I’ve been attending First Friday events in downtown Knoxville for maybe six or seven years and I’ve always enjoyed them. Whether I wander through the art galleries on the 100 block or through Krutch Park or Market Square simply to people watch, it’s always interesting. Often I skip around to various events, though sometimes I stay in one place and enjoy a slower experience.
This past Friday night I decided I would spend my time in places not as much on the beaten path. I did walk through Market Square and the 100 block. On the 100 block, I was pleased to see Patricia Nash open and I’m happy they’ve extended their hours. I registered for a purse, but no word, so far. While there I got to chat with Frances West of Knoxy in the Know, a style, health and beauty blog. It always surprises me what’s out there that I’ve never run across.
After that I went a bit off the grid and got in some good miles in the process. I walked out Jackson toward the east to Randolph Street and Mark Nelson Denim. To say that they sell jeans doesn’t really cover it. The way they describe it, they sell, “American Made Mens & Women’s Small Batch Premium Denim Jeans. Offering Custom Fit And Tailored Denim.” I’d heard about parties there before, but I’d never lined up everything to make it there. It’s basically a warehouse just around the corner from Saw Works’ tasting room. The party was similar to other uniquely urban parties I’ve mentioned before: Take a work space and make it into a party place.
Barbecue and a DJ were set up outside. The clothing was displayed on shelves just inside the door and on racks throughout the warehouse. Free beer and wine were served and artists displayed their wares. I talked to Amy Campbell of Tennessee Folk Art for quite a while. Her art includes stylized portraits of many classic country music artists, so we have that interest in common. Follow that link and check out what she does. Also on hand and very nice pieces, at that, was photography by Phil Savage. His Knoxville photographs are pretty amazing.
The final event I stayed for there was the fashion show which involved having the models walk a second floor catwalk while the crowd watched from the parking lot. It was fun to see a bit of fashion on a Knoxville Friday night. In addition to jeans ($160 – $325), the company manufactures t-shirts and skirts. I understand the party really got going after I left (and maybe that should tell me something), but I had other places to be.
Staying off the usual downtown grid, I walked over to Williams Street and Paulk and Company. Along the way I passed a meeting of our area Democratic Party having a social event. I never knew they were right here under my nose. Maybe I should attend a meeting sometime. I wonder where the Republicans are?
Paulk and Company, along with entertainer extraordinaire, Virginia Adams, had it all going on. The location is a manufacturing and sales site for the company which specializes in “high-performance concrete and dynamic metal fabrication,” but you’d not really notice that when walking in the front door. Hummus and crackers and a cash bar along with art lining every spare surface greeted visitors. Anjana Love Dixson flitted about hugging friends, reading tarot cards and prepping to be the announcer at the fashion show planned for late in the evening.
The artist of the evening was Zach Searcy whose multi-textured, colorful work was displayed throughout. I had a chance to talk to him about the showing and found him to be a warm and engaging person. One of his larger pieces sold while I was there and that fact was celebrated a bit. He later told me he’d had several sales through the evening.
Black Atticus and Carl Starr were on hand to deliver some of their spoken-word poetry. I’ve heard Atticus many times, but this was my first time to see Mr. Starr and I really enjoyed the combination. Their work is sort of like hip-hop without all the extraneous noise. I didn’t stay to see the late-night fashion show, but I’m certain it was as fabulous as everything else they do there.
I walked back across the tracks toward the old city. Along the way I enjoyed the view you see in the photograph of the JFG sign along with the lighted Sterchi Building. The JFG sign is sort of like a guiding star leading travelers through the Knoxville night. Or so it seemed to me.
Once back in the Old City I sat outside Java with a cup of coffee and watched people walking by. The Old City gets started a little later than other places and at 9:30 it was just beginning to liven up. I was struck by how much of a gathering place Aisle Nine has become.
At about 9:45 I walked to Barley’s, ordered dinner, and waited for the show. Bobby Bare, Jr. was in town and I’d decided to see him after a few emails from his manager. I remember his father’s records, but really didn’t know anything about Bobby, Jr.’s music. What I did know about was how Barley’s often operates, so I should not have expected to see him perform at 10:00 PM, as listed. Rather, after 10:30, and I think closer to 11:00, a warm-up act played. Two young women sang about every sexual act known to humanity in one song after another.
Bobby Bare, Jr. began playing right around midnight and played until about 1:00 AM. The music was fun, aggressive rock with occasional nods toward country or punk. All played with a sense of humor and self-effacement, it was a good show. His partners broke into “Islands on the Sea,” every time there was a break in the action, which was pretty funny. If he played another set, I don’t know about it because I was walking home. I’d hoped to be home around 11:00, so it was a long night, but a good one just on the edge of the downtown grid.