Second Bell Sofa Soiree Set for Saturday to Raise Money for Local Bands and Businesses

As Rusty Odom, Editor of Blank Newspaper, watched the growing storm of the Coronavirus, he began thinking of ways to make the struggle a bit easier. “Necessity requires invention. We can’t let this thing rob us of our creativity.” As the producer of Second Bell Music Festival the last two years and Blankfest in the years before, he’d often promoted smaller shows that pointed toward the festival and he began to wonder if, even in this age of social distancing, something similar would be possible.

Bands for this year’s festival had been booked, and Rusty had planned small events to promote it once again, but he began thinking how that might be possible without physically bringing people together. A conversation between Tyler Larabee of Stonefish and Wayne Bledsoe about Stonefish’s new album and Kickstarter led Wayne to suggest streaming a concert. He mentioned it to Rusty who began researching the idea.

By this time venues were being closed, and it was becoming obvious that Safer at Home would not be a short event. Rusty decided to target March 28 for a streaming concert to raise money for local musicians who are now out of work. Initially, he hoped everything might be opened back up by that date, and the concert would become unnecessary. Then Coachella and the NBA season were cancelled. People in the entertainment industry began to realize this would seriously impact them.

Daje Morris, Waynestock at Relix Theatre, Knoxville, February 2019

He began approaching bands and got universally positive responses. They were excited by the project. Along the way, Rusty began to consider how the event might also incorporate the local businesses that have been closed and whose employees and owners are hurting. He approached Blank Newspaper advertisers and then began to contact others. The effort is now open to any local businesses that have had to close to either sell gift cards or accept donations.

And so, Second Bell Sofa Soiree was born and has evolved. The live music event will be held this Saturday from early afternoon into the evening. Check the Facebook page for links and enjoy the event for free. Donation platforms will be set up for businesses, bands, musicians, and service industry workers to get direct donations.

You may see a favorite business, a new band you enjoy, or your favorite bartender and you’ll be able to drop something in their tip jar. The platform has yet to be determined, but Twitch and Youtube are the most likely candidates. All money will go directly where viewers send it. None of the donations will flow through Second Bell. If you’d like to be included, send a message to Rusty by liking the Facebook event page and sending him a message. He’ll try to include everyone possible.

Travis Bigwood and the Lonesome Doves, Rhythm n Blooms, Knoxville, May 2019

What you’ll see if you tune in, in addition to opportunities to donate, is some of Knoxville’s finest musical acts performing sets ranging from fifteen to thirty minutes. “The goal is to help all these people in financial need and to highlight the local entertainment scene. We want to give people something that makes them feel proud.” He said he’s hoping, as always, that this grows the love for local music.

As of the time of our interview he had fifteen to twenty performers lined up, most of whom will have fifteen minute slots. He says performers have been asked to showcase their music with little talk. “I’ve learned it’s best to keep things moving. This setting is more conducive to giving people an opportunity to celebrate a wider range of entertainment, which necessitates keeping the sets shorter.”

The event will be hosted by Rusty and Brandon Gibson who will keep things moving. Musical artists will perform from the location in which they are sheltering. No crowds will gather to hear or to make the music. Rusty told the bands, “It’s an escape. Play your heart out and help everyone forget for a while.” All viewers have to do is have a good time. It’s supposed to be some fun we can enjoy together while staying apart. And if the spirit moves, donations are good.

Cruz Contreras with Jamie Cook, John Black Studio, Knoxville Rhythm and Blooms 2012


The Thrift Store Cowboys, Second Bell Festival, Knoxville, August 2018

Sponsors are joining in to help defray production costs and those include Cherokee Distributing, Blue Sky Insurance, Sierra Nevada, Visit Knoxville and Inside of Knoxville. Any money raised from sponsors that exceeds costs will be given directly to the beneficiaries of the event.

“In the short term, we want to help people, now. In the long term we want to make a positive outcome from a negative situation. It’s why I started Blank Newspaper; to highlight all these wonderful businesses and bands. Our job is easy because we have so many talented people to celebrate.”

Remember, check in on the Second Bell Festival Facebook Page for updates on performers, starting time, and links to watch the show. And enjoy. And give.