There’s a certain demographic of music lover who’s grown understandably weary of concerts.
The late nights, long lines, tight crowds, sticky floors, and smoke-filled air can tip the scales in favor of a predictably peaceful night at home with the TV. So it is with cautious optimism that I suggest to you, the music-lover who’s outgrown concerts, that the Woodshop Listening Room in Chattanooga’s St. Elmo neighborhood will make you fall in love with live music all over again.
To call the Woodshop a concert venue grossly undersells the experience. Yes, there’s live music and craft beer and a small yet surprisingly creative kitchen. But even more fundamental than those virtues, the Woodshop is simply a wonderful place to hang out.
In a downtown entertainment-scape defined by cavernous warehouse venues and urban-chic restaurants with high ceilings and metal beams that make it nearly impossible to have a conversation, the Woodshop offers a refreshingly intimate change of pace. The building is cozy with low ceilings and wood from floor to ceiling. The tables are small and the seats are close, offering a concert experience that’s half jazz club and half country farmhouse.
“We hosted our first concert here eight years ago when this was just an empty building,” said co-owner Pate Russell. “We’ve grown and changed so much over the years,” he laughed, alluding to both the venue and his family. Renovating the building required frequent trips to the nearby Ace Hardware. That’s where he met Tyler, the friendly hardware store clerk who became his wife, mother of his two children, and co-owner of the Woodshop.
Over the years they’ve hosted some memorable concert experiences including Chattanooga favorites like Randy Steele and Strung like a Horse. They’ve also hosted some impressive national touring acts like the Local Honeys and Coleman Williams (son of Hank III) – all in a space that feels less like a ‘music venue’ and more like your cool friend’s living room.
The Woodshop may fly under the radar of most Chattanoogans, but musicians know the place and love it. That’s because unlike most venues where the music happens in the background as folks party at the bar, audiences at the Woodshop are there for the music. That means they don’t talk – they listen.
This creates a positive feedback loop as the performers, grateful for such an attentive audience, are able to give their best performances. The crowd, aware that they’re witnessing an especially great performance, rewards the performers with even more attention and gratitude. And so it goes until the end of the set, when the performers inevitably exclaim that this has been the best show of the tour and they can’t wait to come back again. Pate and Tyler have succeeded in creating a venue that brings out the best in musicians and audiences alike.
And as if that weren’t enough of an accomplishment, they have no shortage of plans for the future. Soon the Woodshop will offer expanded hours, an expanded menu, and an expanded calendar of events beyond their beloved concert schedule.
“We began as a music venue, and we’ll always be a music venue,” Pate explained, “but we’ve had a great time hosting other weekly events too, and we hope to add more of them in the coming months.”
On Tuesday evenings the Woodshop hosts the Trails to Ales meetup in the backyard, while indoors the Old Time Jam string band welcomes anyone and everyone to bring an instrument and join in. Wednesday nights feature live jazz and trivia. Vine and Vinyl is a Thursday night tradition in which guests are encouraged to bring a record they can spin to win discounts on boutique wine flights and featured pours.
They also have plans to introduce full liquor options including craft cocktails. “Craft is key at the Woodshop,” Pate said. “That’s what we appreciate in everything we do here, whether it’s craft drinks, craft food, or the craft of the songwriters and musicians.”
Learn more at thewoodshoplisteningroom.com