Chatt Hills Music – Serenbe, Georgia

As a fan of live music, I frequent the websites of my favorite performers to see when their tours bring them reasonably close to my South Florida home. Because that doesn’t happen often enough, we’ve developed the enjoyable habit of visiting some of the coolest small music venues in equally cool small cities and towns across the southeast and beyond. These include Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Austin and Serenbe. I kid you not, Serenbe.

I thought you’d be interested in hearing about a few of these music venues in the months ahead, so let’s start with Chatt Hills Music in Serenbe, Georgia. As you learned in a recently published feature on Throomers, one of my all-time favorite musicians is Grammy award-winning, Mike Farris.

About a year ago, I noticed that Farris was playing a solo acoustic show at Chatt Hills Music on the outskirts of Atlanta. The flight would be a breeze, so I made the plans, purchased the show tickets, and with my daughter along for the ride we were soon leaving Atlanta’s bustling airport with the GPS set for a most unique experience.

After grabbing some deliciously appropriate barbecue nearby, we were soon traversing the rolling and winding back roads until arriving in a quaint community nestled among countless acres of forests and nature trails. The sign said ‘Welcome to Chattahoochee Hill Country.’

Noticing temporary signs posted on telephone poles and store fronts indicating that ‘Chatt Hills Music’ was nearby, we parked on Serenbe Lane and made our way toward the club, or what we thought was “the club.” To get my bearings, I’d spoken earlier in the day with the owner of Chatt Hills, Ron Simblist, and he suggested we visit the ‘General Store’ and pick up a bottle of wine and some snacks before arriving.

Because it sounded so much like we’d stepped back in time and were visiting the fictional town of Hooterville (of Green Acres fame), we did indeed stop into the General Store. We were immediately impressed, not only with the ambience, but also with their surprising selection of wines. With a little help from the proprietor, Nadine Bratti, we found a nice bottle of wine, some cheese, crackers and nuts, and a second bottle of wine (just in case the first one ran dry). Prescient decision.

With our bag of goodies in tow, we were soon walking up a steep hill (note: in South Florida, a wheelchair ramp is considered steep) in the direction of what looked to be someone’s very attractive home. When we reached the crest of the hill, we turned to notice that instead of a public street, we’d been walking up a private driveway. That’s the moment we understood that Chatt Hills Music was not a typical music club, not in the least, but instead was located in intimate settings such as this isolated, thickly-wooded private home.

Tentatively approaching the front door, we saw to the left about ten curved rows of chairs and a small stage underneath a water tower. It was like a mini-amphitheater right on the edge of the forest. “Ohmigosh,” we both said in chorus, “this is so incredible, what an atmosphere.” And talk about intimate, the stage was ten feet in front of the first row (literally, I paced it). I’d read that musicians who’ve had the privilege of playing Chatt Hills shows become enchanted by the atmosphere, and now I understood why.

Mike Farris soon arrived, the wine flowed, the snacks accompanied, the wine flowed again, and we were set for a relaxing evening under the trees and stars. The acoustics were perfect and that voice, oh, that voice. Farris had a great time interacting with the crowd while entertaining us for over two hours. He even stayed around after the show to shake hands, exchange hugs, and pose for pictures with his newest fans and loyal followers alike. It was a terrific, memorable evening all around.

Picture of Mike Farris on this Chatt Hills stage]

Picture of Mike Farris on this Chatt Hills stage

I had to know more about Chatt Hills, so I asked owner, Ron Simblist, an otherwise successful entrepreneur and jazz-lover, to please fill in the details. He did, saying, “I didn’t know squat about the music business, I just liked to listen to music.” It was ten years earlier that he brought the Brubeck Brothers Band and Colonel Bruce Hampton to Chattahoochee Hills because of his desire to build the local music community. The show was a hit and soon after, Simblist founded and became artistic director of Chatt Hills Music.

Picture of Chatt Hills logo, other venues

Over the ensuing years, he has successfully produced around twenty concerts per year in a handful of similarly intimate venues throughout the ‘Chatt Hills,’ both indoors and out in natural settings. He arranges the dates and sites, secures the necessary licenses for the shows, books the bands, and even helps generate business for the local economy, such as the General Store. Simply, he has a passion for Chatt Hills, which he jokingly calls “essentially a homeless music company.”

The musicians love playing Chatt Hills due to both Simblist’s generous hospitality and the unique atmosphere he presents for their shows. He typically hosts them in his gorgeous home in Serenbe and while insisting on keeping ticket prices affordable, he pays the bands well. If you check out their website (www.chatthillsmusic.com), you’ll see the amazing lineup of artists he has presented in past years, and what’s on the upcoming schedule.

In the past few years, Chatt Hills has been one of the locations for the Atlanta Jazz Festival’s satellite program known as “31 Days of Jazz.” Simblist was also invited to produce a show for the 2017 Atlanta Jazz Festival, which he did in typically meticulous style. In addition, Chatt Hills Music offers a “Music for the Kids” program in conjunction with the Children’s House of Serenbe, a local elementary school.ANNUAL LABOR DAY FAMILY FEST

Importantly, Chatt Hills Music is a non-profit organization, committed to bringing a diverse array of musicians to the hill country region, ranging from Americana to jazz to rock and to classical. So on any given night, music fans of all genres have their chance at this delightful, one-of-a-kind experience. To keep their dream alive, they gratefully accept donations via their website (www.chatthillsmusic.com).

If you happen to be traveling anywhere near the greater Atlanta area, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and check out what Chatt Hills Music has on tap. When you do, don’t forget to stop into the General Store for your libation of choice and snacks, and when you see Ron Simblist, be sure to shake the hand of this amazing man who sincerely cares about superb music, his idyllic foothills community, and the many guests he generously hosts throughout the year.*

*We should note that Throomers has no financial ties with Chatt Hills and this is not a paid advertisement. Our only intention across our content is to share our interests and enthusiasm with our fellow throomers.

KEVIN KINNEY from Drivin’ and Cryin’