Archive for December, 2009
Patrick Sullivan’s Saloon, 100 N. Central St. in Knoxville’s Old City, is already home to the incredibly gifted improv comedy group Einstein Simplified, which performs there every Tuesday evening. Now, it seems, the venue will hold another night of comedy, this time on Thursdays.
Starting Feb. 4, “Old City Comedy” will take place upstairs at Patrick Sullivan’s at 9 p.m. According to the info on Brown Paper Tickets:
This is the first Old City Comedy event at Patrick Sullivan’s! Please join Old City Comedy in welcoming comedian Mello Mike! Mello Mike has been a finalist in comedy contests all over the Southeastern United States. He has performed across the country and will be headlining the comedy cancer benefit Laughing for Life two nights later in Wilmington, North Carolina. Don’t miss your chance to see Mello live for the first time in Knoxville!
Featuring for the evening will be comedian Nick Shaheen. Nick has performed all over the region and has his own comedy night in Greenville, South Carolina at The Gathering Spot every tuesday night. He has been seen at The Laughing Skull in Atlanta and as a headlining comic for The Crackers of Comedy Tour. Nick is not afraid to say anything!
Opening the show will be Knoxville comedian Nick Edgman. Nick performs regularly at Sidesplitters in Knoxville and also can be seen at Winotheater and has performed at The Comedy Zone!
Hosting the show will be comedian/mc “Super Cat” Matt Ward. Matt has been appearing in front of crowds since 2001 performing comedy for crowds as large as 7,000 at the Community Festival in Columbus, Ohio and nearly 5,000 at Xfest in Kinston, North Carolina (performing between Flyleaf and Chevelle). More recently he is featuring at Laughing for Life II, a charity comedy show in Wilmington, North Carolina and is the founder of Old City Comedy!
Don’t miss this great first show at Patrick Sullivan’s!”
Admission is $7. Click on the above link to order your tickets online, or call Patrick Sullivan’s at 637-4255. You can also check out the venue online.
Trying to figure out what to do on Thursday for New Year’s Eve? Here are some possibilities:
- 4620 REINVENTED, 4620-A Kingston Pike, Knoxville: Rock in 2010 with the Blue Heaven Swing Band White Lightnin’ Burlesque; doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 10 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes a complimentary champagne toast at midnight; cab rides will be provided to and from 4620 all evening. “Dress to impress,” the flyer says. Call 558-0183 for more information.
- “ALIVE AFTER FIVE” at the Knoxville Museum of Art, 1050 World’s Fair Park Drive downtown Knoxville: “Alive into 2010!” will feature live music by Teeny Tucker and Slow Blind Hill starting at 8:30 p.m., an all-night buffet from F.A.T.S. BBQ (transforming into a breakfast/brunch buffet before midnight), party favors, a midnight champagne toast and a view of the downtown fireworks. Admission is $50 and $60 for reserved seats/$40 general admission; call 525-6101 for more information.
- BAKER-PETERS JAZZ CLUB, 9000 Kingston Pike, Knoxville: Tracy Ozier performs at 9 p.m., and a special dinner package — featuring gourmet food by executive chef Ali Ayesh — starts at $55 per person/$99 per couple; it includes the meal, the entertainment and a champagne toast at midnight. For the show only, it’s $10. For the menu, visit the restaurant online at www.bakerpeters.com or call 690-8110.
- BARLEY’S TAPROOM, 200 E. Jackson Ave., Knoxville’s Old City: It’s a night of funk-soul goodness from Nashville R&B future-brother Space Capone with local band The Big Deuce starting at 9 p.m.; the cover is $7. Call 521-0092 for more information.
- BIG DADDY’S, 2641 Highway 411 S., Maryville: Confederate Groove will provide the live music, and the cover charge includes a dinner buffet, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight. Things get started at 9 p.m., and admission is $25 person/$40 couple. Call 977-5057 for more info.
- THE BIJOU THEATRE, 803 S. Gay St., downtown Knoxville: Scott Miller and The Commonwealth and Mic Harrison and The High Score are the musical guests of the evening, with the concert starting at 9 p.m.; however, doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the University of Tennessee/Virginia Tech bowl game will be shown in the upstairs gallery. Tickets are $30, but special hotel room packages at the nearby Hilton are available; call 522-0832 for more information.
- BRACKINS BLUES BAR, 112 E. Broadway Ave., downtown Maryville: Big Mike Griffin will provide the live music starting at 9 p.m., and the $10 cover charge includes a chance to win door prizes, party favors, food and more. Call 983-9800 for more information.
- THE CROWN AND GOOSE, 123 S. Central St., Knoxville’s Old City: Three seatings — at 5 ($55), 7 ($65) and 9 p.m. ($65) — will feature a seven-course meal, a complimentary champagne toast at midnight and R&B/soul music by Soulfinger at 9 p.m. Call 524-2100 for more information.
- DOWNTOWN GRILL AND BREWERY, 424 S. Gay St., downtown Knoxville: Chattanooga funk-soul outfit Dr. Vibe will rock the house at 11 p.m.; tickets are $11 in advance at the brewery or $13 the day of and include a champagne toast and a midnight breakfast buffet. For more information, call 633-8111.
- FIRST NIGHT KNOXVILLE: It’s “First Night,” a family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year’s Eve community celebration of the arts that encompasses venues and artists throughout the downtown area. First Night buttons are required for admission to indoor venues and are $10 in advance/$15 the day of and are available at all regional Pilot locations (and other select merchants), as well as online at www.firstnightknoxville.com. The venues/performers include: on the Market Square Stage, Aftah Party at 9 p.m. and Phil Pollard and His Band of Humans at 10:45 p.m.; at The Square Room, 4 Market Square, Sara Schwabe and Her Yankee Jass Band at 7 p.m. and Blair Crimmins and The Hookers at 8:15 p.m.; at the East Tennessee History Center, 600 Market Street, the Old City Buskers at 8 p.m.; at The Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay St., children’s events begin at 3 p.m. and include performances by the Bonilla Family Puppets at 4:15 p.m., Dr. Bill Snyder on the Mighty Wurlitzer at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., Sean and Phil (”Sing and Bang Along!”) at 6 p.m. and Farmer Jason at 8 p.m.; followed by an adult-oriented musical performance by Holy Ghost Tent Revival at 10 p.m.; at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center, 301 S. Gay St., Julie Lee at 7:15 p.m., The LoneTones at 8:45 p.m. and Jason Ringenberg at 10:15 p.m.; at the YWCA Gym, 420 W. Clinch Ave., it’s a night of dance with SalsaKnox at 7 p.m., steel drumming by Quincy Yeates at 8 p.m., Lucia’s Arte Y PasiÃµn Flamenca at 9 p.m., Capoeira Fundo da Mata at 9:45 p.m. and Cuban/African dance music by Matias-Rocha y Nueva Trova at 10:30 p.m.; in the YWCA lounge, The Naughty Knots at 7:15 and 8:15 p.m., Rachel Pearl at 9:15 p.m. and Sara Schwabe at 10:15 p.m.; in the atrium of the Miller’s building, 445 S. Gay St., the First Presbyterian Handbell Choir at 7:15 p.m., Kathleen Bowman at 8:15 p.m., The Akashic Mysteries at 9:15 p.m. and Knoxville Opera Studio Artists at 10:30 p.m.; in the TVA West Tower auditorium, 400 W. Summit Hill Drive, ventriloquist Gene Cordova at 7 and 8 p.m. and improv troupe Einstein Simplified at 9 and 10:15 p.m.; at TVA Room 2, 400 W. Summit Hill Drive, Children’s Theatre of Knoxville at 7:30 p.m., acting troupe The Water Series at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. and Carpetbag Theatre at 9:30 p.m.; at the Farragut Building, 900 S. Gay St., it’s a night of visual art and ambient music starting at 7 p.m.; and at the Arnstein building, 505 Market St., it’s Shadhavar Belly Dance at 7:15 and 10:30 p.m., One World Circus at 7:45 p.m., Aerial Arts at 8:15 and 10 p.m. and Runaway Circus at 8:45 and 11 p.m. The night caps with a countdown, ball drop and fireworks display over Market Square at midnight. For more information, visit www.firstnightknoxville.com.
- IRISH TIMES PUB, 11348 Parkside Drive, West Knoxville: For $35 (cash only, purchased at the pub), you can take part in Irish Times third annual “New Year’s Eve Formal” featuring a 1960s theme, a champagne toast at midnight, a balloon drop, hors d’oveures and live music by British Invasion cover band The Invaders. Formal dress is strictly enforced — suits are OK, but a tuxedo is preferred. For more information, call 675-8800.
- LEVEL 10, 4525 Kingston Pike, Knoxville: “New Year’s Revolution 2010″ will feature live performances by hip-hop/electro-beats artists DJ Chris Glass, DJ Truly Grimy, DJ Wigs and DJ J-Mo, as well as 1980s synth-pop band from Atlanta Fishhawk. For more information, call 212-9728.
- MIDTOWN MUSIC VENUE, 513 Cooper St., Knoxville: Old City club The Pilot Light is throwing its NYE shindig at Midtown to accommodate the larger crowds that will undoubtedly turn out to hear Knoxville faves the Royal Bangs, performing with Warband with Three Man Band. DJ Megalon Esquire will spin between sets and afterward; it starts at 10 p.m. and admission is $10.
- MULLIGAN’S, 8923 Linksvue Drive, West Knoxville: Kimber Cleveland with Jimmy Ray and Leisa at 7 p.m.; free
- NATER’Z SPORTS GRILL, 510 N. Foothills Plaza Drive, Maryville: The R&B/Motown party band Smooth Groove will handle the evening’s entertainment, and admission ($20 per person/$30 per couple) gets you complimentary appetizers and a midnight champagne toast. For more information, call 980-0505.
- PAR-T-PUB, 608 Ellis Ave., Maryville: It’s free to get in; entertainment will be provided by Hot Rocket DJ; drink specials, giveaways and champagne at midnight are part of the fun. It begins at 8 p.m.; call 984-4251 for more information.
- PATRICK SULLIVAN’S SALOON, 100 N. Central St., Knoxville’s Old City: For $8, you get a champagne toast at midnight and music by three bands — the Tim Lee 3, the Kevin Abernathy Band and the new outfit led by Jake Winstrom, formerly of Knoxville indie-pop sensations Tenderhooks. It starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $8. Call 637-4255 for more information.
- PRESERVATION PUB, 28 Market Square, downtown Knoxville: The $10 cover charge gets you into the “Caribbean Holiday”-themed event, featuring steel drum band Ramajay Intercoastal at 10 p.m. and a “champagne” toast of beer at midnight. Call 524-2224 for more information.
- THE PRINCE SPORTS BAR AND MUSIC HALL, 509 Lovell Road, West Knoxville: The Maryville/Knoxville party/cover band Big Trouble rocks the house at 9 p.m.; admission is $5. Call 777-4770 for more information.
- ROOKIE’S, 134 N. Peters Road, West Knoxville: Cover/party band The Retroholics will ring in the New Year t 10 p.m.; admission is $5. Call 691-0219 for more information.
- SAPPHIRE, 428 S. Gay St., downtown Knoxville: It’s the fifth Annual New Year’s Eve “A Black and White Affair Prix Fixe Dinner” with two seatings — from 5-7 p.m. and from 7:30-10:30 p.m.. Cost is $69 per person with optional five-course wine pairing for $29 extra. For more information, call 637-8181.
- SASSY ANN’S HOUSE OF BLUES, 820 Fourth Ave. N., Knoxville: Doors open at 9 p.m. for a New Year’s Eve party featuring a request-taking deejay, dancing, party favors and a midnight champagne toast for $6. Call 525-5839 for information.
- “THE SHED” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville: It’s a night of Southern rock featuring Blackberry Smoke with Stacie Collins at 8 p.m., and there are three options to attend — purchasing an individual ticket for $25; a “Dragon Package” ticket, which includes two show tickets, two T-shirts, two tokens to the barbecue buffet, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight, for $99; and a number of VIP packages, which include all of the above plus shuttle service to a nearby hotel for $159-$229. To purchase tickets or for additional information, go online to www.smh-d.com or call 977-1669.
- SIDE SPLITTERS COMEDY CLUB, 9746 Park West Blvd., West Knoxville: There are two shows planned for New Year’s Eve, both featuring comedians Frankie Paul and Karen Fitzgerald. The first, at 7:30 p.m.; features a complimentary champagne toast and costs $13 in advance/$15 the day of; the secon, at 10 p.m., costs $55 in advance/$60 the day of and includes an open bar from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., champagne during the midnight countdown, party favors, dancing afterward and a complimentary breakfast. Call 934-5233 for more information.
- SIX POCKETS SPORTS GRILL, 7204 Asheville Highway, Knoxville: Southern rockers Nuthin’ Fancy will ring in the New Year at 9 p.m.; admission is $5. Call 524-9303 for more information.
- SMOKY MOUNTAIN BREWERY, 11308 Parkside Drive, West Knoxville: Feeling like some football action? The brewery will screen the Chik-Fil-A Bowl on the 140-inch HD screen at 7 p.m., and local cover band the RMS Band will ring in 2010. And admission is free. Call 288-5500 for more information.
- SOBU LOUNGE, 6213 Kingston Pike SW, Knoxville: The Old City’s 90 Proof Nightclub moves its NYE shindig to a bigger venue and will host deejays BootySweat, Selektro, Spooky Jones, TX 300 and Gregory Alan starting at 10 p.m. Admission is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Call 474-1038 for more information.
- THE SQUARE ROOM, 4 Market Square, downtown Knoxville: R&B funk/soul band Dishwater Blonde will ring in 2010 starting at 10 p.m.; admission is $15, and proceeds benefit the Knox Area Rescue Ministries. Amenities include a champagne toast at midnight and a breakfast buffet at 1 a.m. The Hampton Inn in downtown Knoxville is offering hotel packages for those who want to stay downtown. Call 544-4199 for more information.
- THUNDERWORLD USA, 1559 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville: It’s a New Year’s Eve dance party from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., featuring a balloon drop and a champagne toast at midnight, prize giveaways, drink specials and more. It’s free to attend, but bowling and games are pay-to-play. For more information, call 981-3399.
- TWO DOORS DOWN, 118 E. Broadway Ave., downtown Maryville: It’s a night of revelry featuring live music from the Dixie Highway Band and The Dirty Dougs starting at 9 p.m.; party favors; champagne at midnight; and an Italian buffet. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day of the shindig. Call 980-7771 for more information.
- THE VALARIUM, 940 Blackstock Drive, Knoxville’s Warehouse District: The weekly dance party known at “Voodoo” takes over the complex on New Year’s Eve, and there’s a heck of a deal — a room for two, transportation between the venue and the downtown Hilton and two tickets to the party, all for $99. That price is reserved for the first 75 packages, however; after that, the price jumps to $119 plus tax. Call 522-2820 for more information.
- WATERFRONT BAR AND GRILL, 404 Greenbelt Drive, Maryville: It’s free to get in the door, but space is limited, so it’s first-come, first-serve. Get there early. The cover greats Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors will rock the house starting at 9 p.m. Call 681-1212 for more information.
- WILD WING CAFE, 11335 Campbell Lakes Drive, West Knoxville: Want music? Super Dave 5 and DJ Stan have you covered. There’s also a champagne fountain with a complimentary glass of bubbly at midnight (when the venue will do a balloon drop as well), free party favors, drink specials and more. It kicks off at 9 p.m., and tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door or $75 for a hotel package at the nearby Baymont Inn. Call 777-9464 for more information.
In checking out the latest from John Paul Keith, a helluva good dude and one kick-ass musician, I found the following tidbit from a just-over-the-Internets e-mail quite exciting:
Tuesday, January 26, I’ll be playing solo at the Hi-Tone in Memphis with my old partner in crime, Scott Miller. Some of you folks may recall that Scott and I formed The Viceroys (aka V-Roys) together in Knoxville, way back in the early 90’s. This is the first time he and I have been on the same bill since I left the band 15 years ago! (Facebook here, MySpace here).
Back in April, we profiled “Spills and Thrills,” the most recent studio album by Keith and his band the One Four Fives. It’s a sweet-sounding throwback to the rockabilly-sounding days of Sun Records and that soulful Memphis sound, and Mr. Keith gratefully agreed to allow us to give away a free mp3 of one of the songs off that record. We’ve spoken at length about his time in The Viceroys, which later became The V-Roys, which earlier this year claimed the title of “Best Knoxville Band Ever” in a Metro Pulse survey.
The 26th should be a blast, especially for those who were around when Keith and Miller first started playing together. If you can make it, we suggest doing so.
If you’re unable to make the trip west but still want to support great musicians, however, then don’t forget: the new live CD by JPK and the One Four Fives, “Live At The Hi-Tone,” is now available! You can order it here.
Chalk up some glum news for the new year to the economy — Brackins Blues Bar, 112 E. Broadway Ave. in downtown Maryville, is cutting back on live music performances starting in 2010.
It’s a mighty blow to live music in Maryville, and to the blues scene in general, but it’s an understandable one. Owner Mark Brackins mentioned it to me a couple of weeks ago, when he graciously allowed his venue to serve as the backdrop for a photo shoot of local band Southbound. When I checked in with him to see if he’d made a firm decision, here’s what he shared:
“I am going to slow down on the shows. The Monday and Wednesday jams will still go on for a while, but the Friday and Saturday shows will be sporadic. The only show I have scheduled in January is Blue Mother Tupelo on the 22nd. The reason for this is the slow economy (people are not willing to ante up the cover for quality shows), and I don’t want to fall into a trap of hosting only local acts. I’ve been taking a beating with not only the cost of the band but also hotel rooms, food, advertising, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, but I feel people can see a local show anytime, anywhere and generally for no cover; therefore they get old and you become like any other venue. I will be having national and regional shows, just not as often.
“Brackins was first opened in 2002 by Mark and his wife, Linda. Mark, a New York native, and Linda, who grew up in Oak Ridge, were in East Tennessee when they found the location they were looking for to open a blues and jazz bar.
“We were coming through on our motorcycle about six months ago, and we liked the downtown area, so we decided to stay,” Mark told me in May 2002. “We’d been looking for a place for two years, and we’d been as far west as Colorado. Maryville just looked like a nice, clean little downtown, and the timing was right.”
From the beginning, their goal was to open up a “nice little neighborhood tavern,” as well as an outlet for jazz and blues. At the time, many of the venues considered home to such genres were struggling — Sassy Ann’s House of Blues in North Knoxville eventually retired almost all of its live music shows, and Lucille’s in the Old City has been gone for several years now.
However, Brackins remains a pub of choice for many downtown regulars, and the music will still be played — just not live, or at least not live all of the time. However, from the beginning Brackins stacked the jukebox with many of his personal albums, and it’s usually always cranked up.
For more information, call Brackins at 983-9800. You can catch “Big” Mike Griffin on New Year’s Eve for $10.
Over the holidays I was off the grid, so to speak — in addition to Christmas combined with a case of food poisoning, I was without Internet, thanks to the bumblings of some inept tree-trimmers. So it was with shock on Sunday when stopping by the Times to drop off a column that I checked in with my entertainment-covering peers to discover the death of singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt.
My pal Randall Brown, over at the big Knoxville daily, covers stuff pretty well on his blog, and he’s been a long-time champion of the quirky, wheelchair-bound Chesnutt for a long time. He posted the news on Christmas Day, and his obituary was posted today on Barnesville.com, the website of his hometown newspaper.
I last checked in with Vic in 2007, when his album “North Star Deserter” made my year-end best-of list. About it, I wrote: “With an acoustic guitar and a haunting set of lyrics, Georgia resident Vic Chesnutt throws up the flag on the first track, ‘Warm’ — no fancy studio trickery, no instrumental shenanigans … just a guy, his guitar and the brain and eyes of an observer who sees and absorbs what so many of us seem to miss. Like Dylan’s, his voice isn’t for everyone, but somehow, given his physical condition (he’s a quadraplegic) and his body’s limits, the frailty of his sometimes-wavering, always-certain voice makes his words even more appealing. There’s a dark air of mystery hanging over all of ‘North Star Deserter,’ and when the thunder crashes (as on ‘Everything I Say’), it’s chilling to hear.”
I interviewed Vic twice over the years, once when “North Star Deserter” came out, during which time we talked about the recording process and how he worked with producer Jem Cohen. From that interview:
His talent won him a dedicated following, so much so that rabid fans sometimes presume too much — ownership over his muse and sound, for example. Cohen himself, Chesnutt pointed out, hated the two albums Chesnutt recorded with New West Records, before making “North Star Deserter.”
“I try to keep an open mind, and I wish other people would, but I also understand that people like what they like, and that a lot about music is hype and image,” Chesnutt said. “I was angry with Jem when he didn’t like those two records – I thought he was being very narrow-minded, and that he believed the hype sometimes, and that’s horrible to be. Those songs are great, and just because I’ve got good people playing on them doesn’t mean the songs aren’t great and that I’m not exploring great textural diversity on some of the songs.
“Sometimes, I do think people are prejudiced. They think you’re being pretentious if you record in L.A. or if you use more than just your voice and a guitar. To me, it’s like – how dare you? People who think that way are narrow-minded a–holes.”
“Little” and “West of Rome” are considered benchmarks for Chesnutt recordings. Cohen would frequently remind the wheelchair-bound artist of that during the recording process.
“While I was singing, he would sit next to me, filming it, and he would say, ‘No, Vic; you’re oversinging it. Think about ‘Little.’ Think about ‘West of Rome,’” Chesnutt said. “He would do that the way a director would talk to an actor, and I never felt like he was being overbearing. We definitely bumped heads a couple of times, but I really wanted to explore his vision for my sound. I’m not a good self-editor a lot of times, so I was eager to explore Jem’s talent.”
However, it was the first time I interviewed him — for a 2003 cover story around the time he released “Silver Lake” — that was one of my best-remembered conversations with any artist. He was warm, witty and good-humored about everything, from his paralysis to his music. As a sort of tribute, I present that interview from The Daily Times Weekend archives in its entirety:
If Bruce Springsteen writes songs for the working man, then Vic Chesnutt, lesser known but just as critically acclaimed and respected, writes songs for the thinking man.
Chesnutt’s name probably wouldn’t be the first off the tips of casual music lovers’ tongues when asked about the best songwriters of the past decade. Most people are probably familiar with his small role as Terence, the wheelchair-bound musician in “Sling Blade” who gets verbally and physically abused by drunken Doyle Hargrove, played by Dwight Yoakam.
Jam band fans might know Chesnutt from his work with Widespread Panic. In addition to writing some of Panic’s popular concert favorites such as “Aunt Avis,” he recorded “Nine High a Pallet” with the band in 1995 under the collective moniker Brute.
But he’s more than just an occasional actor and Panic collaborator. He’s more than a songwriter whose tunes have been lauded by everyone from R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe to Emmylou Harris to Madonna. He’s more than an artist whose songs have been recorded by bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Hootie and the Blowfish, Garbage and Soul Asylum.
And he’s so much more, so very much more, than the wheelchair-ridden man that even his fans have come to know him as. Chesnutt is a master of expressing emotions most people repress, feelings denied because of their perceived weaknesses. His trembling voice — sometimes a rich tenor, others a crooning falsetto — has a way of uplifting the listener, even while he sings of pain and disappointment in a way that convinces you the subjects of his songs crave that darkness.
That identity is perhaps the one that fits him best — a man who channels anguish, taking it out and examining it, exposing it to the light of day and in the end, finding a way to smile.
As a result of his paralysis, Chesnutt’s fans learned long ago to look beyond the surface of his songs. When he sings “I’m through, through, through carrying you on my shoulders,” as he does on the opening track of his new album “Silver Lake,” his physical infirmity makes the statement that much more bold and complex.
It would be easy to trace the roots of Chesnutt’s ability to tap into the dark places of the human psyche to his accident and subsequent physical troubles. His Web site biography is punctuated by frequent references to comas and the loss of his ability to play guitar after various operations.
But the accident is something Chesnutt came to terms with a long time ago. His Web site even credits it to leading him to a “new understanding of music,” and during a recent interview, he frequently cracks wise about how it affects him and his fans today.
“I can sense a sort of encouraging vibe going on out there when I’m playing on stage,” he said, via phone from the road, where he’s on tour supporting “Silver Lake,” released in March. Saturday’s show at The Pilot Light in Knoxville’s Old City is the final date of the tour. “Sometimes I’m a little wobbly. You think I’m gonna flop over, or you think it’s going to fall apart, but I can feel the encouraging energy going on there.
“My wheelchair, it’s like a hat. You don’t see Dwight [Yoakam] without his hat. It’s just part of the image now. And people, the fans, are sometimes curious about it. If they’ve got a question, they ask it, I think. They seem to ask me things about it all the time, and I’m not reluctant to talk about it then — but I’m not eager to talk about it, either.”
One thing’s for certain — he’s won no fans out of sympathy. In fact, it wasn’t until after his accident that he began getting noticed around Athens.
Born in Florida in 1964 and raised in Zebulon, Ga., he got his start playing trumpet in a cover band. His parents gave him a guitar to help him get over the death of John Lennon, and at 17, he met Johnny Cash and discovered college rock, a movement led by fellow Athens residents in the band R.E.M. He briefly joined a New Wave band in Atlanta, Random Factor, but a stubborn streak led to him being fired because he refused to tuck in his shirt.
After the accident, he began reading voraciously, devouring poetry by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Stipe, R.E.M.’s singer and songwriter, was at one of Chesnutt’s solo shows, and the meeting was a turning point in Chesnutt’s career.
Stipe produced Chesnutt’s first two albums, “Little” and “West of Rome,” both focusing on Chesnutt’s songwriting and guitar and vocal abilities. His ability to intertwine desolation and humor won him a dedicated following, and today, fans clamor for Chesnutt’s attention, as they did at the recent South-by-Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, desiring only to share a momentary connection with the man they consider a genius.
“They tell me, ‘Your songs are so real … you say things that nobody else would ever say … nobody would ever use that word in a song,’” Chesnutt said. “They say that my songs, when they’re very depressed, make them feel good and give them some kind of hope. I don’t know if they think, ‘I’m not as miserable as he is,’ but I think it has something to do with the fact that even in my sad songs, there’s a little bit of a joke in there, at least at one point.
“My songs have got to have at least one joke in them, even saddest ones. I don’t want to point them out, though. Sometimes you’ve got to listen to find them.”
In 1992, New York filmmaker Pete Sillen made a documentary about Chesnutt, titled “Speed Racer.” He recorded the album “Drunk” in 1993, so titled because rumor has it he was inebriated during the sessions. In 1995, “Is the Actor Happy” featured his wife, Tina, on bass and carries a more grunge-oriented sound, influenced by Chesnutt’s opening dates for the alternative rock band Live.
In 1996, “Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation — The Songs of Vic Chesnutt,” a benefit album for musicians with financial and medical difficulties, was released, featuring Chesnutt songs by R.E.M., Live, Soul Asylum, Smashing Pumpkins and Madonna. The project gave him wider recognition and led to a major label deal. “About To Choke” was released on Capitol that same year, connecting his various musical styles in a watershed album.
He followed it up with what’s considered his best effort: “The Salesman and Bernadette,” released in 1998. Recorded with the band Lambchop and alternative-country siren Emmylou Harris on one track, the music takes elements of folk, country, blues, lounge jazz and soul, throws in a variety of instruments and tells the story of a down-on-his-luck salesman seeking physical gratification and guidance from Bernadette.
Several other albums followed, and earlier this year, “Silver Lake” was released on the New West label (Capricorn dropped him after disappointing sales of “The Salesman and Bernadette”). Artistically, it’s another milestone for him — recorded in the Silver Lake community of Los Angeles, it features a slicker production and denser sound than the raw efforts of his earlier albums.
The change, spurred by the involvement of producer Mark Howard, even make Chesnutt himself uncomfortable at first.
“It’s a different kind of record than I wanted to make,” he said. “I wanted to make an arty-farty, fruity-tooty orchestra record kind of deal, not a rock record, which is probably a bad idea. The trepidation I was expressing before in other interviews comes from still being pouty about not making this Lawrence Welk [crap] that I wanted to make.
“I was always quite proud of the songs, as far as the lyrics and the structure goes. I think there’s plenty there to chew on as far as that goes. If somebody needs a little teasing, these songs have quite a bit to tease somebody. As far as the arrangements or the recordings, I’m always worried about those, because I’m always worried that maybe my voice doesn’t sound right, or some reason or another. I’m just nervous about that kind of stuff.”
Chesnutt shouldn’t worry. The album shines as much as the metal in its title, built on such songs as the wistful, bittersweet “Band Camp,” about a freshman’s romance with a senior; “Girl’s Say,” a wry look at miscommunication between the sexes; “2nd Floor,” a sweeping anthem that builds a wave of big guitar; and “Sultan, So Mighty,” the tale of a eunuch who seduces the title character’s harem.
The instrumental flourishes are a departure from previous Vic Chesnutt records. And while it may win him new fans, Chesnutt also worried it might alienate old ones who identified so strongly with a much more raw sound.
“It’s funny, because while I was recording this record, I knew some fans of mine would be a little bummed out by the recording,” he said. “I think because of the pro musicianship, I think they were going to be a little bummed out.
“In fact, that’s what one of my fans who I have great respect for said. I knew he would feel this way, and I was right. He told me, ‘Some of the musicians were a little too professional for me, but I love the songs.’ And now he loves the record.
“I was pretty sure that was going to be the case, no matter how the recording process turned out,” Chesnutt added. “I thought it might take a little while, but after a couple of listens, I knew they were going to love this record, and I think that’s been the case. I knew the lo-fi Vic lovers were going to come around to that.”
After Saturday’s Pilot Light show comes a well-deserved rest, but after that, Chesnutt’s plans are up in the air. He would consider another acting gig, if the right part came along, he said.
“I’d love to do it again,” he said. “I don’t have a great deal of confidence in my abilities, but I’d love to do it, given the right script. I’ve gotten a bunch of scripts from people, but I didn’t think I was right for those. When I read the script to ‘Sling Blade,’ I hadn’t heard of Billy Bob [Thornton, the director and star of the film] before that — I didn’t know who he was, but I thought, ‘This is the real deal. This is real writing here.’ I was pretty blown away.”
There’s also the possibility of future partnerships with Widespread Panic or any number of musicians and bands Chesnutt said he’d like to work with. And there’s always more songs to mine from the shadowy recesses of his soul. More pain to refine and temper with humor. It’s something his fans crave, and the only way Chesnutt knows to make his way in this world.
“I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’ve got a million ideas, but I don’t have a real clue what I’m going to end up doing. I’m going to keep touring for a while, I guess, because these are a bunch of songs that are pretty juicy songs for me to sing and play them.”
Local rock band Skyfall (which we profiled in an October story) has a new album hitting stores — on Christmas Day, actually. It’s called “Break Out,” it’s 11 songs and for only $10, you can purchase it on iTunes, CD Baby and any number of other online music retailers. Check out the band online, where you’ll find links to its Facebook and Myspace pages where you can hear the new tunes.
Or, you could download two of the new songs for free right here! The band has graciously agreed to allow us to give away a couple of the songs. So if you enjoy, then buy the whole thing and support Skyfall!
Got plans for Saturday night, Jan. 9? If you love the rock ‘n’ roll — specifically, the sneering sleaze of old-school punk — then you do now. A date at The Pilot Light, 106 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City, to be exact, when local band Teenage Love13 will celebrate 25 years of debauchery.
The band’s most recent album — “No Excuses,” released earlier this year — wound up on our year-end best-of list. About it, we said: “(Frontman) Rus Harper and his ’80s punk-rock bandmates may never be able to outrun the cops like they could 20 years ago, but they can still musically stick it to the man with all the sneering contempt of kids half their age. Listen and learn, punks.”
Read March’s Teenage Love13 cover story: Click here
Listen to the podcast about the band’s history and exploits: Click here
Download “Fun Religion,” by Teenage Love13: Right-click here (choose “Save Link As” or “Save Target As”)
Buy “No Excuses,” Teenage Love’s most recent album: Click here
Here’s a poster:
Local guitar god/indie-pop pappaw Tim Lee sent along this little gem from a recent show at The Earl in Atlanta — a cover of Neil Young’s classic “Cortez the Killer,” featuring Tim trading vocals and licks (the six-string kind) with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls. Pretty sweet stuff.
In other news, Tim tells me that Matt Honkonen, formerly of the recently deceased Tenderhooks, is now the full-time drummer for the Tim Lee 3, having replaced Rodney Cash. Matt, Tim and bass badass Susan Bauer Lee (Tim’s lovely wife), in addition to the Three, are also the new backing band for former Tenderhooks guitarist/vocalist Jake Winstrom. Crazy-busy time for the Lees, obviously. Tim and Susan have demoed some new songs and hope to work up some new TL3 tracks soon, he writes.
In the meantime, you can check them out — as the TL3 and backing Winstrom — along with the Kevin Abernathy Band on New Year’s Eve at Patrick Sullivan’s Saloon in Knoxville’s Old City. Admission is $7, we think.
Found some interesting shows coming to East Tennessee on the touring website Pollstar:
- Bluegrass band Blue Highway will apparently be a part of the January edition of “Tennessee Shines,” the live radio show/broadcast taking place on the final Wednesday of every month at The Bijou Theatre, 803 S. Gay St. in downtown Knoxville.
- Collegiate success story/singer-songwriter Robbie Hazen seems set to play 4620 Reinvented, 4620-A Kingston Pike in Knoxville, on Feb. 4.
- Singer-songwriter Rebecca Pronsky will pull double-duty on Feb. 12 at The Glowing Body (711 Irwin St. in Knoxville) and The Square Room (4 Market Square, downtown Knoxville).
- “American Idol” contestant Bo Bice is pencilled onto the schedule at Southbound Bar and Grill (106 S. Central St. in Knoxville’s Old City) for Feb. 16.
- How ’bout some metal at The Valarium/Cider House (940 Blackstock Drive, Knoxville’s Warehouse District)? At the former, on Feb. 23, it’s The Used with Atreyu; at the latter on the next night, check out Skeletonwitch with Howl and Iron Age.
- It’s not on the band’s website, but the “TBA” beside The Bottle Rockets for Wednesday, Feb. 24 leads me to believe the band will be part of the February bill on “Tennessee Shines.”
- Hot-blooded! Classic rockers Foreigner (whom we interviewed for the 2008 Foothills Fall Festival) will perform at The Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay St. in downtown Knoxville, on March 15.
- Big Bill Morganfield, son of blues legend Muddy Waters, will headline the Hard Knox Blues Bash 2 in downtown Knoxville on June 5.
That storied Knoxville institution — The Longbranch Saloon (1848 Cumberland Ave. — “The Strip” — in Knoxville) — has a couple of holiday activities you might want to be aware of. First up is the annual Christmas gathering coming up on Friday, Dec. 25. It’s nothing set in stone, but regulars traditionally gather there every Christmas, and since many of those are musicians and artists, they’ll be encouraged to jump on stage and rock out. It’s free to get in on Christmas night.
Then, coming up on Dec. 29, it’s the 33rd anniversary show of the Branch, which has hosted live music and provided a home for punk, rock and all manner of other genres when no other East Tennessee venue would have them. On the bill — R.B. Morris, Hector Qirko, Sean DeChant, Jeff Heiskell, the Tim Lee 3, Roger Smith and Drew’s Country Blues. It begins at 9 p.m. and costs $10. Check out the flyer: