After just one weekend, it’s easy to see that The Caverns – new home of the Emmy-winning PBS series
Bluegrass Underground – is destined to be an iconic venue. It has the three A’s fully covered: jaw
dropping ambiance, incredible acoustics and artists… well, they’ll be lining up to play this house.
The Poke Around was in Pelham, Tennessee for the inaugural weekend in the new home of one of the
most popular bluegrass shows on TV. Saturday’s line up included Billy Strings and Sweet Lizzy Project;
Sunday’s was the Sam Bush Band and Aaron Lee Tasjan.
“Iconic” may depict the future of The Caverns, but “new” encapsulated the theme for the first weekend,
by design. The Sweet Lizzy Project is a Cuban band touring for their first time in the continental U.S., and
certainly new to anyone outside of their homeland; Billy Strings is the smoking hot new phenom in the
music world; Aaron Lee Tasjan happily calls his sound “the New Nashville,” and Sam Bush is, of course,
the King of New Grass.
Todd Mayo, executive producer and founder of Bluegrass Underground, spoke with us about the
intention behind the musical selections.
“Going back to August of 2010, our very first artist was the SteelDrivers – long before anyone really
knew what a sensation Chris Stapleton was going to be. And we’ve held true to the vision ever since: It’s
about going underground for sure – in search of musical adventure and discovery! Our music is about
bringing people together, from all walks of life; if you look at our lineup, we’re all united…by being
BADASS!” Mayo said.
Acoustically, The Caverns are downright remarkable. One can stand anywhere in the room and not
discern any difference in the sound. Mayo says someone once asked him back in the old cave how to
replicate it, what equipment to buy – his answer: “Shoot, just get you a pair of JBLs on a stick and a
room of rocks about 3.5 million years old!”
As for the musicians, Mayo says they all love the venue, and had great things to say about the entire
“The thing about doing music in a cave is that it matches the trend toward more curated, immersive
experiences – what a way to combine Mother Nature with some of the best artists on the planet!”
Mayo also indicates some changes are in store after the first weekend in the new (larger) digs.
“We realized that no one can sit still during a Billy Strings performance,” he said. “Heck, my daughter
was out in the aisle dancing, and I was glad to see a lot of others up too, it was just spontaneous. So in
the future we’re going to try a hybrid approach – maybe some reserved seating up front and then
standing room from there on back, so people can dance if they want to.”
This season’s episodes of Bluegrass Underground (Season VIII) will begin airing on PBS nationwide in
September. The full venue calendar is available at www.thecaverns.com.
Written by Chuck Flournoy
Photo courtesy of The Caverns