Day two was a sweet spot for a lot of people in that complete exhaustion hadn’t set in, but most people kind of had their groove on. Jackson Avenue had to be one the friendliest and fun streets in the world for a few hours. And people from all over the world were present. After seeing the same faces several times, people tend to speak and strike up a conversation and lots of that was going on.
Our scruffy little city sparkled. In that orbit, it seemed like the whole world revolved around that street, music and thousands of people. It’s pretty amazing to consider that Market Square was slammed with thousands of people for the Chalk Walk, while the World’s Fair Park had large numbers for the Great Llama Race. What a day.
I’m trying to crank all of these photographs out in a timely manner. I took well over 300 photographs the second day, but I’ve bumped them down to just under 100. I hope you enjoy the few here and head over to the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page for 100 form the day in the Rhythm Blooms 2015: Day Two folder.
I walked into the Standard just after the *repeat repeat show started and found the room completely dark. My expectations for photographs dropped immediately. But then up-lighting popped on on each of the three people that make up this surf/indie/garage/pop band. Their sound really is a fun mix of all of the above. The B-52s are mentioned as a comparison, but so are the Ventures. Somewhere in between is some seriously fun music. I loved this show and plan to look further into their music.
I stayed put to hear Daniel Elsworth and the Great Lakes. Driven by Daniel’s keyboards with an indie tilt and a falsetto lilt, they are another fun band. Check out their video for “Sun Goes Out.” You’ll have to smile. After that show I had some time between sets and dropped into the Whiskey Shivers show and wished I’d been able to see more of it. Don’t let the rat-tails put you off, these guys are really good rockin’ country.
Next I caught Brad Austin at Boyd’s Jig and Reel, which is always a great place to hear live music. He had a full band behind him which included several great local musicians. It sounded as if they play together all the time. Always amazes me. Brad is a Knoxville-based singer/songwriter whose gritty lyrics are sure to grab your attention.
I kept the singer/songwriter vibe going with Joseph LeMay at Lox Salon and got a set of music that was among the best I heard. His vocals remind one of Jimmie Dale Gilmore or another Jimmy – LaFave. The songs are not for the faint of heart: gritty, honest and often heart-wrenching. Rolling Stone listed his 2014 release “17 Acres” as one of their releases of that year that you probably didn’t hear, but should. I think we’ll hear more from him. He was so good we looped around and caught him again later at Boyd’s.
Slipping back to the big stage I heard the final portions of the Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys and wished I’d plan to hear more. I expected more of a bluegrass set, but it sounded like pretty straightforward country fun, to me. Loved what I heard – and the sound – just like at the portion of the Whiskey Shivers show was crystal clear. I’d heard the Drive-By Truckers before and so I only listened to the first part of their set and, unfortunately, it sounded to me as if the sound got all muddy again. Maybe some of the big bands were pushing the sound past its limits? Of course, they were fun and drew a massive crowd of devotees who could sing all the lyrics anyway.
I left because I had to hear Amythyst Kiah who was truly one of the treasures of the festival. She has a voice that can be delicate, but can also blow you out of your seat. Her solo set is reminiscent, to me, of stumbling into a young Odetta. I told her I had the pleasure of meeting Odetta across the street from Boyd’s in the late 80s or early 90s at Ella Gurus. Amythyst is currently attending ETSU and focusing on their Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music curriculum. She’s someone that we’ll soon marvel graced a small stage in Knoxville. Her new album is “Dig.”
The next slot was a struggle for me because I wanted to hear Mike McGill and I wanted to hear Margo and the Pricetags. I walked past Pilot Light and realized Margo wasn’t happening as the crowd filled the street around the venue. I ducked back into Boyd’s for the second shot of Joseph LeMay. I made a game-time decision to see Gangstagrass next, despite my “no repeat” rule. I saw them at the Square Room a year or more ago and loved what they did.
A friend tweeted me that I should go to their show and that’s all it took. My photographs of that show are all from one perspective because it was miraculous I found a spot big enough to level my camera in their direction. Real bluegrass and genuine hip-hop, both art forms are completely respected in their mash-up version. And they seem to have a blast together. It translates to the audience. It was as crazy fun as anything I’ve seen in Barley’s. I made a mental note to see them on Sunday in the Standard.
From there I was off to finish with a late-night show at the Standard. The Midnight Merry-Go-Round hosted by Cruze Contreras was a tip of the hat to Knoxville history in the form of the Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round. Music from artists with Knoxville ties from that era or the Cas Walker Farm and Home Hour were featured throughout the set with many of the best local musicians (and some just in for the festival) performing songs originally recorded by Don Gibson, the Everly Brothers and others with Knoxville Ties. A great sing-a-long ended at 2:00 AM and everyone left exhausted and happy.