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2012 November at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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

Archive for November, 2012

The Valarium: The shows will go on (UPDATED)

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valarium

Following the announcement earlier this month of the closure of Knoxville concert venue The Valarium comes news of new ownership.

Daniel Leal, former owner of 4620 Reinvented (where The Well is located now) and current owner of Ooga Mooga’s Tiki Tavern, took ownership Nov. 12, he confirmed to me this weekend. No word yet on whether the name will remain the same or what other changes might be in store — including what role adjacent club The Cider House might play in the operation — but one thing’s for certain: There will be rock shows. Already on the schedule: The “Brothers of Brutality” tour, featuring Emmure and Blount/Knox-based death metal band Whitechapel, set for Jan. 8.

I’ll post more info as I find it out; word is an official announcement is coming Thursday.

UPDATE: That industrious little Knox weekly Metro Pulse followed up on my announcement with some tidbits of their own, including the name change: Blackstock Auditorium. You can read MP’s blog post here.

Written by wildsmith

November 25th, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Everly Brothers get some love from Faun Fables front woman and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

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If you’re playing Six Degrees of Knoxville, here’s another way to tie in Drag City Records artists (and indie-rock darlings) Faun Fables and Bonnie “Prince” Billy — other than their previous East Tennessee performances, which we chronicled in previous interviews here and here.

Billy (real name: Will Oldham) and Faun Fables founder Dawn McCarthy have teamed up for a new album for Drag City titled “What the Brothers Sang,” due Feb. 19. Don and Phil Everly — famous for such folk gems as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up, Little Susie” and “Cathy’s Clown” — lived in Knoxville for a short time in the early 1950s, graduating from West High School.

According to the Drag City PR, “these new versions rethink The Everly Brothers for the audience of listeners today, people who naturally might have no knowledge or experience with those songs … ‘What the Brothers Sang’ is made with deep respect for, is inspired by The Everly Brothers, but it pays tribute by being a record that only Dawn and Bonnie could make, and only in the room with the players that had come to join them. Their duets are a sensuous display of give and take that includes everything that’s resonating in the room, every surface that’s being pressed or rubbed or hit is a part of the action. Their harmonies are in the tradition, but they are their own, not cutting-on-the-dotted-line of Everlys magic.”

No word yet on track listings for the album.

Written by wildsmith

November 19th, 2012 at 10:23 am

Concert announcements galore …

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dirksmirandaDierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert

Hard to believe that 2013 is just around the corner, but it’s obvious from the slate of concert announcements this week that promoters have been making plans on it for a while now. Here’s a roundup of upcoming East Tennessee concerts, along with the respective venues and ticket prices …

  • Miranda Lambert with Dierks Bentley and Lee Brice: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 at Thompson-Boling Arena in downtown Knoxville; tickets are $25.25 and $50. Talk about a country trifecta: Brice released the album “Hard to Love” in April of this year and sits at the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart with the title track; Lambert released her fourth CD, “Four the Record,” a year ago and holds down the No. 7 single with “Fastest Girl in Town”; and Bentley’s most recent album, “Home,” debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 200 albums chart and No. 1 on the country albums chart.
  • Jeff Mangum may not be a household name, but when you consider how groundbreaking his work was as leader of the indie rock outfit Neutral Milk Hotel — specifically the 1998 record “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” — then it’s a big deal he’s even touring at all, much less coming to Knoxville. He’ll perform with the band Tall Firs at 8 p.m. Feb. 1 at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville; tickets are $31.
  • Bob Newhart is a comedy legend, and while he may be more famous for acting than for stand-up, he’ll nevertheless perform the latter at 8 p.m. Feb. 2 at The Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. His appearance is part of the “Stars on Stage” annual fundraising gala for The Tennessee Theatre; tickets are $47 and $152 for VIP seats.
  • More country: “Legend” is a word I throw around a lot, but if the shoe fits … and in the case of George Strait, I think it does. I could recite a litany of his accomplishments, but Wikipedia does a fine job of it: He’s been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards and has more wins in both categories than any other artist; as of 2011, he holds the record for the most No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart with 44 No. 1 singles; and he’s sold more than 68.5 million albums. He’ll bring his farewell tour — “The Cowboy Rides Away,” it’s called — to Thompson-Boling Arena, with special guest Martina McBride, at 7:30 p.m. March 1. Tickets are $69.50 and $89.50, and if you’re flush, you can always buy special VIP packages that run $599 and $999 (the latter of which includes a guitar signed by the man himself).
  • Finally, the biggest concert of them all: George Jones brings his farewell tour, billed as “The Grand Tour,” to East Tennessee on April 6. According to his website, he’ll perform at the Civic Coliseum in Knoxville.

Tickets to Miranda Lambert/Dierks Bentley, Jeff Mangum and Bob Newhart go on sale Friday, Nov. 16; the George Strait concert is currently on sale; and the George Jones show information has yet to be determined. To purchase tickets, visit Knoxville Tickets online or call 656-4444.

East Tennessee musician, entrepreneur Jonathan Sexton returns to the stage

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jonsextonJonathan Sexton outside of Bread of Heaven in Alcoa, 2011

The last time Jonathan Sexton performed in East Tennessee was on a stage in Maryville at the 2011 Foothills Fall Festival, but that’ll change later on this month.

Sexton, former bandleader of Jonathan Sexton and The Big Love Choir and a former member of Oversoul, Redhouse Project and The Whiskey Scars, will debut his new project, Badlands, on Thanksgiving night at Preservation Pub in downtown Knoxville. Since the launch of the mobile software platform Artist Growth — a project he founded with Knoxville expatriate and Nashville singer-songwriter Matt Urmy — he simply hasn’t had the time, he said.

“Everything’s finally kind of leveling out, and that’s why I’ve had time to do a band,” he said. “I don’t have time to get in the van and drive all over the country, but I’ve got time to rehearse a night a week and play a gig every now and then. Thanksgiving at Preservation Pub has a special place in my heart, because that’s when and where Whiskey Scars started. It’s just a good night.”

Badlands features former Big Love Choir members Andrew Sexton (Jonathan’s dad) and drummer Dave “The Animal” Campbell (also a member of The Coveralls and a number of other projects) on vocals. The group is rounded out by Andrew Bryant on drums and Aram Takvoryan on bass. It’s a cover project, Sexton said, and the guys play “mostly ’70s hard rock.”

“Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Bad Company,” he added. “I was just looking for a reason to hang out and rock out, but with no pressure, and I wanted something that can exist without me. If those guys get a gig and can’t come, they can find a sub, where as if I’m the lead singer and the songwriter, that’s not the case.”

In the meantime, he’s looking at putting together an original Jonathan Sexton project sometime next year. He still travels to Nashville three days a week for Artist Growth business, and he’s looking at an August date for a wedding to his long-time girlfriend (and Big Love Choir bandmate) Elodie Lafont. In the meantime, though, he’s excited about playing music again.

“I want to play for the love of it and not to chase a career; just something on the side that won’t take up a lot of time but will scratch an itch,” he said. “I suffer from the same thing any artist suffers from — wanting to do someting different — but I haven’t had time or energy to commit to deciding on what’s next for me as a songwriter and an original project. I’m thinking real hard about it, and I still jot down ideas all the time. The songwriting muscle still works.”

Written by wildsmith

November 8th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Breaking news: Knoxville venue The Valarium to shut its doors

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valarium

I was there for the very first show — Dinosaur Jr. rocked the house, guitarist J. Mascis surrounded by a wall of amps from which poured shimmering soundwaves that made him appear as if he was on a “Star Trek” transporter deck. That was Nov. 29, 2007. Almost five years later, The Valarium is closing its doors.

Owner Gary Mitchell announced in a press release on The Valariium website Friday evening that the venue — formerly home to The Orpheus and The Electric Ballroom — will be closing at the end of the month, citing a decision not to renew the venue’s Alcoholic Beverage Commission license because of problems meeting food service requirements. A Dec. 11 show by rock band Halestorm has been moved to The Tennessee Theatre.

Knoxville’s Metro Pulse was the first to report on The Valarium’s closure, citing an interview from earlier this year when Mitchell pointed to economic woes as the biggest hurdle he and his team faced.

Over the years, The Valarium — which holds roughly 1,000 people — has served as an ideal larger-sized venue for acts ranging from Mumford and Sons to Blount County’s own Whitechapel. Bigger than downtown Knoxville’s Bijou Theatre and a more appropriate concert location for rowdier and more energetic shows where moshing, dancing or standing was prohibited or discouraged by the seats at the Bijou and The Tennessee Theatre.

The complete press release on The Valarium’s closure is below:

Dear Friends and Patrons,

The Valarium and CiderHouse will cease operation on November 25th. The last event will be Taboo on November 24th.

Due to new rule changes from the TN Alcoholic Beverage Commission concerning the minimum percentage of food an establishment must sell in relation to its gross sales, our venues will be closing. We also cannot comply with the minimum number of days they require us to be open per week. Since we cannot meet their requirements, we will relinquish and not renew our ABC license when it expires November 24th, 2012.

We have never received any citations for over serving or serving an underage. However, we have been told we will be fined, prosecuted, or subject to revocation procedure for not serving enough food. They do not recognize the fact that we are a big, fast-paced venue where people come to see shows, dance, drink and socialize on a large scale, not to eat dinner. This is as unreasonable as them passing a law stating that all restaurants must install a stage and dance floor.

Also, we cannot comply with the minimum number of days they require us to be open. Good business practices dictate that you don’t open when it’s not viable. Opening for the sake of just being open forces you to offer drink specials, steep discounts, ridiculous contests, and promotions that may encourage over serving. If the primary mission statement of the TN ABC is to promote temperance, what could be more temperate than not opening on off nights? We are not aware of any other state that has these rules.

As it happens, the timing of our license renewal date puts us in the forefront of any enforcement action. Our attorneys predict that a large portion of the nightclub venue licensees in TN will not be able to comply with these regulations. However, on their advice, our only recourse is to relinquish our license when it expires on November 24th, 2012.

We would like to thank all of our friends and patrons for supporting us and allowing us to bring such amazing national, regional, and local musical talent to our stages. We would also like to thank our employees who made it all possible.

Good luck to everyone as you move forward out in the world.

Sincerely,
Valarium and CiderHouse Management

Written by wildsmith

November 2nd, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Local venues, Music