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Music and Magic in the Pelham Valley

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 9:37 am

The Caverns brings world-class entertainment to Grundy County


The cave was packed as The Sweet Lizzy Project out of Havana, Cuba, opened the night on March 24, 2018

The Caverns, located in Pelham’s Payne’s Cove, became the permanent home of the Bluegrass Underground on Saturday evening as the Sweet Lizzy Project and Billy Strings took the stage in front of a packed cave. The evening opened the eighth season of the Emmy-winning PBS series. Watch Billy Strings performing at The Caverns here.

Big Mouth Cave offers The Caverns the widest cave opening at a performance venue in the United States





The Caverns, in what was formerly known as Big Mouth Cave, is an intimate venue showcasing up-and-coming and established artists. With a capacity of 750 (and up to 1,000 standing room), The Caverns owner and Bluegrass Underground creator Todd Mayo estimates the venue will bring up to 30,000 music fans to the county this year alone.

“There are things in this world that divide people, and, I don’t need to name them, but there’s not enough things that bring people together,” Mayo stated on Saturday afternoon before the grand opening.

“When you come here, you’ll see urban and rural, white collar and blue collar, young and old, black and white, hipsters and dorks like me, all together for a love of music. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do that.”

Developing the venue

Pictured (l-r): Todd Jarrell and Todd Mayo, Todd² to cave dwellers, and Joe Lurgio. Across the top of the doors, in Cherokee Sequoyah alphabet script, is the quote “Welcome to The Caverns where the Great Spirit brings people together through music.”

Mayo and his team, including Joe Lurgio and Todd Jarrell, both Bluegrass Underground producers, have worked over the last year to develop the venue while maintaining local beauty and the ecosystem of the cave environment.

According to Mayo, this involved a slew of “ists.”

“We have had geologists, ecologists, biologists, and archeologists on site to ensure we maintain the natural environment.”

To the left of The Caverns is a separate cave in the Big Mouth cave system. This cave is the native habitat of the Big Mouth salamander







This dedication to the environment is evident as soon as music lovers check-in at the gate. The big barn check-in area is decorated with the Caverns mascot Sally, a Big Mouth salamander. The Big Mouth salamander is a Tennessee species native to Big Mouth Cave. Its habitat is preserved in a separate cave in the Big Mouth system, alongside The Caverns.



Good for Grundy

Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady was on hand Saturday to enjoy the entertainment. He stated that the venue has much to offer.

“We are extremely excited about Bluegrass Underground making its permanent home at The Caverns in Pelham, in Grundy County,” said Brady. “Anytime you can bring a positive economic asset to your community that does not take away from who you are, but rather brings it to the forefront and celebrates your home’s natural beauty, that’s a good thing.

Todd Mayo, Joe Lurgio, and Temple Bowling cut the strings on a giant banjo signifying the grand opening of The Caverns. Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady and Senator Janice Bowling were instrumental in bring the venue to Grundy County

“This will be vitally important on several fronts. I believe it will have a multiplier effect on our community for jobs, tourism, and entrepreneurs.

“While at the opening this past Saturday, I had the opportunity to speak to folks from all across America and tell them about our wonderful beloved Grundy County, also we handed out a map that was paid for with a grant for folks to eat, shop, and showcase Grundy County. I feel extremely hopeful that tourism will thrive and flourish in our astounding Grundy County!”

In addition to bringing revenue to the Grundy County community, Mayo and his team have made positions at The Caverns available to local residents.

Colby Ladd, a Batesville employee, is from Pelham and grew up exploring Big Mouth Cave. He works venue parking at The Caverns and is excited about what it means to the local community

Colby Ladd, a Batesville employee, works venue parking at the Caverns. Ladd says he grew up in Pelham, and he and his friends explored Big Mouth Cave as kids.

“To see it transform into something good for the valley is awesome,” said Ladd.

Awesome and magical. The intimacy of The Caverns creates a musical experience like no other and celebrates two of the greatest assets of Grundy County and Tennessee – stunning natural beauty and a rich music heritage.



Upcoming shows

Bluegrass Underground will continue filming in April and May with performances by Brandi Carlile, Kathy Mattea, Flatt Lonesome, and others.

Additional artists included in this year’s roundup include the Del McCoury Band, Steve Earl, Sierra Hull, Bobby Osborne, and the SteelDrivers. Here Come the Mummies is on the schedule for a special Halloween show.



Know before you go

Parking is available at the check-in barn and overflow parking is provided – guests who park in overflow parking have the unique opportunity to ride The Caverns bus featuring Sally the Big Mouth Salamander

The Caverns is located in Pelham, at the base of Monteagle Mountain (GPS coordinates can be found by entering The Caverns, 555 Charlie Roberts Road, Pelham, Tennessee, 37366).

The venue features food and drinks. Try a Fiery Gizzard Hot Chicken sandwich, The Caverns water, or The Caverns beer to immerse yourself in the cave-dwelling life.

Seating is provided in The Caverns and free WiFi is offered. However, WiFi is suspended during the shows to allow attendees to enjoy the music without interruptions.

Photography is encouraged, but flash photography is not permitted during performances. Professional cameras with detachable or telephoto lens are prohibited.

The showroom is a short ½ mile walk from the check-in barn. People who have difficulty walking are encouraged to arrive early. Most guests can do the walk without too much trouble. There is limited handicap seating available for most shows.

The Caverns bathroom tells an amazing story

Don’t miss the bathrooms. The counters in each restroom are made of wormwood sourced from the Cumberland River (estimated to be 200-400 years old). Laser printed petroglyphs can be found underneath the counters, reflecting Tennessee cave paintings by Native Americans. Watch Todd Mayo describe the significance of the bathrooms here.

More information, including a complete lineup of upcoming shows and how to purchase tickets can be found at here.

Amanda Phillips is the Publisher and Editor of the Grundy County Herald