From Yellow Racket records to amazing eats to live music at venues like Cherry Street Tavern, Chattanooga excels at crafting experiences centered around live music shows.

Yellow Racket Records

If you were to plan a day of enjoying live music in Chattanooga, starting at Yellow Racket Records on East Main would be an excellent choice. They offer a diverse selection of both new and used records. Whether you prefer to browse through their stacks in person or explore their website beforehand, plenty of hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. On my recent visit, I found treasures like Pylon's 1980 album "Gyrate," Crumb's 2017 EP "Locket," or even a $2 cassette of Guadalcanal Diary's 1986 release, "Jamboree."

Later in the evening, Yellow Racket Records would also host live music performances. If you didn't already have tickets for another show, sticking around for this event would have been a fantastic way to cap off the day.

Tips for Visiting Yellow Racket Records:

  • parking right in front can be precarious, but there is an adjoining lot available that is less so
  • they sell canned beverages and audio equipment
  • it is sandwiched (!) by two great restaurants Lo Mein and Barque on either side
  • they often put on listening room shows around town

Bitter Alibi Restaurant and Bar

With music in hand, it was time to transition to the evening. When embarking on a live music-filled day, the last thing one wants to do is spend precious mental energy deliberating over where to find a tasty yet reasonably priced meal, at a spot that's not too crowded and offers healthy menu options in the early evening. That energy is better directed towards enjoying the music. Fortunately, the choice for this particular night was clear: Bitter Alibi, an upscale dive bar on Houston Street, housed in what appears to be a converted house.

Bitter Alibi offers a unique twist on Asian cuisine. While some menu items like the pork potstickers and vegan dumplings are familiar yet delicious, the dining experience on this evening ventured into fusion territory with dishes like wonton nachos and their interpretation of bibimbap.

The wonton nachos substitute fried wonton skins for the traditional corn tortilla chips and are topped with a choice of protein, pickled onions and carrots, two tangy sauces, queso, and lettuce. Bibimbap, a Korean comfort food staple, consists of a rice bowl with various flavourful additions, topped with a fried egg. It's easy to opt for a healthier version by selecting the vegan crumble.

No visit to Bitter Alibi would be complete without indulging in an adult libation, whether it's beer, wine, or a cocktail, as they offer a diverse selection. For those opting for a non-alcoholic option, mocktails are also available.

Quick tips for visiting Bitter Alibi:

  • The entrance is in the back
  • It is popular with the nearby UTC student population, so it can get crowded and loud
  • Access to the upper floors is via a narrow spiral staircase
  • It is counter service, but they bring food orders to the table

Considering all this, starting an evening at Bitter Alibi is an excellent choice. The atmosphere is cozy, and the staff is welcoming and helpful, readily available to answer any menu inquiries. If you're up for it, ascending the spiral staircase mentioned earlier might be worth it to enjoy the balcony seating or to indulge in a game on one of the classic video game consoles available.

Cherry Street Tavern

From Bitter Alibi, it's just a ten-minute walk or a quick drive over to Cherry Street and its eponymous Tavern. Cherry Street Tavern (not to be confused with the recently shuttered Cherry Street Brewing, which was on Cherokee Blvd.) exudes old-school British pub vibes, as clarified by Marty Bohannon, Cherry Street Tavern's co-owner. While not a "dive bar," as Marty emphasizes, Cherry Street Tavern offers a cozy ambiance where you can typically enjoy pub favorites like the tavern burger or fried pickles. Like Bitter Alibi, Cherry Street Tavern boasts a full bar and is happy to whip up a mocktail upon request.

Arriving early for a pre-show bite on this particular Saturday night wasn't feasible due to sound checks for the billed acts. Doors weren't open until 8 p.m., and the kitchen was closed. However, fret not for future shows like this one, as you can pass the time at nearby spots such as Unknown Caller to the left or the Chattanooga Billiard Club to the right until Cherry Street Tavern's doors open.

The evening's festivities kick off with Hotline TNT, a band hailing from Brooklyn touring in support of their album "Cartwheel." While their recorded music might give the impression of a mellow and reserved sound, their live performance is anything but. Their energetic 40-minute set, noted by Matt Bohannon, Marty's brother, for its impressive volume during soundcheck, proves them to be a great opening act.

One notable aspect of Cherry Street Tavern is its snug stage area, which requires skill to accommodate four or five musicians and their gear. Additionally, Cherry Street Tavern's elongated layout has been optimized by the sound engineers to ensure quality audio throughout the venue, especially towards the back where space may be limited due to its capacity of around 100 ticket holders.

Here are a few good things to know about the venue in advance:

  • There are only two bathrooms
  • Parking on Cherry goes quickly but there are two paid lots within a quick walk to CST and parking on Seventh (one way Westbound) and Eighth (one way Eastbound)
  • Don't miss the back alley with murals and commissioned graffiti artists' work
  • Seating is somewhat limited, but on this night few remained seated

Wednesday headlined the evening, delivering a performance that exemplified their talent. While their set included the expected mellow moments and sing-alongs, they also showcased their willingness to unleash their energy. Drawing from their North Carolina roots, their performance was a fusion of Americana with lively guitar jangles and hints of shoegaze. This marked the final show of Wednesday's U.S. tour for their acclaimed album "Rat Saw God," which had garnered widespread praise and earned spots on numerous "Best of" lists.

Karly Hartzman, the guitarist and vocalist, had strained her voice the previous night, prompting the band to tailor their set to an hour. Undoubtedly, everyone at CST would have welcomed more, but the evening had its limits. Nevertheless, it was impressive to watch Marty assist lead guitarist Jake Lenderman in swapping guitars during the performance. As the show concluded, light rain began to fall, yet fans remained, hopeful for a chance to snag an autograph and snap a selfie.

As both Hotline TNT and Wednesday wrapped up their respective tours, Hartzman said, "It's kind of like the end of the school year, in a way," capturing the sentiment of closure and accomplishment. It served as a fitting conclusion to a day filled with experiences and live music in Chattanooga.

A 🎶 Note about the author and Visit Chattanooga's partnership with UTC

This blog was written by a student currently in Exploring Chattanooga's Music Scene, a Communication class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. These students are helping document, define, and share the diverse music scene that can be found in the Scenic City. Find more student-written blogs about local music and venues here.