Country rock artist Corey Smith's recent run-in with the owners and management of Track 29, alleging first amendment rights violations and censorship of his signature song “F--- The Po-Po” during his sold-out performance last Friday night, is beginning to ripple through the concert tour industry.
Pollstar.com and PollstarPro, the concert industry's leading trade magazine, published its interview with Smith about the incident, titled "Them's Fightin' Words," for the new issue out today.
In the interview, Smith, who has already written a protest song called “Chattanooga,” told Pollstar's Tina Amendola that he was asked not to play his signature song and if he did he would never be allowed to play at Track 29 again.
“When I asked why, I was told the head of the (beer) board was there and he was putting them under pressure,” Smith told Pollstar.
Officer John Collins with the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board was in attendance that night, but in a statement issued by his attorney Jerry Tidwell, Collins denies being involved in the decision.
“At no time did Officer John Collins order, suggest, ask or in any way try to get the management at Track 29 to cut Corey Smith and his performance. And he does not know if anyone else did or, if they did, why they did,” according to Collins' statement.
Pollstar Editor-in-Chief Gary Bongiovanni said it all sounds like a he-said-she-said situation but the perception will linger that the club is the bad guy.
Bongiovanni said he believes the story will no doubt be told all around Nashville, at the least, and will probably cause problems for Track 29's promoter, AC Entertainment, who books all of the acts into the venue.
"I imagine it will be a little harder now for Ashley Capps to book acts in that room. He just may have to have longer conversations on the front end. But if this happens again [Track 29] probably won't get another chance. AC has a solid reputation but the club does not." he said.
Representatives with AC Entertainment did not return multiple requests for comment.
Capt. Susan Blaine, with the Chattanooga Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, said it was club co-owner Josh McManus' decision to pull the plug during Smith's performance.
“Josh McManus called me and he confirmed it was his decision alone and he was not coerced. He said he thought the song might cause some problems since they had an incident the prior week with an assault on one of our officers,” Blaine said.
Smith said in an interview with Nooga.com that he is often asked in advance of performances at certain family-friendly events to not sing “F--- The Po-Po," but that issues are always worked out well in advance to avoid situations like what happened at Track 29.
“We had 1,400 fans there that night, many who were intoxicated and angry. It created a chaotic situation,” Smith said.
Bongiovanni also questioned the club owners' decision not to tell the crowd what was happening after Smith left the stage.
“Leaving the audience in the dark is never a good thing. If you just turn off the power and expect the audience to figure it out on their own you're going to get people throwing beer and getting angry,” he said.
In a video shot by Courtny Everett, who drove from Knoxville just to see Smith's concert at Track 29, a loud, confused and rowdy crowd is shown after Smith walks off stage after his audio was cut.
“It was not safe. It was chaos. There were people wanting to fight security guards. My friend grabbed my arm and said 'I'm scared, lets go,'” Everett said.
Everett and other fans have said they will not be back to Track 29.
“I don't know if this was the right thing for them to do," Bongiovanni said. "Especially if you are trying to establish yourself as an artist-friendly environment.”
Smith told Pollstar that until proven otherwise he stands by his belief that his rights were violated and that the club was pressured by local law enforcement.
“Based on information I had, the information I received from the club, and based on my history with this particular person, I felt the city of Chattanooga was censoring the content of my show. Unless I get information to the contrary, I’m going to feel that way,” he said in the interview.
Club owners Josh McManus and Adam Kinsey did not return multiple requests for comment and have only commented via a statement on Facebook since the incident one week ago.
Pollstar.com and PollstarPro, which receive more than 50,000 views per day, boast the "world's largest database of concert tour information to music and concert fans around the globe" and is read internationally by performers, promoters, artist managers, booking agents, venue owners, other industry professionals.