Changes coming to Twilight Alive concert series

The Twilight Alive concert series is returning for its 11th season later this month with a wide variety of bands performing throughout the year. However, one major change is in store for music lovers: the series is running only one day a week rather than two.

For more than a decade, hundreds of folks have packed the 100 block of Broad Street on Thursday and Friday nights in the summertime, with folding chairs in hand, listening to a mix of music genres, tribute bands and local bluegrass performers.

The more contemporary sounds were found with the Twilight Alive offerings on Thursday nights with Friday nights dedicated to bluegrass performers.

“We’re changing to one night a week and going longer,” said Emily Thompson, event operations manager for the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s not on Thursday and Friday, but one series on Fridays with all genres mixed in, bluegrass as well.”

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The summer series kicks off May 26 with A1A (a Jimmy Buffet tribute band) and ends on Aug. 18 with the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band. Other performers in the lineup include Benny Wilson Band & Ivy Road, Mountain Faith, Folk Soul Revival, 20 Ride (Zac Brown Band tribute) and the Stooges Brass Band.

Twilight Alive will take the week of Fun Fest off and return the following week. In the past that would have been when the Thursday night concerts would end. Bands scheduled after Fun Fest include Mike Bentley & Cumberland Gap Connection, Duty Free, and Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers.

“We’re just trying something different. We have so many new businesses downtown it’s tough to shut a street down twice a week,” Thompson said. “The crowd on Friday always seems a little higher, so we decided to lean on Friday a little more. And everybody always asks why it stopped at Fun Fest, so we extended it on out.”

The concerts take place at the corner of Broad and Market streets and begin at 7 p.m. The events are free and the public is encouraged to bring a chair. No coolers or pets please. Beer sales will take place during the first half of the Twilight Alive series, but after Fun Fest, Thompson said, no beer will be sold.

“Every year we try something different, and this year we wanted to see what happens if we just go to Friday and run it on into August,” Thompson said, adding she hopes no one gets mad over the change. “We hope to keep everybody happy. We have a really good mix this year, so I’m hoping it’ll be a good one.”

The roots of the Twilight Alive series date back more than a decade to when local hot dog chef Tom Keller — owner of TK’s Big Dogs — began hosting essentially a bluegrass jam session inside his restaurant for about 200 friends and customers.

Those jam sessions eventually grew over the next couple of years and spilled out into Broad Street, expanding to 30 concerts a year and boasting crowds of more than 3,500 people. Eventually, the concert series was brought in under the auspices of the KCVB, and it has been a staple in downtown ever since, drawing large crowds of fans and music lovers of all ages.