Bluegrass Underground, the subterranean concert series that has entertained music lovers for nine years in the Volcano Room underneath McMinnville, announced their new home on Friday. The Caverns at Big Mouth Cave, in Pelham at Payne’s Cove, will begin hosting the series beginning in March 2018.
“This is a dream come true to find a cave system that expands and improves the live and televised musical experiences of underground performances we have been curating since 2008,” said Todd Mayo, creator and executive producer of the PBS music series. “Our new home at The Caverns will enable us to add infrastructure with permanent power, professional audio and lighting, and enhanced food and beverage concessions that have never before been possible, including a longtime request from our patrons: cold beer.”
Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady is excited about the opportunities Bluegrass Underground will bring to the county.
“Anytime you can have an economic and positive aspect brought to your community that doesn’t take away from who you are, but brings to the forefront and embellishes the area’s natural beauty, it is fortunate,” said Brady after the announcement on Friday. “This will be big on several fronts – it will have a positive multiplier effect for the county.”
Grundy County will see an influx of tourism dollars when Bluegrass Underground moves to The Caverns. Visitors will need a place to stay, food, gas, and other amenities that will result in a boost to the local economy.
The collaboration between Bluegrass Underground and PBS will also see benefits. “In the past, we taped the entire 12-episode season over one weekend due to the difficulty and expense of bringing literally tons of cabling and show gear a quarter mile into the cave,” explained television producer Todd Jarrell. “But Big Mouth Cave’s permanent infrastructure presents us the flexibility to match calendars with some of the world’s greatest performers.”
Bluegrass Underground airs on over 95 percent of PBS markets.
The move is not without its detractors. After posting Friday’s announcement on Herald’s Facebook page, several Payne’s Cove residents and non-residents voiced negativity, sharing concerns about the environmental impact of the move and fearful over the influx of potential visitors to the quiet cove.
Shows are currently scheduled in the Volcano Room in McMinnville, through December. Fifty shows are estimated for next year, and plans are in the works to expand the genres of music and types of performances the Underground showcases.
Bluegrass Underground has hosted guests including Del McCoury, Widespread Panic, Jason Isbell, and St, Paul and the Broken Bones. Mayo describes the PBS series as “Austin City Limits meets ‘Nova’,” winning 13 Emmy’s.
The Caverns, located in Grundy County, at the base of Monteagle Mountain, is 10 minutes off Interstate 24 at Exit 127. The Caverns adjoins several connected cave systems, most of which are scheduled to remain accessible to qualified cavers.