Steve Wildsmith

A cross between Rolling Stone, Soldier of Fortune and the Oxford American

Archive for April, 2009

Neutral Milk Hotel needs your help!

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You don’t get an e-mail with that in the subject line very often. In fact, in all of my years covering music, I don’t think I’ve gotten anything from Neutral Milk Hotel (a seminal indie rock band that made some amazing music in the 1990s, for those of you in the dark. Read about them here). And maybe I still haven’t, but the band members are seeking the public’s assistance in saving a Massachusetts landmark.

This is the e-mail I received. Read on to see how you can help the guys out:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2009

The Paragon Carousel is a beautiful machine that has been my dear neighbor for many moons.  Now 81 years old, it is in need of a little love and attention in order for it to survive.

It is my sincere wish for the Paragon Carousel to be a part of the magic of long seaside summer afternoons for many years to come.  But it might not get to.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where the great whirling contraptions of mechanical music and light are not as profitable to operate as other things, and carousels are worth much more taken apart and sold in pieces to museums, where one must pay to look at them behind glass, rather than having them simply existing in the world that we now all share.

I spoke with Jeff and Scott and Jeremy about this and they agreed that I should, on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel, make an appeal to the good people who might have enjoyed the music made over the years, because we think you’d understand especially, and want to help.

We humbly ask you to vote!

The Paragon Carousel is competing with 24 other historic Massachussettes buildings for a grant of  $100,000. The historic site with the most votes wins, and anyone anywhere can vote. We would love it if by our collective effort we could ensure the continuation of this grand place.  It only takes a moment and you can do so here

You are allowed to vote once a day untill May 17th . Your vote means a great deal to all of us at Elephant Six. Places like this are so special. They deserve to exist in the same world that we do. So we can visit them with our bodies, not just our memories and dreams.

We’d like to thank you for your help and for spreading the word.

~Julian Koster with Jeff Mangum on behalf of Neutral Milk Hotel

Written by wildsmith

April 30th, 2009 at 11:49 am

Free music Thursday! Download these new songs NOW.

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Our thanks to local bands 1220 and The LoneTones, which gave us permission to offer two songs from their respective new albums for your downloading pleasure and listening enjoyment.

Both bands are as diverse in sound as they are talented, and it’s been our privilege to have written about them extensively over the years. We interviewed representatives from both bands for the May 1 edition of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section.

The LoneTones will celebrate the release of their new album, “Canaries,” on Saturday night in Knoxville. Get the lowdown on the show — as well as the marriage of traditional sounds and dissonance on the record — by reading the article.

Download “Gone Again”: Right-click here (choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As”)

Purchase LoneTones music online: Click here

The young men in 1220 will perform on Friday, May 1, at The Catalyst in Knoxville’s Old City. They’re releasing “Killin’ for a Livin’,” an album that’s leaps and bounds ahead of previous CDs, which were pretty darn rocking in their own right. Find out about the show, and the band’s new power-pop/rock direction, by reading the article.

Download “The Motor Mile”: Right-click here (choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As”)

Purchase “Killin’ for a Livin’” online: Check the 1220 Myspace site frequently for links

Written by wildsmith

April 30th, 2009 at 11:43 am

Maryville College instructor wins A-in-R at the Emporium!

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Congratulations to one of Blount County’s educators — fine art photography instructor Brian Wagner of Maryville College.

According to a press release from the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville, Wagner has been selected as the next Betsy Worden Artist-in-Residence at the Emporium Center from April through September 2009.  According to the press release:

“Wagner received a BA in Photojournalism from Western Kentucky University and has worked for and been published in The Los Angeles Times, The Hartford Courant, WIRE magazine and various other publications across the nation.  He currently teaches Fine Art Photography at Maryville College and has also taught at Pellissippi State Technical Community College.

“Though his roots are in documentary photography, his appreciation of the arts and music has inspired him to photograph local musicians in a self-built photo booth.  Wagner then creates large original prints via the Xerox transfers process using acrylic on canvas.  This series, which takes some time to complete, is ever evolving.  ‘With a background in photojournalism, my work has been void of many artistic printing techniques and has resided at a distance from the art community,’ he says. ‘I once said that my work, predominantly created for news print, was exhibited on the refrigerators of America.  But through these transfers and other printing processes, I hope to bring my work to exhibition walls.’  For more information on Brian Wagner, visit www.brianwagnerphotography.com.

“As the Artist in Residence, Wagner receives free and exclusive access to a 10’ x 10’ artist studio in the Emporium Center (Suite 105), a materials stipend of $200 each month during the residency, complimentary membership in the Arts & Culture Alliance for one year, and an exhibition of new work in The Balcony in September. The Alliance will also display at least one piece of his new work in the public areas of the Emporium each month of the residency.  Wagner agrees to spend a significant amount of time creating work in the Emporium studio, show new work each First Friday of the month, and possibly help hang monthly exhibitions in the Emporium and/or offer curatorial input.”

For more information, please contact the Arts & Culture Alliance at (865) 523-7543.

Written by wildsmith

April 29th, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Odds and ends …

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Let’s see what we have piling up on the desk that’s worthy of sharing ..

  • A new 70-seat theater called Imagine This is now open in Pigeon Forge. It’s located in the Red Roof Mall, 2850 Parkway (Traffic Light No. 4), Suite 18. According to the press release, it’s “an electic mix of various musical styles including pop, blues, rock, jazz, Broadway, acoustic and more. We will also be featuring a variety of mixed media artworks in the front gallery lobby.” The schedule for the time being includes: Pianist and singer-songwriter Neesee Hurst (who has a standing first-Tuesday-of-the-month gig at Downtown Grill and Brewery in Knoxville) on Mondays; Greg Dennison: “A Tribute to Elvis” on Tuesdays; Michelle Monet’s show that splits original music with a tribute to Barbara Streisand (it’s called, interestingly enough, “She, Streisand and Me, Monet”) on Wednesdays; a songwriters showcase on Thursday; the five-piece “good times music” band Dream Catcher on Fridays; Meg n Dredd, an acoustic duo that won the songwriting contest at Hard Rock Gatlinburg earlier this year, on Saturdays; and “Pajama Night,” with Monet leading a sing-along, on Sunday nights. No word on ticket prices or exact times; for that, you need to call (865) 223-5815.
  • Don’t forget — South Bound Bar and Grill celebrates its grand opening on Friday night with a 7 p.m. show by country-rockers Confederate Railroad. The concert will take place in the back parking lot (adjacent to Barley’s Taproom) and will also feature Brendon James Wright and the Wrongs. The venue is the latest attempt to make a go of the space at 106 S. Central St., previously occupied by Club 106, Red Iguana, The Thinq Tank and Hoo-Ray’s. South Bound will feature three floors of entertainment. The doors open at 5 p.m.; admission to the show is $10.
  • A fund-raiser to re-open Coffeez in Sevier County is the purpose of Saturday’s Sevier County Musicfest, which starts at 2 p.m. at 828 Black Bear Cub Way in Pigeon Forge (at the Black Bear Ridge Resort). It’s an all-ages show, and for $10, you get a ton of local bands: Dear Lovely, Scarla the Wolf, Waste and REgret, Bruteforce, Deconsecration, Lydian Skyline, Amidst the Mannequins, Suspense in the Upper Room, Do Not Resuscitate, Through Agony We Reign, Oceansnorth, We’re No Daughters and Bearing the Hero.
  • If you’ve never eaten at Chez Guevara, the Tex-Mex place in Suburban Center on Kingston Pike in West Knoxville, you’ve missed out. Rectify that on Friday night, when you can also check out a rare Chez Guevara performance by Kit Rodgers and The Plan. According to his press writer, he “gives emotion a lyrical voice and his approach to music is simple. He will move you with his music. From his stripped-down alterna-folk debut CD ‘Naked Coffee,’ delivered with conviction and a truly acoustic representation, to the full-out produced follow-up release, the lyrics are the focus and he makes certain to move you, regardless of the genre or style.” The show starts at 10 p.m., and admission is free. Check him out on Myspace.
  • Another show that deserves mention: at 7 p.m. Saturday, the band Early Bird Special will perform at Moondollars Cafe and Bistro, located at 201 Jackson Square in Oak Ridge (across from the entrance to the Oak Ridge Playhouse).  Comprised of singer-songwriters Steve Grimsley, Kelley Massey, Vern Lindsey and Kathy Huber, the band plays “folk music from the ’60s and many other memorable hits from the ’50s-’90s — performing with wit, great harmonies, spirit and a pretty hefty dose of insanity!” Admission is $3 at the door, or $2 if you’re older than 55. Check out Moondollars online.
  • New music on the local horizon: 1220 releases “Killin’ for a Livin’” Saturday night at The Catalyst in Knoxville’s Old City … Vacationist League recently released “Bypassin’ the Barroom” and have it up for sale on CD BabyJonathan Sexton and the Big Love Community Choir anticipate a June release for a new album … pop-rockers Vertigo have a new album on the launch pad, “The Coming and the Going”

So long, Ska Weekend …

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I haven’t seen this announced anywhere else, so if it has been, my apologies for the duplication.

In putting together various entertainment dates and festivals, I got to wondering about Ska Weekend, the annual festival that — for six years running — was a fantastic fund-raiser for Second Harvest Food Bank, as well as the preeminent ska festival in the nation. Organized by local musician Ben Altom (formerly of Perfect Orange) it featured ska bands from across the United States, most notably (at least to me) Voodoo Glow Skulls, a band I interviewed a couple of years ago. It’s taken place at various East Tennessee locations, including throughout the Old City and at World’s Fair Park.

Unfortunately, Ben announced back in February on the festival’s Myspace site that it won’t be back this year. Read the blog post here. It’s a bummer, to be sure. Best of luck to Ben in his future endeavors.

Written by wildsmith

April 28th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Oh, the music you can find on Myspace …

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Actually, strange/odd/weird music isn’t limited to Myspace. But there’s something perversely thrilling about discovering it right in your own backyard.

Take this band, for example. I’ll refrain from a direct reference to the band’s moniker, which I happen to think is obscenely clever in a darkly comic sort of way, but the music is pretty irreverent and raw and rocking as well.

It says the band is from Knoxville. Somehow, I don’t think we’ll see the band’s name on the dry erase marquee outside of Two Doors Down in downtown Maryville or on the chalkboard inside of Barley’s Taproom, which is a shame. I’d definitely take a picture of that.

I sent them a friend request. I wonder if they’ll add me?

Written by wildsmith

April 28th, 2009 at 8:27 am

Woo-hoo! Sonic Youth coming to E.T.

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According to AC Entertainment, indie rock gods Sonic Youth will perform at 8 p.m. July 10 at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. Tickets are $31.50 and go on sale on Saturday morning, May 2. Call 656-4444, or log online to www.knoxvilletickets.com

Written by wildsmith

April 27th, 2009 at 8:25 am

On the Horizon: Upcoming concerts …

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Some interesting shows of note on the East Tennessee live performance horizon, courtesy of Pollstar:

  • June 10 at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson in Maryville: Christian music group Fireflight performs with The Day Of at 6:30 p.m.; tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the gate. Check out Fireflight online.
  • The eclectic rock of Katzenjammer will open for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals on June 11 at the Sundown in the City free concert series on Market Square in downtown Knoxville.
  • June 19, bluegrass phenoms The Infamous Stringdusters will perform at The Square Room in downtown Knoxville. Read a recent story we did on the band here.
  • L.A. Guns is still around? Apparently so, and the band is perform at Big Mama’s Karaoke Cafe in Seymour on July 4.
  • Garage-punk rocker Jay Reatard will hit The Pilot Light in Knoxville’s Old City on July 8.
  • Prepare to shell out some bucks on July 29 — it’s a triple bill at Smokies Stadium in Sevierville featuring Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp. We feel like it’ll be worth it.

Written by wildsmith

April 26th, 2009 at 10:55 am

“Houston, we have a problem …”

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It wasn’t so long ago that the only mode of communication in the Wildsmith household was the old black rotary dial phone hanging on the kitchen wall.

Sure, there were other phones in the house — one in my folks’ bedroom and another downstairs. The TV got the requisite three channels, and we lived a relatively content life.

In the span of 25 years, the world hasn’t just kicked open the door of the average American household — it’s driven through the side of the house in one of those armored tanks that SWAT teams use.

Consider — I have a cell phone attached to my hip. As cell phones go, it’s n0t much better than a paperweight, except that it allows me to call and text and receive such at my leisure. I could get the data package and use it for online browsing, etc., but it’s not some fancy iPhone; it doesn’t even have the keypad that Blackberries and iPhones have these days.

But really, I have Internet at work and at home. With the flip of a laptop or the push of a button, I’m instantly connected to the world. I rely on that connection as more than just a tool to enhance my life; I use it as a part of my life … and man, when things go south, it feels like I’ve had a limb amputated.

I don’t know what happened over the weekend. Perhaps Skynet has started its nefarious infiltration of the world’s computer systems. More likely, I downloaded a bunch of spyware from a music site. Whatever the case, my computer was stricken with a veritable plague of viruses and worms and spyware, etc. It didn’t slow down; it didn’t offer up a few annoying pop-ups … it did everything but vomit forth pus from the CD drive.

Fortunately, my brother is an IT guy. I call him “Nick Burns,” after the old Jimmy Fallon character on “Saturday Night Live.” (”Nick Burns … your company’s computer guy!”) I called him up, and he commandeered his team, who were apparently not very busy on Friday. And they spent all day trying to remove the infection. In the end, I had to do a factory restore, which basically wipes the slate clean. Fortunately, my music files were backed up, along with all of my necessary documents, and after the restore, I downloaded all of the updates, iTunes, Firefox, etc.

That was a pain in the ass, to be sure, but the biggest problem was that I felt lost. All day Friday, I was disoriented and discombobulated. I’d go to check my e-mail, and remember the laptop was in the shop. It was like being part of the filmmaking team in “The Blair Witch Project,” wandering around directionless and plagued by unseen demons. I wasn’t able to update the Weekend Myspace page, I wasn’t able to use Twitter, or blog, or check Knox Blab … it was pretty pathetic.

I’m back to receiving my hourly Internet fix, and I have to tell you — it makes me realize just what information addicts we’ve become. I’m certain if you take us back to the days of that old rotary dial phone, and society would devolve into Sleestacks and cave men and cannibalism. It’s sad, really, and a little disconcerting.

So what did I decide to do? Write a blog about it. Go figure.

Stupid technology.

Written by wildsmith

April 26th, 2009 at 10:31 am

Scott Miller and Weekend: A look back …

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Looking ahead to Friday’s cover story on Scott Miller, as well as his show at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson on Saturday night, I got to looking back at the number of times he’s graced the cover of Weekend.

Remember that old “Saturday Night Live” skit, the one where Tom Hanks is the host and, because of the number of times he’s helmed the show, he’s inducted into the prestigious “Five Timers Club,” where Steve Martin and Paul Simon sit around a fire and sip cognac and wear smoking jackets? I joke with Miller that I’m gonna get him a smoking jacket one of these days.

The first Weekend cover I remember him being on was back in June 2001, not long after I started here at the Times. Nothing special; we used the publicity photos Sugar Hill provided for “Thus Always to Tyrants.” Ever since, we’ve tried to shoot our own, and our hats are off to him for being so agreeable to some of my crazy ideas. What a great dude.

Here’s Scott Miller through the years …

Photo shoot for "Upside/Downside"

Photo shoot for "Upside/Downside"

Photo shoot for "Citation"

Photo shoot for "Citation"

"Reconstruction" release, Harley "Shed" concert kick-off

"Reconstruction" release, Harley "Shed" concert kick-off

"For Crying Out Loud" CD release, "Shed" show

"For Crying Out Loud" CD release, "Shed" show

Written by wildsmith

April 22nd, 2009 at 10:58 am