“BEHIND THE BARN” RETURNS
Good news, live music lovers: “Behind the Barn,” which ran from 1999 to 2004 as a live radio show broadcast from Barley’s Knoxville in the Old City and hosted by Blount County singin’, songwritin’ couple Jeff Barbra and Sarah Pirkle, is coming back, and this time it’ll be happening in Maryville. “Behind the Barn” (version 2.0, for lack of a better term) will launch at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, and will take place at the same time every Thursday at the new Barley’s Maryville, 128 W. Broadway Ave., downtown. Oh, and it’s free.
The series originated with one of the former owners of Barley’s in Knoxville, Doug Beatty, who teamed up with Barbra and Pirkle to bring a little life to Barley’s and the Old City during the middle of the week. The three teamed up with WDVX-FM to sculpt the program, which took place on Wednesday nights and gave a venue and an audience to regional and national acts passing through East Tennessee on their way to weekend gigs. Some of the acts that played on the old “Behind the Barn” included John Cowan, Karl Shiflett and the Big Country Show, the Kruger Brothers and The Dempseys (who wound up standing on the bar, performing without shirts by the end of the night), among a slew of others.
WUTK ANNOUNCES MAJOR FUNDRAISING DRIVE
Tuesday, Oct. 1, is College Radio Day, and there’s no better way to celebrate it than by giving a hand to the best college radio station in East Tennessee.
Don’t take our word for it — WUTK-FM, 90.3 The Rock, has been voted “Knoxville’s Best Radio Station” for the last eight years in the Metro Pulse “Best of Knoxville” annual awards, and was also named “Most Improved College Radio Station in North America” in 2011 by College Music Journal. It also serves as a laboratory for communications students, and approximately 75 of them work at WUTK every semester.
On College Radio Day, the station will hold an on-air fundraiser, and station personnel will be actively pushing the fund drive on air, through social media, and by other means, encouraging listeners to donate to the Impact Big Ideas Fund on the station’s website at throughout the day. WUTK is in immediate need of replacing its transmitter tower, and a goal of $15,000 has been set.
The station has been able to generate close to $2,000, so far, but because the station receives no direct funding from the University of Tennessee, students and station managers must generate their own revenue, mostly through donations, corporate sponsorship and underwriting. A new transmitter tower will allow WUTK to continue to transmit the terrestrial signal at 90.3 FM and could potentially strengthen the current signal within the existing coverage map, according to a press release; the station also streams live audio through the website, and on the Tune In phone application.
For more information, email WUTK General Manager Benny Smith at email@example.com. If you haven’t tuned in, do so — you’ll hear more local music, more non-mainstream music and more good music than you could ever expect. And come Oct. 1, pitch in a little bit of your cash to help out a program that first signed on the air in 1982.
WESTSIDE DAREDEVILS FAREWELL SHOW
Remember how back in May we told you about the imminent demise of the Westside Daredevils? The band was on the verge of releasing a self-titled swan song album, which you can download on Bandcamp, and whatever the reason was for the break-up, the boys have put them aside in order to play us all one more goodbye show. That’ll take place at 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at The Pilot Light, 106 E. Jackson Ave. in Knoxville’s Old City. Admission is $5, and the band Successful Failure is also on the bill. We’ve been a fan of the band since 2002’s “All Things Small Produce a Spark,” which we raved about and put on our list of the best albums of that year. They’ve been dependable purveyors of pop-rock for more than a decade around these parts, and they’ll be missed.
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.
The Blackstock will be open for business on Tuesday, according to owner Daniel Leal and operations manager Jay Harris.
After local news agencies reported earlier today that the venue — formerly the location of The Valarium before changing hands late last year — was closed by the Tennessee Department of Revenue for nonpayment of taxes, Leal and Harris released a statement on Tuesday night:
“The Blackstock Entertainment Venue is pleased to announce that we will be open for business tomorrow morning and for every foreseeable day after that. We inherited a legacy of difficulties when we opened the doors of the Blackstock (from the previous business owner and management of the Valarium & Ciderhouse and from changes in management of the current business). There are always speed bumps on the road to success, but the show WILL go on. There will be a few difficult days ahead proving that the current ownership has no connection with the previous owner and thereby has no fault in their liabilities and obligations. Our mission remains: to provide the best entertainment experience in Knoxville. We are looking forward to an exciting fall in an intimate 1,500 person venue and rocking Knoxville again! In the spirit of Monty Python, we continue to look on the bright side of life: ‘Well, at least we are caught up on our taxes!’”
According to Harris, he’ll be in his office at the venue on Wednesday morning, and Wednesday night’s “Locals Only” show — a free 8 p.m. performance by Capgun Alliance, Another Fable and Later that Day — will go on as expected. He sees no reason future shows will be put on hold, he said, nor any reason to believe the current difficulties will interrupt the venue’s various services such as liquor availability to the clientele.
According to Harris, the brouhaha has been, in a word, a “misunderstanding” that won’t affect the venue’s future.
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.
Local music scene odds and ends: Dirty Guv’nahs, Black Lillies, Scott Miller, Jill Andrews and more …
Been a while since we rounded up some of the goings-on of late, so let’s get down to it …
• The Black Lillies announced on Thursday that long-time drummer Jamie Cook, who’s been with the group since that fateful bonfire pickin’ party led to its formation, has stepped away from the band for good. He’s been on a leave of absence for the past several weeks to attend to personal family business, and word is the enormousness of the Lillies juggernaut and the band’s grueling tour schedule have become more than Cook wanted to take part in. Everyone is still pals, however; the local scene is too tight-knit for something like butt-hurt feelings to drive a rift between such long-time friends, and I suspect that future Lillies shows in East Tennessee may very well feature Cook guesting on a few songs. In the meantime, the Lillies have announced Bowman Townsend, who’s manned the kit for Jill Andrews and Valley Young, will join the band full-time (he’s been filling in during Cook’s leave of absence); Cook, meanwhile, is pushing full-steam ahead toward his own musical goals: he’s playing at 7 p.m. Monday at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center as part of the “Tennessee Shines” radio show, and he’s booked for a June 21 date at The Pilot Light with Jonny Sexton and Anderson East.
• Last month, The Dirty Guv’nahs announced that founding member and keyboard player Chris Doody had stepped away from the band; his last show was at the group’s New Year’s Eve shindig at The Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville. Again, no hurt feelings, and Doody and his bandmates were gracious and loving in the band’s website announcement. Doody wrote, “The next chapter in my life is an exciting one. My wife and I are happy to announce that we’re expecting our first child in October. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be at home with my family. Please know that I will always support this band and the men who play in it. I’m grateful that they have amazing people like you who continue to support them as well.” In the meantime, keyboardist Kevin Hyfantis, formerly of the Black Cadillacs, is filling in on the road. No word on whether the Cadillacs will replace Hyfantis in their rotation; the band’s website is absent mention of a keyboard player.
• In other Dirty Guv’nahs news: Speaking of that NYE show, it was recorded for posterity and will be released July 16 as the album “Live From Knoxville.” No word yet on a track listing, but maybe the boys will release more details when they headline Friday night’s festivities next weekend at the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge. Get your tickets here; the Guv’nahs perform at 7 p.m. Friday, June 21, with opening act Soul Candy and the Traffic Jam.
• Former Tim Lee 3 drummer/Llama Train/Tenderhooks member Matt Honkonen is preparing for the release of his first solo album, “Paper Wires,” which will be celebrated July 12 at The Well in Knoxville. It was recorded with local studio wizard/indie-pop artiste John T. Baker, and man, the three singles he’s released so far sound fantastic. His rich vocals and the instrumentation immediately made me think of “30 on the Rail,” the debut solo album by Hootie and the Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan. You may be snickering, but that’s a damn fine and underappreciated record — soulful, playful and beautiful, and Honkonen’s voice is eerily similar. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing the rest of it and catching up with him soon.
• Well, hell. That didn’t last long: Singer-songwriter Kat Brock — a solo singer-songwriter, formerly of Dixie Dirt, and back with the recently reunited subbluecollar — has announced she’s returning to Nashville. The Powell High School grad came back to East Tennessee last fall after some time in Music City and New York, but after getting her feet on the ground and resurrecting her old band, she’s bound for the city in which reside her son and her love. You can’t blame the girl; she has the soul of a poet and the wandering heart of a Gypsy, but we’re confident she’ll be back. Subbluecollar drummer Dave “The Animal” Campbell confirms that the band, which played its first reunion show in April at Barley’s Taproom, will go on: Brock will commute for rehearsals, and the group, which has 14 new songs and is moving forward with a planned EP, will be booking shows in both Nashville and Knoxville. In the meantime, look for a video of one of the songs from the April show on the band’s Facebook page soon.
• Singer-songwriter Jill Andrews has been in Nashville since March 2012, coming back briefly for performances here and there — most recently for a reunion by her old band, the everybodyfields, at April’s Rhythm N’ Blooms festival — but mostly she’s been holed up writing songs and working on a follow-up to her full-length debut album, “The Mirror.” She’s coming back to East Tennessee for a June 29 show at Barley’s Taproom (get your tickets here), and we spoke to her about how the new record’s coming along. “I’m really, really taking my time, just making it exactly how I want it to be,” she said. “We’re four songs in at the moment, and musically, I think it’s a lot more thought-out than the last two. The last two records (including her 2009 self-titled EP), I had been playing those songs live for a while, and we recorded them exactly the way I’d been playing them live, but now I’m working with a producer named Will Sayles, and I feel like we talk arrangements a whole lot.” Fans heard one of the songs on the new record, “Rust or Gold,” on the May 2 episode of the hit ABC medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s a complex, layered song that indicates the direction she’s headed as a songwriter living and learning in Nashville. “There’s just a lot of stuff in that song, and it’s so dynamic because of where we chose to put things in and take things out. I would like to be defined a little bit more than just an Americana artist, because I think girls with guitars — and boys too — get lost in the shuffle of that.” Check out our full interview with Jill in the June 27 edition of The Daily Times Weekend section.
• It’s been more than a year since we’ve written about the Knoxville-based band Love Animals — a group of local music scene veterans from groups like The Shape and Mouth Movements — but member Steve Gaskell reached out this week to let us know that the band’s debut EP, “Reckless Holiday,” is soon to be released. It’s four songs clocking in at more than 22 minutes and is a swirling kaleidoscope of indie rock, judging by the first two tracks that are available for streaming here. The title track features Interpol-style reverb driving a mean pace, while the second (”Arizona Skies”) is plodding, deliberate and beautifully painted with swirls of drum crashes, prolonged chords and plaintive vocals. It’s good stuff. No word on a release date or show, but the band’s website lists an Aug. 1 Knoxville date at a to-be-determined venue, so we suspect it’ll be out around that time.
• When Scott Miller started a Pledge Music campaign to fund his next studio record — “Big Big World,” set for release Oct. 8 — he wasn’t sure how it would be received by fans. As it turns out, extremely well: He raised his target goal in little more than a week, with fans shelling out everything from $10 for a copy of the album upon its release to a private Scott Miller house concert for $3,000. “I guess I didn’t ask for enough,” he deadpanned this week. “No, seriously, it’s very humbling, man. It wasn’t a small amount of money, and it will be put to good use.” He’s unsure how many of the new songs will get played when he and his band, the Commonwealth (now featuring fiddler Rayna Gellert as a member “whenever she’s able,” according to Miller, as well as acclaimed bassist Bryn Davies filling in for regular Commonwealther Chris Autry, now on tour with Jo Dee Messina — “Now I got two chicks in the band!” he exclaimed) get together to rehearse before the June 22 show at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson. But since he plans to have copies of “Big Big World” for sale at his Oct. 4 Bijou Theatre show in downtown Knoxville, chances are it’ll be a couple. “It sounds gooood,” he said of the 10-song album. “It’s more gorgeous-sounding. It’s got reverb, and it’s pleasant to the ear ‚ not so much Miller trying to scream his points across at you. I actually sing on this record. It might show I do actually have talent.” Read the cover story we did on Miller last November here.
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.”
Aside from a handful of performances since getting back off the ground in late 2010, pop-rockers Westside Daredevils have been conspicuously absent from the local music scene.
Back then, fellow pop aficionado John T. Baker threw in his lot with the group, and the guys felt rejuvenated and re-energized. Fast-forward three years, and according to guitarist-turned-drummer Gray Comer, the WSDD journey, which began in 1999, has come to an end. But at least the boys are leaving us with a little present before they go their separate ways.
“The new Westside Daredevils album (which will be self-titled) is finished,” Comer wrote last week. “The final mastering tweaks (sequencing, fades, etc.) aren’t quite done yet, but from a general musical standpoint, it’s done. However, it will, barring a drastic change in circumstances, be the final Westside Daredevils album, as the band is no more. To make a long story short: about 80 percent of the way through the album, we came to the collective decision that we’re simply not able, due to various life circumstances, to devote the time needed to maintain a healthy, viable, functioning rock and roll band. That being said, we are VERY proud of the album and like it very much, and we think you will, too.
“The album will be released online our Bandcamp site, which launches this weekend at http://westsidedaredevils.bandcamp.com. All of the previous albums will be available for download on the site, as well as the new one, on a “name your own price” (which can be zero) basis. There may be a physical release of the CD, depending on overall interest and finances. However, at this time, there are no plans for an official CD release show or a farewell show, although we’re not ruling either of those things out, or, for that matter, any future collaborations or the inevitable reunion gig at Waynestock 2016 or whatever.”
Pause for a moment while I pour out some of my 40 in honor of the guys. I fell in love with their music back in 2002, when I first wrote about the album “All Things Small Produce a Spark,” which I noted at the time was partially recorded (the guitar tracks, at least) at the Rockford home of Gray’s mother, Judy, in rural Blount County. Here’s to all the best for the guys in whatever endeavors they choose to pursue in the future.
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.