Road Blog: Friday May 04, 2018 - Knoxville, TN
May 4, 2018
We crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky with Gabriel at the wheel, Patrick riding shotgun, and me in the back. Deer Tick vol. 2 was playing as I assumed the fetal position on the back bench and, using a backpack with a laptop in it for a pillow, and tried in vain to get some sleep. I did manage to doze in and out for a bit and when I sat up we were driving through a good old Kentucky torrential downpour. Somehow Gabe always gets the shittiest drives. It cleared up as we crossed the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee and enjoyed sweeping views of mountains and valleys on both sides, bursting with big, green spring bloomage. (<- not a word.) I always forget what a beautiful stretch of highway that is and tried to take it all in.
After a quick pee break at a backwoods gas station and a few more miles, we hit Knoxville and checked into our hotel. There were classic cars everywhere, and a bunch of pasty old white dudes who are into that sort of thing had their lawn chairs set up behind them and were regaling in stories of classic car shows from years past. (Hey, no judging - we're all into something.) Gabe called it ZZ Top fest. We parked our van 9 inches away from a `57 Chevy and settled in for a little downtime.
Long story short, I was recently in the market for a new watch and despite planning to spend a lot more, ended up with a $10 generic from JCPenny. The maiden voyage of the watch was this run, and within 4 hours the cheap-ass strap broke. So after we checked in to our hotel I took the van to a nearby jeweler (read: “shady pawn shop”) where a very nice older southern lady dug a band out of a pile of dusty old watch parts, replaced the broken one on my watch, took my $14.99 and wished me a “most blessed day.” I nodded and told her to do the same as I walked out the door past a basket full of tiny ceramic frogs and Siamese cats. I stopped off at the Pilot gas station for a banana, cheese stick, and band aids, and went back to the hotel to find the boys crashed out. I considered catching up on some sleep myself, but realized that might be an exercise in futility, so I threw on some shorts and attempted to go for a run. This is hilly country, and these streets don’t have sidewalks, plus it was a muggy 80f and I was really tired, so it was rough. I was torn between running on the road and dodging oncoming cars with drivers more focused on their iPhones than runners, or running in the grass in front of houses with signs making it very clear that they were “Protected by Smith & Wesson.” I came across a couple adolescent bunnies munching on some clover, but they weren’t interested in chatting or taking photos, so I made my way back to the hotel, weaving in and out of vintage hot rods, and back up to the room.
We headed into the city and pulled up to Market Street, a pedestrian-only couple blocks of bars, restaurants, and stores. There is a stage/band shell at one end and they were having some sort of nightmare American Idol thing for high school girls. There had to be 3000 people out there watching and cheering on their daughters, sisters, and classmates while they did their best to sing Disney songs to a track. (Hey, no judging - we're all into something.) We had to park a couple blocks away for load in, and that was no fun, but we managed. Entering the Preservation Pub, the first thing that hit us was the blast of cigarette and cigar smoke, and the reality that we were now below the Sweet Tea Line. We loaded in, said hey to the sound engineer, ordered beers, and starting discussing the pizza menu. Pretty soon the other band, Andrew Leahey & the Homestead, showed up. We said hi, worked out gear logistics, and ate some pizza.
The Preservation Pub is a long, narrow room with the stage at the back and a couple unisex bathrooms down a dark, graffiti plastered hallway. There’s a long bar going almost the length of the room, and booths on one side. Andrew and the band set up and played for a couple hours to a good crowd of family, friends, and bar patrons. They have a great sound – a bit Americana, but a rock edge, with strong vocals, great playing, and killer songs. There were a few choice covers in there too – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jackson Browne, and Echo and the Bunnymen. They are also super nice guys, very appreciative of our backline, and easy to talk to.
We went up just before Midnight and played to a fluctuating crowd, as is not uncommon with these longer shows. We would have a bunch of people up front for a few songs, dancing, hooting, drinking, then they’d move on and we’d be working to the folks back in the booths for a bit, then a new wave would come in to check out the music for a while. It’s maybe not the ideal scenario, but it keeps it interesting, with the influx of new characters. As the night went on, the intoxication level of the crowd increased, as you might expect. A very attractive, inebriated, younger blonde woman was somewhat distraught that we don’t know any Lynyrd Skynyrd, but we placated her with a Stones cover that we have in our pocket for when we really need it, and she enjoyed a string of originals after that. Another dude really wanted to hear Crowded House, and I actually know the opening chord to their big hit, but that’s it, so I played that D suspended 2nd chord for a second, apologized, and we went into another one of our own tunes. It was a fun set – we played really well and the sound was fantastic. They’re really nice to us there, and we had a damn good time.
We got off stage around 2:10am, ordered one last drink, packed up our gear, and loaded out. We found a bass guitar left behind by Andrew’s band, and knowing that they have a long drive to an early show in Richmond today, arranged to take it back to our hotel for them to pick up in the morning. We’ve all been there, and it’s a sinking feeling to find something missing in the van. A couple slices of remaining pizza down and lights out around 3:45am.
This morning hit a lot easier than yesterday in Dayton, and Pat and I took the Homestead’s bass down to the breakfast room before they shut it down at 10am. Pat got his usual oatmeal and I passed on the powdered scrambled eggs that looked more like yellow asphalt than something that came out of a chicken, opting instead for some Raisin Bran and yogurt. Before long a big white van pulled up under the canopy, the Nashville crew got their bass back, presented us with a glorious box of southern biscuits as thanks (way above and beyond dudes!) and are now on the way to Virginia. We had a nice chat and turns out we know a lot of the same people (Zac, Steve) from when he lived and worked in Ann Arbor.
So we’re taking care of business, listening to The Who channel on Pandora, debating the merits of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and getting ready to hit a couple record stores before heading back to Kentucky for tonight’s show at The A-Frame in Bowling Green. It was a crazy show last night. Big thanks to The Preservation Pub, Andrew and The Homestead, and the fine people of Knoxville for having us in your beautiful city. We’ll try to get back before 3 years next time!