Need a night of live music? Head to The Caverns for a socially-distanced outdoor show
Live music isn't as out-of-reach this spring as you might think.
Nashville music fans can travel roughly 90 miles south to The Caverns in rural Grundy County, Tennessee, for a night of real-life live music. No livestream feeds, no Zoom screens — just artists playing songs for in-person crowds likely hungry for a slice of "normal" entertainment.
Don't expect to trek down into this one-of-a-kind cave venue yet, though. Venue organizers at the Caverns go "above ground" this spring for a concert series at a new hillside amphitheater created last summer for socially-distanced concerts on The Caverns grounds.
Upcoming gigs include country storyteller Robert Earl Keen, troubadour Margo Price, bluegrass staple The SteelDrivers, singer-songwriter Grace Potter, Americana favorite Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and more.
"What we've been able to do is provide an authentic music experience as close to what it used to be as possible during these times," said venue owner Todd Mayo. "It's a gorgeous piece of property looking overlooking the mountains and the valley. It looks like a mini gorge."
How it works
The Caverns sell ticket "pods" to groups of two, four or six. Pods increase in size depending on which ticket package gets purchased (a six-person pod nearly doubles in size from a space fitting two people). Show-goers can bring chairs, as pods do not come with outdoor seating.
Ticket prices depend on pod size. A two-person pod for Keen's Friday show, for example, costs $80 a person ($160 total), while a six-person pod costs $50 a person ($300 total) before fees. Pods get assigned at purchase time on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Venue organizers set pre-determined staggered times for ticket-buyers to arrive in hopes of avoiding crowds bottlenecking at the venue entrance.
Shows in the amphitheater reach socially-distanced capacity at 1,000 people, Mayo said.
Ticket-buyers must wear masks when arriving and leaving the venue, but can take it off inside the pod. Venue leadership requires masks for anyone who leaves their pod.
Each show-goer receives a temperature check and must answer a handful of COVID-19 screening questions before entering concert grounds. Event security enforces social distance guidelines for attendees not in a pod.
COVID-19 precautions helps The Caverns deliver a pseudo-VIP experience for show-goers, Mayo said.
Attendees order concessions and venue merchandise in advance of the gig via a mobile application. To avoid lines and hand-to-hand contact, venue staff place beer buckets, food, sodas and other concessions in the pod prior to arrival. Ticket-buyers receive a link to the application upon buying tickets.
Mountain Goat Market, based in Monteagle, Tennessee, offers boxed meals to purchase in advance. No cash payments are allowed.
"You can order your band merch or your Caverns merch or your beer," Mayo said. "There's not people breathing down your neck. It's like every single pod is a VIP pod."
The lineup for this spring and summer may not be complete. With roughly 30 shows on sale, the venue could reach seasonal capacity at about 42 nights, Mayo said.
The Caverns underground — or the "enchanted cave," as Mayo called it — could reopen later this summer as vaccine distribution continues, he said. But that doesn't mean the amphitheater is an only-during-the-pandemic concert option.
"We'll do 75 shows a year inside the cave, like we were doing before," Mayo said, "and then we might do 20 or 30 amphitheater shows a year that are more like 5,000 [person] capacity."
The Caverns above group lineup
- Friday: Robert Earl Keen with Waylon Payne
- Saturday: The SteelDrivers
- April 16-17: Dark Star Orchestra
- April 18: Del McCoury Band with Sierra Hull
- April 23-24: St. Paul and the Broken Bones
- April 30-May 1: Grace Potter
- May 2: Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors
- May 8-9: Goose
- May 14-15: Last Podcast on the Left
- May 16: Dailey & Vincent
- May 21-22: moe.
- May 28: Margo Price
- June 5-6: Mandolin Orange
- June 11: The Wood Brothers
- June 19: Crowder
- June 25-26: Trampled By Turtles with Katie Pruitt and The Ghost of Paul Revere
- July 16-17: Lettuce
Find more information at thecaverns.com.