Downtown Dirt by Manhole: Triumphs and travails at the dawn of a New Year

Happy 2014!

@#% your New Year; I’m just here for the chicks.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Because you are predictable—all of you—like beer stains on a white tux, or Lindsey Lohan’s latest trip to rehab. And what you are thinking is this: It didn’t happen.

The long-promised, greatly-anticipated, and much-ballyhooed opening of Scruffy City Hall failed to take place as scheduled on the night of Dec. 31, 2013. After weeks of frenzied sawing and painting and troweling and drywall finishing, when the Big Night finally came around—the clouds of fine dust and hack-inducing particulate matter languishing in the half-light, then dissipating into the chill December air—it came to pass that the Benefactors had fallen a few feet shy of cresting the mountainous obstacle set before them, the towering aggregate of planning and hard work and inspections and the acquisition of numerous and arcane licenses and permissions in such a short span of time…

So sue us. I guess you’ve never been wrong before. Hell, I was even wrong, once… No, on second thought, that was somebody else. But the point is, it happens to most of us, sooner or later. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, Jake, and from this vantage, I see a whole lot of iniquitous mother@#%&ers out there.

But rest assured that Scruffy City Hall will open, sooner rather than later. And when all of the finishing touches have been finished and touched, when all of the splendid little details are manifest in full—and that may take just a minute, even after Scruffy City opens for business, what with the brewery and the waterfall and the rooftop bar pending and all—when everything is said and done, SCH will be a veritable beerhall fantasia, as breathtakingly cool as any Heathen Appalachian Gothic Pagan Viking brewpub-and-multimedia-entertainment venue anyone has ever seen in this particular crag of the great big rock we like to call the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Just remember that the best things in life are always worth waiting for, Jake. Stay tuned to this space for further developments.

But in the meantime, there is so much else to tell. Like the smashing New Year’s Eve show that saw our very own Preservation Pub stuffed to the gills with happy, hat-wearing, horn-blowing revelers. It was a tale of two bars, almost, with the upstairs Speakeasy crammed full of patrons digging on the contemporary pop/dance mix blaring from the sound system, and the hair-raising finish of the Chick-fil-A bowl on the bartop big-screen, Johnny Football and his A&M Aggies pulling out a whisper-thin 52-48 victory over the ex-Vol QB guru David Cutcliffe’s surprising Duke Blue Devils, in the teeming southern Mecca of Hot-lanta, GA…

But the downstairs Smokeasy is where the real action took place. That’s where local favorites King Super and the Excellents rang in the New Year with an extended set of band favorites and weird covers (a Mel Haggard-esque take on Vanilla Ice’s one-hit blunder “Ice Ice Baby”, no less!), plus the unveiling of several brand new songs from the band’s forthcoming second release.

The new tunes were easy sells, a hook-y mix of groovy disco-inflected rock and quirky pop. And singer Super outdid himself (and damned near blew out his golden pipes) with potent renditions of Metal warhorses like “Master of Puppets” and GNR’s “November Rain.” Trust us on this one—you haven’t truly heard good-time cover-band Rawk until you’ve heard King Super’s eerily on-the-mark impression of Axl Rose’s gravelly whine, or guitarist Max Dazzle’s virtuosic reading of classic Slash.

The night ended with another burning set from improvisational riff-rockers the JoJax. And while there may be better songwriters out there, more pop-savvy units with prettier frontmen, there is no outfit in recent memory that purely rocks with the same loud, rapacious intensity as Knoxville’s double-J.

Moving forward, there is much to recommend our beloved Pub (and soon, God-willing-and-the-creek-don’t-rise, Scruffy City Hall as well) in the coming weeks—shows from the likes of Shiffty and the Headmasters and Cutthroat Shamrock and Guy Marshall. And let us not forget the return of Band Eat Band, the Pub’s very own knockdown, drag-out best-of-Knoxville band competition, beginning Tuesday, Jan. 7 with contenders The Enigmatic Foe and Mobility chief.

That is all for now. So let us take this moment to wish you the best on this, the beginning of yet another numerically demarcated seasonal cycle/revolution ‘round that great orb in the sky we like to call the Sun. And let us resolve to make C.E. 2014 a year to remember. May your hearts be strong, and your aim true.

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