downtown dirt by manhole: The Long Goodbye

hqdefaultLetting go always sucks, Jake. And the month of March will see us say goodbye to two favorite local favorites, through performances on Market Square and Scruffy City Hall.

Mutant Irish/punk-rock/bluegrass outfit Cutthroat Shamrock have been around something like 12 years now, or maybe a billion. I can never remember; my memory is shot, given over to years of weird chemical experimentation, and my counting gets pretty dicey whenever I run out of fingers. Point is, they are a minor musical institution hereabouts. And while you may find Knoxville acts with more fans than Shamrock, you won’t find any with more devoted fans than CS.

Reconstituted from the ashes of a handful of long-forgotten local three-chord mohawk-farming punk-rock acts, CS started when co-founders Ben Whithead and Derek McRotten decided to pick up some cheap acoustic guitars and explore their roots, laying into traditional, or at least tradition-minded, Irish and Celtic tunes with the sort of energy and attitude that sparked their more primitive previous bands.

Mining the same weird and unseemly jigs-by-way-of-the-mosh-pit mashups favored by the likes of the Pogues and Flogging Molly, Shamrock built a following, and found an audience touring the country, five and six grown men spooned into a single airless, funk-ridden old RV. It was a hard dollar, no doubt, but their frenetic live performances were all the better for it, fueled by the kind of devil-may-care joie de vivre that makes for the best rock ‘n’ roll.

Nothing lasts forever, tho, and youth is no exception. In recent years, CS changed the roster a few times, due to attrition, and eased off the touring throttle as members settled into the saner sorts of lives most of us inevitably choose, the alternatives being madness or malignant poverty, and probably both. The band will play its last show — at least until Reunion Fever strikes, somewhere down the road — on March 17 on Market Square.

And yeah, I know, St. Patrick’s Day is Amateur Night No. 2 (after New Year’s Eve, natch), the night when thousands of people who have no business drinking too much like to get out of the house and tie one on, ostensibly for the glory of some Irish Saint most of us know nothing about other than the fact that he had a serious mad-on for snakes.  These people are not Professionals, and have little understanding of what it means to stand on the razor’s edge of sanity night after night and stare into the abyss without falling off or else losing their shit.

Deal with it, tho. Because Cutthroat Shamrock’s last show simply oughtn’t be missed. I wouldn’t steer you wrong on this one, Jake.

Likewise, don’t miss the last performance of local cabaret rockers  Sidecar Symposium March 11 at Scruffy City Hall. They haven’t been around quite as long as Cutthroat Shamrock, maybe, but their risible, ribald, theatrical multi-media performances make for just as much unhinged, crazy fun. Ah, Sidecar; your time with us has been far too short.

Before I leave you, I should mention, too, the return of Rockabilly showstoppers the Royal Hounds to Preservation Pub March 18, and the Women in Jazz Festival at Scruffy City Hall March 19. And of course, the second annual Funny Ears Fringe Festival, across both venues, at the end of the month. More on that later, Jake. For now, I must go and attend to more pressing affairs.


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