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2012 September at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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

Archive for September, 2012

Big things in the works for local rockers Divided We Stand

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dividedwestandDivided We Stand

A couple of weeks ago, rock band Hoobastank played a $5 show at The Valarium in Knoxville, and while many of those in attendance showed up to see the headliners, there’s little doubt they got rocked proper by opening act Divided We Stand.

“We’re a scene band, so we can bring it heavy or bring it for the ladies, and we did a little bit of both there,” joked DWS drummer Mike Russell, a Blount County native and Heritage High graduate. “We brought sexy back.”

Next Thursday, Oct. 4, Divided We Stand will return to The Valarium, this time on a bill with Gone in April, Shallowpoint, Johnny Newman and Nuclear Symphony. It’s a 7 p.m. show, and tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For his band — which includes members Phil Zimny, Trevor Tucker, Randy Krouse and Joe Turner — to get to play the 1,000-person club twice in less than a month’s time is a good sign.

“We’ve wanted to establish ourselves with that venue for a while,” Russell said. “For our fans, we want to obviously start playing in bigger venues.”

Currently, the band is working on an album with noted local producer Travis Wyrick, formerly of Knoxville rock act Sage and the guy who helped bands like Jag Star, 10 Years, Pillar and Disciple define their sounds at his Lakeside Studios. So far, Russell said, the sessions have been more productive than expected.

“I don’t know if anyone can light a fire under your ass more than Travis,” Russell said. “I think Joe Satriani could go into his studio and leave with question marks. He knows how to get the best out of you, and when this record drops, it’s gonna blow some minds.”

Working with Wyrick and playing The Valarium has set the boys’ fields of ambitions burning, Russell said. The guys pride themselves on having a loyal local following, but they’re also interested in branching out beyond East Tennessee. It’s going to take a great deal of hard work, but he feels they’re up to the task.

“We can’t get complacent; on a small scale, we can accomplish big things, but there’s so much out there that’s bigger,” he said. “It’s a matter of work ethic, as far as how far you want to take it. We’re starting to take small trips — we’re playing Oct. 6 at Capone’s (in Johnson City), but there’s so much more than just playing music that’s involved behind the scenes. And business-wise, we’re trying to get all that stuff lined up.

“I think when we do that, it’s going to be great. You’ve got to walk before you run, and we’ve seen so many people try to take those big steps and fall flat on their faces. We’re trying to get a solid foundation as far as travel arrangements and equipment go. People around here may see a little bit less of us in the next year while we get all of these things together, but when we do put on a show, it’s gonna be big and be a good experience.”

Written by wildsmith

September 28th, 2012 at 10:33 am

New concert series coming to Sweet P’s

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w-ettabrittEtta Britt

It’s not enough that Chris Ford, owner of Sweet P’s BBQ and Soul House, serves up some of the best food around these parts. Seriously — the greens and the mac-and-cheese are scrumptious enough accompaniments to the pulled pork and the chicken and the ribs and the smoked meatloaf? Apparently not, because Ford and crew are putting together another concert series down at Sweet P’s, located at Willow Point Marina on Old Maryville Pike/Old Knoxville Highway, right there on the Blount/Knox County lines.

Called “Even Thursdays Get the Blues,” the series (following on the heels of the “Friday Night Juke Joint” and “Songwriters in the Soul House” series) will feature “the best in regional and local blues artists … concerts will be held at the restaurant every other Thursday on the even days of the month. All concerts begin at 6:30 p.m.

First up on Oct. 18: Etta Britt, an R&B crooner who’s worked with Delbert McClinton, Marty Stuart, Billy Joe Shaver and REO Speedwagon and got her start in music as a member of the country trio Dave and Sugar. her new album is titled “Out of the Shadows.”

Other performances include:

  • Nov. 8: The Chuck Beattie Band
  • Nov. 15: The Mumbles (taking place on an odd-numbered date because of Thanksgiving)
  • Dec. 6: The Andy T. Band featuring Nick Nixon

As always, the shows are free. Call 865-247-7748 for more info.

From the madman who came up with ‘Wallypalooza’ comes ‘Walloween,’ Oct. 10-14

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323189_239985662711999_151461354897764_684817_3848353_oWalloween/Wallypalooza founder Wally Miles (left) and comedian Waylon Whiskey

On tap for Walloween, the latest idea from Wallypalooza mastermind and founder Wally Miles: Rock ‘n’ roll Unholy, terrifying and slutty attire. Alcohol. Profane, gut-busting stand-up comedy. Jell-O wrestling.

If Lucifer doesn’t stamp such an event with his personal seal of approval, then Miles might as well get out of the party-throwing business.

If past Wallypalooza events are any indication, however, then the upcoming five-night Walloween bash — slated to take place Oct. 10-14 at The Thirsty Turtle, 2641 U.S. 411 in Maryville, will go down in the history books as a glorious Bacchanalian celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, albeit a few weeks early.

“After Wallypalooza ended this year back in March, people were wanting to do it again, but I didn’t want to over-saturate or water it down by doing two or three this year,” Miles told us recently. “I’ve done that in the past, and they went well; point proven. But Halloween — well, that gives everybody an excuse to dress up. And if I can find an excuse to dress up like Gene Simmons, I’m going to do it.”

For those unfamiliar with Miles and the legendary parties the carry his name, read our cover stories on Wallypalooza from March 2011 and August 2011. They started out as a birthday celebration for Miles, a 1997 graduate of Maryville High School and a lifelong resident of Blount County. He invited friends to the lake in 1998 to celebrate the day, and they enjoyed an afternoon of music blaring from an old boombox. The next year, someone came up with the idea of getting a rock band to play for the annual gathering.

Over the next 14 years, the event was christened Wallypalooza and grew into the monster that it is today. And starting in 2008, when he booked three bands (Middle Finger, Stonemosis and Half of Something) at Nater’z Sports Grille in Maryville, it’s become a beast over which he has little control, at least in terms of how many people show up. In fact, one of the reasons he’s expanded Walloween to a five-night celebration is because so many bands and musicians have requested the opportunity to take part.

“With all the entertainment, we need to a week to fit it in,” he said. “Plus, we want to make each night special. People tend to wait for the weekend because they think those will be the best nights, but we’re going to make Wednesday and Thursday nights so good that people will say, ‘We can’t miss a night.’ On Wednesday night, we’re going to kick it off with a bang — we’ll have stand-up comedy, three bands and Jell-O wrestling.”

So far, eight female contestants have signed on to battle it out in the gelatinous pit of doom, including one match that will feature two girls against Miles himself. It hardly seems fair, but Miles has been involved in the local amateur wrestling circuit for years under the pseudonym Jagger Sterling.

“I’m putting the Wallypalooza belt on the line for this one,” he said with a chuckle. “And even if I lose, I still win in my opinion.”

Thursday night will feature a Halloween costume contest complete with cash prizes and more live music; and Friday through Sunday will offer more of the same. Although the final three nights of Walloween will coincide with the popular Foothills Fall Festival in downtown Maryville, Miles doesn’t see them as competing events.

“Once people leave the fall festival, if they don’t want to go home just yet, they can come on by, because we’ll be going late,” he said. “The way I see it, there’s something going on for everybody that weekend. Nobody can complain there’s nothing going on in Maryville anymore.”

The musical lineup for Walloween features several Wallypalooza veterans, as well as some new faces.

“It’s a good ensemble of bands, and it’s not an exclusively metal thing,” Miles said. “We’re trying to have something for everybody, and I’m thinking it’s going to have a good appeal to a wider audience. We’ve got Indie Lagone this year, which is Allen Swank’s band, and he’s been playing around here forever. When I was old enough to start sneaking into shows, his old band Malice in Wonderland was going strong, and they’re kind of why I wanted to get into music, truth be told. And VanKale, that band played Wallypalooza in 2010, and they brought the thunder then. Now that they’re reactivated and playing again, I’m looking forward to bringing them back.”

The Turtle has become something of a permanent home for Miles’s fetes, which have been held at Nater’z, the now-defunct Confused Bar and Grill and at Big Daddy’s, the former occupant of the Turtle location.

“Other venues shy away, but they’re like, ‘Bring it on,’” Miles said. “They trust me and work with me on every level, and that’s pretty cool. We’ve got a good working relationship.”

For Miles himself, the 10th can’t arrive soon enough — to provide a respite for himself, and a good time for everyone planning on coming out.

“Everything I do right now is about Walloween,” he said. “When I get up, it’s the first thing on my mind. I’ll get up at 6 in the morning because I have an idea, and just because I love doing it. I love seeing people have fun. I know it sounds hokey, but the excitement people have for something like this, I feed off of it.”

SCHEDULE OF WALLOWEEN EVENTS (admission is $5 per night)


  • Doors open at: 7 p.m.
  • Activities start: 8 p.m.
  • Bands: What’s Left, the Michael Gunnz Band, A Soul Disowned
  • Stand-up comedy by: Nakht Ricks and Waylon Whiskey
  • Also: Jell-O wrestling


  • Doors open at: 7 p.m.
  • Activities start: 8 p.m.
  • Bands: Centric, Belfast 6 Pack, KraIzIn
  • Also: “The Ultimate Walloween Costume Contest”


  • Doors open at: 7 p.m.
  • Activities start: 8 p.m.
  • Bands: Afterlife, Binfield, Indie Lagone, Divided We Stand, VanKale
  • Also: “The Walloween Scream Queen Contest”


  • Doors open at: 7 p.m.
  • Activities start: 8 p.m.
  • Bands: Stonemosis, Shallowpoint, Big Trouble, Decombrio
  • Also: A special performance by the White Lightnin’ Burlesque troupe


  • Doors open at: 7 p.m.
  • Activities start: 8 p.m.
  • Bands: Awake The Suffering, Psychosystem, KraIzIn, Scent of Remains
  • Also: “A Night of Comedy with Nakht Ricks and Friends”

Written by wildsmith

September 27th, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Long-awaited new Ataris album on its way in 2013

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Kris Roe of The Ataris

Pop-punk band The Ataris are coming to East Tennessee for a performance Friday night at The Well in Bearden, and we caught up with front man Kris Roe to talk about it. The story will be out in the Sept. 27 edition of The Daily Times Weekend section, and during our interview, he discussed the long-awaited Ataris full-length, “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.” It’s been in the works for roughly five years now, and fans have been waiting for it with anticipation, only to find out it’s still a work in progress.

That’s still the case, Roe told us, but hopefully for now much longer. Right now, the focus is on getting new music out to fans before the end of the year and releasing “Graveyard of the Atlantic” in 2013.

“We’ve recorded about 20 songs for that, and there will be about 12 or 13 on the actual record; maybe we’ll release the rest on vinyl,” Roe said. “We’ve got a bunch of vocals left to do, but we’ll get it out next year. We are planning to release some new music before the end of the year — 12 songs — on our Bandcamp page, and maybe do a short run of vinyl of old tunes and stray songs.

“And we recorded a couple of our live sets on our last tour. We’re putting them out as a donation-only live set on our Bandcamp. That way, the people coming out to any of the remaining shows on this tour know what to expect live from The Ataris today.”

Friday night’s show also includes Red City Radio, Flatfoot 56 and The Last Crusade; tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Check out The Ataris on Bandcamp here.

Written by wildsmith

September 26th, 2012 at 7:42 am

Knox music royalty pays homage to Woody Guthrie

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The Laurel Theater, that esteemed church-turned-concert-venue in Knoxville Fort Sanders neighborhood, is a beautiful setting in which to see a show, and it’ll be the perfect setting for a “History Songs: A Celebration of the Life of Woody Guthrie” that’s scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19.

To celebrate the 100th birthday of the American folk music icon, local artists — including Maggie Longmire, R.B. Morris, Jack Herranen, Sarah Pirkle, Jeff Barbra, Greg Horne and Daniel Kimbro — will gather to recreate Guthrie’s canon, from his dustbowl ballads and traveling songs to his more political songs and writings. When we caught up with Longmire earlier this month, she said the concert is a small token of appreciation on the part of East Tennessee musicians for Guthrie’s influence over the years.

“It’s something we’re looking forward to,” Longmire said. “There are shows going on all year to commemorate this, and some of the big guys are doing their shows at places like the Kennedy Center, but I think this one will be real interesting. It’ll be a mix of music and spoken word, and with everyone we’ve got, it won’t be a straight-edge show.”

Longmire counts among her favorite Guthrie songs “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),” Guthrie’s tale of a plane crash of undocumented Mexicans on their way south out of California, and his scatching indictment of the treatment of the dead.

“You know how you have a song that sort of impacts you? There’s something about that one that tied it together, the telling of these horrific stories through folk songs, for me,” she said. “Sometimes, things just kind of line up, and that’s one I connected with and sang as a young folk singer.”

More information about Guthrie can be found here; the concert, which takes place at the Laurel (1538 Laurel Ave. in Fort Sanders), costs $12.

Catching up with the Royal Bangs: New band member and a new album

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royalbangsRoyal Bangs: (from left) Chris Rusk, Ryan Schaefer, Sam Stratton

Knoxville electro-pop indie darlings the Royal Bangs will play a rare hometown show on Friday, Sept. 21, at The Ciderhouse (112 Ramsey St. in Knoxville’s Warehouse District, adjacent to The Valarium; Marina Orchestra opens the show), and we caught up via email with singer/instrumental wizard Ryan Schaefer to get the skinny on what’s happening with the guys.

The band plans on debuting a “bunch of new material” at the Ciderhouse show, Schaefer writes, from the band’s forthcoming new album. Although it’s untitled right now and a firm release date has yet to be locked in, it’s a safe bet given the band’s last two nationally distributed releases — 2009’s “Let It Beep” and last year’s “Flux Outside” (released on the Glassnote label) — a lot of fans in East Tennessee and beyond are waiting on pins and needles for a new record.

It’s “almost finished, just getting it mastered now,” Schaefer writes. “We recorded it in Nashville with our friend Patrick Carney (of The Black Keys and founder of the Audio Eagle record label, which released “Let It Beep”) producing and Roger Moutenot engineering. It was really fun to make. Dylan Dawkins (formerly of up-and-coming fuzz-pop band Yung Life and the side project Persona La Ave) plays bass for us now, so we could actually track most of it live, which was kind of new for us. Usually we figure everything out in the studio, but this time we had it more or less put together before we got there, and the songs can breathe a little bit more because we’re playing them together.”

The band’s other two members include guitarist Sam Stratton and drummer/percussionist Chris Rusk. The Sept. 21 show starts at 10 p.m., and admission is $10; it’s a presentation of that most awesome Old City indie-rock club The Pilot Light.

Written by wildsmith

September 13th, 2012 at 11:09 am

I want my WUTK on my MTV …

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WUTKrockWho knew MTV is still in the business of promoting music?

Personally, I thought reality shows killed the video star on that cable channel years ago, but not so fast: MTVU, a division of Viacom’s MTV family of networks, is a 24-hour TV channel available on more than 750 college and university campuses across the country, as well as on several digital cable packages. So when MTVU decided to spotlight WUTK-FM, 90.3 “The Rock,” it’s a pretty big deal.

The cable channel contacted WUTK a few months back, informing management that WUTK is “one of the 10 most listened-to college radio stations in American,” according to MTV’s research. MTVU wanted to feature WUTK in a new segment, “College Radio Countdown,” and did so last week. As part of its time in the limelight, the WUTK staff picked 10 national artists getting regularly requested on The Rock (Carolina Chocolate Drops, Cloud Nothings, SBTRKT, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Jack White, Of Monsters and Men, Doomtree, Cage the Elephant); in addition, Rock staffers were asked to submit five non-MTV playlist videos.

Being the huge supporter of local music the station happens to be, they of course went Knoxville-centric for their picks, submitting videos by East Tennessee artists LiL iFFy, The Theorizt, Senryu, The Black Cadillacs and Moon Taxi (a Nashville band with Knoxville ties through its keyboard player).

Congrats, WUTK. You can see the station’s segment on “College Radio Countdown” here, and you can browse MTVU’s Tumblr account here to see those local videos.

Written by wildsmith

September 10th, 2012 at 11:08 am

Farewell (but not goodbye) to the lovely, talented Christabel

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First, the bad news: You don’t have many chances to see Christa DeCicco, the fabulous front lady for “sultry Southern swing” outfit Christabel and the Jons, perform before she moves away from East Tennessee.

The good news: The band is staying together, and DeCicco, who will lead her group in its last Knoxville bar performance before she departs for St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, plans on returning to Knoxville regularly.

“We’ve been down there three times on tour, and I just really love it down there,” DeCicco told us. “I felt a real connection to it, and I’ve had a wish since I was a child to live someplace tropical, by the beach.”

When her chef boyfriend got a job offer in St. Thomas, that dream was realized. And while the sun, sand and palm trees would do wonders for any soul, she’s looking forward to easing off of a grueling tour schedule with her long-time band.

“I’ve been wanting to tour less anyway, because I need a little more home time to write songs and record some albums,” she said. “I’ve got almost two albums worth of songs now, and I’ve got this wonderful, beautiful side project with (former Black Lillies vocalist) Leah Gardner, and it’s getting to where I just can’t do that and tour at the same time. I  wanted to take a little break to accomplish those goals, and this fell into my lap at the same time.”

Right now, the plan is to bring the band — drummer Jon Whitlock, multi-instrumentalist Amanda Cagle and bass player Taylor Coker — back to St. Thomas for a month-long residency during the winter (”And it’ll be easier having a car and an apartment,” she said); spending the rest of the winter playing solo beach bar gigs; and traveling back to the States to tour with the Jons roughly three times a year, in spring, summer and fall.

“We’re going to keep making music; there’s just going to be more time between gigs,” she said. “That way I can record and work on these songs and have new and interesting stuff for people. I’m just going to go down there and listen to calypso and steel drum and reggae and get a tan in the winter — ya’ll are gonna hate me — and then come back and play shows and visit with my friends and family. I’m thrilled, but it’s a big move for me, because I’ve lived here my whole life.”

This weekend, Christabel and the Jons will perform at 10 p.m. at Preservation Pub, 28 Market Square in downtown Knoxville (with The Hotshot Freight Train), as one of her final East Tennessee performances before the move in early November. (There’s always the Hilltop Dance she plays every year, which takes place in October at the Mabry-Hazen House in Knoxville; this weekend’s show is her final bar gig, she said.) Gardner will sit in with her, giving fans a glimpse of the more intimate duo project on which the two are collaborating, she said.

“It’s really simple and honest,” she said. “We grew up singing a lot of the same folk songs and country songs and blues. We have an overlapping repertoire, and our voices sound great together. It gives me chillbumps when I’m singing with her. She’s the best haromny singer I’ve ever sang with, one of those who can ingeniously match the melody, and I get just the biggest musical pleasure out of doing that.”

Written by wildsmith

September 4th, 2012 at 6:54 am