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Market Square at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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

Archive for the ‘Market Square’ tag

Paying regards to SITC: I hate to see that evening Sun go Down …

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Sundown-in-the-City_webSundown in the City circa 2010, courtesy of the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation’s website

I can’t remember the last time I attended a Sundown in the City concert.

It may have been the summer of 2007, when local favorites (mine, at least) Dixie Dirt opened for the Drive-By Truckers. DD wasn’t long for the scene, and they were pulling double duty that night — first at Sundown, later at Barley’s Taproom in the Old City.

I remember it was hot and crowded and intense — so much so that we cut out a few songs in the DBT set. Good as they were, it just felt wrong. I believe a great band that’s playing its heart out should have the attention of those in attendance, and even five years ago, it was obvious that Sundown had become a destination as much as a concert.

It didn’t used to be that way. When it started as a single concert in 1997, the free concert series drew large but respectful audiences, and it’s fair to say the series had something to do with the revitalization of downtown Knoxville. 15 years ago, downtown after dark wasn’t exactly a desirable date destination, to say nothing of bringing your young kids down there.

Now, it’s a hub of activity at all hours of the day and night. Restaurants, venues, retail spaces, residential buildings have come together to give Knoxville a sort of urban sophistication that’s still quaint, given the city’s size, but also incredibly cool. And that coolness began with the music.

As a music writer, it’s been an incredible experience to document. I’ve interviewed dozens of artists who came to play Sundown, from Steve Winwood and Gillian Welch in 2004 to Sleater-Kinney in 2005 to Little Feat in 2006 to George Thorogood, Ozomatli and the Avett Brothers in 2007 to Jamey Johnson, Grace Potter and Arrested Development in 2009. Looking back on those names, all I can think about is how blessed we were to get such diversity — and such up-and-coming artists before they exploded.

Perfect example — The Avetts. They’d only started playing Knoxville a couple of years prior, doing occasional free shows at Preservation Pub, but they’re such genuinely good dudes and burn with such passion for music that they’re undeniable. The folks at AC Entertainment saw that early on, and this year, they’re one of the headliners for Bonnaroo. They’re getting ready to put out their second major-label release produced by the iconic Rick Rubin, and the last time they came to East Tennessee, they filled up Smokies Stadium.

Is it any wonder, then, that as the schedule grew from a few concerts early on to more than two dozen at the height of the series that people started coming? They came for the music, and they helped make downtown a destination, and then everybody was coming to downtown just to be downtown. Market Square turned into a sea of people on Thursday nights, and while many businesses didn’t mind, a few did — along with the people who had moved to the area and had to contend with traffic, drunks and throngs of people milling around in what amounted to their backyards.

I remember looking around at everyone on that particular evening. Hundreds were paying rapt attention to the bands … but hundreds more were wandering around, poking their heads in various shops, talking on cell phones, looking for their children, who seemed to be turn loose like crazed ferrets to roam the downtown landscape at will. “Too big,” I thought. “This thing is too big.”

Maybe it was … but it was good for Knoxville. And even though I never made another Sundown show, there was something reassuring about the idea that, if I so choose, I could head over on a fine Thursday evening, see some great live music and still be home in time to watch the 11 p.m. news.

This morning, AC announced that Sundown’s time had come to an end.

“… after having initially scaled back to five bi-weekly events two years ago, it has become clear to us that Sundown in the City simply no longer fits its Market Square home,” company founder Ashley Capps says in a press release. “With that in mind, AC Entertainment is electing to look towards the future. We will, of course, continue to book and produce the great shows and programs at the Tennessee Theatre and the U.S. Cellular Stage at the Bijou Theatre. We are also looking forward to putting our time, energy, and resources into bringing new festival concepts to life in downtown Knoxville in the near future. And…who knows? We may ultimately find a way to reinvent Sundown at some point.”

Facebook, et. al. was abuzz with word of the cancellation, and it was almost as if a collective “Awwwww …” went up from everyone. No doubt, many people who loved Sundown during its early years found themselves turned off by the event’s growth into a social hangout more than a concert, and others, I’m sure, hated that their favorite off-the-beaten-path restaurant or bar turned into a subway station on Thursday nights in the spring and summer. But aside from a vocal few, we loved Sundown — the music, certainly, but also the fact that the music was happening in the middle of downtown Knoxville.

What a town. And even though the city center is a big boy that can walk on its own these days, I’m sure many people will find themselves with a lot of time on their hands on Thursday nights this spring, and more than a few who happen to be on Market Square will stare wistfully toward the stage and wonder when the music might start up again.

Written by wildsmith

March 16th, 2012 at 10:36 am

Rhythm N’ Blooms 2012 lineup gets leaked early!

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Pilot and Cherokee Distributing, in partnership with Attack Monkey Productions, was geared up for a big press conference at 3 p.m. Monday to announce the lineup of this year’s Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival, scheduled for April 20-22 in Knoxville as part of the Dogwood Arts Festival.

Unfortunately, the alt-weekly over in Knoxville got a look at the lineup and let the cat out of the bag early, no doubt making tomorrow’s big announcement not nearly as exciting as it could have been. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t excitement to be found about the festival, because Attack Monkey, run by Chyna Brackeen (who also books shows for The Square Room and manages The Black Lillies), has gathered up one hell of a roster of talent for this year.

Some of them we already knew about; Brackeen confirmed Jessica Lea Mayfield, Jake Shimabukuro, YARN, Darrell Scott and The Boxer Rebellion back in early January, when we did our big year-in-preview section. Here’s the full list of performers that’ll be announced tomorrow; the first two are considered the festival’s headliners:

Some programming notes: Langhorne Slim will perform on Thursday, April 19, at the second “Scruffy City Roots” show at The Square Room and will stay over to perform a solo show at Rhythm N’ Blooms. Amos Lee will have the headline spot on Sunday, April 22, at Knoxville Botanical Garden. On Friday, April 20, Big Sam’s Funky Nation will perform on the outdoor stage at Market Square, the only free show of the weekend; according to Brackeen, there will be some overlap with other performances going on at the same time, but organizers hope to schedule any overlap with acts that are on the opposite end of the stylistic spectrum.

Finally, Alice Smith will open for Citizen Cope, playing solo and acoustic, at The Tennessee Theatre on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville; afterward, the Black Lillies will play a late-night after-concert that will begin around 10-11 p.m. The full schedule and venue breakdown will be released by the end of the month, according to Brackeen.

Weekend passes will be $55; day passes are $25, but the day pass does not include entry to The Tennessee Theatre for Saturday night’s performances by Smith, Cope or the Lillies.

Tickets are currently on sale at the festival website, and physical tickets should be in area Pilot stores by Tuesday, according to Brackeen.

Sundown in the City 2011 lineup announced

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You’ve been asking about it, so start making plans — Sundown in the City, the annual free concert series held on Market Square in downtown Knoxville, returns for 2011 on April 21.

It’s a free series of shows that was scaled back from a weekly run over several months in previous years to every other week last year. For 2011, there will be five Sundown performances, all taking place on Thursdays starting on the 21st.

It first began in 1998 and is an annual entertainment event held every spring, brought to the public by AC Entertainment and a number of sponsors. Gates open at 6 p.m. every Thursday, and the music starts at 7. Free parking is available after 6 p.m. at the Locust Street, Market Square and State Street garages.

This year’s lineup includes:

Sundown in the City 2010 lineup announced

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Here it is! The announcement of this year’s Sundown in the City lineup. Remember — it’s still on Thursdays, starting April 22, but will be every other week. Same location — Market Square in downtown Knoxville — and still free, but because of burgeoning crowds, organizers hope to ease the strain on downtown merchants.

What: Regal Entertainment Group presents Sundown in the City 2010
Thursdays April 22, May 6, May 20, June 3 and June 17, 6-10 p.m.
Where: Market Square in downtown Knoxville
How much: Absolutely free! With free parking after 6 p.m. at the Locust Street, Market Square and State Street garages.

Starting this year, fans of Sundown will be able to receive text alerts to their mobile phones. To receive text alerts about Sundown, fans should text the word SUN to 68572. Standard texting rates apply.

This year’s line-up:

April 22 — Trombone Shorty with opener to be announced

May 6 — The Eli Young Band with Jill Andrews

May 20 — Tonic with Aftah Party

June 3 — Blues Traveler with The Dirty Guv’nahs

June 17 — Drive-By Truckers with Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves