This Saturday night at the Bijou Theatre Scott Miller and the Commonwealth will take the stage for the annual Jubilee. It’s an annual celebration of the building once slated for demolition, the salvation of which ultimately led to the formation of Knox Heritage. One of my earliest articles centered on the 2010 Jubilee. Interestingly enough, it also included Scott Miller along with RB Morris, Todd Steed and Jill Andrews. As I re-read the article, it sparked one of my favorite memories of the Bijou: The four ended the show with an impromptu rendition of “Downtown” (by Petula Clark for the children among us 🙂 ). In the hands of these people so rooted in our city the song was elevated.
I met with Paige Travis who is helping promote the show this week and we easily fell into memories of our favorite shows and special moments. She talked about the many times we’ve seen singers or bands walk to the front of the stage to perform songs without microphones because the Bijou is one of the best acoustical houses you’ll find anywhere. She mentioned Brandi Carlile’s trip to the stage-front which was memorable because it was early in the set, while most artists save it for a finale. I remembered seeing Robert Earl Keen there years ago when he demanded silence (which he never got from the semi-drunken crowd) for his final acapella selection. It got tense, but the song was amazing.
We also talked about some of our favorite shows in the theatre. She mentioned Sufjan Stevens. I loved the blues shows back in the 1980’s/early 1990’s: Bobbie Blue Bland thrilled the packed house, I met Koko Taylor backstage. We still have the cherished Eric Smith photograph of my daughter with Joan Baez. Emmy Lou Harris, Jefferson Starship, Cowboy Junkies, Steve Earle, Vintage Trouble, Taj Mahal and on it goes. Of course, I’ve also enjoyed other types of performances, like the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s Chamber Orchestra, Go! Contemporary Dance Company, lectures by authors, awards ceremonies, performances by the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra.
One of my favorite sets of shows in the theatre was the original version of Tennessee Shines. Hosted each month by the affable and unflappable Jim Lauderdale, it was a great showcase. It was the first place I ever heard Mike Farris, Ben Sollee and a new band named “The Black Lillies,” among many others. Interestingly, there’s a tie-in there. The current host of Tennessee Shines is the same Paige Travis who I interviewed for this story about the Bijou Jubilee.
I’ve included a few shots here of last week’s Tennessee Shines, which was the first at Boyd’s Jig and Reel. After leaving the Tennessee Theatre, the show disappeared for a period before re-emerging at the Visitor Center. This past week it moved to the new location to a packed house with an excellent show including Greg Horne, R.B. Morris and Jay Clark with Jack Neely and Appalachian Hippy Poet Bill Alexander. In another connection, Bill is the person who gave me a free ticket to that 2010 Jubilee Show. And I didn’t even know him very well at that point. It’s just what we do, isn’t it?
So, the Jubilee show is this Saturday night and it promises to be another night to make memories at the Bijou. Scott Miller will play with the Commonwealth, making this an all-out rock show. It’s surprisingly rare to catch Scott in Knoxville with the full band. He’s often performing solo or with another musician or two, sometimes with old band mates from the Viceroys or the V-Roys. Ah, but there’s another connection: Your $30 ticket gets the Scott Miller and the Commonwealth show. Your $100 ticket gets you that concert, plus a pre-show acoustic concert with Scott Miller and long-term band-mate Mic Harrison. Oh, and an open bar and food from Holly Hambright’s Eventful Dining. So, Supper, drinks, pre-party and concert. Not bad. You can get tickets here.
Clearly it will be fun and certainly worth the money. But it’s more important than that. It’s about showing love to a Knoxville icon which was almost lost. Come out and support the Bijou Theatre. It has supported Knoxville culture for a very, very long time.