Downtown Dirty by manhole: what the hell is a Blankfest?


Blankfest needs you.

Some of you may recognize Blank News publisher/editor/writer/etc. Rusty Odom. A Pub and SCH regular, he’s a nice-looking kid. Maybe too pretty for his own good, if you catch my drift. Just stay out of the Big House, Rus, ‘sall I’m saying.

Yeah, a good-looking kid, but none too bright. And I say that because just a few moons back, boy got a wild hair and started up his own newspaper. And if you look up the term “fool’s errand” in any respectable reference material, “starting up your own newspaper” is the first thing you’ll read after the “i.e.”

But maybe it’s true that God looks after fools and drunks, because seven years later, Blank—a tabloid-sized entertainment rag available free of charge at finer establishments near you—is still going strong. And it’s even begun to dangle a dainty digit in the wild and woolly world of festival promotion, in the form of an anniversary shindig or three over the last couple of years.

Well, now that dainty digit is now set to become a big fat, stinky foot, with the Saturday, May 10 advent of the First Annual Blankfest, a multi-media entertainment event on Market Square, sponsored in conjunction with Preservation Pub/Scruffy City Hall and Brewery, and Visit Knoxville.

Blankfest will feature 15 local and regional bands—most of them at the aforementioned Pub and SCH, plus headliners Moon Taxi, Sol Cat and this mountain on the Visit Knoxville Market Square Stage. (Yeah, that’s what they’re calling it now; I sure as hell didn’t make that shit up.)

In addition to the music—and the hefty lineup includes such local faves as Dixieghost, the Crumbsnatchers, Cutthroat Shamrock, and Grandpa’s Stash—a second stage for non-musical guests will host comedians, dancers, poets, and burlesque performers at Latitude 35.

According to Odom, the point of this whole bloody affair is “to put an exclamation point on Knoxville’s entertainment scene. The scene as a whole—not just the music.” Toward that end, most of the performers—including 11 of the bands—hail from Knoxville and its environs.

“I tried to be as diverse as possible,” Odom says, “while paying attention to which bands I felt were the best examples of our music scene. I tried to represent as many genres of music as I could.”

As to the Nashville-based headliners Moon Taxi (featuring K-town homer Wes Bailey on keys, btw), Odom says it was important to snag a festival anchor with some extra cache. “They’re an important piece of the puzzle, kind of an eye-grabber,” he says. “We hope people will come for them, then discover a new favorite band along the way.”

There’s no question where Rusty O’s heart lies, though: “We’ve got new bands like Feed the Birds on the bill. That’s Jonathan Sexton’s [ex-Big Love Choir, and many more] new band, and they’re a little edgier than what he’s done in the past. It’s only their third show, but I’m really excited about what they’re doing. Then you’ve got Cutthroat Shamrock, who have defined the Knoxville scene for a while now.”

But the question remains: After all the fuss, will we see a Blankfest II? Odom groans at the thought, a little weary after having lived through these last umpteen weeks of preparation. But he ‘fesses up that, “the goal is to do this as much as possible. After this is all over, I’ll probably be raring to go again.

“The thing I love about this town is its collaborative, creative spirit. And I’ll be willing to show that off to anyone who’ll pay attention.”

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