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The Bijou Theatre at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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

Archive for the ‘The Bijou Theatre’ tag

Gran Torino reunites to help out The Bijou Theatre

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1526258_709946322372394_1360964408_nThe big news out of the local music scene today: Knoxville jam-dance-rock outfit Gran Torino is returning to the stage on March 15 at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville.

When Knoxville jam-dance rockers Gran Torino called it quits in January 2003, even the members themselves were bummed.

At the time of the group’s two-night “farewell weekend” of shows at the Old City club Blue Cat’s (now NV Nightclub), the reasons for the breakup were financial, keyboardist and trombone player Dexter Murphy told us at the time: “One was a lot of things at the record label [Red Eye] they promised they would do to promote the new album [2002's "The One and Only"], but never happened. That led to bad promotion of the album and not many people coming to the shows, and that caused us to lose money instead of gain money.”

The band formed at the University of Tennessee in 1995. After releasing “One” in 1997, the band gained a quick reputation for a sound anchored in rhythm-and-blues, soul and funk. Gran Torino was famous for its non-stop, late-night shows where the songs extended toward 10 minutes, and the group quickly sold out old Knoxville venues like the Mercury Theatre. For its next record, 1999’s “Two,” the band shifted its sound toward a more melodic pop-rock formula, leading to the minor radio hit “Moments With You,” which won the Grand Prize Award in the 2000 John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s pop category.

After “The One and Only” failed to do what the guys hoped, the members went their separate ways. But singer/frontman Chris Ford — who now owns Sweet P’s BBQ and Soul House — said they’ve always stayed in touch, and when the opportunity came about to reunite for a good cause, they couldn’t say no.

“The guys have been wanting to do it, but I was really finding a hard time wanting to do it because of all the stuff that comes with it — putting the show together, promoting it,” Ford told me. “I’m on the board at The Bijou Theatre, and they came to me about us doing their annual fundraiser — the Bijou Jubilee — and I thought that would be a great venue to do this because (a) that was our favorite place to play back in the day and (b) they take care of all of the stuff. Basically it’s a good place to play and not have it be such a headache (logistically).”

The lineup for the show isn’t 100 percent set in stone, but the guys have it covered — “Because we had so many people, it’s easy to put together a version of the band,” Ford said — but all of the alumni are invited. Members included Ford, Murphy, Whit Pfohl, PeeJay Alexander, Steve Decker, Todd Overstreet, Dave Hyer, Jonathan Mann, Jason Thompson, Scott Pederson and Johnny Pfohl; Decker now lives in Los Angeles and Whit Pfohl resides in Texas, so it’s questionable whether they’ll be able to make it in for the reunion show … but the rest of the band members are keeping their fingers crossed.

As for Ford, he’s crossing those of his other hand that the performance remains a one-off gig, much like the New Year’s Eve show by The V-Roys a few years back.

“I’m praying it is! But only because I’ve got family and the business, and I couldn’t see making time to go out and play shows,” he said. “We have rehearsed, and it is fun. I haven’t played in 11 years; the last time I played was with them, so we’re all really looking forward to it.”

The show takes place at 8 p.m.; tickets are $30, unless you want to spring for the VIP package, which is $100. Buy tickets here.

Written by wildsmith

January 17th, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Patterson Hood on the 2/14 Weekend cover

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This Thursday’s Weekend cover guy is Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, who performs Saturday, Feb. 16, at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. We talked at length about his most recent solo album, “Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance,” and, of course, his band.

“We’ve got a tour in March for about two weeks, and then we’re going to come home and go straight into the studio,” he said of the Truckers. “Because we did (2010’s) ‘Big To Do’ and (2011’s) ‘Go-Go Boots’ at the same time, it’s been a little over four years since we did anything. We’ve got some new songs, and it feels good. The band (which lost bass player Shonna Tucker in 2011 and John Neff late last year) has gone through some changes and some rough times lately, but we seem to have come out on the other end in a good place. We’re smoking hot right now, and we’re very excited to go in and record.”

As for the title track of “Heat Lightning” — funny story about that. Hood’s sister worked on the record with him and pointed out that heat lightning, technically, doesn’t rumble. That precipitated a friendly sibling argument between the two.

“We bickered back and forth, and in the end even though I said it was still gonna be the name of my goddamn album, it was bugging the shit out of me, but I didn’t want her to know it,” he said with a laugh. “So I ended up doing some research, and I found out that it does rumble! You just don’t hear it because it’s so far away! Just because you don’t hear it doesn’t mean it doesn’t rumble; therefore my title is even more perfect.

“So I printed out a link talking about that, and I mailed it to her. Along with a picture of me shooting her a bird.”

Written by wildsmith

February 12th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

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.

Michael Franti: Opposition to gay marriage is dying

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Reggae artist Michael Franti performed Friday night at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville, and a friend at the show reports it was about what you’d expect: Great reggae, with hardcore followers grooving mightily to Franti’s Bob Marley-inspired one-love vibe. (Opener Nic Cowan reportedly was a hard act to follow, my pal reports.)

I interviewed Franti for last Thursday’s edition of Weekend, and while our conversation focused predominantly on the music, we also chatted a bit about the gay marriage debate that’s been a flashpoint of this political season. The day before we talked, President Obama had come out in support of gay marriage, and Franti has a very Zen-like attitude toward the opposition to the issue.

“I don’t think it’s a homophobia — it’s just a generational thing,” Franti said. “In previous generations, people grew up with churches a lot more in their life than today. People in the gay community have made themselves visible and seen as the beautiful people they are; as a productive part of society; as kind and as helpful and willing to participate in the world as anyone else. I think it’s great these things are coming to a head now, and it’s a huge step with Obama coming out in favor of it.

“I think all of the things we view as advances in our society — freedoms like women being able to vote and black kids going to school with white kids — these are things that people struggled for for a long time, and now they’re taken for granted. Gay people can fight and die for our country, but they come back to a country where they can’t be married — I see that as something that’s going to go away on the very near horizon. Whether it’s gender, religious differences or whatever, people should all be treated equally.”

Written by wildsmith

May 28th, 2012 at 6:44 am

Delbert McClinton on politics

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Got to interview Texas bluesman Delbert McClinton this week in advance of his Saturday, Dec. 10, show at The Bijou Theatre, and I couldn’t resist asking him about his fellow Texan — Gov. Rick Perry — and the race for the presidency in 2012.

He was reticent to talk much at first … but then he got wound up.

“I don’t talk politics — I don’t trust any of them, ever, so I just don’t do that,” he said.

Long pause.

“But it’s hard not to realize that the wh0ole world’s a total wreck. Everybody’s got to believe something, and one of these guys is gonna win — so at this point in time, right now as never before, it’s a mess. And I can’t imagine, at this point in time, that anybody can really do much better than Obama has done. He came in and inherited a big ol’ bag of shit. Look at unemployment — it went down last week, and it hasn’t been doing that much lately. That’s not gonna save the world, but it’s a pretty big step.

“He got usout of Iraq, and he speaks in full sentences. I don’t know … he just makes more sense than anybody has in a while. George Bush took this country into a major nosedive, but what the hell was he gonna do, either? We got attacked out of nowhere (on Sept. 11). All of this was so incredibly unprecendented for the U.S., and nobody’s gonna fix it in four years. Nobody’s gonna fix it in 40 years, I don’t think.

“Radical things have to happen, and I just hope they’re done by a rational man,” he added. “But I don’t know if there much chance of that.”

Written by wildsmith

December 7th, 2011 at 8:28 am

Dirty Guv’nahs launch fundraising drive for new album

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Knoxville’s Dirty Guv’nahs (whom we last interviewed back in August) are headed back to the studio in January to record the follow-up to “Youth Is In Our Blood,” recorded two years ago at Levon Helm’s “Barn” studio in Woodstock, N.Y. They’re seeking fan assistance to fun the project through a Kickstarter campaign, a method through which fans can pre-order physical copies of the album and secure its delivery upon completion.

Over at the Kickstarter website, there’s a really cool video narrated by vocalist James Trimble, featuring concert footage and an introduction to the forthcoming album’s producer, Ross Copperman. A look at the various donor packages includes an interesting Blount County tie —a donation of $125 or more includes, among other things,”The Cabin Sessions EP,” “a limited-edition, acoustic, stripped-down CD … which we will not be selling online, at shows or anywhere else. It will include a handful of ’stripped-down’ versions of songs that we recorded at a cabin in Townsend, TN, and it will also include acoustic versions of old favorites. This is the kind of recording that you’ll listen to late at night and really feel like you were completely connected to our writing process. We are really fired up about this, as it’s a side of the Guv’nahs that no one has ever seen.”

The Guv’nahs will return to The Bijou Theatre for a two-night stand on Feb. 24 and 25; tickets are $21 per show or $38 for both. Click here for more info.

Written by wildsmith

November 30th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Tony Levin: ‘It’s not a bad experience at all to spend some time’ with King Crimson fans

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SMenLive1Stick Men live — (from left) Markus Reuter, Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin

It’s fair to say that fans of groundbreaking prog-rock band King Crimson are fanatical about the group’s music.

Only it’s not the kind of fanaticism your casual music lover would expect from diehard groupies. King Crimson bass player Tony Levin — who comes to town next week with his band Stick Men (featuring Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto) in a show featuring another Crimson alumni, Adrian Belew (and his band the Adrian Belew Power Trio) — learned that a long time ago.

“It’s different than what people would think; I’m not inundated with fans who know who I am,” Levin said. “It doesn’t happen all that often except during and after shows, and my opinion, a band gets the fans it deserves — and King Crimson fans are enthusiastic and have a passion for music. They’re not wild or out-of-control, and they’re certainly not there for your personality or your sex appeal. It’s about the music, so it’s not a bad experience at all to spend some time with them.”

Interestingly enough, Levin noted, he did just that — Aug. 22-26, he, Mastelotto and Belew held the inaugural “Three of a Perfect Pair Camp,” a King Crimson-centric week of music, stories and instruction at Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, N.Y. It was so successful, in fact, that next year’s camp is now taking registrants — it takes place Aug. 12-17, 2012, at the resort, and the cost starts out at $1,210 for a week of tent-camping.

“Seventy-five of them came and spent night and day with us, eating meals and hearing King Crimson stories,” Levin said. “It was very fun and very enlightening, and when it’s like that, fans don’t need to cling so much.”

No doubt next week, the audience at The Bijou Theatre will be full of King Crimson fans. In fact, Levin expects it, even though Stick Men and the Adrian Belew Power Trio both have their own repertoires to offer up. And that’s OK, even if does feel like a boys-only club sometimes.

“Crimson fans tend to be guys,” Levin said with a chuckle. “In the old days, they would bring their girlfriends with them, and we would notice the girlfriends weren’t there after the intermission. After a while, King Crimson did some more ’shoulder-friendly’ music, where the unfortunate woman who got dragged to the concert could move her shoulders a little bit.”

Click here to read the interview with Levin published in this week’s Daily Times Weekend entertainment section.

Written by wildsmith

September 14th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Hell freezes over: The V-Roys reunite for compilation album, show

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At some point on New Year’s Eve, somebody in charge is going look around The Bijou Theatre, channel Roy Scheider in “Jaws” and declare, “We’re gonna need a bigger venue.”

Of that, I have no doubt. It’s a fine venue, acoustically almost perfect, but it’s nowhere near big enough to hold the crowd that’s going to pack the place for the first show by Knoxville’s favorite sons The V-Roys since Dec. 31, 1999.

It’s official: Not only are all four original members — Scott Miller, Mic Harrison, Jeff Bills and Paxton Sellers — getting back on stage for the first time, a new compilation album will be released Sept. 27.

First, the latter: “Sooner or Later” will be an 18-track collection of remastered material releasing on Miller’s F.A.Y. Recordings that pairs thirteen previously released album tracks (including fan favorites “Guess I Know I’m Right,” “Fade Away” and “Cold Beer Hello”) with five unreleased studio recordings. According to a press release, “Added to the mix are unreleased covers of Tom T. Hall’s ‘That’s How I Got To Memphis,’ Neil Young’s ‘Burned’ and Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Smokey Joe’s Café’ (from the ‘Add Ice’ era) with the unearthed originals, ‘Hotel Room’ and ‘Someone To Push Around’ from the ‘About Town’ sessions. The two newly restored tracks, both penned by Harrison, represent the only unreleased original songs stashed in archives.”

Also according to the press release, “Bills was the driving force navigating the waters of putting together a retrospective that both the band and the fans will hold in high regard.” The album title, Miller describes, comes from a seemingly innocuous note, Miller says in the press release: “When Jeff (Bills) gave me the final mastered version of this compilation, which he really put the effort into making, he had written ‘Sooner or Later or Just Whenever’ on the disc. ‘Perfect!’ I thought. I think we all knew we’d do it sometime. It’s nice to hear (and play) these songs again. I’m proud of what we did and I think it still stands up.”

Perhaps the biggest news, of course, is the reunion show. The V-Roys played their last show on New Year’s Eve 1999 at The Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. After two albums under their belt, the guys had been knocking on the ceiling of nationwide fame, but with label problems (going from Steve Earle’s E-Squared to Warner Bros.) came disagreements, and the band instead fizzled out.

“E-Squared broke up between the first V-Roys record and the second V-Roys record, and our second was on Warner Bros., and it didn’t feel right,” Miller told The Daily Times back in 2003. “It seems like it would have been something you would celebrate — ooooh, big times and Cadillacs now — but it just wasn’t. I was pushing to make a live record, and we got that set up, but basically Paxton and Jeff were burnt out with touring.”

We’ve interviewed Miller and Harrison in their respective solo careers numerous times over the past decade, and Harrison — who was called into the fold in 1995 by Bills, moving to Knoxville from West Tennessee to replace singer-songwriter John Paul Keith when the band changed its name from The Viceroys — went into the greatest detail about those halcyon times during a 2007 interview. For Harrison, still wet behind the ears from his West Tennessee upbringing, it was a heady time.

“God, it was great,” he said back then, a touch of wistful regret in his tone. “I didn’t have [a thing]; none of us did, but it was great going through these things with those guys. After that first record, we toured our asses off, and that was pretty much my learning year.”

The band wound up on several national compilations and even contributed several songs to the soundtrack of the Laura Linney indie film “You Can Count On Me.” But as The V-Roys started pre-production on their second album, “All About Town,” cracks in the foundation were starting to show through.

“I don’t know; it just didn’t seem like it was working out,” Harrison said in that ‘07 interview. “Scott was wanting to do his own thing on the side, Paxton wanted to finish college and we all wanted a different producer for the second record, because we didn’t want to sound the same on each one. There was definitely some tension there.”

“All About Town” received warm reviews, but the boys were ready to go their separate ways. A joint decision was made to call it quits on New Year’s Eve 1999, after one last, rocking show. While Harrison believes the band went out on top, he can’t help but wonder “what if.”

“I think we could have done a lot more, and I really think we should have,” he said. “I was disappointed, sure. It was one of those deals where it had become like my baby, and I didn’t want my baby to leave home.”

There’s been talk of a V-Roys reunion over the years – in fact, organizers of 2006’s Southern rock festival Mucklewain tried to convince the four to reunite – but until now, things haven’t worked out. Knoxville never forgot, however — if anything, the band’s reputation has only grown. In 2009, a Metro Pulse poll of local music scene movers and shakers named The V-Roys Knoxville’s Best Band Ever, cementing the band’s status as a local version of The Beatles or The Eagles.

Titled “One Show; Goodbye,” this year’s NYE gig will no doubt be the place to be for anyone with more than a passing connection to the Knoxville music scene. Tickets are $35 and will go on sale Sept. 9.

Here’s the track listing for “Sooner or Later.”

  1. “Guess I Know I’m Right”
  2. No Regrets”
  3. “Pounding Heart”
  4. “Sooner or Later”
  5. “Goodnight Loser”
  6. “Cry”
  7. “Lie I Believe”
  8. “Kick Me Around”
  9. “Mary”
  10. “Amy 88″
  11. “Over the Mountain”
  12. “Fade Away”
  13. “Burned” (Neil Young cover)
  14. “Someone to Push Around”
  15. “How I Got to Memphis” (Tom T. Hall cover)
  16. “Hotel Room”
  17. “Smokey Joe’s Café” (Leiber and Stoller cover)
  18. “Cold Beer Hello”

Let the celebration commence. And Knoxville city officials/AC Entertainment reps … I would strongly advise closing the 800 block of Gay Street and setting up big screens along the sidewalk, because you’re gonna need them to accommodate the crowds who don’t get tickets in time but show up to join the party anyway.

Written by wildsmith

July 17th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Rodney Crowell preps new album with guests by ‘Americana superstars’

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Next week, singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell will come to East Tennessee on the last leg of his “Chinaberry Sidewalks Tour,” promoting the memoir he released in January. We talked to him about that this week, and he mentioned that one of the memoir writers he most admired in determing how to craft his own was Mary Karr, author of “The Liars’ Club.”

As it turns out, he’s working on a new album with Carr, inspired by his work on “Chinaberry Sidewalks” and her own writing skills. It’s shaping up to be an all-star effort, Crowell told us.

“She and I wrote all the songs, and since she doesn’t sing we roped ladies like Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Norah Jones into taking the female narrative, while the male narrative will be taken by guys like Loudon Wainwright, Kris Kristofferson and myself,” he said. “It’s sort of a who’s-who of Americana superstars. We’re taking a song and making it a collaborative, cohesive piece where we sing and play with each other, and we’re not far from having it done.”

Written by wildsmith

June 15th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Wanda Jackson on Jack White

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Rockabilly icon Wanda Jackson, performing at The Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville on May 27, knows her superstars.

After all, she once dated Elvis Presley, she recalled in an interview with The Daily Times Weekend section last year:

“I was right there working with him when all of this great stuff started to happen, so I was excited to be around him,” she said. “It impressed me. You have to remember, I was a teenager, and this was the music the teenagers loved. I loved it too, and I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to work with him, because he was causing such a stir.

“Sometimes Elvis and I would get to go out by ourselves and just have a bite to eat and drive around and talk, or maybe take in a matinee movie. That’s what I had to call dating him, even though when we lived in different states, so when I was at home, that was hard. But I still have his ring that he gave me, so we were officially dating.”

So when she says there’s only one contemporary rock star who could stand up to the King, you best take her word for it. And really, is it any wonder that one is Jack White — he of The White Stripes/The Dead Weather/The Raconteurs and producer of her most recent album, “The Party Ain’t Over”?

“The only one who stands up to Jack would be Elvis, and Elvis wasn’t that big a star when I was working with him. He was becoming that, but when I started, in 1955 up until his early movie career starting in ‘57, he was only doing select tours,” Jackson told us during a recent phone interview. “Jack has brought that same kind of excitement back for me. I even tell my audiences that I see a lot of resemblance in Jack and Elvis, just in their mannerisms, their ways of thinking, their love of life and enthusiasm for things, their focus.

“Elvis was very focused; he knew exactly what he was doing and understood what he was creating. He loved it at the time, but it kind of got out of hand for him. And Jack knows, too — but he has a handle on balance, and a wonderful little family, including a wife and two adorable children who he loves dearly. I’m glad he seems so well balanced where Elvis was so much younger and didn’t get that opportunity.”

Written by wildsmith

May 25th, 2011 at 1:22 pm