Old friends invited us out on a date for First Friday and we gladly accepted. It’s funny how sometime in the middle of the day on Thursday I usually think something along the lines of, “If I live long enough to make it to the weekend, I’m going to collapse and sleep for seventy-two hours,” but by the time Friday night comes around I really want to have some fun and the exhaustion of the week seems to fade for the moment. So, I was ready to go.
We started at Cocoa Moon, which has to have the most comfortable outdoor seats anywhere in the universe. They also have very good Lo Mein at a very reasonable price. It didn’t take long for our suburban friends to begin to soak in the urban quirkiness. Green Army Guy entertained a small crowd while Contortionist Tennis Racquet Guy shifted his entire body through the device.
Not long after we took our seats, the annual Slut Walk through downtown moved into the Square, drums pounding, exposed body parts bouncing about. I appreciate their point and I’m glad someone’s making it. I always seem to be outside when they do their thing. I think last year I was enjoying some crepes at French Market while watching dancers promote an upcoming show when they arrived on the scene. The drums really caught attention and lent a festive beat to the occasion, but I think this was the smallest crew I’d seen come through.
After dinner we walked to the Art Market on Gay Street and, while we enjoyed some of the art, we really had a good time listening to the vocal groups performing in their foyer. Their music is always among the best to be found on First Friday. Often it’s jazz, but on this night a very talented vocal group displayed their chops. Members played various instruments, yes, but it was the vocal harmonies and sometimes intricate vocal arrangement that made them sparkle.
The material ranged from the silly (witness the hats) to the profound. One of the members, introducing the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen said the group sometimes jokes about being a Leonard Cohen cover band. It was a good version of a very difficult song and they followed it with a great rendition of REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” Urban Woman was a bit nervous about the audience participation element they incorporated during the hat song and after a while we moved on toward the 100 Block of Gay Street.
As we left the vocal group, we passed Bill busking by Mast General Store singing on of the few Dylan songs he performs. I attempted to sing a verse of “I Shall Be Released” with him, but I’m not so sure it went very well: My party abandoned me and Bill seemed happy for me to keep on moving. A bluegrass band played on the sidewalk on Wall Avenue. A funk band laid down some eighties grooves as we approached the 100 block and an African drum corp played outside the Emporium. Of course, inside some of Knoxville’s finest jazz players jammed in a side room. Just your average Knoxville musical tsunami.
We stopped by Style of Civilization, spoke to Nina and the ladies checked out the shoes while we observed a horse masquerading as a dog. That sucker was huge and very sweet. We walked down Jackson to Too Many Pixels which is probably my favorite gallery, but I have to say the current collection of photographs didn’t really grab us. While inside Urban Woman fell in love with a tiny poodle or some such breed. He was incredibly sweet. Leaving there I blew it by not getting a photograph of a pet fox a woman was carrying around. Is that even legal?
We walked through the Old City and back up the hill, finishing the evening at Coffee and Chocolate II with a little wine, coffee and chocolate, talking into the evening and nearly into the morning. It was a great evening with friends.
The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful, but we did enjoy buskers on Market Square while we walked through the Farmers’ Market and took Urban Daughter to see Earthbound Trading Company and Coldstream Market. I enjoyed talking to some Georgia fans who were far more confident than it turned out they should have been. They said they really enjoyed downtown Knoxville, but what else could they say with First Friday followed by the Farmers’ Market?
Sunday was beautiful, as well, though we had to be a bit more responsible and get a little housework done. We got rid of the yard work when we moved downtown, but somehow that indoor stuff came with us. Still, it was a great weekend.
Finally, I should say “thanks” to a few people. Amanda Taylor of John Black Photography gave me a big assist yesterday with Lightroom (photo-editing) and friends and readers of this blog John and Karen gave us tickets to the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra last night and they were awesome. Good people in this city.