What’s great about live music in the Scenic City is its blend of exclusivity and creative overlap. You’ll only have one select night in town this year to hear Lauren Jenkins, who was named an Artist to Watch by Rolling Stone, Billboard, Pandora, and The New York Times. But if you’re impressed by local duo Rye Baby at Chattanooga Nightfall on July 23, you can see them again at Riverfront Nights on July 31 and Cherry Street Tavern on August 7. Part of what makes this possible is Chattanooga’s string of concert series. This time of year, if you’re up for it, the concert series in town will keep your social calendar booked well into fall (and beyond). Here’s a look at the lineup.
The McLemore Songwriters Series
This exclusive monthly music experience – held May through October – is hosted at McLemore, a golf course, gated community, club house, and outdoor event space on Lookout Mountain. The McLemore Songwriters Series features performances by songwriters who have written and collaborated with stars like Luke Combs, Jimmy Buffett, Taylor Swift, Jason Eady, Jewel, Jon Bon Jovi, and more. In June, McLemore hosted Ken Block and Andrew Copeland of Sister Hazel, who performed an acoustic show of band favorites, B sides, and new material. The rest of the 2021 series includes Channing Wilson on July 15, Lauren Jenkins on August 19, James Otto on September 16, and Kristian Bush of the band Sugarland on October 21. An intentionally intimate concert experience, tickets are limited.
Every Friday night from early June to mid-September, Chattanooga Presents! hosts a free evening of outdoor music dedicated to national, international, and local artists at Miller Plaza and Miller Park. Nightfall has been a Chattanooga tradition since 1988, and in its first four years its stage was home to artists like John Prine, Bela Fleck, and Karla Bonoff. The 2021 schedule includes Lee Roy Parnell with opener Rachel McIntyre Smith on July 16, Joanna Connor with opener Rye Baby on July 23, Po Ramblin’ Boys with opener New Dismembered Tennesseans on July 30, and Kamani with opener NuBreed Band on August 6. For a complete list of performances and a preview of the artists’ music, click here.
All you need is a blanket or a lawn chair to head to Ross’s Landing downtown for Riverfront Nights, a free summer music series hosted by Friends of the Festival. Food and beverage vendors are on-site each week, but coolers and BYO picnics are also permitted. Pets are welcome as well. Riverfront Nights performances begin at 7 p.m., and the lineup for the rest of this summer includes blues-infused rock band Ashley and the X’s and Asheville-based indie rock group The Get Right Band on July 24, Rye Baby and Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys on July 31, Dalton and the Boys and Tennessee’s Dead on August 7, and Over Easy and Alabama-based progressive rock jam band CBDB on August 14.
Summer Concert Series
Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center celebrates local talent in the great outdoors with Friday night outdoor concerts from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A donations-based event that raises money for the public park, nature center, and wildlands, June 2021’s featured performances included Rick Rushing & The Blues Strangers and improvisational jug band The Other Brothers (also playing at Chattanooga Nightfall on August 13). For future performances, keep an eye on the organization’s events calendar. Earlier this year, Reflection Riding celebrated the birth of two critically endangered red wolf pups to parents Apollo and Ruby. Native to the Southeastern United States, fewer than 250 American red wolves exist today, and not many of those live in the wild. As a longtime member of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, Reflection Riding exhibits, houses, and breeds these animals.
Barnett & Company Masterworks Series
The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera gives Scenic City audiences access to modern composers and well-known classical works, prioritizing diversity with a schedule committed to including female artists and composers as well as artists and composers of color. The 2021-2022 Barnett & Company Masterworks Series opens on September 23 with conductor Kayoko Dan and a program that features music by Mexican classical composer Arturo Márquez as well as George Walker’s Lyric for Strings, played in memory of those lost to COVID-19. On October 21, you’ll hear Dvořák Symphony No. 9, inspired by Native American music and African American spirituals, plus Anne Guzzo’s Fanfare for Mountains and Peace. The season continues with performances on November 18, January 27, March 3, as well as accompaniment for the Chattanooga Ballet’s Apollo on March 24. On April 21, the series concludes with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.
Moon River Music Festival
Founded in Memphis at the iconic Levitt Shell in 2014, Moon River Festival relocated to Chattanooga in 2018 with 24,000 music lovers happy to call the Scenic City the new home for the annual festival hinged on indie, folk, and Americana music. After its cancellation in 2020, Moon River Music Festival calls this year’s show something akin to “the year’s biggest family reunion.” On September 11-12 in Coolidge Park, the festival will host a lineup that includes Wilco, Lord Huron, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, Old Crow Medicine Show, Indigo Girls, Dr. Dog, Dawes, Molly Tuttle, Rebirth Brass Band, and more. In addition to the music, the festival’s best-known details include The Treehouse, a hideout by the carousel and splash pad with family-friendly activities “for kids and kids at heart”; Tennessee Tavern, a corner for cocktails and craft beers; and Lookout Lodge, for those who can’t go a few hours without updates on the weekend’s top college football and NFL matchups. A portion of the price of each ticket will benefit Outdoor Chattanooga and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
First Horizon Foundation Pops Series
Hosted by the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, this series begins on October 9, 2021 and features five performances at Memorial Auditorium. Opening night is Lights, Camera, Pops!, a performance dedicated to film scores to some of the most well-known movies from the silver screen. On December 18, conductor Ismael Sandoval will be joined by CSO Chorus director Darrin Hassevoort and Metropolitan Bells director Gary Bynum for Home for the Holidays, which will feature both secular and sacred holiday music ideal for the entire family. Valentine’s weekend, Big Band Fever will feature the best of swing and big band; in March, you’ll hear Broadway tunes from shows like Wicked, Hamilton, and Dear Evan Hansen; and the series will close with the music of The Beatles on April 2. For details and ticket information, click here.
Wanderlinger Music + Arts Festival
Chattanooga breweries play host to a creative lineup of events centered around the arts year-round. At Wanderlinger Brewing Company near Chattanooga’s Southside, there are near-nightly opportunities to hear live music as well as spoken word and poetic readings. In June 2021, Wanderlinger hosted its annual music and arts festival, featuring three days of performance art including live music and live paintings. The weekend included performances by The Other Brothers, Opposite Box, The White Foley Band, Cold Planet, The Afternooners, Jake Lemons, Anna Baldree, and “outlaw country band” Dalton and the Boys (also playing at Riverfront Nights on August 7). Keep an eye on the Wanderlinger events calendar for updates about planning for next summer’s festival and chances to hear concert series’ favorites in another setting. Want a preview of banjo-picking singer/songwriter Randy Steele, slated to play Riverfront Nights on August 21? Pop into Wanderlinger on July 15 for a solo show that begins at 8 p.m.
Returning to Chattanooga in summer 2022, Riverbend is Chattanooga’s largest, longest-running music festival made up of five stages set along the Tennessee River at Ross’s Landing. A four-day event packed with more than 100 bands, Riverbend headliners have included Weezer, Thomas Rhett, Widespread Panic, Joan Jett, Martina McBride, Lionel Richie, Ludacris, Macklemore, Dierks Bentley, the Goo Goo Dolls, The Beach Boys, The Flaming Lips, Miranda Lambert, The Wallflowers, Keith Urban, plus local and regional talent. Keep an eye on planning for next summer at https://riverbendfestival.com/.