“Concert” and “cavern” aren’t two words that generally go together (American indie band, The Cavemen, notwithstanding). But if you’re just outside Pelham, Tennessee, these two work better together than sweet tea and a blisteringly-hot July afternoon. Thanks to geological activity starting sometime during the last Ice Age, a series of large cave clusters formed in the limestone of the Cumberland Plateau. These fantastical formations, known as The Caverns, stretch from southeastern Tennessee through the southern reaches of Kentucky.
Fast forwarding a gazillion years or so, not only are we able to visit the caves today, but we can actually get our groove on “down under” as well. The Caverns happen to have amazing acoustics and play host to concerts with contemporary musicians ranging from Wyclef Jean to Molly Hatchet. It is perhaps, one of the most unique concert “venues” in the South — a sort of underground Red Rocks — and easy to get to at only 50 miles south of Nashville.
The Caverns venue
The Caverns’ space itself is a massive, connected underground cave cluster with subterranean passages that stretch over 8,000 feet. Concerts are held in “Big Mouth Cave,” so named due to its grand archway entrance. Always a comfortable 56-59 degrees, the cave has been in use for at least 25,000 years — or so scientists believe. But it gets better. The Caverns sport a seating capacity of about 750, or up to about 1,000 for standing, I-feel-like-dancing kind of shows. (The floor is a nice smooth concrete, no mud or mushy feelings underfoot here.) There are state-of-the-art light and sound systems, modern restrooms, and a full range of concessions, including craft beer, wine, and cocktails.
Last year, the Caverns also played host to “Bluegrass Underground,” the Emmy-Award winning nationally syndicated television and radio show, featuring some of today’s greatest bluegrass artists. The show moved from the Cumberland Caverns, a related cave cluster about 30 miles north in McMinnville, Tennessee, where it had resided since 2008.
The Caverns also offers a “Monteagle Mountain Stay & Cave Package” if you don’t feel like doing the drive back to civilization after the show. The package includes lodging for two in Monteagle’s historic Smoke House Lodge (about a 15-minute drive from the venue), a guided tour of the Caverns prior to the show, VIP seating at the Caverns show, meal vouchers, merch, and transportation to and from the venue.
If you’re really into caves, get your Fred Flintstone going and check out the Caverns for a show.
For more information and up-to-date concert information, visit the (Pelham) Caverns.