2018 Spring Arts Sneak Peek

(above) Photo Courtesy of AC Entertainment

By Holly Morse-Ellington

From Grammy Award-winning music to cutting-edge art installations, Chattanooga’s spring lineup of entertainment hosts diverse and engaging forms of artistic expression. Musicians, visual artists, dancers, actors – each has a captivating story to tell across venues and museums in the upcoming months. Here’s a first look at 9 highlights.

Of Montreal featuring Mega Bog

April 7, Revelry Room

Take It In, Let It Loose

Experimental pop band Of Montreal will take the stage at the Revelry Room this April with their new album White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood, released by Polyvinyl Record Co. Layering lyrics that tackle themes about identity with 80’s style dance beats, Of Montreal’s album strives to get audiences moving and thinking.

“Pop music is a good vehicle for getting a message across because it’s activating different parts of the brain – the part of the brain that just wants to have fun and not be challenged and the part that can listen to the lyrics and the intonation of vocals for a deeper level of communication,” says Kevin Barnes, Of Montreal’s founding musician and songwriter.

Rock band Mega Bog kicks off the show. While the bands generally perform independent sets, Barnes says there’s the chance that by Chattanooga’s show they’ll “start roping them into the theatrics of our performance.”

Concertgoers can expect what Barnes describes as a therapeutic element of music. “The music we make is meant to offer a spiritual and emotional release of tension. Like a religious ceremony, at the end of our show you feel more deeply connected to your community,” says Barnes.


(above) Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life featuring The Steep Canyon Rangers and Jeff Babko

March 8, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium

Take ‘Em Up On Their Offer

Two amigos trade comedic jabs in a banjo-infused medley of music and storytelling – proving their friendship can roll with the punches and pack in the laughs. Steve Martin and Martin Short team up and invite their bluegrass-picking, piano-playing guests into a collaborative variety act.

“Touring with Steve is a lot like the movie Deliverance: It’s all fun and games till the banjos come out,” said Short during a performance in Santa Barbara. Throughout the evening the duo may regale audience members with tales about meeting Elvis or upsetting Frank Sinatra over a drink order. With these two in cahoots, anything’s possible. But count on Steve strumming his banjo, a passion he’s pursued with Grammy Award success.

Pianist Jeff Babko and Grammy-winning Steep Canyon Rangers join the merriment. “The Steve and Marty shows are really these two at their very best; they re-invent a couple of their old gags, but for the most part, all the material is recent, and hilarious,” says Graham Sharp, banjoist for Steep Canyon Rangers. “In addition, we play one song, which Marty calls ‘the 11 o’clock number.’”

Put their jest to be forgettable to the test. Just in case it’s one of your most memorable nights out.


(above) Photo Courtesy of AC Entertainment

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

April 22, Tivoli Theatre

Packing Houses with Powerful Performances

When listening to Jason Isbell, a compliment Kris Kristofferson once gave singer-songwriter John Prine comes to mind: “[He] is so good we may have to break his thumbs.”

Four-time Grammy Award-winning Isbell and his band the 400 Unit recently accepted the Grammy for Best Americana Album for The Nashville Sound, released in 2017. This April, Isbell and the 400 Unit will cross the state into Chattanooga’s vibrant neck of the Tennessee woods to perform at Tivoli Theatre.

Drawing inspiration from blues, country, and rock, it’s difficult to pigeonhole Isbell and the 400 Unit into one genre – they’ve merged their range of influences into a sound distinctly their own. The Nashville Sound is a musical odyssey ranging from up-tempo rock-out numbers to compelling alt-country ballads like “If We Were Vampires,” which was awarded the Grammy for Best American Roots Song.

Those attending the sold-out show at the 1,750-seat Tivoli Theatre can expect an intimate rock n’ roll-Americana crossover performance.

New Media, New Millennium: Digital Art from the Thoma Foundation

Now Through April 29, Hunter Museum of American Art

Shedding Light On Visual Art

With the invention of the camera, the word “photography” entered our vocabulary. Meaning “drawing with light,” photography was once a new medium that artists explored for innovations in creative forms. As technology continues to evolve, so do the possibilities for ways in which artists draw – and digitize – with light.

The “New Media, New Millennium” exhibit at the Hunter Museum showcases works from pioneers in the digital arts field. “A lot of artists today have embraced technology to create artworks that are then produced or printed in some way, so technology is another tool for them – like a paintbrush,” says Nandini Makrandi, chief curator at the Hunter Museum. “However, most of the artists in this exhibition are using technology as their medium, rather than simply as a tool. They are coding, creating algorithms, using LEDs and LCDs to create unique pieces to engage the viewer.”

Culled from the collection of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation, the exhibit features sculptural installations and interactive pieces from artists such as Leo Villareal, known for his installation that turned the 1.8 miles of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge into his canvas.

Visitors can connect with these works in ways that differ from how they might experience traditional paintings and sculptures. “We want them to be inspired and energized by the adoption of technology in the creative sphere and leave with a spark of curiosity about what more their own devices could do – and what other changes are on the horizon at the intersection of art and technology,” says Makrandi.


(above) Photo Courtesy of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation/Photo by Phillips

California Guitar Trio

March 16, Songbirds Guitar Museum

Spanning A Space Of Styles

Their music has traveled to space to be part of the rise-and-shine playlist for the crew aboard NASA’s space shuttle Endeavor. It has been featured on NPR and during televised coverage of the Olympic Games. And this March, the California Guitar Trio will return to Songbirds Guitar Museum to perform their vast catalogue of covers and original compositions.

Wondering what to expect at their show? Expect the unexpected. “The element of surprise is a big part of our performances,” says member guitarist Paul Richards.

With 16 albums, 26 years, and over 1,800 gigs under their guitar straps, California Guitar Trio has an extensive wardrobe of songs from which to strum. Richards says, “We like to mix things up in our live shows, and we often combine music that wouldn’t normally go together, like following a piece from Bach with some Ventures-style surf guitar music. Or maybe one of our own textural guitar compositions followed by music by Pink Floyd.”

Comprised of Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya, and Richards, the group is known for their ability to span genres and connect with audiences.


(above) Photo by Patty Urlaub

The Tamburitzans Live!

March 11, Chattanooga Theatre Centre

Exploring Roots With Modern Themes 

Named after the stringed folk instrument the tambura, The Tamburitzans are a dynamic and versatile ensemble of 30 artists, who highlight international heritages and traditions through choreography and music sung in native languages. The longest-running show of its kind, The Tamburitzans’ 80-year legacy continues to evolve with the modern audience. Their upcoming show at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, “Passages: The Journey of Our Ancestors,” is based on themes reflective of different cultures immigrating to America.

“When I designed this show, I wanted to plant a seed with both the older and younger generations to explore where they came from,” says George Kresovich, Artistic Director for The Tamburitzans.

In addition to performing music from Central and Eastern Europe, this season’s “Passages” includes Latin music for the first time. Another addition to this production is the use of technology to create a visual representation of songs performed in different languages. “We’ve incorporated video and media into the show to help connect the dots for audiences,” says Kresovich.

“Unless you’re a Native American, everyone comes from somewhere, which results in this rich heritage that’s relatable for everyone in our audience,” says Kresovich.

CSO Masterworks Series: Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev

April 5, Tivoli Theatre

A Romantic Immersion

The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Masterworks concert pairs two powerhouse composers of Russian Romanticism. From Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 2” to Prokofiev’s “Suite from Romeo and Juliet,” these classical compositions kindle passionate flames within hearts and souls.

“A hallmark of the Romantic Era is that composing became more personal,” says Timothy Muffit, Music Director of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and the Lansing (Michigan) Symphony and guest conductor for the CSO Masterworks performance. “What we find in these compositions is deeply romantic music that is earth shatteringly profound.”

Guest pianist Geoffrey Duce performs on the concerto. “This is a great opportunity to hear Tchaikovsky’s second piano concerto that’s not frequently played,” says Muffit. “The movements bring great introspection, joy, and triumph.”

In contrast, there might not be a dry eye in the house after Prokofiev’s “Suite from Romeo and Juliet.” The arrangement seizes on the emotional arc of the play’s star-crossed lovers. “Prokofiev explores the dramatic themes to masterful height,” says Muffit. “He unleashes passion in this movement unlike anyone.”

Motown: The Musical

April 17-19, Tivoli Theatre

Get Ready To Get The Feelin’

Featuring over 60 songs, including “Baby I Need Your Lovin,” “Dancing in the Street,” and “Please, Mr. Postman,” this Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical is the true story about the icons who topped charts and made history.

The production follows Motown founder Berry Gordy’s American dream from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and many more.

“What I love about this story and Mr. Gordy’s life is he was the first person at this time to create music for all people with a crossover into white popular music of the time,” says Kayla Jenerson who plays Mary Wells, superstar of famed single “My Guy.”

Motown: The Musical pulsates with powerful inspiration. “It’s important for people to see a man and his life’s message of joy and acceptance and hard work and dedication,” says Jenerson.


(above) Photo Courtesy of AC Entertainment/by Michael Pool

Corey Smith

March 23, The Signal

Paying It Forward To Fans

Acoustic guitarist and singer-songwriter Corey Smith celebrates 10 years and counting as he brings The Great Wide Underground Tour to The Signal in March. Smith’s music is his self-proclaimed repayment of debt to his fans.

Smith makes good on that debt with his 10th album, While the Gettin’ Is Good, released by Sugar Hill Records. He describes his career as Kickstarter before Kickstarter-funding – until now. The launch of While the Gettin’ Is Good is a break from his earlier self-produced albums. Entrusted in the hands of producer Keith Stegall, who has produced Alan Jackson and Zac Brown Band, Smith’s album was an opportunity to refine his indie-style country sound. 

“When my fans show up and buy a ticket and a t-shirt, they’re investing in what I’m doing,” says Smith. “It’s my responsibility to invest it wisely and give them the best album I can.”

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