Rodney Bennett, 
Woodcellar’s Music Maestro

“Music provides a communal forum to connect with each other, take a step back from daily stresses, leave politics aside,” says Rodney Bennett, man behind the bar and creator of the Woodcellar’s dynamic music scene. In the eight years Bennett has been booking the talent for the Woodcellar, he’s gone from trying to find bands to fill the music bill to fielding multiple requests each day from bands eager to perform at the Bergen Park rendezvous.

“Word of mouth has been amazing. Musicians and social media have helped to put us on a national map and attract bands who want to play in our beautiful mountain town,” Bennett explains. “Our demographics also have expanded: we’re attracting more fans from down the hill and drawing fans of the many genres we showcase.”

“The venue prides itself on presenting acts without a cover charge.”

The Diversity and Power of Music

The Marietta, Ohio native and army veteran got his first guitar at the age of six. While sports, including baseball, football and golf took priority, Bennett quietly developed his guitar-playing skills, occasionally jamming with friends. Bennett’s early influences were eclectic—from big band jazz performers like Louis Armstrong to hip hop to Jerry Garcia. Appreciating diverse styles of music dovetailed with Bennett’s studies as an anthropology major at the University of Colorado Denver. His study of humanity would prepare him well for his early career in video production of nationwide ballroom dancing competitions, followed by a successful run as a booking agent and bartender in the Denver Highlands neighborhood, and a stint at the Armoury in Lodo before finding his home in Evergreen and at the Woodcellar.

“People who work at the Woodcellar tend to stay,” he said. “We’re a ‘unicorn’ crew largely because of the great atmosphere created by our owners, Tabor and Laura Cowden, who are supportive leaders and music lovers.”

The power of music to unite and uplift the community struck Bennett deeply during the pandemic. “In the wake of the pandemic, when we decided to make music available again outside in our parking lot, it made a huge impact,” he said. “You could see it in people’s eyes, on their faces. They were being reborn into a social experience that they had been deprived of for so long. It made it that much more worthwhile.”

The dynamic music scene appeals to a diverse fan base.

A Line-Up Worthy of Summer

With summer approaching, Bennett has planned a line-up chock full of talent from jam bands to bluegrass, indie vibes to classic rock, with some Grateful Dead fusion mixed in. Bennett looks forward to welcoming Indie band Blank Slate to the stage on May 30 for its Woodcellar premiere. In June, the Funky Lampshades from Gulf Shores will kick off the month; Revelator, a Tedeschi Trucks tribute band, will perform outside on Father’s Day, June 16, with a “tweener set” by Rodney on guitar and his daughter, Kaya, on vocals. June 22 will showcase Kimberly Morgan-York from Georgia, a country/bluegrass singer-songwriter. Signature events will be the Woodcellar’s 15th anniversary bash outside featuring beloved favorite Joe Bye and Friends, and the restaurant’s 8th annual pig roast on September 8 headlined by Matt Jalbert, guitarist from the New York City-based rock-infused instrumental

band TAUK.

Each week, the Woodcellar offers live music Wednesday through Saturday, with a popular Open Mic on the first and third Thursdays of the month. The venue prides itself on presenting acts without a cover charge. A full schedule of upcoming performers and the five outdoor concert events this summer is posted on Woodcellar’s webpage and social media platforms.

No matter which night or what type of music, Bennett says his experiences just keep getting better and better. “My future will always be about music,” he reflects. “Music is a large piece of the ‘therapy puzzle,’ and I love laying down that piece in the town that I call home.”