I’m not sure if it was that I coincidentally made a different kind of round this First Friday or if I often miss major swaths of the goings on about town, but it was the variety of the events that struck me this time around. It started with a Polish Festival on Market Square which isn’t the most obvious event for Knoxville since, to my knowledge, we don’t have a large contingent of Polish citizens, but perhaps there are more than I realized.
As I approached the square I found Jack Neely in mid-interview with someone carrying large cameras. If he keeps working at it, he just may go places. I also stuck my head inside Urban Outfitters and I have to say they haven’t attracted the crowds I expected during their first weekend. The store seemed modestly busy, but I thought it would be overrun.
The festival itself was sponsored by PolandNow with help from various organizations and restaurants. Events spread all over the city from art in the Emporium to Polish print-making and films in the Pres Pub Annex, the festival on the square and a formal dinner with Edward Nowakowski, the star chef behind all the food as well as the beer and vodka pairings. A certain kind friend of the city bought me a plate of food and a shot and I appreciate it – it was awesome.
Two bands played jazz from the Market Square Stage and I’m not sure why jazz, but for my taste it beat polka music, so that was good. Undercurrents played the early shift and I really enjoyed them. Baseball the Band took the later shift and they were excellent. I also ran into Vance Thompson carrying his horn toward the Emporium for a jazz jam. Emily Mathis played jazz at Bella Luna to shut down the night. Of course, Jazz on the Square starts this Tuesday night from 8:00 – 10:00. Is it just me, or is Knoxville turning into a jazz town?
I never found the jazz at the Emporium and even managed to lead a couple of Stuck Inside of Knoxville readers on a wild chase in an effort to find it. Bill and Deborah found it after we parted and they tell me it is down in the emporium through some dark hallway. I’ll look harder next time.
Down at West Jackson Workshops, art from Gallery 133 hung on the walls while Alexia Pantanizopolous played her cello and a friend played accordion. I’m not sure if that was a tip of the hat to the Polish theme of the night or just Alexia’s idea of fun but, as with everything she does, it was good.
In the Old City I stopped into 2 Many Pixels and, as always, loved the photographs there by this month’s artist, Jake Wheeler. The gallery always features the kinds of photographs I wish I could take. They were scattered about on the wall, as well as on the floor, but they were all excellent, mostly people in streetscapes. Please go there and support this great effort.
Remedy Coffee also had live music and from the street I was pretty sure I could tell who it was. Katy Free and Wendel Werner with the Katy Free Three. Katy sings straight jazz and jazzy pop, with more of the later and has a velvet voice that can lift you to heaven and throw you back down again. Wendel, of course, is legendary, versatile, and amazing.
I heard a great crunchy guitar coming from Crush and stepped into a hopping scene with Kay Walker and the Marble City Three laying down a kicking Rockabilly sound. They played Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and a great version of “Last Kiss.” Of all the great music I heard Friday night, this was probably my favorite find. So far they haven’t played any other downtown shows, but I’m hoping that changes very soon. Kay told me they are currently working on some originals, so that should be something to look forward to.
Walking back onto Gay Street I watched an artist sketching a portrait of Ray Charles. The portrait was very good, but I thought the artist in the shadows, working his magic on the street was an even better picture.
Uptown once again, I ran into a group of guys having fun and as I stood there one grabbed a woman walking down Union Avenue and began to swing her about. She seemed to go with the flow, though I’m sure she must have been startled. His friends told me he’s always like this and is amazing in many ways, including the fact that he speaks six languages. You just never know.
I checked in on the drum circle and the fire hoopers for a few minutes and saw my friend Anjana. The drum circle is a hard place not to smile, for me. Yes, it’s repetitive, but in an enchanting sort of primal way. I’m sure it’s not for everyone and I bet a resident or two in the Holston Building wishes they would locate elsewhere, but I find it sort of soothing. I love sitting outside at the French Market drinking Italian coffee and listening to the drums. Its primal.
So, that was my First Friday. See what you missed if you stayed home? Fortunately, it featured the best weather of the weekend – just about perfect with a light jacket. I bought some smoked cheddar cheese at the Market at Union and Gay and walked home to enjoy it with a final glass of wine.