downtown dirt by manhole: False Spring, and February Events

This sucks.

This sucks.

Do not be fooled by this recent spate of strangely Spring-like weather, Jake. The winter doldrums are still upon us, never mind what some damnable flea-bitten rodent in Pennsylvania has to say about it.

I’ve often wondered how the $%headed tradition that is Groundhog Day came to us in the first place, btw. Any jackleg knows that groundhogs are sordid, contemptible little beasts; they would just as soon nibble your nose and steal your wallet as give you the time of day. Do not trust them, nor their shadows, for they are liars too.

But I’m getting off topic here. The point of it all is that, while winter may still be upon us — look for some wretched, icy blast to come along and dispel this False Spring we are presently enjoying, any day now — there is hope in the air. Because these annual late-season spells of intermittent warm weather breaking up the cold are the inevitable signs that Old Man Winter is slowly losing his grip.

Come February and early March, the anticipation is palpable, like that full-to-bursting tension that comes right before the climax, and sweet, inevitable release. Savor it, because the Real Spring will be here soon.

In the meantime, we have a few suggestions for biding your time until warm weather settles in. Such as the Feb. 12 appearance of “Gyspy Punk-Grass” outfit Strung Like a Horse, along with the Blackfoot Gyspies at Scruffy City Hall. The Strungfellows are amiable madmen, and the Blackfoot Gypsies… well, they just flat out rock, like the early Rolling Stones following some mischievous muse into a backwater juke joint in the Mississippi delta.

Or the Feb. 6 appearance of Lady D. and Souljam — a favorite of our Benefactors — also at Scruffy City Hall. Or the Feb. 20 show at Preservation Pub featuring Andrew Sayne’s MEOB (see accompanying feature in this edition of Scruffington Post) along with local multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Matt Honkonen, and Zach and Kota’s Sweet Life. Or the Knoscars, i.e. “Knoxville Oscars,” Feb. 28 at Scruffy City Hall.

And lest we forget, local music scribe Wayne Bledsoe’s new WDVX Six ‘O Clock Swerve is happening now Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. in Scruffy City Hall. This month’s stellar lineup includes Jordan Hull (Feb. 4); former Judybats frontman Jeff Heiskell (Feb. 11); The Jank (Feb. 18); and the much-anticipated return of Knoxville trad/string-band outfit Dixieghost on Feb. 25.

All that plus Scruffy City Cinema on Wednesdays; standup and improv comedy; singer-songwriter open mics; and plenty of other musical and not-so-musical events to entertain you. Or at least lull you into drinking enough to create the illusion of such. Keep in mind that we all make our own fun, Jake. Some of us just try harder than others.


Now Playing: MEOB w/ Andrew Sayne

12036716_10204867645563082_1148536038525083457_nLocal music fans recognize Andrew Sayne as the primary six-string voice of two popular long-running Knoxville outfits, patchouli-scented rockers Grandpa’s Stash and Pixies-flavored four-piece Madre, of which Sayne is a founding member.

But for some 10 years now, Sayne has also been quietly producing, and sometimes releasing his own solo material under the name MEOB, an acronym for “Man-Eating Ogre Boy.”

The moniker is an old nickname, given to him by a friend in recognition of his considerable stature. “The pronunciation is up for interpretation,” Sayne says, with a laugh that quickly belies any notion he is, indeed, a cannibalistic meanie.

Now, with both Madre and Stash on hiatus, Sayne has opted to put MEOB on the front burner, recruiting fellow Madre member Stephen Osborne to hold down bass duties, and gamenight frontman Josh Manis to man the drum kit.

“With Madre, we’re all kind of taking a breath, taking some time to do other stuff,” Sayne explains. “And I have all these songs I’ve been working on, or else holding inside me for a while now. Some of them were written years ago, and some we’ve worked up in just the last few months.”

This isn’t the first time Sayne has played under the guise of MEOB. The project has seen a trickle of releases online through the years, and every so often, Sayne has performed full MEOB shows with “a revolving cavalcade of friends.”

In February of 2015, though, he spoke to longtime partner in crime Osborne about the possibility of making the project a full-time endeavor, at least for a while. The choice of Manis to round out the lineup was an easy call, gamenight having frequently shared local bills with Madre, and the members having established lasting friendships.

But adding Manis also meant that MEOB featured two veteran lead singers, neither one of whom will actually be the lead singer when the trio takes the stage. “We do a lot of harmonies,” Sayne chuckles. “We have two other lead singers, and they’re too good not to have them doing something.”

As for his own efforts as a frontman — heretofore limited to MEOB’s infrequent shows and releases — Sayne says he’s finally finding his stride on the mic. “It was definitely a challenge, being the guy who steps up to the font,” he says. “I’ve always been a decent singer. But in the last year, I’ve really found my voice, so to speak.

“I’ve come to understand how I want to emote and enunciate my words. I’ve come a long way in being more comfortable up there.”

Right now, there are a couple of MEOB’s latest tracks available for perusal on the band’s SoundCloud page, pre-release demos of a full-length album Sayne plans to release along with Manis and Osborne. He describes the tracks, somewhat cryptically, as “fresh, but familiar… something you’ve heard of, yet maybe haven’t really heard before…”

“One of the things that has come out of our playing together is the sense of dynamics involved in each song,” Sayne says. “We all like big, abrupt changes in songs. We’ve got some parts that are really heavy, almost punk-rock — heavier than anything I’ve ever done before. Then we also have some pretty, quiet, jazzy parts. It’s a real mixed bag.

“A lot of the songs are very personal to me,” Sayne continues. “And they’re songs I’ve been actively holding back for a long time. It’s really fulfilling now that they’re actually coming to life. And with Josh and Stephen playing and singing on them, that’s made them even better.”



Now Playing: Electric Pheasant Dreamland at Market House Cafe

1937210_784858864951596_544824795342407454_nMarket House Cafe nighttime kitchen manager Ethan Palmer hopes to bring spoken-word arts to Market Square with the inaugural Electric Pheasant Dreamland slam poetry event at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at MHC.

“I appreciate anyone who has a strong grasp of the English language, who can evoke an emotional response, or who can convey profound wisdom,” says Palmer. “That’s why I’m setting up Electric Pheasant Dreamland this way, because there are so many different means of expression. It won’t just be a night of sonnets, or free verse, or whatever”

Palmer explains that Electric Pheasant Dreamland, while nominally a slam-poetry event, will be open to all comers — poets, spoken word performers, performance artists.  “I’m hoping to bring a diverse crowd,” he says. “A lot of slams become very niche-oriented — not comfortable for people who are outside a particular set. This will be more ‘anything goes.'”

A Knoxville native, Palmer left town to earn an English degree at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City some eight years ago. Though he is now a seasoned veteran of poetry slams, he says his own preference is for spoken-word material — i.e. composed, well-rehearsed monologues, as opposed to the more free-form, improvisational verbal arts.

“My own stuff is usually written out; I like to choose each word meticulously,” Palmer says. “But I appreciate people who are into the improvisational side of things. And I’m all for the theatrical performance aspect of any kind of spoke-word art.”

The name of Palmer’s slam, Electric Pheasant Dreamland, was inspired by a similar event he witnessed in Baton Rouge, La. “They had an event there they called ‘Electric Truth,'” he chuckles. “Which, on the surface, sounds really profound. But the name was actually just a nonsensical phrase, a couple of words the organizers put together at random.

“I was trying capture some of that almost satirical element, and take it to the next level.”

Having only recently returned to his native Knoxville, Palmer says he’s not sure what to expect from the arts community here. He hopes to make Electric Pheasant Dreamland a monthly event at Market House Cafe, though; he says he has already approached a handful of talented local poets about reading or performing that first evening. “I’m hoping many others will show up as well,” he adds.

“We’ve got a Facebook event page, and I’ve put out fliers,” he says. “I’m still not sure what will happen, having just moved back here after eight years. But I am excited. Because I love the diversity of language, and I love the idea of tapping into its potential in so many different ways.”

Electric Pheasant Dreamland will take place Saturday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Market House Cafe.

What’s in your earbuds? Preservation Pub Food Preparation Specialist Sam Hull

1535553_10151963838583051_1132097345_nFive things I’m listening to: Sam Hull

1. Streetlight Manifesto: “Apparently, I’m always going to be a ska-punk kid at heart.”

2. Kendrick Lamar: “I really feel that more people should listen to Kendrick Lamar.”

3. Pandora/Rancid: “I always throw it on at work. It’s my version of the classic rock station.”

4. NPR: “You get news, you get music, you get ‘Fresh Air.'”

5. Jawbreaker: “It’s really good music when you’re kinda depressed, but not too depress.”


downtown dirt by manhole: The Market House Cafe, and Lemmy RIP

12507246_777440429026773_3825007236543737035_nHuzzah! The Market Square Cafe is at long last open, and that’s a damn fine way to kick off the New Year. If we do say so ourselves. This is a dangerous time, that dread last-half-of-January-into-February kill zone where the NYE hangover still lingers; the Christmas tree sits limp and dying in the corner; the holiday bills have come due and the dead-of-winter doldrums have dug in fast. So it’s nice to have some good news to lift our flagging spirits until that first blush of spring arrives, bringing a rejuvenating thaw to our cold and barren hearts.

This warm and welcome little hovel just a couple doors down from Scruffy City Hall offers… well, hell, you’ve probably already heard the sales pitch. Locally-produced foodstuffs and beverages, gourmet sandwiches, blah, blah, blah… all of which is true. But what’s just as exciting is that the MHC has partnered with Visit Knoxville, and will serve as a sort of secondary visitor’s center — i.e. the Scruffy City Visitor Center — when the Visit Knoxville location on the corner of Gay Street and Summit Hill closes down weekdays after 5 p.m.

A visitor center that serves beer. Can any of you think of a better idea than that one? I’ll wait for your answers. But I won’t hold my breath.


untitledLemmy is dead, and my heart weeps. I have been a devoted follower of Motorhead, and of Lemmy himself, since my teenage years. This is my humble tribute.

Lemmy Kilmister was truly the last of a dying breed. No pretty-boy rocker, this one; Lemmy was a hard-living rogue in leather and dirty denim, a rude boy savant with animal appetites and a vagabond heart.

His Rawk credentials were impeccable. His first gig of note was as a roadie for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. After a couple stints playing guitar with lesser London outfits, he caught on with Hawkwind, a band whose spacey, post-psychedelic wayfaring has influenced a thousand psych and stoner outfits since.

The story goes that Lemmy had never played the bass guitar when the rest of the band unceremoniously thrust him on stage, Rickenbacker four-string in hand, with instructions to “make some noises in E.”

The resultant fumblings eventually wrought arguably the most distinctive four-string voice in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, a barreling sort of bass-and-rhythm-guitar hybrid, delivered with a tone that was more akin to a DC-10 engine at the point of take-off than a standard bassist’s low-end thrum.

Lemmy was booted out of Hawkwind in 1975 — though the band’s best years were had with LK on the mic — after his arrest at the Canadian border for possession of speed. Or cocaine. Or maybe speed and cocaine. One never knows with these sorts of things.

In any case, if it were not for that little mishap, Lemmy might never have founded Motorhead, his greatest legacy, the long-running hard-rock and proto-metal outfit that has influenced legions of heavy metal and punk outfits in the decades since.

Lemmy once proclaimed Motorhead “the dirtiest band in the world… If you moved in next door (to us),” he said, “your lawn would die.”

Headlong and hell-bent, Motorhead’s music was the distillation of everything that made rock ‘n’ roll bad, and bad for you, its amphetamine roar pre-figuring thrash and speed metal and even hardcore punk. And the frenzied beating heart of the band’s unholy din was frontman Lemmy with his inimitable bass lines and that guttural, damaged howl.

In later years, Lemmy suffered health problems, the inevitable consequence of so many years of living wrong. Reports had it that he tried to cut back on his vices, but inadequately so. He explained his failure to moderate as a “dogged insistence in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.”

Lemmy died on Dec. 28, claimed by a particularly aggressive case of prostate cancer, complicated by congestive heart failure. If there is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Valhalla, rest assured that Lemmy is there right now, whiskey bottle in hand, snorting a line of speed off some lusty barmaid’s ample bosom. Salute.