I can’t let the end of the year pass without mention of what was happening in Knoxville as the Mayan calendar ended – or as it has been more commonly known, the end of the world. It’s one of those markers like where were you when Kennedy was shot or the Twin Towers fell. Where were you when the world ended?
I decided to join forces with Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet at the Preservation Pub as time expired. Jack seems to have perfected the entire end-of-the-world persona and if you enter one of their shows thinking otherwise, you might be convinced by the time the last funky jam ends. Jack has that effect on people.
Not one to wait until the last minute, Jack started ending the world at the Blue Plate Special at WDVX at noon. The set simply sparkled. The crowd overflowed the space and half the crowd had to stand, including Mayor Rogero who finally secured a seat when a couple of people left. What must thrill music lovers everywhere about hearing an artist on the Blue Plate is that the sound is virtually perfect every time out, as it has to be for radio broadcast.
With the help of a smaller band including Laith Keilany on guitar and oud, Lynn Point on drums and Mike Murphy on bass with occasional vocal input by Sonja Spell, the sound was big, but the words rang out crisp and clear. While later in the night the music would place front and center, in this performance, every word could be heard. It’s a wonder to me that Jack hasn’t gotten some flack from our more conservative neighbors and friends, but if there were shocked and angry citizens present, I didn’t see them.
Later that night an expanded version of the band took the stage in the Speak Easy at Preservation Pub for a more electrified set. George Middlebrooks assumed lead guitar and sizzled all night. It freed Laith to do more intricate work on the oud, though I really enjoyed seeing him get his rock-star on with an electric guitar. Amanda Rose Cagle from Chattanooga joined the band and added texture with keyboards and accordion. Nate Barrett inserted additional percussion and took a shot from Jack because Hudson K’s show the night before at Barley’s had failed to bring a conclusion to human existence.
One thing that I doubt comes to people’s mind when mentioning a spoken word performance is dancing, but that’s exactly what erupted in front of the stage during the show. The grooves, ranging from funk to eastern music, from country to rock are absolutely danceable and the crowd responded. The dancers included many of my favorite people. One day this Urban Guy is going to have to shake off these nasty childhood Alabama delta inhibitions and shake a leg.
Sonja Spell got the evening off to a fun start with her rendition of Skeeter Davis’ old song, “End of the World.” I spotted a couple of Aztec masks and one Mayan Calendar Girl. It almost makes a person wish the world could end more often. The musician who mesmerized me throughout the evening was Mike Murphy whose fluid bass playing almost made the instrument a lead rather than a rhythm instrument. I’ve heard him before, but I’d never watched his fingers so closely and listened to his playing. It is simple incredible.
The show was apparently being recorded for a possible live CD. I’m not sure how the vocals will sound on the recording, but they weren’t as crisp as they had been earlier in the day. Not that the crowd was bothered: the groove was great and most of the people in the crowd know most of the words from the excellent CD, “Damascus by Sundown.”
Next time the world ends, you might want to consider going out with these guys. I guarantee you could do much worse. I’ll leave you with a great song in case you’ve never heard of Skeeter Davis . . .