Downtown Dirt by Manhole: Happy Birthday to Us

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thZDV712N8Much as it pains me to hear large groups of people bray loud choruses of “Happy Birthday” in public places, we have reached that point of the year where such displays will be imminently necessary. What I’m talking about is this: Roundabout the First of August—the same day we will celebrate Jerry Garcia’s birthday at both Pres. Pub and Scruffy City Hall—we will mark the passing of yet another successful year at our very own Preservation Pub.

A Birthday is a special thing, a time for reflection and fond remembrance. When I was but a tot, I used to thrill to Mama Manhole’s repeated tellings of The Day Little Manhole Was Born… Ah, yes, the thought still takes me back, to mother’s soothing stories of how, on a sleepy Sunday evening, with Papa passed out on cheap whiskey in the back yard, she felt those sudden stirrings of unrest in her abodomen. Which she was tempted, at the first, to pass off as just a bad case of the trots…

Okay, so we’re drifting off into some serious tall weeds here. It happens. The point of all this is the Pub’s own Nativity Story. Because some of us remember when the P.P. was but a twinkle in the Benefactors’ eyes. It all started because founders Scott and Bernadette West were looking to use the building they owned at 28 Market Square as a glorified beer stand, a way station for dispensing cheap refreshments during the erstwhile Thursday night summer concert series Sundown in the City.

The Wests soon discovered that opening even a temporary, conditional beer hovel was scarcely less complicated—logistically and statutorally—than just opening a @#$% full-time bar. So that’s what they did; Preservation Pub was born.

Market Square wasn’t very exciting back then; outside a lunch rush and the occasional special event, it was a Ghost Town after 2 p.m. most days of the week, tumbleweeds rolling across the windswept plaza as vultures wheeled and hovered in the sky.

Yep, there was scarce little proof of life. The Tomato Head was already a fixture, of course. And a couple of now-departed lunch spots were there, as was the Subway sandwich shop, and a liquor store that sold an inordinate number of single-serving airplane bottles.

The Farmer’s Market was there, too, but it consisted of only one farmer; and he died while the Pub was under construction.

And the space where the Market Square stage is now located was taken up in part by a grungy little brick hutch that housed a pair of public restrooms—which had actually become not-so-public restrooms, seeing as how they were usually locked against the intrusion of homeless people who were wont to use them as rent-free condominiums.

Those were interesting times: People hereabouts had Big Plans for Market Square, most of them falling into one of two camps. There were a few folks who wanted to run streets down either side of the Square, turning it into a just one more set of standard-issue city blocks. Others wanted to preserve the character of the plaza, and create a European-style town square with a stage at one end.

The latter contingent won out, of course—the Wests counting themselves among their number. And so the Pub grew, even as the rest of the Square began to sprout new enterprise of various sorts.

In the years since, there have been too man highlights to recount, though we’ll try anyway. Among them were a couple of notable mayoral kick-offs—both former Mayor Bill Haslam and current Mayor Madeline Rogero launched their campaigns at the Pres. And musically speaking, it was a favorite venue for an up-and-coming North Carolina sibling act known as the Avett Brothers, who made the Pub a regular stop back around the early-to-mid-‘00s.

The Avetts were single-handedly responsible for the Benefactors rebuilding the P.P. stage, BTW; during one particularly spirited performance, the bros. quite literally stomped a hole in the floorboards, right in front of the microphone.

Singer-songwriters Brett Dennen, Hayes Carll, and Will Hoge all graced the Pub stage—albeit with lighter feet—before they moved on to bigger venues; so did alt-rockers Cage the Elephant. And Modest Mouse came in for an afternoon set that was broadcast by longtime Pub promotional partner, radio station FM-105.3.

The list of “surprise” guests—rockers who happened by after performances at other venues in town, then ended up playing yet again—is even more impressive. Half of P-funk put on an impromptu show at the Pub on one evening. On various nights, George Thorogood, electric bass titan Victor Wooten [Bela Fleck], members of Snow Patrol and all of Blues Traveler were coaxed into playing at least a song or two.

The Blues Traveler crew had come to town to play the aforementioned Sundown in the City event. When, after Sundown had wrapped, other band members offered to drag portly frontman John Popper and his harmonica back out of the hotel room in exchange for an open bar tab, the Wests obliged. It cost them $700 in booze, but Blues Traveler played most of the night.

There have been some down times, too, over the years—most notably when the Wests were shipped off for extended vacay (selling the venue to sister Paula) at a couple of our fine federal penal institutions back around 2008, in the wake of money laundering charges related to the Mary-Jew-Wanna trafficking of a relative. If you don’t already know the story, Google it; at least half of what you’ll read is mostly true. (FYI: We don’t give a damn about sweeping shit under the rug around here; we operate under the guiding principle that The Truth Shall Set You Free…)

But a few hiccups notwithstanding, it’s been a damned fine ride. And it ain’t over; not even close. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, Preservation Pub—along with its baby sister venue, Scruffy City Hall—will continue serving up good beer and good times long into the 21st century.

So come out and celebrate the Pub’s birthday with us. But be aware that you needn’t bring gifts. Your presence will be our present.

Now Playing: Guy Marshall

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Guy Marshall, video courtesy of Live and Breathing

Knoxville’s Guy Marshall have seen a couple of significant sonic evolutions since their founding three years ago. But the beating heart of the band’s sound is still the cry-in-your-beer harmonizing of husband and wife songbirds Adam and Sarrenna McNulty, and that sets G.M. in good stead for just about any path they may take in days to come.

The band began as a duo—sort of—when Sarrenna encouraged her newlywed husband to showcase his songwriting talents at a Maryville coffee shop. Both Adam and Sarrenna had experience playing and singing before an audience before—albeit not as original artists—at Trinity Chapel, the North Knoxville church where they met as young teenagers.

At that first coffee house show, Sarrenna joined Adam for a couple of songs. The experiment went well enough that the pair played together again in Knoxville; they soon earned invitations to perform live radio sets at the University of Tennessee’s FM 90.3-WUTK, and local Americana non-profit WDVX (FM 102.9 in Knoxville.)

And they started adding band members, including singer/stringman Eric Griffin, another childhood church pal, and Adam’s first guitar teacher. “A lot of my first influences were just whatever Eric put in front of me,” Adam chuckles. “For a long time, that was British pop, and a lot of Radiohead. And then southern rock—I still think ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ [Lynyrd Skynyrd] is one of the greatest songs ever written.”

But in spite of McNulty’s assimilation of various modern and classic rock artists, there were other, deeper influences at work in shaping the band’s direction. The name Guy Marshall offers a clue: “My papaw’s name was Guy Marshall Shirley,” Adam says. “There were a couple of early songs about him, and some about the history of our family. And it’s such a badass name. It all just seemed to fit.”

Papa Shirley loved bluegrass, as did many members of McNulty’s immediate family. Adams says some of his earliest memories are of singing along to Alison Krauss records, when he was scarcely past toddlerhood. Those experiences told, once Guy Marshall came together.

In fact, the band’s earliest inclinations were toward bedrock country and traditional mountain music. “I was big into old-timey music for a while,” McNulty says. “Even though I loved rock, I was never comfortable writing anthemic kind of rock songs. This was an area I felt comfortable writing in.”

Though some rock influences eventually crept in, G.M. took a turn back toward its rural southern roots in the last year or so, especially after the addition of local guitarist Jonathan Keeney on pedal steel.

“This is by far my favorite mash-up of sounds we’ve had through about three different incarnations of this band,” McNulty says. “Lately, we’ve been diving really deep into outlaw country and honky-tonk, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. It’s been a whole lot of fun, especially after Jonathan came in; those old honky-tonk guys always had a pedal steel in the band, and Jonathan really jumped on it.”

But for all the yearning, heart-on-sleeve poignancy of the band’s live set, Guy Marshall is still woefully behind the curve as a recording act. Right now, the band has only one demo to its credit, dating to the first few months of its existence.

McNulty says the band’s repertoire has expanded, despite the lack of recorded output. “We have enough material for a couple of albums; we just haven’t laid it down,” he says. “But we’re getting to a place where everybody’s confident with the songs, where everybody knows it has to be done.

“A lot of our holding back has been due to me. I second guess myself a lot. But we’ve been evolving into something else, and that’s part of it, too. I like what we’re doing better than ever now.”

Guy Marshall will play Scruffy City Hall Friday, July 25 with Atlanta country-rock outfit The Whiskey Gentry. Show starts at 10 p.m

From the Vaults: Another Blast From the (distant) Past

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If you’ve read previous installations of this particular feature (all two of them), you know that we’re going to take occasional glances back through the eons to a time when Preservation Pub was not yet the neighborhood bar/music venue/craft beer haven/open-mic comedy forum/etc./etc. we all know and love. For most of the 1990s, it was a different bar and music venue–aka The Mercury Theatre–known and beloved by downtown denizens of questionable repute. A handful of performances from that era were even recorded, and found their way onto the Interwebs. (And yes, I know it’s hard to comprehend there was actually a time when most people did not have advanced video technology on hand in the pockets of their jeans…) We’re taking a look at some of those archival gems, presented here through the magic of video imbedding.

It’s hard to believe Washington state rockers Modest Mouse have been around as long as they have. But here they are, playing a couple of tunes (“Dark Center of the Universe,” and “Cowboy Dan”) from their early albums on Market Square in September of 1997, in the days before they enjoyed music-festival headlining status.

The fertile music scene of Chapel Hill, N.C., produced some of the most popular indie rock of the ’90s and early ’00s (see Superchunk, Ben Folds, Southern Culture on the Skids, Polvo…) A particular favorite among Knox Angeles hipsters were pugnacious pop rockers Archers of Loaf. Here’s a thick slice from their performance at Mercury Theatre in 1994. The Archers reformed in 2011, btw, after a 13-year absence from the scene.

Heavy Rotation: What’s playing in your earbuds?

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Rusty Odom??

Rusty Odom??

Rusty Odom, Blank Newspaper Publisher

1. The Handsome Family, Far From Any Road: “I just discovered them on the True Detective television show. Probably my favorite television theme song of all time.

2. Marina Orchestra, Oceans: “I can’t quit listening. We taped copies of the CD in select copies of Blank.”

3. Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots: “I saw his performance at Bonnaroo, and it was incredible.”

4. Thievery Corporation, Saudade: “I just bought it for my girlfriend. @#$ing awesome.”

5. Outkast: Aquemini: “I’ve been burning that up.”

 

 

 

 

Lexi H.

Lexi H.

 

Lexi Harris, Preservation Pub bartendress:

1. Pandora Old-School Hip Hop: “I’ve been listening to lots of Pandora lately.”

2. Pandora Hip-Hop Road Trip: “Hip Hop from the ’90s and early ’00s.”

3. Pandora Cure

4. Pandora Motown.

 

 

 

New Feature: Scruffy City Cinema Spotlite – Sharknado 2

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If you somehow missed out on the diabolically goofy film phenomenon that was Sharknado, fear not. Sharknado 2: The Second One is on tap for July 30 on the Syfy network, and it’s showing on the state-of-the-art hi-def big screen at our very own Scruffy City Hall.

The event comes courtesy of local musician and horror-film buff William Mahaffey, who has been staging regular TV and movie showings at SCH. Mahaffey is also hosting Sunday night airings of the Guillermo del Toro [Hellboy, The Devil’s Backbone Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, et al.]-produced FX original series “The Strain.”

So for those who were MIA for the first Sharknado installment, here’s the scoop: The movie premiered as a Syfy original film back in July of 2013, starring Ian Ziering (the original “Beverly Hills: 90210” guy), and Tara Reid (the American Pie girl), supported by a standard made-for-TV second string of hopeful newbies, perennial C-listers, and journeyman character actors. The plot follows three co-workers at a local pub who band together on a frantic mission to rescue trapped friends after an Omega-level waterspout floods the streets of Los Angeles with seawater. (Seawater that just happens to be infested with: Man! Eating! Sharks!)

It all builds to a nutty, so-far-over-the-top-it-snaps-back-and-whacks-you-in-the-face climax, a delirious, cacophonic B-movie symphony of exploding sharks and chomped flesh.

But the story behind Sharknado’s rise to phenom status is almost as far-fetched as the movie itself. Upon its initial showing, Sharknado performed slightly below the level of the average Syfy original in its audience share. But thanks to a handful of fortuitous celebrity tweets and some serious trending action, the film caught a buzz that prompted Syfy to air it two more times in the same month.

Those subsequent showings saw viewership rise to record-setting levels, and led to an eventual midnight theater airing at select Regal Cinemas locations across the country.

The best buzz-builder for the original Sharknado? Late “Glee” thespian Cory Monteith tweeted about the film, hours before his death from a heroin overdose in a Vancouver hotel room. The last words Monteith is known to have expressed to anyone were, via Twitter: “What the crap is Sharknado”. (And no, I’m not going to reproduce the @#$ screen shot of his tweet. That’s a really pointless exercise in taking up too much space.)

Now Sharknado 2 is here, and though we’re not sure what the plot is this time around, we’re pretty sure it will involve more large airborne sea creatures, and plenty of loud munching sounds. We do know that our heroes return, in the form of Ziering and Reid, this time backed by a stronger bench, a roster that includes Vivica Fox (Copperhead from Kill Bill); Kelly Osbourne (spawn of Ozzy); Billy Ray Cyrus (procreator of Miley; Achy-Breaky guy); Mark McGrath (’90s relic; Sugar Ray frontman); and Kurt Angle (wrasslin’ superstar).

The Rotten Tomatoes film rating website (which tallies the reviews of movie critics nationwide) scored the first Sharknado at 82 percent, summarizing thusly: “Proudly, shamelessly, and gloriously brainless, Sharknado redefines ‘so bad it’s good’ for a new generation.” Will Sharknado 2 bring the awesome with the same sort of joyfully unhinged enthusiasm as its predecessor? Come out to Scruffy City Hall and find out.

Sharknado 2: The Second One will air at Scruffy City Hall on July 30 at 7 p.m.

Who do you think you are: Pub/SCH bartendress Kimberly Pettigrew

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Is that you, Maggie?

Is that you, Maggie?

1. What is the best (or the worst) joke you’ve ever heard. (Or at least can remember.)

What do you see when you look down a mole hole? molASSES.

2. Who is your favorite superhero?

Captain Planet – I’m a little bit granola.

3. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

To speak all languages.

4. You are having a Moonshine Roof Garden party at Preservation Pub. What three historical/celebrity/fictional famous guests would you like to host?

My grandparents, Doug and Joy, who passed away, and my sister. They eloped and my grandmother wore pink. She lived in San Francisco and apparently wrote a book. It would be amazing to know more about her life and how they fell in love.

5. Who would you have play yourself in a movie about your life?

Maggie Gyllenhaal, perhaps.

6. If you were going to torture someone, how would you do it?

Give them permanent hiccups.

7. Describe your worst date ever.

I didn’t realize it was a date when I said yes, but when he walked in and gave me ‘the look,’ I knew I was in trouble. Then I had to tell my boyfriend I just went on a date with another guy.

8. Who is your least favorite celebrity?

Tyra Banks. She has a big forehead and sucks at smizing (smiling with your eyes.)

9. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

I’d drink red wine all day, go swimming in the river, and grill for dinner.

10. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A meat and cheese plate.

11. Describe the worst band you’ve ever seen.

I saw Creed in concert in middle school. They sound just as horrible in real life.

13. Describe Hell.

The KFC in McMinnville.

14. What would you like to put on your tombstone?

“She was funny.”

15. Describe God.

In Peru, they call spirituality ‘Pacha Mama,’ which translates to ‘Mother Earth.’ I prefer to think of God that way.

Now Playing: Grandpa’s Stash

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Up until September, 2013 looked like a banner year for Grandpa’s Stash. Riding high after the release of an exceptional new record, Where Does It End?, at the end of 2012, the six-piece jam/alt-rock outfit parlayed a string of first-rate shows into a victory in the Preservation Pub’s inaugural Band Eat Band competition.

But then something happened, an unhappy phenomenon that has struck with bewildering regularity throughout the unit’s nine-year career. Which is: the moment the band picks up any speed, the wheels fly off the bus.

This time, it started when singer-guitarist Scott Faw moved to Nashville, with his wife, who is pregnant with the couple’s first child; then lead guitarist Andrew Sayne left to focus on his first band, local indie rockers Madre. “Finding out Scott was pregnant, that was a game changer,” says trombone player and co-founder John Colquitt. “With Andrew, we always understood that was a fluid situation. And he said he could fill in if we needed him. But it’s still hard.

“That’s been our Achilles Heel over the years. Every time we get some momentum going, it seems like something gets in the way.”

Colquitt and fellow founder/bassist Niles Haury are the only Stash members who’ve stayed the course through the band’s entire nine-year run. On the surface, they seem like polar opposites—Colquitt, the horn player, is burly and blonde; reserved; deliberate and plain spoken in those moments when he does hold forth.

String-man Haury is a reedy extrovert who speaks in mystic riddles, a sort of walking hippie Zen koan. “I realized at some point that I’m not a person who needs answers,” Haury says with a smile. “I love questions.”

But they have more in common than a first glance will tell. And they share a special bond through the energy, and synergy, of Grandpa’s Stash. “There’s been a lot of waxing and waning over the years, but one thing I’ve always had certainty about is that we’re having fun onstage. The stage seems to be the great equalizer, the crucible, if you will.

“There’s something that happens on stage with us, something where people want to listen. I’ve always said we’re like a dragon in the hallway. We want to let the dragon out of its cage.”

Stash’s music is a lively mash-up of indie, classic rock, roots music and jam, with a subtle whiff of funk. And a dollop of pop, too—for all its nods to good-time neo-hippie aesthetic, Where Does It End? has as many strong pop hooks as any local release in the last couple years. “We’re a jam-band with three-minute songs,” says Haury. “The music has this bigness like it’s going to explode forever. Then, it’s off to the next thing.”

The band came together in Fort Sanders in 2005, in a communal haze of hash smoke and skinny dipping and beer runs at 2 a.m. “We started as just a bunch of drunk dudes playing music,” Colquitt says.

“It was the random shit of running into each other all time, a dust-ball of arms and legs,” says Haury. “And the cartoonist forgot the musical notes. That’s what being in a rock ‘n’ roll band is like.”

By the end of their first summer, though, they were a fleshed-out band with growing cache of their own original songs. They honed their chops at the Preservation Pub’s weekly Tuesday singer-songwriter night—despite an alleged proscription against playing the open mic with a full set of drums. “We’d come in with a full band, carrying a drum kit, to play two songs,” Haury laughs.”

It paid off; within a few months, Grandpa’s Stash were penciled in for a monthly weekend gig at Preservation Pub. But for all the serendipity in the tangle of their mad, happy founding, there were equal portions of misadventure on the horizon—band members coming and going, life changes and job losses and assorted pratfalls.

“From the beginning, it’s always been an absolute fire pit,” says Haury. “So much for the yellow brick road. It’s been more like walking on hot coals. This is real-life rock ‘n’ roll.”

But Nietzsche said what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, and that’s held true for Grandpa’s Stash. Through sheer force of will, Haury and Colquitt have held a unit together through most of a decade, and every conceivable turn of fate.

Now they’re reemerging, having played Blankfest this spring, after a more than six-month hiatus. They even have a small collection of new songs—Haury says Faw has chipped in with a couple, despite his remove and his new paternal responsibilities.

“For myself, I’ve learned a world of new things in the meantime,” says Colquitt who’s gigged with the Jojax, Baseball, and the Cornbred Blues Band during his down time from GS. “I’m ready to bring all of that back to writing with Stash.”

“When we’ve struggled, I’ve never viewed it as failure,” Haury adds. “It’s an investment. And each time we start over, it’s a new investment with new potential and new hope. I feel like once it gets going again, it will go fast. That’s our fashion.”

Grandpa’s Stash will play Scruffy City Hall with Dixieghost on Saturday, July 12 at 10 p.m.