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 bands—namely Superdrag and the V-Roys—began 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 Kitchen—not coincidentally on October 30—Niceley 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 Bluefish—the 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 band—now featuring bassist Jim Williams (formerly of Crawdaddy), percussionist Scott Billingsley (also of Armchair Buddha), keyboardist Jamie Aikens, and vocalist/saxophonist/harmonica player Scott Campbell—played 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.

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 coup—or 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 Band—not 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 industry—from 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 and Fostex.
To enter, call 1-888-766-4798, or check out the Web page at The deadline is December 31.

—Zippy "Old Spice" McDuff