One of the reasons I like living in East Tennessee is the fact you can visit many of the great urban metros within a half-day drive. If you like concerts that feature legendary performers you may travel a few hours, but there’s nothing like a road trip to cure a case of cabin fever.

This weekend, Bob Dylan has two shows in western North Carolina. Hall of Fame inductee Prince performs later this month in Knoxville and Sting, Annie Lennox and Metallica just announced shows in Charlotte, too.

Concerts like these can be memories that linger for years. My college roommate and I loved traveling to rock ’n’ roll shows and to this day we’re likely to call one another on a cell phone a few moments before the band plays anywhere, at anytime just to prove we can still do it with the best of them.

Several weeks ago I received an e-mail from The Vines. This new Australian band captured my attention on the Internet radio stations I listen to. As the frequency and variety of the songs started to grow, I saw them on Letterman and visited their Web site to see music and videos with out having to wade through a sea of commercials.

I signed up for their e-mail newsletter and my first correspondence arrived to tell me about the upcoming “Aussie Invasion.” It had all the makings of a great show too — three new bands from Australia landing in the states for their first U.S. tour — The Vines, Jet and The Living End.

The show was scheduled for The Roxy in Atlanta — somewhere I had never been and this was one of their first shows of the new tour. I had always wanted to see The Roxy, and this lineup was enough to pull me out of my routine. Besides, my college buds were in Atlanta and a break was long overdue.

To make a long story short, we left Kingsport early Saturday morning and the sky was the best of blue. The day was warm and 360 miles separated the musical tourists from another great memory in the heart of the South.

The Roxy is located in down town Atlanta near Buckhead. It’s all cityscape, too — plenty of traffic, concrete, billboards, neon lights and distractions at every turn. When we arrived, the signs at the door mentioned the concert was sold out and a line of fans wrapped around the street and alley into the back of the building.

This venue is a perfect concert auditorium with a large open floor in front of the stage at just the right pitch so everyone can see. Up top there is a balcony with reclining seats and two bars downstairs that serve $6 beers. There’s enough room for about 1,000 fans and another thing that makes this place special for musicologists is the inspiring collection of musical relics they have on display.

There’s a room at The Roxy where you can see Bruce Springsteen’s Fender Strat hanging on a wall along with a Ludwig drum head autographed by Ringo Starr. Plenty of legendary performers have graced this stage and the mini-museum here is a mesmerizing place to mingle with other fans during set changes.

The Living End was the first Aussie band that warmed the stage. Chris Cheney is the front man for this new group reminiscent of Green Day with a dose of Stray Cats. The band was even more entertaining because of bassist Scott Owen. It’s unusual to see an acoustic bass in a rock band, but Scott’s talent and showmanship were hard to ignore as he spun his bass while performing songs from their latest collection called “Modern ARTillery.”

The first time I remember hearing Jet was on a video game. As the new generation tunes out MTV in lieu of the latest games, producers are finding new avenues to expose up and coming bands. Jet’s hit “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” was originally on a video game soundtrack, but since then has become one of those songs that you almost hear too much on pop radio stations.

Nevertheless, the band slammed their way into the night with “Cold Hard B—-” their new follow-up single off the recording “Get Born” and the audience bounced high into the air despite the fact the band had lots of problems on stage. You could tell they were unsettled as their sound was sloppy and unrehearsed too, but that didn’t dampen the thrill.

When The Vines opened their set with their new single “Ride” it was obvious they were the headliner. The audience representing all ages was loud and rowdy as they punched their way into the room with a battery of memorable songs.

Some critics describe The Vines as the “new Nirvana.” Although the title invites criticism, the undercurrent of the reckless grunge sound is obviously an influence. Craig Nicholls is the mop-top singer whose eyes roll back in his head while performing, but his mystic charisma is both sarcastic and melodic and gives the band its most memorable characteristic.

The Vines have been successful in Europe and Australia for many months now, but their big boost in the states occurred last year on the MTV video music awards when they performed “Get Free” from “Highly Evolved.” This recording is one of the best all around rock al bums I’ve hard in years and it was euphoric to watch this group in such a small room.

I’m convinced the best performances occur at small venues. The arenas are still fun and probably the only way to see the popular performers, but if you’re looking for music that is up close and personal, stay tuned to the event calendars at the small rooms close by. You’ll enjoy a better performance, lower ticket prices and heck — you might even see the stage without a need for a 30-foot big screen.

So if you’re weary and ready to mix things up a bit, shine up the car, stop by the ATM and set your self in the direction for a week end getaway. The driving will do your thoughts some good and the adventure may be the perfect remedy for whatever is troubling you.

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    This week’s buzz topics…

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    This week’s best bets for live local music…

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  • Saturday — Running With Scissors CD Release Party at the Sophisticated Otter in Johnson City.


    David Cate is new media director for the GoTriCities Network. E-mail him at