It’s been more than a year since the rumble of Harley-Davidsons had any competition out on West Lamar Alexander Parkway, but in another week, that will change.
On Saturday, April 17, The Shed opens its doors for the 2021 concert season, and given the complete shutdown of last year’s shows due to COVID-19, the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll will be a welcome addition to the Maryville venue, which is a part of Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson.
Many of the concerts on the books are rescheduled appearances after the entire lineup was canceled in 2020, concert manager Paul Smith told The Daily Times, but for Shed employees and the musicians alike, the opportunity to get back to some semblance of normal is cause for celebration.
“All of the bands are super excited to be back on the road,” Smith said. “As I’ve talked to them throughout the last month and a half, they’re booking constantly left and right as the situation improves, and all of them are excited to be able to entertain the masses.
“And for us, I feel like there’s a need for it. Everybody’s been cooped up, and they haven’t had that experience that was so commonplace. Now that it’s going to happen again, everybody is just ready for it, and there’s a lot of built-up excitement to get out and see a live music event.”
This season will mark the 17th year that concerts have been held at The Shed, which came with the purchase of a former Lowe’s location by Scott and Monet Maddux, who opened Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson in 2004. In the former retail building, the couple and their employees built a dealership that’s become a hub for bikers who ride the winding foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, but from the outset, the Madduxes — both of them musicians — wanted to turn the adjacent 15,000-square-foot lumber pavilion into a concert destination.
Over the years, The Shed has found its niche as a home to cover bands (perennial favorite Big Gun, an AC/DC tribute act, will open the season on April 17) and some of the biggest names in roots music. Many of them will return this year, Smith said, and stay longer: Blackberry Smoke, for example, will headline four nights at The Shed (May 7 and 8, which are both sold out, and May 14 and 15), and other acts that started out with a modest following will get full weekend runs.
“Whiskey Myers, for example, is doing two nights this year. The second night is sold out, and the first night it getting close, and we love seeing how much that band has grown with us,” Smith said. “I’m just excited, in general, about all of the bands we’re having this year. We’ll have a lot of the mainstays, like Kentucky Headhunters in September for our birthday weekend, but some new ones, too.
“One surprise to us was the Koe Wetzel show. It sold out before we announced the final schedule, and we feel like it’s going to be a really great show. Also new this year, we’ve got J.J. Grey and Mofro, and we did a show with another artist a couple of years ago, The Cadillac Three, and they’ll be making a return this year.”
Some adjustments will be made in order to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, especially for the first couple of shows, Smith said: Limited tickets will be sold until vaccine numbers rise and case numbers continue to decline and the rust of inactivity during the entirety of 2021 works itself loose. In addition, Shed staff have made changes to the adjoining restaurant, added a new outdoor bar and covered patio and taken advantage of the outdoor space to help concert-goers remain healthy.
“We’ll be taking temperatures at the door for patrons coming in, and even though we have plenty of open-air space with plenty of fresh air circulating, we’re asking that if they’re going to be in a congested area or inside one of our facilities, to please wear a mask,” Smith said. “Even though we’re in hopefully the downward trend of this pandemic, we’re still trying to keep everybody safe as much as possible.”
And with tickets limited to the first handful of shows, he added, patrons who want to hear electric guitar as much as they do Harley engines are advised to buy their tickets as soon as possible.
“With our first few shows being limited capacity, there’s a good chance we may not have any at the door,” Smith said. “As people are ready to get out and about, a lot of them are getting their tickets ahead of time, and we love to see that. We’re excited to see that things are going in the right direction, and we can’t wait to see everyone. We’re just ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”