We all want to know a secret. Especially a secret of a juicy sort. I met Kent Oglesby and Garrett Thomson for a quick talk about a particular secret the two have tucked away. Kent is the webmaster for Knoxville Music Warehouse, a website devoted to music – much of it local or regional – which he has operated for the past two years. The website, along with performing emcee duties on various trivia nights around town is his full-time job. It’s really about the music, he points out, noting that trivia nights give him the chance to “make everybody listen to local bands.”
The website features a local concert calendar which I found very user-friendly and thorough, as well as album reviews, concert reviews and a fun feature called “Red Couch Chats,” which features, literally, ten second interviews with musicians. The site does include national music news, but focuses on local or regional artists, as well as other artists who regularly perform in the city.
Among the mix of interesting music-related features highlighted on the page is something called “secret concerts.” How can a concert be secret and include an audience? Well, that’s where Garrett Thomson enters the picture. Garrett, who is originally from Knoxville, but lived in Nashville for several years before returning home, sees himself as “a catalyst of music.” He works full time as a project manager for Dogwood Arts and is in charge of their portion of the Knoxville Film Festival and Rhythm and Blooms. He also manages musical artists including such notable artists as Caleb Hawley via his Asterisk Management Company.
It was Garrett who thought of the idea of secret concerts. He teamed up with Kent who pointed out that “adding events gives a physical reality to something that can be a lonely pursuit.” While living in Nashville, Garrett worked as a volunteer for Cause a Scene which hosted numerous, small concerts in that city. They started with house concerts, but also added the concept of secret shows, which Garrett is bringing here.
How does it work? Basically, Garrett lines up excellent musical artists, finds an incredible and intimate venue which may only accommodate fifty to a hundred tickets and Kent sells the tickets via his website – which is the only source for purchasing those tickets. The catch? You don’t know where the concert is. It’s secret until the day before the show when ticket holders, only, are informed via email of the secret location. It could be a warehouse, a construction site, an abandoned building or a cool roof top. It will definitely be unconventional and cool.
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.
He was one of my favorite finds of the festival and to see him listed as the first in the series of secret concerts definitely caught my attention. He’ll perform July 24 at . . . well, you know that’s a secret. A cheap $10 ticket will get you an email the day before the show. It sounds as if the potential venues will be easily accessible from downtown, so you can expect to see me there. The idea is to hear great music at a good price, have a little fun with the secrecy and to expose people to buildings or spots they might not otherwise notice or find.
The price point might shift around for other shows – they hope to do three or so additional shows this year – but will reflect the popularity of the artist. The two can even envision the possibility of secret-secret shows. In this case the place and the artist would be secret. Sound crazy? That’s what I told them, but they pointed out, if the concept grows, people will begin to trust that a great experience is waiting and who wants to be left out of the cool experience that all the cool people will be talking about?
Both the guys feel that Knoxville has a special music scene – both with great local musicians, but also with great listeners. People come out to hear live music in this city and respond well to the artists who play here. At the same time, the scene isn’t so overrun that there isn’t room for a new concept.
So, check out Kent’s great website, buy a ticket to the Joseph LaMay Secret Show (July 24) and don’t miss out the chance to get in on the secret. I’ll be there for the excellent music of Joseph LaMay and you should be there (wherever “there” is), too. The first one may be videoed by Wild Heart Studios and Chad Cunningham, so it may be your chance to be a star of a secret video!