Of all the signs of the zodiac, there are none so simultaneously flawed and fabulous as Leo. Brassy and bold and bigger-than-life. Creative and confident. Genial and generous to a fault. Yet also self-absorbed and stubborn as all get-out, domineering and impatient and arrogant, always wanting — no, better yet, demanding to be the Center of Attention.
That’s our Leo. And that’s our Preservation Pub, which turned 14 as of August 1. And while 14 may not sound that old, it’s actually close to middle-aged, in Knoxville bar years.
When the Pub was first opened under the benevolent guidance of Scott and Bernadette West back in 2001, it was a modest one-story affair, nestled in the space at 28 Market Square that was once home to the infamous Mercury Theatre.
The Mercury was a ’90s downtown institution, a scrappy little hole-in-the-wall that hosted more beer brawls and cocaine conclaves, more weirdness and wanton degeneracy, more punk- and indie-rock stalwarts on its diminutive stage over the course of seven or so years than any other local venue before or since — Gregg Ginn and the Deftones and Superdrag and Seaweed and Modest Mouse and Alien Sex Fiend and all kinds of !@!# that none of us who were actually there can remember now, ’cause we were too @#$ed up when the deal went down. A mind is a terrible thing to taste, Jake.
The Founders never intended that the Pub aspire to the same highs (and lows) of Rawk wild-assedness as its seedy mohawk-friendly predecessor. They did, however, believe that it could attain a similar level of local renown, a similarly revered status, a similar institutional cache.
And along the way, the Pub has forged its own stellar musical legacy, one that includes the Avett Brothers and Cage the Elephant and the Fixx and P-funk (!!!) and too many local favorites to count in the space of a single blog post. And that’s not even taking into account the random drop-ins, brushes with greatness that include Quentin Tarantino holding court in the upstairs Speakeasy on a Sunday evening, a drunken and lurching Anthony Michael Hall slapping shapely behinds on the first floor and members of Swedish doom-metal icons Ghost quaffing brews, incognito, on the patio…
And in some ways, the Pub has reached heights the charmingly seedy little Mercury never dreamt of — blossoming into a magnificent three-story juggernaut, complete with a simply-fab Moonshine Roof Garden Bar, anchored by the one-and-only Magic Beer Tree.
And since we are discussing August birthdays, we would be remiss if we did not mention that Blankfest — the rising local music spectacular begun by Blank Newspaper — turns two this month, as well, with an August 22 festival date and a stellar mostly-local line-up that features southern/indie/blues-rock outfit — a long-time Pub favorite, before they blew up on us — as the headline act.
There will be more on Blankfest in the next episode of our little blog. Also look out for a new wine menu at Uncorked, new beer from Pub bartender Isaac Privet’s just-opened Cold Fusion microbrewery, and a new monthly (Wednesdays) Scruffy Cinepub event entitled Scruffy Science Cinema 6000. In the case of the latter, think “Mystery Science Theater,” only with local idiots (maybe you?) taking the roles of Joel, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.
And that’s all I’ve got — for now, at any rate. But check in again in a couple, and we’ll do it all over again.