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The Tennessee Theatre at Steve Wildsmith

Steve Wildsmith

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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.

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.

REVIEW: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers — May 24, 2011 at The Tennessee Theatre

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20100910-001-MountainSongSteve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, at the Fifth Annual Mountain Song Festival in Brevard, N.C.; September 2010. Courtesy of www.steepcanyon.com

Playing for two hours and receiving three standing ovations, well-known comedian and banjo player extraordinaire Steve Martin was more than a huge hit Tuesday night. He wowed a packed-out crowd at The Tennessee Theatre, performing all of his own music and showcasing the remarkable talents of the Steep Canyon Rangers.

“I know this is strange,” he told the crowd. He compared his banjo tour to waking up and discovering that Jerry Seinfeld had just embarked on a bassoon tour.  “That’s a must-see,” he chided.

Martin played tunes from both of his albums (“Rare Bird Alert,” a joint effort with the Rangers, and “The Crow”), including “Daddy Played the Banjo,” “Go Away, Stop, Turn Around, Come Back,” “The Crow,”  “Rare Bird Alert,” “Yellow-Backed Fly” and “Jubilation Day.” He switched out playing four different banjos and left the stage briefly to allow the Rangers to spill out all of their brilliancy.

This seasoned entertainer and Grammy winner kept the audience engaged the entire two hours, drifting back and forth between the humor he is known for and the bigger-than-life talent on the  banjo some are only discovering. He has been playing the instrument since the age of 16. Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were early influencers.

The repertoire on Tuesday night was a mix of bone-tickling fun with the offering of “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs” and one number about Martin’s own dog, Wally, called “Wally on the Run.” One song Martin wrote from the viewpoint of Paul Revere’s horse, entitled “Me and Paul Revere,” will be performed by Martin at the Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C. He gave Knoxvillians a taste on Tuesday night.

The Steep Canyon Rangers received their most rousing applause for the a cappella rendition of “I Can’t Sit Down.” At one point in the performance Martin told the audience, “I am doing two of my favorite things — stand-up comedy and charging people for music.”

Those there to see if Martin still had it comedically weren’t disappointed. Those who were there to see if this comedian could really tease the banjo strings shook their heads in amazement. In the encore, Martin and the Rangers played a couple of teasers before bringing down the house with their magical take on “Orange Blossom Special.” And the audience refused to leave without hearing Martin’s best “King Tut,” bluegrass style.

He left everyone wanting more.

— Melanie Tucker, The Daily Times

Written by wildsmith

May 25th, 2011 at 5:47 am

The show in pictures: Black Crowes at The Tennessee Theatre

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A few weeks ago, Southern rockers The Black Crowes stopped by The Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville as part of their “Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys” farewell tour. We interviewed drummer Steve Gorman about some of the band’s highs and lows and the forthcoming hiatus the fellas will be taking when this tour wraps. Daily Times photographer Mark A. Large was there and took some photos for posterity. Lord knows when the band might get back together. Here are his shots:


Drummer Steve Gorman and singer Chris Robinson


Birds of a feather


Chris Robinson


Rich Robinson


Steve Gorman


Chris again


Luther Dickinson


Say Goodnight to the Bad Guys

Written by wildsmith

September 29th, 2010 at 7:55 am

Steve Gorman: Black Crowes memories …

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The Black Crowes bring their “Say Good Night to the Bad Guys” Tour to The Tennessee Theatre, 604 S. Gay St. in downtown Knoxville, on Wednesday, and we have an interview with drummer Steve Gorman in tomorrow’s Weekend entertainment section. He talks about the highs and lows of the past nearly quarter-century, and about the making of “Croweology,” the band’s new double-disc set of reworked acoustic gems out of the Crowes catalog.

In going in and re-recording some of those classics, Gorman told me this week, he and his bandmates were able to polish up some gems that had gotten dusty over the years.

“I know for me personally, I’d lost the sense of ‘She Talks to Angels’ (off the group’s 1990 debut “Shake Your Money Maker”),” he said. “A weird thing that happens when you make songs and one gets singled out as a single is that it becomes more popular, and it’s easy to overlook it. It just becomes such a presence, and I hasn’t really thought about it other than ‘This is a song we wrote one day’ in years and years and years.

“After we went back and did it for ‘Croweology,’ I found myself thinking, ‘God, no wonder it was a hit — it’s a great song!’ It was just one of those ridiculous eye-opening things, and it just becomes different when you’re in the middle of it.”

One of the things he won’t take for granted, however, is the time the Crowes spent working with Jimmy Page. In October 1999, the Crowes teamed up with the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist for a two-night venture at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles; it was captured for posterity as the double-disc “Live at the Greek” album released the next year (featuring mostly Led Zep songs and a few blues covers; the Crowes were contractually obligated to keep their originals — some of which did get played that night — from being included on the album).

“We were 10 years in, so the thrill of being a band that had so-called ‘made it’ was long gone,” Gorman said. “We weren’t questioning if we were a good band or if things were going to happen for us. And I just got to go back and be a dumb fan who couldn’t believe how lucky he is. I mean, no one sits around and thinks, ‘I’m going to play Led Zeppelin songs with Jimmy Page,’ because it doesn’t happen!

“But for us, it did. It was the happiest, most unexpected thing that could come along and just one of those great, specific moments on stage where I felt like I was a little kid in a basement, listening to records and daydreaming.”

Written by wildsmith

September 9th, 2010 at 8:30 am

Partyin’ around Panic

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It appears Southbound Bar and Grill, 106 S. Central St. in Knoxville’s Old City, has laid claim to the official Widespread Panic After-Party, scheduled for the legendary jam band’s three-night stint at The Tennessee Theatre (604 S. Gay St. in downtown Knoxville) at the end of the month.

Panic will be our cover story on July 23 in advance of the gigs, taking place July 26-28. I interviewed long-time Panic keyboardist JoJo Hermann, who recalled Panic’s previous visits to Knoxville, from one more than a decade ago in World’s Fair Park with Sister Hazel to the band’s days performing at the long-closed Flamingo’s on the Strip to the group’s April 2007 two-night run at the Tennessee. (Thanks to Tennessee Theatre reps for pointing out that the band last performed there in July 2008. Last fall, the group joined The Allman Brothers Band for a show at World’s Fair Park.)

“I think it was the second night, and man, we played for like four hours,” Hermann said. “Jimmy (Herring, who joined in 2006) was still somewhat new to the band, and that was a night where we really just clicked as a unit. That was part of the process of Jimmy just becoming one of us. It was a big night at the Tennessee, and it’s such a beautiful theater.”

Anyhoo … here’s the skinny on the Panic events at Southbound: It’s being billed as the “Shiny Side Up Before-During-After Panic Party” (a play on the band’s most recent studio album, “Dirty Side Down”), and it takes place from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day that Panic is in town. Tickets are $20 per night/$15 with a Panic show ticket stub. Here’s the lineup:

  • July 26: Matt Woods at 3 p.m.; Mike McGill Band at 4 p.m.; Wax Planet at 5 p.m.; Eric Sommer at 7 p.m.; Wax Planet at 8 p.m.; Big Something at 10 p.m.; Grand Theft Maid Cart at 11:45 p.m.
  • July 27: Sharon Parks Band at 2:45 p.m.; Eric Sommer at 3:45 p.m.; Big Something at 4:45 p.m.; Terry Phillips, Tom Smith and the Free Jay Band at 7 p.m.; Big Something at 9 p.m.; Wax Planet at 10 p.m.; Grand Theft Maid Cart “all-star jam” at 11:45 p.m.
  • July 28: Andy Pirkle Band at 2:45 p.m.; Traveling Light at 4 p.m.; The Axis of Evil at 7 p.m.; White Lightnin’ Burlesque Troupe at 9 p.m.; Wax Planet (or Grandpa’s Stash) at 10 p.m.; Big Something at 11:45 p.m.

And, according to the Southbound website: “Midnight Voyage in conjunction with Knoxtronica will provide some bad a** electronic beats to keep you going way past Panic Those DJs will be announced as soon as they are confirmed, but will most likely feature some of Knoxville’s own favorite spinners, button twisters and knob pushers, Ableton lovers and iTunes jukeboxers whom we have all come to know and love.”

Bill Maher on garbage and pope-ish wizardry

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Despite his characterization of religion as mass delusion … despite his comparisons of Tea Party followers to special needs students … despite his vitriolic loathing for right-wing stupidity … those things still aren’t the most pressing issues that comedian/political pundit Bill Maher believes are the most important right now.

In fact, he told me during a recent phone interview, one has only to look South — off the shores of the Gulf Coast states — to see what is.

“It’s the environment,” said Maher, who performs Saturday at The Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville. “Global warming gets most of the attention when it comes to environmental issues, but those are not the only environmental issues that we have. We’re killing the oceans off — they’re becoming much more acidified and toxic, and right now, there’s a giant swirl of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean that’s the size of Texas, and it’s not bio-degradable.

“All this stuff that gets a big eye roll from the right wing, like it’s Al Gore trying to create some sort of myth to destroy the American economy. But it’s not a myth — it’s actually happening, and I don’t understand why it’s not more important to people. It’s where you live, it affects how you live and it’s happening right now.”

Of course, with so much oil billowing up from that busted BP pipe, such earnestness from what many people see as a funnyman hits a little too close to home. Which is why Maher will never run out of his share of religious jokes — especially after making “Religulous,” his documentary that explores and mocks the world’s religions. In it, Maher traveled the world talking to religious leaders and devout followers, and he came away with some eyebrow-raising impressions.

“Jerusalem — it’s the funny hat capital of the world,” he said. “Every religious sect in the world has a stake in Jerusalem, and they all wear a different outfit. That whole capital is a Fellini movie. It’s known as a holy, religious place, but it looks like a circus, and if you spend a week there, you come away with just the idea that human nature is such that it’s blown away by a costume.

“I mean, look at the pope with that funny hat he wears and the robes — he’s literally dressed as a wizard! I don’t know how Catholics can keep a straight face when he wears that pointy hat! And he always has this look on his face that seems to say, ‘If I wasn’t infallible, could I get away with this?’ People are blown away that he’s wearing something people don’t wear on the street. But so is Lady Gaga — but we’re not worshiping her!”

Saturday’s performance begins at 8 p.m.; tickets are $58. Check out our cover story interview with Maher in Friday’s edition of The Daily Times Weekend entertainment section.

Written by wildsmith

May 19th, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Review: Wilco at The Tennessee Theatre (April 18, 2009)

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It was a full nine songs before Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy said hello.

No doubt, some in Saturday night’s audience at The Tennessee Theatre zeroed in on that as further proof that Tweedy, to be quite vulgar, is a dick.

After all, the bumps in Wilco’s career have included some disagreements between Tweedy and various members (ex-drummer Ken Coomer and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett) that ended in the latter’s ouster. The documentary “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” captured some of that tension, and Tweedy’s well-documented battle with pain pill addiction and split with former Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jay Farrar have cultivated an image of a guy who, when viewed the wrong way, comes across sometimes as petulant or self-centered or, on the far end of that spectrum, an egomaniac.

I contend that he’s none of the above. To be sure, a certain amount of dickishness is a factor in what he does. But it’s not because he’s a jerk, per se. I think it’s because he believes he follows a higher calling, and that friendships, business arrangements, what-have-you … they all come second to the music.

Granted, I have no personal insight into what transpired between Tweedy and Coomer or Tweedy and Bennett. Maybe he woke up one day and decided he’d rather not share his toys anymore. But I think it had more to do with how Jeff Tweedy feels about the music — how he, to be a little cliche about it, is one of the few genuine tortured artists who toil in the public eye; or at least has a high enough profile that his struggles are documented on a national level.

I say that because there was a moment at Saturday night’s concert when I noticed Tweedy standing in the center of the sonic maelstrom of a particular song — “At Least That’s What You Said,” the opening track from “A Ghost Is Born.” It’s a lovely song, one that simmers to a boil before exploding, blowing the lid off the pot as everyone in the band froths and foams and churns into a crescendo.

As the heat began to rise, Tweedy stepped back, and guitarist Nels Cline started to do his thing. Cline, known in jazz circles for some phenomenal guitar work, was on fire all night, rolling with whatever changes were thrown at him and anchoring the Wilco machine with some dazzling fret work. As he bent and swayed into the song’s guitar cascade, Tweedy was staring toward the back of the room.

His fingers did their thing; no telling how many times he’s played this particular song, so he might have been on autopilot. But the look on his face … I interpreted it as satisfaction. In that moment — like so many others that probably occur to him with this particular lineup of the band — everything felt right. Everyone was in place. All present for one purpose — to play the songs Tweedy hears in his head; playing them the way they’re supposed to be played, the way they demand to be played. He may never be 100 percent satisfied with what he hears in the studio or on stage in comparison to how it sounds in his head, but in that moment, it was as good as it gets.

It was one of several moments in a show that ran for more than two hours and featured two encores. No new material was played, despite the fact the band has a new album coming out in June on Nonesuch Records; instead, Tweedy and co. seemed determined to give the old songs the full treatment before the new one drops and they have a whole other addition to their canon that they must promote. During the second encore, when they morphed from the gentled “Red Eyed and Blue” to “End of the Century” (both off of “Being There”), the crowd — which had been on its feet all night — was goo in Tweedy’s hand. They swayed and clapped and shouted and screamed as the jubilant chords bounced off the theater’s pristine decor, and with Cline to his right and bassist John Stirratt and multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone to his left, Tweedy smiled. Behind him, drummer Glenn Kotche and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen plowed through the slurry of feedback, Americana grit and anthemic melodies that anchor the song.

In that moment, whatever demons might still plague him seem banished. He looked like he was having fun, and even if it didn’t sound like what he hears in his head, it didn’t seem to matter. Because the rest of us heard it, and more than that, we felt it — and that’s all a good musician can ask for.


1) “Outta Mind (Outta Sight)” (from “Being There,” disc 2)
2) “Misunderstood” (“Being There,” disc 1)
3) “Hummingbird” (“A Ghost Is Born”)
4) “You Are My Face” (“Sky Blue Sky”)
5) “Company In My Back” (“A Ghost Is Born”)
6) “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”)
7) “Kamera” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”)
8 ) “At Least That’s What You Said” (“A Ghost Is Born”)
9) “Ashes of American Flags” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”)
10) “Shouldn’t Be Ashamed” (“A.M.”)
11) “Jesus, Etc.” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”)
12) “Impossible Germany” (“Sky Blue Sky”)
13) “Forget the Flowers” (“Being There,” disc 1)
14) “Box Full of Letters” (“A.M.”)
15) “Heavy Metal Drummer” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”)
16) “A Shot in the Arm” (“Summerteeth”)

17) “The Late Greats” (“A Ghost Is Born”)
18) “Hate It Here” (“Sky Blue Sky”)
19) “Walken” (“Sky Blue Sky”)
20) “I’m the Man Who Loves You” (“Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”)


21) “California Stars” (“Mermaid Ave., vol. 1″)
22) “Red Eyed and Blue” (“Being There,” disc 1)
23) “I Got You (End of the Century)” (“Being There,” disc 1)
24) “Casino Queen” (“A.M.”)
25) “Outtasite (Outta Mind)” (“Being There,” disc 1)
26) “Hoodoo Voodoo” (“Mermaid Ave., vol. 1″)

Wilco online

YouTube: Wilco performs “Misunderstood” in Texas, May 2008

EDIT: Somebody taped the show! You can download it as a torrent by going here.