It’s late, It’s Smoky and It’s Good

Preservation Pub, Market Square, Knoxville

The last time I ventured out on a late night to hear a band at the Preservation Pub, it was cleverly disguised as a place called the Mercury Lounge. I struggled to find late-night entertainment for my cousin who was visiting from Alabama. It appears that even Mobile, Alabama had more to offer in the way of musical pleasure in the waning hours of the evening. I finally settled on the Mercury Lounge and we listened into the early morning to a rockabilly band. I can’t remember much more about it than that, except there was this lovely girl dancing, but that is a story for another time. I’m guessing this was sometime in the early 90’s, but I could be wrong.

As we left that early morning, the only movement downtown for blocks in any direction, it seemed, came from the crowd exiting that outpost of the musical arts in the city. I remember thinking how bleak downtown seemed at night. We’d parked behind Watson’s in the parking lot that has since been replaced by the Market Square parking garage. Times have certainly changed.

Still, I wondered when some friends of mine who form Carroll Hollow informed me they would play the Preservation Pub as an opening band for Hotshot Freight Train on a Wednesday night and that the beginning time would be 10:30, I wondered if Knoxville really comes out at that hour in the middle of the week. It turns out I’m showing my age or my ignorance of how far the nightlife in Knoxville has grown – or, more likely, both.

Carroll Hallow, Preservation Pub, Market Square, Knoxville

I almost decided to stay in my snug home and crawl into a warm bed, but I wound up walking the dog around 10:30 and after dealing with that, realized I was already dressed, cold and certainly no loner sleepy, so I headed out. The cover charge was three dollars which seemed good to me. The smoke inside the door didn’t overwhelm me, so I headed into the bowels of the very long room. It wasn’t easy. I could not believe how incredibly crowded the place was from the door all the way back to the stage – which is in the same place it was for the Mercury Theater. The musicians could only be heard in approximately the back fifteen percent of the pub.

Steve, Chandler, Bill and Scott churned out a steady flow of Americana, Folk and Country tunes as well as a few originals. From what I understand (I missed this part), Chandler did a song about Popcorn Sutton that got a tip of the hat from Cruise Contreras as he passed the stage. “Suburban White Boy Blues” written by Steve got a good response as did “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” featuring vocals by Bill. Additional musical texture was provided by Abby joining the band on fiddle for a few tunes.
Carrroll Hollow, Preservation Pub, Market Square, Knoxville
The crowd responded well – at least the portion that could hear the band. Everyone else seemed to be having a good time as well. It left me wondering whether there are that many people downtown who don’t have to get up in the morning or if the fact that the vast majority were in their twenties should tell me something. I wondered how many of them live downtown and how many drove to get there. I have to say it is a bright, warm spot on a cold night and it felt pretty nice to be with happy people listening to good music.
Could it be better? Oh, yes. Stop the smoking and start the music earlier. At least that’s what an old working guy might say. I doubt I’m the target demographic.