downtown dirt by manhole: August birthdays

Leo want beer.

Leo want beer.

Of all the signs of the zodiac, there are none so simultaneously flawed and fabulous as Leo. Brassy and bold and bigger-than-life. Creative and confident. Genial and generous to a fault. Yet also self-absorbed and stubborn as all get-out, domineering and impatient and arrogant, always wanting — no, better yet, demanding to be the Center of Attention.

That’s our Leo. And that’s our Preservation Pub, which turned 14 as of August 1. And while 14 may not sound that old, it’s actually close to middle-aged, in Knoxville bar years.

When the Pub was first opened under the benevolent guidance of Scott and Bernadette West back in 2001, it was a modest one-story affair, nestled in the space at 28 Market Square that was once home to the infamous Mercury Theatre.

The Mercury was a ’90s downtown institution, a scrappy little hole-in-the-wall that hosted more beer brawls and cocaine conclaves, more weirdness and wanton degeneracy, more punk- and indie-rock stalwarts on its diminutive stage over the course of seven or so years than any other local venue before or since — Gregg Ginn and the Deftones and Superdrag and Seaweed and Modest Mouse and Alien Sex Fiend and all kinds of !@!# that none of us who were actually there can remember now, ’cause we were too @#$ed up when the deal went down. A mind is a terrible thing to taste, Jake.

The Founders never intended that the Pub aspire to the same highs (and lows) of Rawk wild-assedness as its seedy mohawk-friendly predecessor. They did, however, believe that it could attain a similar level of local renown, a similarly revered status, a similar institutional cache.

And along the way, the Pub has forged its own stellar musical legacy, one that includes the Avett Brothers and Cage the Elephant and the Fixx and P-funk (!!!) and too many local favorites to count in the space of a single blog post. And that’s not even taking into account the random drop-ins, brushes with greatness that include Quentin Tarantino holding court in the upstairs Speakeasy on a Sunday evening, a drunken and lurching Anthony Michael Hall slapping shapely behinds on the first floor and members of Swedish doom-metal icons Ghost quaffing brews, incognito, on the patio…

And in some ways, the Pub has reached heights the charmingly seedy little Mercury never dreamt of — blossoming into a magnificent three-story juggernaut, complete with a simply-fab Moonshine Roof Garden Bar, anchored by the one-and-only Magic Beer Tree.

And since we are discussing August birthdays, we would be remiss if we did not mention that Blankfest — the rising local music spectacular begun by Blank Newspaper — turns two this month, as well, with an August 22 festival date and a stellar mostly-local line-up that features southern/indie/blues-rock outfit — a long-time Pub favorite, before they blew up on us — as the headline act.

There will be more on Blankfest in the next episode of our little blog. Also look out for a new wine menu at Uncorked, new beer from Pub bartender Isaac Privet’s just-opened Cold Fusion microbrewery, and a new monthly (Wednesdays) Scruffy Cinepub event entitled Scruffy Science Cinema 6000. In the case of the latter, think “Mystery Science Theater,” only with local idiots (maybe you?) taking the roles of Joel, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.

And that’s all I’ve got — for now, at any rate. But check in again in a couple, and we’ll do it all over again.

Who do you think you are: Pub/SCH Bartendress Kelly Parnell

11221650_10200871856314384_7522339281432673776_nWho is your favorite superhero?

If I could choose one, it would be Captain America. Because… America!

What is your least favorite song?

Anything by Bob Dylan. The first job I had, this girl would come in every day and play every Bob Dylan song on the jukebox. It just burned me out on him.

What actress would you choose to play Kelly Parnell in a movie?

I’d choose Milla Jovovich, because she’s the sexiest lady to ever live.

If you were going to torture somebody, how would you do it?

I think it would definitely a projector with Nickelback playing in the background, all their music videos. And then burning them, force-branding them. Branding the Nickleback logo on them while they’re being forced to watch Nickelback videos.

Who is your least favorite celebrity?

Definitely right now it’s Donald Trump, with all the bullshit he’s spewing everywhere.

What do you say when you look at yourself in the mirror?

I try to have a positive self-image. But I also don’t see exactly what I want to see.

What would you like to put on your tombstone?

Nothing. I want to be buried in a plain wooden box, buried near a tree, and just decompose and become part of the earth.

Describe your most embarrassing moment.

When I was young, I lived in this condo with my girlfriends. And we would have random guys in bands stay on our couch. This one gentleman would always pass out on the couch with his shoes on. And if you fall asleep with your shoes on, you are fair game to be f#$$ed with. So this particular time, my friend and I were so drunk we thought it would be a good idea to shave his leg.  And we recorded the whole thing with a video camera. We started going to town, and his leg was bleeding everywhere. But we felt really good about it when we were done.

The next day, he woke up, saw his leg, and immediately jumped on top of our friend Splat, who was much smaller than him. He was choking Splat out, saying ‘Who did this to me!?’ And of course he choked out, ‘Emily and Kelly!’ So he destroyed our tape.

Years later, I still feel pretty bad about that.

Describe your worst date ever.

I hung out with this guy I went to high school with. I knew he had dated another girl from our school for quite a while. But he swore they weren’t together anymore, and we had a great time.

The next day, I talked to my girlfriend, who told me, ‘Yep, they’re still together.’ And he went and told everyone that I forced him to hang out with me.

What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

It was from Christina Aguilera. She said, “If you love someone, let them go. If they come back, then you know.”


Zeus Speaks

unnamedZeus is Preservation Pub’s resident djinni and spiritual counselor. Every month he holds forth in this space on questions that hold profound implications for the future of humanity. And on some silly sh#$, too.

SP: You have many strange-looking metallic runes on your table today, Zeus. What do they mean?

Z: They’re angelic keys to the four corners of the earth. Raphael is at the top; Ariel is at the bottom; Michael is to the West and Gabriel is to the East.

SP: What do you make of the tremendous heat and humidity we’re experiencing right now?

Z: Punishment for disobedience. This heat is unnatural. It just ain’t right.

SP: What is your feeling about the Confederate flag controversy?

Z: I think there are all kinds of things we need to take down, besides the Confederate flag.

It’s a piece of history. How can you look back on it and learn from it if it isn’t there? It’s a reminder that all people deserve to be free.

There is no such thing as a perfect flag. They’re all covered with dirt. Flags separate us. There is no one chosen people, or one chosen nation. God loves all his people.

SP: What have we learned from the recent train derailment in Maryville?

Z: They were carrying toxic chemicals. They should warn of these things ahead of time. So we have time to think about it. The key is honesty. If you live in the light, there are no secrets.

Zeus’ Quote of the Month:

“July is the month of Cancer, the month of Love. Love is revealed. If you can’t reveal Love, then you die. Love is Life. Hate is Death. What you do in between the two is up to you.”

Preservation Profiles: Pub/SCH doorman and local rap artist Jarius Bush

11796344_10204758452830780_906618548870582904_nSome hip-hop artists rap about Benjamins or beating up Rihanna or the pleasures of purple drank. But local rapper Jarius Bush — aka J-Bush — has always had more on his mind than kickin’ it and getting high.

A member of late, lamented local hip-hop outfit The Theorizt — one of Knoxville’s best-loved bands, in an era when hip-hop groups were largely a musty relic of decades past — Bush with his happy-go-lucky demeanor and luminescent smile is a forward-thinking rapper with a searching intellect and an instinct for self-improvement.

Past projects have tapped the influence of New Thought pioneer Napoleon Hill, author of the seminal self-help book Think and Grow Rich.

Now J-Bush — in full-on reassessment mode, having just become first-time father —is finding inspirational fodder from an online program by British author and self-help entrepreneur Colin Hiles. Entitled “The Mind Power Series,” his program is available as a multi-part series on YouTube.

“I’d been searching the Internet for programs that look at how the mind works,” Bush explains. “I’m planning an album soon, and the title will be Dreams of the Limelight. And I usually like to do something short before I release something full-length, to get myself ready and sharpen my writing skills.”

Bush centered his new project, Visions — which has blossomed into something of a full-length release itself, despite its status as a “warm-up” for the full-length to follow — around the idea of a “vision board,” a concept discussed in the online series.

“The idea is that you draft a board with images of the things you want to see in your life, what you want to be as an individual,” Bush explains. “Your subconscious works off images, not words. So it’s a way of communicating with your self-conscious, visualizing who you want to be.”

Bush ended up writing 11 new songs, each one keying off a different element of his personal vision board. The tracks will be arranged such that the titles comprise something of a manifesto themselves:
To Create

The Desire

Of Glory

Threw Pain and Strife

Say Something

About Revolting

From Kings

Que the Tape


It’s All Inside


Stylistically, Bush says Visions is a throwback to his hip-hop roots. “The production is traditional boom-bap, reminiscent of Tribe Called Quest,” he says. “I’m a big fan of that Afro-centric era of hip hop, the “Native Tongues” era, with Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul and Busta Rhymes.  That’s my roots, and before I do a big project, I like to go back to my roots.”

Likewise, many of the songs are lyrical TBT’s, like the track “Threw the Pain” (the misspelling is intentional, and metaphorical, FYI): “That track is about being on the porch in the projects with my dad when I was little,” he says.

“He would be playing M.C. Hammer on the box, and the song is about how music got us through the day.”

For production chores, Bush tapped California-based Average Thought, whose work may be familiar locally to fans of Black Atticus. “I love his production, the tempo of it,” Bush says. “A lot of half-tempo; it meshes with my style really well. His production has that old-school boom-bap feel to it.”

Bush’s Visions should be available on Bandcamp in the coming weeks, with a video to follow. And then it’s on to the hard work of turning Dreams of the Limelight into something real.

“Right now, my main thing is dealing with belief — belief in myself,” Bush says. “I think believing in yourself is the most important thing in anyone’s life, and that’s my message to people.

“If you are in control of your own mind, you can shine through anything. That’s what I’m struggling with as an individual.”


downtown dirt by manhole: New Menus, Nuptial Bliss, and Rampant Cornholing

Hole sold separately

Hole sold separately

It fills my heart with a profound and an ineffable sadness when I tell you that this blog has been published just a bit too late to preview the World Cornhole Championships, which took place with all-too-little fanfare July 7 through 11 at Knoxville Convention Center.

You heard that right, Jake; the American Cornhole Organization held the de facto Superbowl of Cornholing here in the heart of downtown Knoxville, a “monumental cornhole event” — and we’re quoting the ACO president here — capitalizing on the “growth of cornhole popularity around the world.”

It was an awesome spectacle, we’re sure. And if you missed it all, rest easy, because the folks from ESPN were there, too. And you will no doubt be able to watch the whole… glorious affair, again, ad infinitum, when it is rebroadcast on ESPN VI, in the wee morning hours of the coming months between reruns of gold-medal goldfish racing and the 2013 World Mucous Ball Championships.

And enough for that. In other and better news, we’d like to congratulate former Preservation Pub bartendress Adrienne Corts, who recently tied the knot with longtime Pub regular and Just Say Maybe frontman Tom Appleton, in a whirlwind elopement at an undisclosed but assuredly exotic locale. Dearest Adrienne goes back a long way with the Pub, as one of the bar’s earliest hirees, serving several years before taking a break to work with her dad, the late-great Ed Corts, local music stalwart and erstwhile proprietor of the Corner Lounge on Central Avenue.

Adrienne came back to the Pub again in more recent years, and has once again been a linchpin of the bar and wait staff, as well as a personal favorite of anyone who got to know her. Tom’s a good fellow, too — though he may be out-kicking his coverage in this instance — and we wish them both luck in their new life together.

If you haven’t dropped by for dinner at Uncorked on Market Square in the last few months, you should. Uncorked (nee Oodles) has been undergoing a long, slow, sometimes halting evolution since its inception under Papa Jim West more than 10 years back. And its growing pains have not always been pretty.

Consistently rating as arguably Knoxville’s best wine bar, Uncorked’s menu has often lagged behind its vino selection. To be sure, many top-notch chefs have worn the mantle of Chief Cook and Bottle Washer at Uncorked/Oodles over the years. And their collective culinary talents have produced many moments of excellence there.

But oft-times, those moments were fleeting; missing was the necessary grounding consistency — consistency of practice and preparation, and consistency of vision.

That’s changing now, in concert with two new arrivals of recent months. The first of those being bar manager “Aloha” Erica Casey, who has slowly molded the Uncorked lounge into more than merely a fine-wine haven, but a center for first-rate craft cocktails, as well.

Now new Chef Terry Roberts is making her presence felt, as well, shaping the Uncorked culinary vision — first with a new lunch menu, now with an all-new dinner menu, as well.

Having sampled a couple of the new dishes, all we can say is, wow. Our favorite cavernous venue at the center of Market Square is truly coming into its own.

Be forewarned, though, not to look at the new menu offerings — which will change seasonally, BTW — in hopes of finding a roster of greasy-spoon favorites. This is fine food crafted with a creative spirit and a delicate touch, savory proteins — hanger steak, seared salmon, center-cut pork chops — complemented by an array of artfully prepared seasonal vegetables.

And while we are dwelling on the subjects of food and drink, it’s worth more than just a passing note that Scruffy City Hall/Scruffy City Brewery Brewmeister-in-Chief Sir Logan of Wentworth has come out of hibernation and is set to fire up the brewing nano-lab located underneath the stage of Scruffy City Hall. Look for batches of Logan’s Legit Lager, Scruffy City Lowlife, and perhaps others, coming soon to a tap near you.

And finally, we send out well-wishes to the guys in Nashville-by-way-of-Knoxville funk/jam/EDM/rawk act Backup Planet, who had a recent mishap coming home from a show in Chicago, totaling their band van, losing most of their equipment, and landing a couple members in the infirmary in a nasty highway pile-up. Get well and godspeed.