On October 30, 1938, actor Orson Welles, broadcasting from
The Mercury Theatre in New York, sent the nation into a panicked frenzy
with an adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi classic The War of the
Worlds giving rise to an ultimately tragic tale of American ambition
thwarted by bureaucracy and self-indulgence.
More than five decades later, Kevin Niceley opened his Mercury
Theatre on Knoxville's Market Square, and over the course of its five-year
existence, the club has established itself as one of the city's most beloved
(and oft beleaguered) rock venues. At least a couple of local bandsnamely
Superdrag and the V-Roysbegan their meteoric rise to
national prominence at the Mercury, and the club has hosted more than a few
national acts that also went on to media-riffic hype (Jon Spencer Blues
Explosion, BR5-49, Jonathan Fire*Eater, et al.).
The Mercury also provides under-age punk fans regular all-ages matinees and
offers a real alternative to alternative with infamous dance nights Hell's
Kitchen on Thursdays and Club Pompeii on Sundays.
At a recent edition of Hell's Kitchennot coincidentally on October
30Niceley and a select group of regulars quietly (at least by Mercury
standards) celebrated the club's fifth anniversary. And despite a long list
of noise complaints, temporary shut-downs, an ever-changing rotation of
competitive music halls, and a location many didn't expect to succeed, it
looks as if the Mercury might be here to stay.
Halloween certainly held a real treat for still-grieving fans of the
missing-in-action Bluefishthe band which used to scare up fun
every year by giving away an, um, uniquely-detailed custom clunker car in
an often outlandish costume contest usually held at Manhattan's. Reborn as
the Fabulous Crowns (in honor of those gilded and regal air fresheners
often spotted in the back windows of only the classiest cars), the bandnow
featuring bassist Jim Williams (formerly of Crawdaddy), percussionist
Scott Billingsley (also of Armchair Buddha), keyboardist Jamie
Aikens, and vocalist/saxophonist/harmonica player Scott
Campbellplayed a Halloween street party in the Old City, reviving
the old Bluefish format of R&B standards coupled with originals. The
band also played a warm-up sneak preview a couple of weeks ago at Hawkeye's,
serving up a reunion more than a few Knoxville music lovers have been waiting
for, when former Dirtclods Brian Waldschlager (now of Nashville country
slickers Shinola) and Phil Fuson (currently in Huevos Diablos) joined
in the ruckus.
GO, DADDY, GO
Look for local singer/harp virtuoso Mike Crawley to pick up his microphone
again on Thursday, Nov. 13, with a new band in tow. Michael Crawley and
the Mac Daddies will play their first gig at none other than
Hawkeye's, the place where Crawley's former band, Crawdaddy,
held a steady weekly gig for more than three years.
The new quintet will also feature a host of other familiar players, including
former Crawdaddy bassist Rick Wolfe, ex-Vehicle of Expression drummer
Michael "Bones" Allen, one-time Clintons axe-man Jeff Simpson,
and keyboardist/Free Formula refugee Ben Maney.
Crawley says the band will play many of the originals and a few of the covers
that made Crawdaddy one of the most popular live acts in town (and a one-time
winner of the "Best Blues Band" award in the MP readers' poll.) Also
look for former Crawdaddy co-vocalist Alice Newman to sit in frequently
with the new line-up.
Fans of bluegrass and other regionally authentic music enjoyed a new public
radio station called WDVX, at FM frequency 89.9, for several weeks
earlier this fall. The long-anticipated public alternative station's 200-watt
signal was easier to pick up loud and clear in the eastern and western suburbs
than in central Knoxville, but many hereabouts found themselves tuning out
our out-of-state, trans-Appalachian public alternative, WNCW, in favor of
home-grown WDVX. Then, a couple of weeks ago, the local signal went silent.
It wasn't the victim of a hostile coupor the usual suspects, i.e.,
loss of will, money, or lease. They're just moving their studios, in true
guerrilla-radio style, into a more convenient and serviceable camper in Norris,
where they should resume broadcasting soon. Founder Tony Lawson expects
to host the station's maiden fundraiser imminently.
If you think you're the BUB (um, that would be Best Unsigned
Bandnot our acronym, thank you very much) of all BUBs, Musician
magazine is looking for you. "Open to all unsigned bands and artists
of every genre," Musician's annual competition "is a great opportunity
for local and regional acts to secure national recognition and have their
music heard by people in the music industryfrom top music critics and
editors to established artists." Among those "established artists" is an
eclectic stable of judges: Aerosmith guitar gun Joe Perry, D.I.Y. heroine
Ani DiFranco, techno-big rock god Moby, bluesman Keb' Mo', and guitar virtuoso
Eric Johnson. Winning bands will be featured in Musician and included
on the magazine's Best of the BUBs CD compilation (to be serviced
to "major and indie label A&R contacts"; a grand-prize winner gets all
the above plus a "premium gear package worth over $10,000," courtesy of Yamaha
To enter, call 1-888-766-4798, or check out the Web page at
http://www.musicianmag.com/bub. The deadline is December 31.
Zippy "Old Spice" McDuff