry, Ralph Emery and others, will be the announcer and will read the commercials each month. He will also provide banter with journalist/author Craig Havighurst, who will handle on-air band interviews.

Jim Yockey, whose resume includes directing Bob Hope specials in addition to numerous festivals and live music shows, will direct.

"The acts will change each week and will always be based on quality, but those guys will be there every week," Mayo says.

He and a crew of 20 will bring the production truck and four cameras to do the show but everything else is already in place at Track 29, he says.

"It is a real plug-and-play situation from a technical, logistics and infrastructure situation at Track 29. It is just perfect. It is an ideally suited space for what we do."

Monica Kinsey, co-owner and general manager of Track 29, says the series is good publicity for the 1,800-seat venue on the campus of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, but it is better for the city as a whole.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for Chattanooga to be highlighted," she says. "Chattanooga has its own music culture and this is a chance to show that off and the renovations that have occurred and also the talent pool that is here."

She says church pews will be used for seating on the first few rows, then 300 to 400 chairs will be set out in rows. The stage, which is on rollers and movable, will be lowered for the show to provide a more intimate setting.

Intimate venues and enthusiastic crowds are what Santucci says the Chattanooga music scene has to offer over some other cities.

"We have smaller venues, but a bigger energy," he says. "When people play here, they feel this real connection to the audience and this energy.

"We are working on attracting the artist who wants to play to sold-out crowds of 2,000 rather than to a half-filled 5,000-seat room."

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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