By Jay Zuckerman - Guest Blogger
I love the downtown music venues in Chattanooga. However, I don't always enjoy returning home smelling like a 6′3″ cigarette, partially deaf from inebriated audience members who yell "Play Free Bird" at the top of their lungs at the end of every dadgum song. The Tivoli and Memorial Auditorium bring in talented artists, but on my budget as a writer, I can only afford a couple $60 concerts a year.
If you're looking for a change of pace with equally talented rock, blues, and folk musicians, consider Charles & Myrtle's Coffeehouse located on 105 McBrien Road in the Brainerd area of Chattanooga. The concerts are held in a converted entertainment room in a residential area. Charles and Myrtle's provides an intimate area for musicians to share stories, interact with the crowd, and usually try out new material.
I learned about Charles and Myrtle's two years ago when noted Nashville Blues Rocker Kevin Gordon, a good friend of mine, had a gig there. Since then, I've attended several concerts a year there. When Marshall Chapman makes her annual appearance there, it's always amusing to see 200 people cram in to an area not much larger than a combined living/dining room.
For a suggested $10 fee (no one is turned away for lack of funds), you can catch a two hour set in a non-smoking, family-friendly environment. All artists are accessible after the show to hang out with, something you will never find at most impersonal venues. I once spent 30 minutes talking about the alt-country music scene with Rock Musician, Tennessean music journalist, and adjunct Vanderbilt music professor, Peter Cooper after his show.
Coffeehouse Director Andrew Kelsay books notable acts from the vibrant Nashville and Atlanta music scenes. While people who aren't self-professed "music snobs" like myself, may not have heard of any of the musicians who play each Saturday, I can guarantee you that some are just as talented as anyone you'll find playing at larger venues in the city. He told me he's booked acts through March 2009 and to expect a few surprises. I'm eager to find out who all is coming.
You can learn more here. The building is used as a Unity Church on Sundays, so for information on strictly the Coffeehouse, the links down the left side of the web page are what you need to click on. The Chattanooga Times Free Press Weekender always does feature pieces on the musicians who play each Saturday if you want to learn even more about them before you go.