I never imagined it would take me this long to put out my photographs and description of Metrofest on the blog, but so much happened last weekend that I’m just now getting to that point. Metrofest was the place to be last Friday night.
I might add that I told you guys you should got to the shows and as evidence that Stuck Inside of Knoxville can save your life, just ponder for a moment what might have happened if Alexander Broughton had followed my advice, heard some cool bands, stayed sober, avoided the Pike House and any of the various activities that MOST DEFINITELY DID NOT happen there. He’d be better off for it today. Just sayin’ that when I suggest an activity, you might want to pay attention.
So, I decided to spend the evening hearing bands I have not heard before. This decision involved some pain as I missed performances by Hudson K, Tim Lee 3, Lil’ Iffy, Kevin Abernathy and Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet, all of whom I very much enjoy, but have seen multiple times. I decided to cast my lot with the performers at the Pilot Light. Fortunately, they didn’t start until 9:00, which meant I could stop off at the Knoxville Visitor’s center and catch a couple of my favorites, first.
Jodie Manross opened the evening there and began her set as she has most of this year with her rendition of “To Make You Feel My Love,” Bob Dylan’s classic song from 1997. I first heard her perform the song last December and I have to say, while I liked it then, she’s really found her own groove and simply possesses the song.
A number of her own songs followed and her amazing voice took center stage. Her songs are strong, of course, but that voice that can be by-turns angelic and so completely full of gravelly soul is clearly her magic. She’s one of a number of local musicians and singers who simply deserve a bigger audience. She was accompanied by a couple of percussionists and her friend, Laith Keilany on various instruments including his oud and his Taylor guitar. He may be Knoxville’s Most Valuable Player as he sits in with and adds so much to so many artists. I’m going to be the first to say in public that he and Theorizt need to collaborate.
Jodie ended her set with another cover, this one much less likely. Laith clearly loved channeling his inner Pete Townsend as he pounded out the opening chords to the Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” Jodi sang it to pieces, of course, and it was a fine, if unlikely conclusion to a very good set.
Up next, the Lonetones delivered their excellent songs and harmonies. I’ve heard them a number of times – beginning several years ago at Carpe Librum, the forerunner of Union Avenue Books. They were joined on this evening by Cecilia Blair, the other candidate for Most Valuable Player. Her cello makes everybody better and, if I’m not mistaken, she has been incorporated into the Lonetones as a full-time member. She definitely added magic to the performance.
At that point, I had to cut out and leave Jack Rentfro to his own devices – not necessarily a safe thing to do. I walked to the Pilot Light in the Old City, a place I’ve come to enjoy, though there isn’t much to it and the music is generally too loud for the tiny place, but they tend to invite awesome players. As an example, Tim Lee and R.B. Morris are taking up a Thursday night residency there starting tonight and running through the month of October.
I’d never heard any of the three artists on tap for that venue and, always looking to expand my knowledge of local music, I was excited at the prospect of new music. First up, O Youth struck a bit of a chord with me. Metropulse called their music “anthematic-indie.” A good description, I found them reminding me early and often of The Alarm, one of my favorite bands from the 1980’s.
Due to the shear volume, I couldn’t make out many of the lyrics, which I found unfortunate, but the combination of acoustic and electric guitars and the sweeping melodies appealed to me greatly. The lead guitarist has the potential to become pretty phenomenal. He’s very good already.
I should have researched a bit more about the artists, because I’d heard of Coolrunnings for sometime and assumed it was a band and I suspected there would be a reggae influence. The latter assumption had no foundation in anything other than, I’m guessing, the movie Cool Runnings which involved athletes from Jamaica. Pretty stupid on my part. It’s actually one guy, a keyboard and massive electronic equipment. I never understood a word of his vocals, but they provided an ethereal overlay to his beats and keyboard that felt pretty enchanting most of the time. It clearly fell into the electronica genre, but whereas Metropulse called it “laid-back,” I’m not sure that was always the case.
In a strange way I made a connection in my head to the Grateful Dead or other jam bands. Certainly a groove or a beat was followed almost to the breaking point in many of the songs. He definitely has a following, as the dance floor filled more during this act than the others and many in the audience seemed familiar with the different cuts. He’s certainly entertaining in a hypnotic sort of way.
The final artist for the night, Yung Life, took the stage about 11:30. Metropulse described them as next generation New Wave. It’s an apt description in that they are young and the music definitely has a post-punk, early MTV feel. Pretty exhausted by the time their portion of the show started, I’m not sure I gave them a fair chance. That said, it seemed almost like a cover band for the early eighties sound and I’m not sure that sound has held up so well.
The audience throughout the three acts trended very young. I suppose the music may have dictated that, or the late hour, or the fact that other artists playing around town might appeal more to older listeners. No matter the explanation, most of the people crowding the Pilot Light seemed to be in their early-to-mid twenties and they seemed to have a great time.
Me? I’m glad I heard some new bands but, on balance I would likely have enjoyed some others more. No regrets, though. I think it is important to keep pushing our tastes in all arenas. A great new pleasure could be awaiting at any turn. I don’t want to grow old only listening to music that was popular when I was twelve years old. Judging from the age of the audience that night, I may be alone in my age cohort in that desire.
How do you find new music? Have you tended to go out for live music less as you’ve gotten older?