Downtown Dirt by Manhole: Funny Ears, and other assorted @#$

funny earsSo I’m sure that many of you, by now, are asking: “What the Hell is the Funny Ears Fringe Festival??” And, by extension: “Has the West family lost their collective f@#$ing minds?!”

The answer to the latter question, of course, is: Probably so. But that was established long before the events of March, 2015, so what of it? The answer to the former question is as follows:
Funny Ears Fringe is a Festival conceived by Preservation Pub/Scruffy City Hall assistant to the assistant entertainment coordinator and head custodian Scott West, as a complement to the better-known and ballyhooed Big Ears Festival, sponsored the same weekend by Knoxville’s very own A.C. Entertainment.

During an earlier conversation with A.C.E. Captain Ashley Capps, West relates that, “We agreed that the most fun parts of the Ediburgh Festival and South by Southwest were the non-official ‘fringe’ elements surrounding the official events.”

So West conceived FEFF as a way to expose the influx of sundry and international vistiors–in town for the aforementioned Big Ears fest–to the wonderful diversity of weird rock ‘n’ roll (plus a few other genres, too) we have to offer here in Knoxville and Tennessee.

In addition to the music, there will be a costume contest and other assorted goofy @#$ over the course of the long weekend. But mostly, FEFF will be about the bands, a stunning diversity of popular and unsual local and regional acts, nearly 40 across two venues from Friday, March 27 through Sunday March 29.

A short list of performers includes King Super and the Excellents, Sidecar Symposium, former Superdrag bassist Tom Pappas, Senryu, Grandpa’s Stash, Jon “Cornbred” Worley, and local multi-instrumentalist and electronic composer Wesley Wyrick, whom West describes as “our very own Kronos quartet.”

Or maybe our very own Marc Ribot would be more accurate–Ribot being the more-than-just-jazz guitar player who played in, like, one thousand different bands/duos/projects/etc. across the Big Ears weekend of 2014, including a couple at Scruffy City Hall. Wyrick, likewise, will play in various guises at FEFF, including an electronic project in conjunction with visual artist Kenta Nolin; with his avant jazz trio Box Set; and with math-rock duo Glassworks, which also includes Yak Strangler (another FEFF participant) drummer Rylan Bledsoe.

FEFF isn’t the only thing currently happening with the West family businesses, though, here at the giddy and welcome dawn of Springtime 2015. Did we mention FEFF co-sponsor SweetWater Brewing Company? Well, we should have, because they’ve been busy, too. In February, SweetWater sponsored something called SweetWater Sessions, a sort of one-night, winner-takes-all fight-to-the-death band contest on two stages at the Pub and SCH, with the night’s champions winning a slot in this year’s South by Southwest festival, which is likely still going on in Austin, Tex., even as you read these words.

It was a hella good time, with the Crumbsnatchers, Madre, Johnny Astro and the Big Bang, Tin Tarmac and the Burns, and the New Romantics all showing up big, putting on a slew of rousing performances at that wiggy weekend show. But in the end, the Crumbsnatchers would not be denied, and after a slow-ish start, they ran away with the SXSW prize.

It was a fitting end, considering that the ‘snatchers came within a few votes of winning the Pub’s last two Band Eat Band contests. This time out, their combustible live performance and weirdly compelling brand of angular-yet-pleasingly-crunch pop-rock wouldn’t be denied.

And it was hardly a bad night for the evening’s runners-up, inasmuch as everyone who played received lovely parting gifts, too ease the pain of missing out on Austin T. Tina Tarmac and the Burns–imagine a more metal-infused, grrrl-fronted version of the Ramones–was anointed as opening act for the Whigs  at Scruffy City Hall, while everyone else some sort of choice position in upcoming Pub/SCH productions.

Lastest but not leastest, you’ve probably heard by now that the Wests are rolling out yet another business venture, in the form of the Market House Cafe, a sort of combination cafe/lounge/visitor center at 36 Market Square, with locally brewed beer and locally brewed coffee and locally prepared goodies from various well-known local vendors, soups and BBQ and sandwiches and pastries and bread.

Says West, “We want to use other local kitchens as our kitchen.”

The MHC will also be tied in with a phone-app-directed walking tour of Scruffy City, and will feature the longest and most splendiferous patio in town, a plush man-cave, and music and other broadcasts from Scruffy City Radio and TV.

Did we mention the rooftop bar at Scruffy City Hall is set to open within the next very, very few weeks? I don’t suppose we did. Ah, well–that’s more for another time. We’ll talk again soon.

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