It’s cool to walk into a strange place and immediately find someone that makes you feel welcome. Mia Richards greeted me like that this weekend with a hug at the Houston Valley Club in Greeneville, Tenn. She’s the phenomenal voice for Gretchen, one of the region’s best rock bands, and their performance made the trip well worth the mileage.

Mia’s husband David is the guitarist for the band and handles the promotion, too. He’s also a regular contributor to our online forum at GoTriCities.com. That’s where I first heard about this lineup of bands that included Blind Sight, Gretchen and Under pass.

The Houston Valley Club is a good drive from Kingsport, but when I heard that Gretchen was performing with Blind Sight, I had to make the scene. These two bands are among the most talked about acts in the area.

Located on Bolton Road, just off Highway 93S in Greeneville, this venue has the feel of an old fraternity club on the hill. The cover charge was $6 for three bands and just inside, a large bar opens up to plenty of floor space with a low ceiling, stage and a cavern of pool tables and video games to the side. The doorman tells me that this place was indeed a private lounge at one time, then a disco, then a restaurant. Now they present live music every weekend.

When we arrived, Blind Sight was performing an impressive set of original songs. This band was intense and electrifying! I’ll have much more to say about this group next week, but for now, I’ll declare that guitarist David Shirley could be the best rock guitarist in the region. I’ll find out more Halloween night as they play for an “All Ages” show in Johnson City at Downtown Rafters.

Gretchen opened its set up with the original song “Ordinary.” Each one of their songs are great modern rock originals teeming with passion. Out front, Mia sings with a baby blue Reverend bass guitar swung low and David plays a Mesa Boogie rig with one of the tallest guys on drums in the Tri-Cities, Stephen Robinson.

Mia was dressed in black and braids this night and if you haven’t heard her sing, you’re missing something very special. Her influences sweep from Madonna to Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and she stands all by herself in the local music scene.

Mia comments on her influences at the band’s Web site located at gretchenland.com. “It all boils down to this: Since I am a vocalist first — I’m naturally drawn to artists that have good singing voices, but not always. … Sometimes I’m drawn to voices that are unusual, distinctive — you remember it when you hear it. To me, that’s one of the most key ingredients that makes a band stand out from the crowd.”

Gretchen’s original music and natural talent have al ready caught the attention of producers. They’ve been working hard for several years performing at many regional and national venues and they never sounded better. Their set included songs from their latest CD, “Mouth of Nails,” plus many new ones in the works. Their songs de liver real musical statements with heavy rock melodies and riffs. Behind Mia’s voice, Gretchen’s music has modern rock appeal that is sure to open doors in the future.

It’s obvious that Gretchen and Blind Sight enjoy playing shows together, too. Both bands have guitarists with wicked talents and each are at the top of their game. David Richard’s stage presence with Gretchen is always a treat to watch. At this gig, I was equally impressed with Mia’s ability to play bass guitar and sing. That’s a tall order for most players, but evidently, there is no end to this girl’s desire to sing her songs.

In addition to their original music, the band also created new soundscapes that included Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” and Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” Mia and the band not only caught the attention of those that wanted to sing along, but their efforts were innovative as they interpreted these classic rock covers.

We had a great time visiting the Houston Valley Club and witnessed another great local performance. So don’t let the mileage keep you from enjoying local talent. There is a lot happening on the weekends around the Tri-Cities and a half-hour drive is worth the effort to witness great modern rock chemistry like Mia Richards and Gretchen.

Relevant Web Links:

Performances, Conversations and more…

This week’s buzz…

  • Holiday benefit concert in the making…
  • Captured! By Robots coming to Johnson City.
    Find out more, and support live music, by visiting The Buzz at gotricities.com/thebuzz.

Best Bets for Live Shows…

  • Blind Sight and Evixion on Halloween at Rafters on State of Franklin in Johnson City, an all ages show.
  • Omega Tribe at 7th Street Café on Saturday.

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David Cate is director of new media for the GoTriCities Network. Send tips for The Buzz or comments to him at dcate@gotricities.net.