A musical experience underground

Last Saturday, I got the chance to attend my first concert at The Caverns in Pelham. You all may know it as the Bluegrass Underground concert series that used to take place at Cumberland Caverns. Well, it still has the same name, but now it has a new home.

To give you a little history, for the past decade the Bluegrass Underground has been entertaining music lovers with live performances from the depths Cumberland Caverns located in McMinnville.

Created by Todd Mayo, the music series kicked off in 2008 in what is known the Volcano Room inside Cumberland Caverns. What made the venue a draw for both musicians and audiences alike was the cave’s unique natural acoustics that offered an experience similar to attending a concert inside a recording studio.

Over the next nine years, the Bluegrass Underground welcomed star-studded acts such as Vince Gill, Jerry Douglas, St. Paul & The Broken Bones and more.

While having established a music destination like no other in Middle Tennessee, Mayo decided to continue to strive for an even better underground musical experience.

He found himself looking toward Pelham at base of Monteagle Mountain. Almost two years later, Mayo said he is proud to call what he has named The Caverns, the permanent home of Bluegrass Underground.

 As Mayo said in a recent interview with Tempo Magazine, he would bring in a lot of “gists” to make his new home a possibility.

“There were a lot of ‘gists’ such as geologist, biologist, archeologist and hydrologists,” he said. “We had to go in from a geological perspective and see if we could excavate. We didn’t use any dynamite, all we did was move dirt out of the caverns. But before we drilled, we went in with cameras to find where the floor was. We just dug until we got to the rock, and once we got to the rock, we just left it alone.”

What they would uncover was a 30,000-year-old space that was ideal for music. According to Mayo, archeologist said that history of the cave has included people coming together just as they are doing today in 2018.

While I never had the chance to visit the Bluegrass Underground when it was in McMinnville, I did finally get the chance to experience music in a cave last Saturday.

Now I’m not going to lie, I’m not a fan of enclosed spaces. I like to be able to see the exit from wherever I am. So, when we moseyed our way up to entrance I was a little hesitant as to how far back we would have to go to see the show.

Luckily, it wasn’t far and you can in fact see the exit from the stage.

Upon walking in, visitors are surrounded by rocks that have been stacked and pressed together for thousands and thousands of years. You almost get the sensation that you are somehow trespassing on something secret.

It boggled my mind to think about just how long this cave had been around and what all had taken place in and around it.

My astonishment soon gave way, thanks to the overall coolness of the whole place – both in terms of temperature and overall aesthetics. The Caverns are a really neat place.

You could say it was just waiting to be uncovered and used as a musical gathering place.

The venue allows for everyone, no matter where you sit, a perfect view of the stage. And the sound is just as promised, that is to say, awesome.

Bluegrass and Southern gospel singer Doyle Lawson was the headliner along with his band Quicksilver.

Opening for Lawson was local band the Rock Creek Bluegrass Band. The band is made up of Carl Johnson on banjo, Bob Endsley on bass and Dave Johnson on guitar.

While excited to see such musical legend like Lawson, I was even more excited to see some locals get to play such a cool gig.

And I’m happy to report that they knocked it out of the park. If they were nervous, they never showed it. It was a treat.

Next up was Lawson and his bunch. They played a number of gospel tunes that brought back memories of my grandparents. While I used to roll my eyes when we had to listen to such traditional tunes, it was heartwarming to hear them again I hope somewhere my Memaw and Pop were smiling and tapping their feet to the same sound.

Overall it was a great night and I fully intend to return.

The venue is unlike any other you’ll visit and the staff is welcoming and will answer any questions you may have about the show or the cave.

And it’s also important to point out that not just bluegrass is featured at The Caverns. In fact, rapper and musician Wyclef Jean will be performing there at the end of the month. Pretty cool for cave venue located off of the winding country roads of Pelham.

Get the full schedule, as www.thecaverns.com.

Kali Bradford can be reached by email at kbradford@tullahomanews.com.