published Thursday, June 27th, 2013

In Tune - What Stage? Which Stage? Try local stages first

Pretty Lights. ZZ Top. Paper Diamond. Noam Pikelny. Lee Fields & The Expressions. Trombone Shorty. Sam Bush.

If you went to Bonnaroo this year, you undoubtedly recognize these names from the festival lineup. You might even be feeling the lingering afterglow of musical superiority that comes from seeing them live.

What you may not realize -- or perhaps have chosen to ignore -- is that long before they made their way to Manchester, Tenn., these artists had played shows at local clubs and events. That is to say, if you had paid attention over the last several years, you could have seen them close up, in air-conditioned comfort and at a fraction of the cost of a Bonnaroo ticket.

Accusing Chattanooga of never landing choice bands is a popular, if inaccurate and annoying, criticism of the local music scene. Oftentimes, the same people who raise their hands about the "slim pickings" at local venues are the ones who hold up Bonnaroo as a paragon of musical taste and savvy booking.

It was this thought that somewhat dulled my enjoyment of the vivid light display and near-religious fervor of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' sold-out show at Track 29 last week. If Chattanooga wasn't in the same league as Bonnaroo, what were 1,500 of us doing enjoying an amazing performance by these musicians two days after they walked off the Which Stage?

After the announcement last week that indie folk/R&B artist -- and 2013 Bonnaroo vet -- Allen Stone would headline Nightfall on July 19, I decided to do some digging.

Of the artists who have played the last four Bonnaroos, about 100 also have performed locally in the last six years. These aren't small names, either. We're talking heavy hitters like Galactic, The Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Alabama Shakes and Big Gigantic.

Two years before they headlined the What Stage in 2010, you could see Zac Brown Band for $10 at Rhythm & Brews. In 2009, you also could have seen this year's Which Stage highlight Pretty Lights on the same stage for just $15. From Kris Kristofferson to Miranda Lambert, literally every artist who graced the That Tent on the last day of the festival in 2009 also has performed in Chattanooga.

Want to experience the musical greatness that is the Bonnaroo festival? Start supporting local venues because you never know when you'll see a What Stage act in the making. And just think of the musical snob cred that will earn you.

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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