Like a mushroom after a spring rain, the Lava Lounge sprung up in West Knox seemingly overnight. Yours truly almost drove into the oncoming soccer moms in their SUVs when I first saw the big black and purple sign on Kingston Pike, wedged between U-Haul and Stefano's. "It's a cross between the old Mercury and The Underground," says proprietor David White, whom I called once I made it safely back to the sumptuous Metro Pulse office. "We're hoping to bring the two crowds together."

They just might be able to do it. The club is split in two: one half holds a game room with a dart board and pool tables, the other half is a dance floor. A slate of DJs have already been lined up, with Special K spinning alternative on Wednesday and Saturday, Jolby with more alt. on Friday, and Matt bringing Industrial on Thursday and Retro '80s on Sunday. The Lava Lounge charges no cover before 10 p.m. and happy hour is from 4-7 p.m. The club is located at 7213 1/2 Kingston Pike and Mr. White and co-owner Miles Tefft can be reached at 558-0099.

Notes & Quotes from the Smoky Mountain Jam

Sunday's music fest drew 6,000 or so sweltering fans to the South Lawn and amphitheater at World's Fair Park, providing eight acts for $25—a bargain even if you only liked half of them. Some random moments:

* The V-Roys took the amphitheater stage a little after 4 p.m. to riotous applause and announced their long-awaited second album is finally supposed to come out Oct. 6. Their good-natured set included many by-now familiar tunes from that unreleased opus—which promises to be among the year's best—along with old favorites like "Wind Down." Bonus cojones points to the boys for taking the stage in their traditional black suits even though the thermometer on top of the FANB building read 101 degrees. "It's a little foolish to be wearing suits when it's this hot," Scott Miller deadpanned, "but we just came from church." (The ever-cool Miller mysteriously avoided breaking a visible sweat, even though his bandmates had soaked their shirts by the end of the set.)

* Lucinda Williams' climactic amphitheater set was fragile, gorgeous, sexy, lovable, heartbreaking, and all the other things she's been called in the music press recently. Williams, who used to spend time hereabouts with ex-scenester Brian Waldschlager, struggled early on with a bad monitor mix and blew some lines in "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," the title track from her wildly acclaimed new album. But she recovered quickly and easily charmed the medium-sized crowd (some people defected to the Allman Brothers, whose South Lawn performance started about halfway through Williams' set). In tight black jeans, a cut-off T-shirt, and a white cowboy hat, Williams looked every bit the patron saint of the trailer parks and broken dreams she sings about. There won't be a better, more honest performer in town this year.

* Blues magician Buddy Guy got the man of the people award for his long amble off the South Lawn stage, trailing his guitar cord some 200 feet into the enthusiastic crowd. Guy, who kept promising to "get so funky you can smell it," was easily the most energetic performer of the day, proving some things—especially blues—do get better with age.

* The only scheduling miscalculation of the afternoon came with the opening acts—Marc Ribot's intricate, jazzy Cubanos Postizos in the amphitheater and noisy Knoxville rockers Superdrag on the lawn. The 'Drag boys literally overwhelmed Ribot's own monitor at one point, and the avant-gardish guitarist abandoned his acoustic six-stringer in frustration. The remainder of his set was calculatedly louder, avoiding the prettier pieces some fans had hoped to hear.

* One-liner of the day: At the end of his set, Ribot said, "We were really glad to play here at the Smoky Mountain Jam. We're going to take our money and buy a mountain to smoke."

* Final thought: It was great to hear the 103.5 WIMZ DJs get all enthusiastic about introducing the V-Roys, Superdrag, Lucinda Williams, and Buddy Guy. It would be even nicer if the station would actually play any of them.


Speaking of Superdrag, Knoxville's modern rock stalwarts found themselves in a good news/bad news scenario recently when their label, Elektra, announced its plans for the band's future. The good news is that Elektra has chosen to pick up and finance at least two of the three optional records on the band's original contract (the deal called for two records, both of which have been released, and three optional records to be funded only at Elektra's discretion.) The bad news is, given what the 'dragsters see as a poor effort on the label's part at promoting the group's recent CD Headtrip in Every Key, it might be better for all concerned if the band severed its ties and sought greener pastures.

According to bassist Tom Pappas, Elektra exercised its option only after other labels had expressed interest in signing the band. The move puzzled the band members, who have been somewhat frustrated due to what they see as a lack of support for Headtrip—no funds for a video, little radio push, and minimal touring funds. "They didn't do that great a job," Pappas says. "I had a kid come up the me in Knoxville the other day and say 'When's your second record coming out?' That's not a very good sign, since it came out five or six months ago. On the other hand, the options will pay well, so I guess there's only so much we can bitch."

The band's management will meet with Elektra A&R folks in the coming month to discuss the deal further. In the meantime, look for a Superdrag independent CD, consisting of all of the band's early singles (none of which have ever been committed to the digital format) to be released soon, available only at shows and on the Internet.

—Zippy "Option Me" McDuff