If you are into Bluegrass Music or watch National Public Broadcasting -TV, it won't take long until you see a show called Bluegrass Underground. It is recorded in a cavern called the Volcano Room in the Cumberland Cavern just 6 miles from McMinnville, Tennessee where artists and audiences are joined 333 feet underground.
Each seasons shows for NPTV are recorded in March during 8 hour day sessions where one Bluegrass group after another performs in 45 minute sets, but only about 25 minutes of the 45 will be actually shown on the television for the one hour shows. However, there are Bluegrass Shows booked into the Volcano Room all year round. Many of the shows have sound recordings made, but only the ones in March have the video recording sessions for National Public Broadcasting.
Search the schedule online to see if a particular artist you would like to see live will be performing.
On June 24th, we booked tickets for a show featuring Peter Rowan (one of the original Bluegrass Boys). The show was amazing. Most all Bluegrass uses electronically enhanced instruments and the voices use microphones, but the acoustical properties would be fantastic for a Classical String Orchestra. The artists did joke about the fact that the slight dampness and temperature made them re-tune between pieces.
There are some things you need to know in advance if you plan to go, such as:
- It is in a Tennessee State Park, NOT a modern performance hall!
- The temperature year around in the cavern is 56 degrees. So, bring a jacket, sweatshirt or sweater.
- The Volcano Room is NOT "wheelchair" ADA accessible with it's natural dirt path and steep slopes. There were some people there on crutches, walkers and using canes, but it is a long and steep walk so you need to be in reasonably good condition both to get there and when leaving.
- Given the environment the dress is very casual and you'll want to wear comfortable walking shoes. Again, remember to bring a warm cover up ... even in July or August!
- The venue seats somewhere between 575 and 650, but there are only about 500 (folding) chairs and the remaining seating is on benches (without backs) built into the outer slopes or at picnic tables in the back.
- Yes, there are restrooms in the cave, at the rear! And there is food and a place for merchandise sales by the groups performing and the host Bluegrass Underground.
- The people with VIP tickets get to go in first and therefore have the pick of the seating. General admission tickets get to enter on a first come basis, so show up early to have access to the better seating.
It was a lot of fun and we will defiantly go back if we need to be anywhere near the Nashville area. And, as a consultant who works with architects doing performance venues, it is a place I'm glad I got to experience.
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