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Rumors are flying that Blackstock Auditorium, 940 Blackstock Drive in Knoxville’s Warehouse District and the former home of Electric Ballroom and The Valarium, is shut down, and we’re trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
I reached out to Jay Harris, a former employee of the venue who still books the alternative dance night Temple there, and he provided what so far has been the best account of what apparently went down over the weekend. After Friday night’s poorly attended Confederate Railroad show (one source who went said there might have been 40 people there), the venue was apparently “closed down on Saturday night due to lack of payment on the lease,” Harris told me — emphasizing, of course, that his information is all second-hand.
A private show with rapper Waka Flocka Flame was supposedly moved to the laser tag facility Battlefield Knoxville (and apparently ended in thrown beer bottles, cops and a whole other story that’s still unfolding, with the rapper apparently heading down to Rumorz on “The Strip” to keep partying), and after hearing of the debacle, Harris said he went by Blackstock on Sunday.
“A security guard was there, and I told him who I was and way I was there and asked what was going on,” Harris said. “I was told that there are new owners becaue the lease had expired due to non-payment and that the new owners are planning on keeping it a venue. I was told the new owners were there, cleaning up, and when I asked to speak to them, they agreed, and the security guard took me on back. They let me know that they want to keep it as a venue and that they want Temple to keep its home there. So until they get their ducks in a row — beer and liquor licenses, a health inspection, etc. — we’ll have to find a new place to hold it this month and next month. They just want to make sure the place is awesome to make sure it doesn’t have the problems did when Blackstock opened.”
The new holders of the lease wish to remain anonymous for the time being, Harris added, and the whole thing dropped in their lap at the last minute.
“I think they were working seriously to get things happening and were hoping to get it, but they got a phone call over the weekend and the owner of the building told them that if they wanted it, it was theirs,” Harris said. “I can’t say who they are, but I can tell you this — when I saw who it was, I was relieved and excited that this venue will finally be what it has the potential of being.”
Overtures to Daniél Leal, who held the lease for Blackstock, haven’t been returned so far, and it’s probably safe to assume that any shows booked for Blackstock will likely have to be re-negotiated with the new lease holders. Meanwhile, shows like the Southern Drawl Band gig on Friday night are in a state of flux; Wally Miles, organizer of Wallypalooza, has put his event on hold for the time being. We’ll update this post as we find out additional developments.
Local scene odds ‘n’ ends: Robinella, Tim Lee 3, LiL iFFy, Steve Kaufman, “Behind the Barn” and more!
First Sundays of the month with Robinella
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since Robinella (that would be Robin Ella Tipton Bailey, if you’re from Blount County) played her final regular Sunday night gig at Barley’s Taproom in Knoxville’s Old City.
For years — first with the CCstringband, featuring her former husband, Cruz Contreras, now of The Black Lillies — and later with her long-time group of ace backup musicians, she got the dance floor heated up and made for a weekly rendezvous of fans and friends who fell in love with her honey-sweet voice and her infectious combination of country, folk, jazz and a little of everything else.
Well, Robin’s coming back to Barley’s on Sundays: Earlier this week, she and husband Webster Bailey confirmed that starting Sunday, Nov. 3, Robinella and her full band will perform on the first Sunday of every month at the new Barley’s Maryville, 128 W. Broadway Ave., downtown. It’s a full band show that’ll start at 8 p.m., and it’ll be free.
You can call Barley’s at 983-0808 to confirm; you can also read our recent cover story on Robinella and her new album, “Ode to Love.”
“Behind the Barn” October lineup announced
Speaking of Barley’s Maryville, we told you a week or so ago about how another fixture of the restaurant’s sister venue in Knoxville’s Old City is returning to the stage, only in Blount County: “Behind the Barn,” which ran from 1999 to 2004 as a live radio show and hosted by Blount County singin’, songwritin’ couple Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle, kicks off at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, featuring the Trinity River Bluegrass Band.
It’ll be a regular thing every Thursday night at Barley’s Maryville — it’s also free — and Barbra shared the lineup of upcoming shows for the month of October with us. They include:
He also said the show on Halloween night will be a costume party, and that he’s dressing up as Conway Twitty. We can only hope.
Tim Lee 3 Pilot Light residency kicks off Thursday
Have we mentioned lately how much we love Tim and Susan Lee of the Tim Lee 3?
Because I don’t think we’ve gushed over them enough. Not only are they two-thirds of a killer rock ‘n’ roll power trio that calls East Tennessee home, they’re stalwarts of support for their fellow musicians and enthusiastic for collaborations that get them outside the standard genre boxes that hem in too many other bands.
And they like early rock ‘n’ roll shows, a boon for old SOB’s like yours truly. Which makes their third annual “4×4″ Pilot Light residency — kicking off this coming Thursday (Oct. 3) at The Pilot Light, 106 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City — a grand thing indeed.
Like last year, the Lees (with drummer Chris Bratta) will share the stage time with local poet/playwright/singer-songwriter/raconteur R.B. Morris; this year, they’re also adding a multimedia element to the shows, which will take place at 7 p.m. every Thursday night during the month of October, and cost a mere $5. (Early show … cheap … music and multimedia … you won’t find a better way to spend a school night, kids. Plus, you’ll be back home in time for the 11 p.m. news, since all shows end around 10.)
The schedule includes:
- Oct. 3: Tim Lee 3, R.B. Morris and friends, The Drop Dead Darling.S and The Quake Orphans, plus the book release of Morris’s “The Mockingbird Poems.” The book and posters from the book will be for sale, and R.B. will read from it between musical acts.
- Oct. 10: Tim Lee 3, R.B. Morris and friends, Nancy Apple and a screening of a the shortened version of Nashville-based filmmaker Tom Weber’s documentary “Troubadour Blues.” Copies of the film will also be for sale. The show, incidentally, will hit the road for stops in Nashville and Memphis immediately following the Pilot Light gig, if’n you feel up for a road trip.
- Oct. 17: Tim Lee 3, R.B. Morris and friends, Greg Horne Band and a screening of the locally made short film “The Agenda,” created for the Knoxville Film Festival’s 7-Day Shootout Competition by the Scuffletown Monkeys team,. The Tim Lee 3 wrote and recorded the new song “Bang Bang” specifically for the film.
- Oct. 24: Tim Lee 3, R.B. Morris and friends, Chuck Cleaver (of the Ass Ponys and Wussy) and Eric Lee (of Knoxville-based band White Gregg). A late show featuring Big Bad Oven and Birthday Girl will follow.
LiL iFFy album release blowout set
If you’ve never been to a show by Knoxville-based wizard-rapper LiL iFFy — a man whose art we’ve documented extensively over the past couple of years in the Weekend section — then you’ve cheated yourself from participating in one of the sweatiest, nastiest (the good sort of nasty, by the way), most fun parties ever to be held in East Tennessee.
But you can rectify that. In fact, you can more than make up for lost time, as iFFy — a.k.a. Knox rocker/writer/mad genius Wil Wright — prepares to launch the final album in his wizard trilogy, titled “Wand Out.” (Go watch this badass trailer for the album; it’s like watching a preview for the series finale of “Breaking Bad” or something equally epic.) On Nov. 2 and 3 at The Pilot Light, iFFy and the Magic Hu$tle crew are putting on a two-night extravaganza worthy of all the pomp and circumstance of waiting in line all night at Barnes and Noble for the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
Here’s what’s going down.
- Nov. 2, a Saturday night, will serve as the official “Wand Out” album and video release party, and DJ Tom Ato — the mastermind behind the beats of just about every Magic Hu$tle project — will open the show. It’s an 18-and-up affair that begins at 10 p.m., and no doubt will be a night for which you’ll wish you had a Time-Turner so you can go back and do it all over again.
- Nov. 3 will start earlier — at 8 p.m. — and is open to all ages. The WandcOrchestra, a group of classical musicians led by Wright’s Weird Miracle bandmate Preston Davis, will flesh out iFFy’s music with some sweet arrangements.
Two nights. No repeats. In the words of the press release, “This two-night extravaganza allows all aspects of LiL iFFy’s music to be showcased as it was intended – from the hard-hitting, raunchy party to the beautifully nuanced slow jams.” Tickets are $10 per show, or $15 for a VIP pass to both nights.
Steve Kaufman back in the running for a fourth National Flatpick Championship
A traveling minstrel of sorts in his early years, Steve Kaufman came to Maryville in the late 1970s, around the time that he started winning his run of National Flatpicking Championships at the annual Walnut Valley Festival competition held every year in Winfield, Kansas. He won in 1978 at the age of 21 and returned as soon as he was able to win again in 1984 and 1986. Over the years, he gradually built up a music publishing empire of sorts out of his home here in Blount County, having produced dozens of instructional books and videos and traveling the world to conduct workshops (as he’ll do this weekend prior to Saturday’s concert). In addition to being a father, husband and owner of The Palace Theater, he puts on an acoustic camp and concert series every summer on the Maryville College campus.
Earlier this month, Kaufman went back to Winfield for the annual competition … and came in second only to Allen Shadd, last year’s second-place winner. “Just like the first time (he competed) in ‘77, except (against) a much tougher bunch of pickers,” he told us via email. “The Kid is back and going for the brass ring.”
All them young bucks aiming for a flatpicking title had best watch out. Congrats to Mr. Kaufman!
Date, venue set for New Hope benefit band competition
Last month we told you about the “Kids Helping Kids Band Competition,” organized by Maryville High School senior Hannah Rials as a benefit and celebration for Blount County’s New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center. Rials, a volunteer at the center, was inspired to put the battle together to call attention to child abuse issues in Blount County. Interested bands can still enter the competition, and now a date and venue has been set: from 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Alumni Gym on the Maryville College campus, 502 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville. Tickets are $5, and they can be purchased at New Hope, Foothills Music Shop, Pokey’s Sports, Shimmer Hair Spa and Williams Cleaners. Tickets will also be available at the door. Call 696-6975 for info or to enter your band.
Battle of the Bands 1 and 2
Think you’ve got what it takes to sing professionally but don’t want to do so in a bar?
The Dawg Patch has the competition for you, then. Located at 506 Howard Jones Road, the venue is hosting two more nights of competition — on Friday, Sept. 6, and Friday, Sept. 13 — before the semi-finals begin on Sept. 20. All you have to do is show up and sign up to perform; contestants are judged on vocal ability (rhythm/pitch/phrasing), stage presence (movement/confidence/command), appearance (costume/attire), originality (singing an original piece or putting an original spin on another work) and crowd appeal (cheering, applauding, dancing).
At the end of each night, the above criteria will send up to three individuals to the semi-final competitions; those who sing in the semi-finals will be paired down to 10 competitors who will then go on to the Sept. 27 finals, when a winner will be crowned. The competition opens at 7 p.m., and entry forms must be turned in by 7:30 p.m.; the contest begins at 8 p.m. Those who don’t finish in the top three are invited to return and try again the next night.
The winner of the contest will be awarded the opportunity to record a single song in Nashville. Contestants are encouraged to bring out as many friends and family members as possible, as audience participation is considered in the judging; admission is $5 for spectators, and because The Dawg Patch is an alcohol-free venue, all ages are welcome. For more information, call 679-7161.
If you’re a member of a local band and feeling philanthropic — or maybe you just want to get your name out there — consider entering the “Kids Helping Kids Battle of the Bands,” now accepting submissions and sign-ups through Sept. 10.
Organized by Maryville High School senior Hannah Rials, the event will take place Oct. 19 as a benefit and celebration for Blount County’s New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center. Rials, a volunteer at the center, was inspired to put the battle together to call attention to child abuse issues in Blount County. New Hope is “a friendly, safe place for child victims of sexual and physical abuse where multiple agencies and professionals convene to coordinate and deliver services in one place so the child only tells their story one time. New Hope is accredited by the National Children’s Alliance and also offers prevention and awareness programs such as the evidenced-based Stewards of Children.”
High school and college bands interested in participating in the battle should call 865-696-6975 by Sept. 10; all genres of music are welcomed in the competition, and the winner will earn two hours of recording time in a local studio as well as a take-away demo CD.
Additional details of the Oct. 19 show will be announced in the coming weeks.
If you pay attention to the local music scene, you know that the Southern Drawl Band dropped off the radar for a little bit in late spring/early summer.
The band, which we wrote a cover story about exactly a year ago, formed around “Nashville” Mike Nash, a singin’, songwritin’ dude who quickly established the band as something special. Playing a mix of hard-driving country and Southern rock with a nod to the classics and some trop-rock flourishes, the group established a monstrous local fanbase, got booked at untold numbers of local venues and even cut a rocked-up, barn-burning version of “Rocky Top,” the video for which got played at Neyland Stadium last season and featured beloved former UT Vols coach Phil Fulmer.
Well, word got out that Mike was sitting in a Florida jail cell, and sure enough, the rumors started flying. Upon his return, they continued to circulate, and while he’s put what happened behind him, he’s pretty well done with the whispers about what went down and agreed to set the record straight. After all, he said, it’s not half as bad as what’s been made up about him.
Mike’s side of the story starts back in 2006, around the same time his music career began. He’d grown up in Nashville and had always played but never thought he could make a living doing it until a July 4th gig at a Cocoa Beach bar netted him some cash. He threw himself into music, but at the same time, he was battling a cocaine addiction, he said.
“I was a high-functioning addict, but I spent a big chunk of my money on drugs,” he said. “I was doing cocaine three or four times a week, because it was all around me in the music scene. And my perception was, I’m not hurting anybody, and I’m not robbing or stealing, so that allowed me to keep going.”
Everything seemed like one big party until he was pulled over one night with a gram of powder and was promptly arrested.
“The thing about it was, they didn’t really make a big deal about it,” he said. “If they’d thrown the book at me, it might have been the catalyst I needed to clean up. But the officer told me, ‘You roll over on three people and we’ll make this go away.’ And I didn’t do that, but the concept behind it kind of minimizes what you’ve done, and that kind of set the tone for me right off the bat. It wasn’t the wake-up call I needed it to be, therefore I didn’t stop doing drugs, even though I was on probation after that. I kept gaming the system.”
The wake-up call that made him put the drugs down came in the form of a phone call on Memorial Day, 2010. His father — 67 “and the picture of health,” Nash said — had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. With his father’s health failing fast, Nash was informed that if he left the state, he would be in violation of his probation. He would be granted a pass to leave temporarily so he could attend the funeral, however.
His reaction: “Are you serious?”
“Here I am, stuck in Florida with my father dying, and I’m trying to go about it the right way and get permission,” he said. “Well, my lawyer called while I was on my way to court and told me my probation officer was pissed that I was going to ask for permission because she thought I was full of it. My lawyer told me, ‘When you get down here, she’s going to try and get you locked up.’
“I thought, ‘I don’t have a choice.’ I rushed home, threw everything I could fit into my truck and split two hours later. You talk about rock bottom — I had moved to Florida because I grew up on beach music and Jimmy Buffett, and I was living my dream down there playing in beach bars. To have it all fall apart in one afternoon was enough of a rock bottom to make me quit drugs for good.”
Nash arrived back home in Tennessee on a Tuesday. His dad died the following Sunday, only two months after being diagnosed with cancer.
“I got to spend his last six days with him, and I got to say everything that I needed to say,” he said.
In the aftermath, he rejected the idea of going back to Florida. His attorney at the time, he said, convinced him he was looking at serious prison time if he returned; besides, his family needed him back home.
“My logic was, ‘I screwed up really bad this time, and I’m going to have to face it one day, but now is not the time to face it,’” he said. “So I moved in with my mom, took care of her and the yard and kept playing music.”
He eventually came to Knoxville, started out doing solo shows and quickly established Southern Drawl. He credits his renewed focus and quitting drugs for much of the band’s success.
“That’s been one of my biggest drives, the thinking that I’ve got time to make up for, that I’ve got to make up for the eight years I wasted,” he said. “And in my mind, I thought if I could get to some level of fame or fortune, I could write a check and make the whole thing go away. I knew I’d have to face it one day, but it was easier to not think about.”
Fast forward to April 18 of this year: The Southern Drawl Band was rocking the house at a bar in Destin, Fla. It was not the first time the group had played in the state, and after returning for gigs with his new group, Nash had pretty much assumed Florida authorities had forgotten about him. It even took a minute when three police officers walked into the establishment, walked up to the stage and motioned for the band to cut the music.
“I leaned down and said, ‘Are we too loud or something?’” he said with a chuckle. “One of the officers said, ‘You and me need to go talk.’ And I thought, ‘Uh oh. I know what this is about.’”
He’d informed (most) of his bandmates, so they were aware of his past troubles. They tried to figure out what to do while Nash was cuffed and stuffed. Nash himself was reeling. Like many times before in his life, however, music provided reassurance.
“I’m sitting in the van while they’re writing up the papers, and my whole world has just collapsed, when on the radio came ‘Go Rest High on That Mountain,’” he said. “That was my dad’s funeral song. As soon as I heard that, it was a rush of relief, because I felt like that was my father telling me that it’s going to be OK.”
At first, the judicial system treated him like a fugitive, he said; because he’d been performing for a while as “Nashville Mike,” they accused him of adopting an assumed name and staying on the run. His new lawyer kept reassuring him, but the first available court date was June 11 — and that date came and went because the judge was involved in another trial. It appeared as if he would remain in jail until Aug. 3, but his lawyer finally scheduled a hearing, and Nash went before the judge to plead his case.
“My family was there, my agent was there, and after I told the judge my story, he said, ‘You’re done,’” Nash said. “I just started crying, thanking him for giving me my life back, because I feel like I’ve earned it. I’ve worked so hard to build this, and I’ve done it the right way. I’ve had some falling outs, but I’ve patched things up with (former members) Rich (Killingsworth) and Melanie (Howe). Now it’s all over, and my life will be mine again for the first time in five years — and really, for the first time in 14 years, since I started cocaine.
“My life is finally on track, and I’ve earned everything I have now. I’ve worked hard, and I’m happy. I’m living my dream — touring the country and playing my music for the people who want to hear it.”
The Southern Drawl Band is currently touring the country, performing in North Dakota this weekend before heading down to Texas, California and Florida, finally winding back home in East Tennessee at the end of the month. The next East Tennessee performance is Sept. 5 at Quaker Steak and Lube in Knoxville, followed by a performance at the Tennessee Valley Fair on Sept. 14.
An astute listener has to ask: Did Shooter Jennings really have a Skeletor lunchbox as a kid?
A semi-autobiographical song on his most recent album, “The Other Life,” would seem to indicate so. The song — “The Low Road” — details a particularly fragile point in young Shooter’s life that led to his daddy giving him some fatherly advice:
“When I was in school some boys was pickin’ on me / pushed me down at the playground and I skinned my knee / Lord I wanted to cry, and it occurred to me / took my Skeletor lunchbox and took out his front teeth …”
No, Jennings said with a chuckle. It wasn’t strictly a Skeletor lunchbox.
“I had a He-Man lunchbox,” he told The Daily Times recently. “Sometimes a fan will tell me, ‘They didn’t make a Skeletor lunchbox!’ I know. They made a Masters of the Universe lunchbox. I’m obsessed with He-Man and Transformers. I’m more interested in that stuff than sports.”
He’s not a total sci-fi geek — the current wave of comic book movies don’t appeal to him so much, but he definitely considers himself a film buff.
“I heard ‘Spring Breakers’ is great, and I’ve heard mixed reviews on Rob Zombie’s new movie (”The Lords of Salem”),” he said. “I’m more of a horror buff than I am a comic buff, but I’m into that stuff. And I’m excited to see Zac Snyder’s ‘Superman’ movie.”
The best horror film he’s seen of late? The 2010 Canadian horror film “Beyond the Black Rainbow.”
“It’s really weird, sort Stanley Kubrick-y, and kind of slow, but there are three scary scenes that were absolutely terrifying,” he said.
Jennings performs (with opening act Kelsey’s Woods) at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 25 at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Maryville. Tickets are $20.
Call it “Old Rockers Week,” but we’ve been digging up some interesting stuff on some of the dudes who helped shape what the East Tennessee music scene is today.
In case you missed it, in today’s (May 23) edition of The Daily Times Weekend section, we profiled Chick Graning, he of Doyle High School, Teenage Love and alt-rock fame achieved through bands like Anastasia Screamed and Scarce. And the other day, the ol’ iPod shuffle brought a Carl Snow song to the deck, so we thought we’d check in with the grizzled ol’ rocker to see what he’s been up to of late.
Snow, in case you’re a casual local music fan, is a burly guitar-slinger whose list of bands over the years is as impressive as it is obscure: Koro, Red, Screamin’ Boy Blue, Big Stickmen, 30-Amp Fuse, Whitey, Birdhouse and THAT, just to name a few. He was Knoxville’s answer to G.G. Allin long before his protege Christopher Scum, but over the past several years, he’s dropped off the radar. He put out the album “Useless” a few years back, played some shows with the Carl Snow Band and re-emerged with Carl Snow’s Summer of Love around 2007, playing here and there until his bandmates departed for other opportunities and obligations. Snow, meanwhile, has waged an ongoing battle against Hepatitis C, and his health problems are the main reason he hasn’t played out in recent years.
“It’s hard for me to say, ‘Sure, let’s go play Budokan 12 weeks from now,’ because I might not be able to get out of bed,” he said.
He took the standard Interferon treatment for a year, but it didn’t take; neither did Ribaverin and any number of other drugs his doctors used to attack the disease. He just completed a recent round of chemotherapy, which was a failure as well, he said. But he’s not letting it get him down, because he’s working on a new album (due out in the next couple of months), spending time with his wife, Cindy, and enjoying where he’s at in life these days.
“Life’s good otherwise,” he said. “Recording everything you want to do, the way you want to, with absolutely no time pressure or no peer pressure, is fantastic. I’m doing a whole record again, but it’s a Carl record this time — it’s not all sweet and fluffy, like (”Useless”). It’s more like ‘Raw Power.’ I even actually play guitar solos all over it, and that’s really weird; I haven’t done that on tape since Whitey. It’s stripped down, just drums and bass and guitar — me, Mike Armstrong and guys that come in and out of the studio.
“I’m mastering everything over here (at his home studio, Moss Hill Media), and we’re doing everything pretty much — about 90 percent — analog. We don’t do anything unless it’s in one take. There’s no punch-that-in, punch-that-out. It’s fun, and I’m painting a lot, too. That’s what old rock ‘n’ rollers do — they paint and they do their better records when they’re dying.”
He laughs at the morbidity of the joke while acknowledging there’s a kernel of truth to it, but Carl Snow isn’t going down without a fight. Always a tattooed giant of a man, he continues to hit the gym regularly, and he’s gotten his bench press up to 450 pounds. Friends and peers who see him out occasionally — at places like Lost and Found Records, where he performed on Record Store Day back in April — remark that he looks good. And while he and Armstrong plan to play more dates in the months to come, he’s not looking to start a new band, he said.
“I don’t see any kind of band thing happening, really, unless some chipper little 20-something-year-old jumps up and says, ‘I wanna play bass!’” he said with a chuckle. “I’m too old to put up with BS, and there’s nowhere to play — besides, I go to sleep at 9. I definitely can’t do The Pilot Light; they’re not even open when I go to bed!”
Besides — not that he wants to sound like Dana Carvey’s “Grumpy Old Man” character from 1980s-era “Saturday Night Live,” and not that he cares if he does — playing live ain’t what it used to be, he said.
“There used to be an audience; now, there’s a crowd,” he said. “It’s not like they’re really there to hear music. So unless people say, ‘Yes, we want to hear you play the songs,’ I’m not going to waste my f—— time. That’s just the way it is now, and the people I run with, we’re all well over 40. Nobody wants to put up with an 18-year-old puking on his shoes.”
In the late 1990s, before she would go on to front Dixie Dirt, singer-songwriter Kat Brock teamed up with her high school boyfriend Joe McLemore — the guy who taught her to play guitar — and drummer-about-town Dave “The Animal” Campbell to form the band subbluecollar.
The group released the “Daydreams” EP and parted ways amicably when Brock felt called in a different direction. McLemore and Campbell would go on to form The Coveralls with Bryan Garvey and Chris Canada, Dixie Dirt came and went, Brock moved to Nashville and then to Brooklyn, eventually coming back to East Tennessee four months ago with a trunk full of dreamy shoegaze home recordings. We’ll catch you up on her journey and the road back to Knoxville — she’s working at Tomato Head on Market Square and aiming to become a certified personal trainer — and on her upcoming solo show at The Pilot Light on Tuesday, March 26. Look for the story in Thursday’s Weekend edition.
The big news, though, is her journey back to rock. Her searingly personal songs are part of her, but back home, she wanted to have fun. Her first weekend in town, she called McLemore and the two played; wanting to start a rock band, she went to see The Coveralls at Barley’s Taproom.
“That’s when I realized that I don’t want to assemble a band; I want them,” Brock told me today. “They rock!”
And so subbluecollar is back in business.
“It makes me happy,” she said. “They have a brotherhood I can’t explain. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and it’s like their little sister came back. We have a history that really shows.”
They’ve been practicing hard for a show coming up April 20 at Barley’s in Knoxville’s Old City and are planning to hit the studio soon after; the bulk of the material is new, with only four songs from the late 1990s — “Trackstar,” “Rocketship,” “Funny Red Eyes” and “Anthem” — surviving.
“It’s just nice. Really, really nice,” Brock said.
There was a moment during Waynestock 3 when the tragedy that spawned this whole beautiful thing came rushing back.
Kevin Abernathy was on stage, singing his heartbreakingly gorgeous song, “Love Alone.” It’s a track that first appeared on his sophomore album, “Beautiful Thing,” and one he re-recorded for his most recent solo effort, “Some Stories.” It’s also the song he played on stage at The Bijou Theatre during Andrew Bledsoe’s memorial service.
Working the front door with Andrew’s dad, Wayne — the guy for whom Waynestock is named — I caught a glimpse of it in the man’s eyes, which brimmed with tears. It wasn’t the only time he got emotional over the weekend — his remarks to the assembled crowd before the all-star jam that brought Waynestock to a close included a few as well — but it was a reminder of how Waynestock started.
“There would be laughter, bouncing off the walls … smiles in photographs up and down the halls … if you could live on love alone …”
The tears, however, were few and far between.
This year’s Waynestock rose money for the Community School of the Arts. Although the past two Waynestocks were held in response to tragedies — the death of Andrew in late 2010 was the catalyst for Waynestock 1, held in early 2011, and the death of beloved local musician Phil Pollard in late 2011 was the driving force behind last year’s event — this year was different. As one of the organizers, I freely admit my uncertainty of how well another Waynestock would be received without such visceral pain driving the momentum.
It’s human nature, really. When Andrew died, those of us who love Wayne wanted to do something, anything, to help our friend. Everyone we asked, from Daniel Schuh at Relix Variety Theatre (the gracious home of Waynestock since the beginning) to the musicians who played that first year to the sponsors who helped get the word out to the donors who gave of their time and equipment, agreed to take part without hesitation. The folks who came to see the music gave generously above and beyond the $5 cover. After such a weekend of magic and beauty, it seemed impossible that we could repeat its success.
But we did, last year. Again, tragedy was the catalyst, but remembrance and love became the legacy. And while there was no single beneficiary, no fallen friend or loved one, to whom Waynestock was dedicated this year, love remains the post-Waynestock emotion that best sums up the whole weekend.
“Tangled up in kisses, on the side of the road, still running on empty with a million miles to roll, if you could live on love alone …”
The doors opened Friday night to a dedicated group of Con Hunley fans who had driven all the way to Nashville and arrived four hours before he was scheduled to take the stage. Warrior-poet Black Atticus charmed and entertained, and Abernathy was the perfect lead-in to the night’s big event.
Every act who took the stage at Waynestock made fans of those in attendance who’d never heard them before, but the act that brought in the most people was Con Hunley, backed by Mic Harrison & The High Score. For Mic and the boys, it was a big deal; family members came to see them share the stage with an icon, and they were in fine form. Mic and guitarists Robbie Trosper and Chad Pelton provided killer licks and sweet backing vocals for Con’s amped-up brand of country soul, and when they opened the show (after Mic and the boys warmed up everybody with “The Colonel Is Dead”) with a rousing, juke-joint inspired version of “Livin’ on the Funky Side,” the exhilaration was palpable. Con’s older fans felt rejuvenated (and even got their balladeer fix on with a few of his slower-tempo numbers), and fans of the local music scene were content to watch in wonder as history was made with Hunley’s return to Central Avenue.
It was the sort of magic that defines Waynestock, and it would be repeated throughout the event. The Rockwells, absent from the local scene for a few years now (save for a single performance last May), were as enthusiastic as the dancers that crowded the stage during their set, with mild-mannered Tommy Bateman peeling off one killer pop-rock lick after another and Jonathan Kelly managing an impressive leap mid-song that would have made Pete Townsend proud. The Mutations, performing in front of a screening of the 1967 Peter Fonda flick “The Trip,” kept the dancers happy, with Harold Heffner getting down among them for a fired-up and impassioned version of Sam Cooke’s “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Yak Strangler, featuring Andrew’s brother, Rylan, on drums, wrapped up Friday night, and with winter weather moving in throughout the day on Saturday, the turnout for night two appeared, at first, to be in doubt.
Those who stayed at home missed a hell of an exotic set from Saturday’s two openers, the Gypsy jazz-influenced Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego and the klezmer band Dor L’Dor. (Dor L’Dor dad/bandleader Ken Brown even brought out the shofar, the traditional Jewish ram’s horn pipe, for the group’s finale.) Johnny Astro and the Big Bang steered everyone back to the middle of the road with some straight-ahead American rock ‘n’ roll done to perfection, and the Americana outfit Guy Marshall proved that it’s East Tennessee’s answer to the beloved and long-running Murfreesboro band Glossary. Sam Quinn and his Americana power-trio co-horts — Tom Pryor and Jamie Cook of the Black Lillies — were the perfect lead-in to the grand finale.
“Too bad the heart has to have a mind, to tell it what to do when the eyes are blind …”
And once again, art and community and love were elevated into something else. Magic seems too hokey, too generic, to describe it, but what other word fits? What other word accurately captures the wonder of seeing the Tim Lee 3 (Tim and Susan Bauer Lee with drummer Chris Bratta) sharing the stage with Greg Horne, Mike McGill, Kevin Abernathy, R.B. Morris, Black Atticus and Jodie Manross? Atticus flowing smooth the lyrics of R.L. Burnside’s “Snake Drive” while the band powered behind him like a growling muscle car … the boogy-woogy honky-tonk of McGill and the rest howling through his original, “Women, Whiskey and Pain” … Sam Quinn, grinning like a madman and watching the Lees blister through his haunting takes on Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane” and “Cortez the Killer” … Manross and Morris, trading lead as well as Bonnie Raitt and John Prine ever did on Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” … the whole damn family, wrapping up the night with a gloriously ramshackle version of Morris’s “Distillery” … that’s the stuff that Waynestock is made of. That’s the juice.
That is magic.
“There’d be no children troubled in their sleep, nothing else desired, nothing else to need, if you could live on love alone …”
After the house lights went up and the instruments were packed away and the last drinks poured, those of us who conceived of this thing felt like exhausted children on Christmas night. We take no credit for the creation of that magic, and like everyone else who walked away amazed and grinning and wearing those “did-that-just-happen?” expressions of slack-jawed joy, we recognize that Waynestock is so much more than just us. It’s so much more than Andrew Bledsoe and Phil Pollard, who no doubt were in the house and dancing and grinning along with the rest of us over the weekend. It’s so much more than the assuaging of grief and the remembrance of those departed and the banding together to overcome tragedy.
It is about celebration. It is about unity. It is about beauty and music and lifting up what is so good and right about this beautiful, brilliant and occasionally bizarre scene. It is about raising a flag in Happy Holler and declaring, “WE ARE KNOXVILLE.”
If we could live on love alone, then we would never have to leave Relix. The kegs would never run dry and the bottles would never dwindle. The sound would never be muddied and the instruments would stay tuned and the infinite possibilities of musical mayhem would play out for the rest of our days.
Love alone, unfortunately, isn’t always enough. And in a way, that’s OK, because Waynestock then becomes this bubble, this magical (yeah, yeah; there’s that damn word again) world to which a door is opened once a year and everything good about who we are as musicians and music lovers and human beings who call Knoxville, Tenn., home manifests itself in vibrant, vivid ways. Shutting that door for another year — and knowing there’s no guarantee it will open again — is bittersweet, but something tells me this will happen again. Part of me screams that it must. It’s too good, too special, to not revisit.
Besides, the key is simple … love. It opens the door. Love alone is all that’s needed to get back to the place that Waynestock shows us is possible. Love alone … well, sometimes it is enough.
Divided 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.”