For years there was plenty of local talent but no real venues where they could play. Longtime Chattanooga resident Courtney Cochran explained that during the early aughts there was almost nowhere to go for music other than a small club called The Bay in an old warehouse near where Warehouse Row is today. She described it as "kind of a frat-y place," and not very welcoming to anyone interested in alternative music. Even as downtown revitalized throughout the 1990s, the music scene never really caught up.
Chattanooga's local music scene built up even more steam throughout the mid aughts. Ziggy's, a liquor and package store that's been open for over 30 years, turned the bar in the back into a concert venue around 2004. There many underground punk and metal bands found a stage and North Chattanooga and Hill City's young hippie, punk, and other alt subcultures found their scene.
JJ's Bohemia opened in 2007. It took the place of an old bar called the Chameleon in a part of the MLK Blvd. area that was once filled with bars and nightclubs that were backbones of a vibrant black community decades before downtown Chattanooga cleared out and decayed in the 1970s and 80s. Today the signage and wall paintings can still be seen of these old nightclubs, including the Retired Men Den, the Whole Note, and Memo's. JJ's quickly became a hipster hotspot and the number one place to see local bands, including Milele Roots, Strung Like a Horse, Big Kitty, Machines are People Too, The Hearts in Light, Prophets and Kings, The Cadillac Saints, The New Binkley Brothers, Elk Milk, the Bohannons, Future Virgins, JJ's has also seen great touring bands like The Two Man Gentleman Band, Megan Jean and the KFB, Christabel and the Jons, and Shovels and Rope, They also have non-music related events, like Wrestlemania nights and shows from the Subterranean Circus/ Scenic City Sadistic Sideshow.
In 2010 the former Parkway Billiards Club was purchased, renovated and opened as The Honest Pint, an Irish-style pub with pool tables and a stage for live music. The Honest Pint books similarly to JJ's Bohemia, with a mixture of local favorites like The Molly Maguires, The Velvet Hand, Behold the Brave, and touring bands like Pearl and the Beard, The Maycomb Criers, The Dead Confederates, The Ragbirds, and Unknown Hinson.
Barking Legs Theater, long one of Chattanooga's main events and performing arts spaces and a source of dance classes and community, is also an occasional music venue. They feature some top notch touring acts like Zoe Boekbinder and Kaki King, Galactic Cowboy Orchestra and the Ullmann/ Swell 4. They have unbeatable booking taste in acoustic, indie, jazz, bluegrass, and Celtic music.
It's taken over a decade, but Chattanooga's growth from a post-industrial Southern backwater into a cutting edge city can finally be seen in the quality of its music venues and wealth of local talent. Whatever kind of music you are into, there are many great spots to find a new favorite or get tickets for long-time idols.