Chattanooga transplant Kristy Graves had an idea of combining community and music, of drawing in the surrounding arts scene with a sense of collected social association. This idea was fomented during her stay in Seattle and then San Francisco, where she lived for a time with a group of honky tonk and bluegrass musicians. She moved to Chattanooga about a year ago and, in that time, has begun to implement her plan to create an organization that brings people together through a shared love of sound and their surroundings.
And from this effort came Chattanooga House Shows, a group—namely Graves and those dedicated to realizing her dream—that has been working with touring musicians and local businesses to create inviting and intimate settings for people to meet and enjoy musical experiences that are unlike any other in the Scenic City. With a focus on the communal aspects of these events, Graves looks to bring strangers and friends together in a room to build a stronger arts and music community, and to hear some amazing artists perform in the process.
Despite its name, however, she doesn't limit these concerts to the confines of a house—although she does still use houses for a few of them. But since she began, she's broadened her outlook, incorporating local companies such as Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary and Treetop Hideaways (where Ballroom Thieves played back in September) in her search for unique musical locations. Her hope is that wherever the music is being played, the audience, as well as the artists, will enjoy the experience and be introduced to the welcoming nature of Chattanooga's music scene. For Graves, it's all about creating something larger than herself and building ties to each other through music.
And Saturday night, this idea of musical inclusivity was on full display at the RootsRated Media office on Market Street, or, more accurately, on their rooftop patio. The local content marketing company had offered their outdoor space as a possible location for Chattanooga House Shows, and Graves had taken them up on their suggestion, curating a show that took advantage of the open rooftop and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. With libation contributions from The Bitter Alibi and local hostel En Root House providing lodging for the visiting artist, the details were set for a remarkable evening of music—and Manatee Commune did not disappoint.
Hailing from Washington state, Manatee Commune (AKA musician Grant Eadie) creates swirling, ethereal electronic soundscapes that spread a sense of ecstatic movement throughout your body—and that's apart from the joyous and unpredictable dancing that Eadie delivers alongside a selection of pads, percussion and projected visual accompaniment. And in the open atmosphere of that rooftop, his music felt lifted of earthly constraints and rose to mingle with the countless stars that eventually lit the sky above us. A bit more dance-y than artists like Washed Out or Toro Y Moi but possessing a similar electronic ideology, the music that poured from those speakers wound around everyone there, connecting and binding us through its synthetic wonder.
As psychedelic projections were thrown against a white screen behind him, the music followed suit, ebbing and flowing like some endless musical current. The random visuals, including swatches of amorphous color and macro scenes from nature, lent this musical environment a curious and explorative feeling. Bounding from foot to foot, with arms thrown in all directions, he was a whirling mass of appendages that swayed and blurred in time to the electronic beats and rhythmic bloops. Each track felt miles long, with stray bits of sound and melody breaking through the synth atmosphere with a startling spectacle. He even began playing the violin during some songs, adding a gorgeous counterpoint to his more circuital work.
As the evening progressed, everyone present (roughly 70 people crowded onto the outdoor patio and balcony) began to be more involved and invested in the sounds slinking among us. By the end of the evening, the patio was a mass of dancing bodies, swaying frames and flashing lights reflected off dilated eyes. The artificial noises that had slowly slipped down into our bones over the past hour were beginning to contract muscle and ligament in a wild series of rhythmic movements. The night was awash in unpracticed dance and experimental synthetics.
If anyone there wasn't already a fan of Manatee Commune, you can rest assured that by the end of the night, they most certainly were, as his music echoed constantly and gladly through our heads. Gracious and exhibiting a restless creativity, Eadie seemed to be overwhelmed by the love and attention that was being thrown in his direction on that rooftop. And for those of us there, it was also an evening that we won't soon forget. With a range of eclectic sounds still whirring in our ears, we crowded around him, and Graves was thankful for a night of unforgettable music and the community that rose up to support it.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 7:54 a.m. on 5/15/17.