Fifteen years ago, Scott Maddox opened Smoky Mountain Harley Davidson in Maryville with a bigger plan in mind than a simple, small-town bike shop. He wanted to create a rider’s destination, a place where riders could grab a bite, listen to some live music and browse the shop. Within its first year, a smaller version of The Shed opened for live music, and there’s been a slow, steady growth ever since.
“There wasn’t a huge exponential investment. It’s been little by little,” says Josh Formont, entertainment director, now in his fifth season with The Shed. “We’ve sold out multiple shows in the last five years. [In June] we’re doing two shows with Blackberry Smoke, who started as an opening act in 2009 and now has two sold-out shows. We have a lot of success in that genre of music: Southern rock and country. Aside from sell-outs, what we hang our hats on are getting in the acts before they become stars.”
By acts, he means Chris Stapleton, Old Crowe Medicine Show and Jamey Johnson. The Shed has hosted the likes of Shooter Jennings, Montgomery Gentry, Sturgill Simpson and Eddie Money, among many others.
“Chris Jansen was here with the Kentucky Headhunters,” Josh says. “At the time, no one had heard of them, but we had our finger on the pulse.”
Knoxville has long been a city with formidable music venues, and there’s constant competition to book the best acts. Josh sees this as a net gain for everyone, since the more venues there are, the more acts will come to the region.
“When you have so many eclectic venues, it’s good. We’ve had acts who’ve played here and then played Barley’s the next time. The region is diverse enough, and we’re different enough that we can have success and downtown Knoxville can also have success,” he says.
The Shed has expanded to its 16,000-square-foot capacity with room for 2,000 concert-goers April through September, partly covered, partly uncovered. Everything is general admission, so there’s standing room and sitting room and room to walk around.
Of course, being connected to a motorcycle company may lend itself to stereotypes, but Josh insists that shows at The Shed are for all ages.
“The first stereotype is that it’s a place for big, bad biker gangs and that it won’t be family-friendly. That could not be further from the truth. Families are actually our primary buyers,” he says. “The second stereotype is that a lot of Harley Davidson shops have little stages, and some are better than others. This stage is not a flatbed trailer. We have a top-notch production with lighting and sound engineers. Our sound is better than any in the region. Our lights are better than any in the region. I’ll stack up the stage experience here to anywhere else in Knoxville.”
Everything is digital at The Shed, so tickets can be purchased from their state-of-the-art website, TheShedTickets.com. Camp chairs are welcome. The full-service restaurant on site offers great barbecue and a substantial beer selection, including local crafts. In addition to concerts, The Shed is also an ideal place to hold fundraisers and other large events, an opportunity that created an ongoing relationship with organizations such as A Secret Safe Place for Newborns in Tennessee and United Way.
“At this point, we’ve expanded as far as we can physically. Now we focus on growing each season,” Josh says. “Thirteen years ago, we were primarily about Saturday concerts, but this year we have Friday concerts and a few on Thursdays. We want to eventually push to multiple nights a week.”
Foghat with Hardwired II
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
Whiskey Myers with Stone Broke Saints
The Steel Woods with Tennessee Jet
Jack Russell’s Great White
Ray Wylie Hubbard
V-Twin Visionary Smoky Mountain Tour
The Dirty Soul Revival
The Georgia Thunderbolts
The Kentucky Headhunters
David Allan Coe with Cecil Allen Moore
Tailgate Party featuring Kelsey’s Woods
Season Finale: Big Gun: No. 1 AC/DC Tribute Band