Road Blog: Friday November 18, 2022 - Knoxville, TN
November 18, 2022
We woke up to a very cold morning in Dayton with windy snow squalls and grey clouds making sure we were aware that it was fall. We headed east for breakfast, though Downtown, and watched the city workers erecting the massive Christmas tree in the central square, a surreal kick that 2022 is winding down and we have just two band shows left this year.
The Hasty Tasty Pancake House in Dayton is an old vintage drive-up breakfast diner that doesn’t do the drive-up anymore but still maintains the feel of that kind of place. Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and Buddy Holly were playing as our coffee came with no shortages of “sweetie” and “honey.” I kept it fairly simple with two eggs easy over American potatoes with bacon and an English muffin. Jacob took the wheel and we headed south on I-75 past the butter Jesus, through the usual quagmire of Cincinnati traffic, into Kentucky, around the east side of Lexington, into Tennessee, along the beautiful, but now gray and barren, Cumberland Gap, and into Knoxville. A short month ago we drove through this area when the fall colors were at peak, and those leaves are now on the ground, mostly brown and grey.
We checked into our Motel6 on the south side of town and had a few minutes to chill and freshen up. Our TV only got one channel and there was a magnetic photo holder on the door of the room with a barely clad, young (not all that young) woman in her skivvies. Interesting to ponder how long that photo has been there. The timestamp on the back was 2019, and I washed my hands after touching it. Just a bizarre thing to find in any hotel room, even a seedy dump like this.
I took the wheel for the first time this weekend and we stopped in at Lost And Found Records – one of our favorite stores. We had a good chat with the guys working and Gabriel and I each picked up a little something to bring home. I was tempted but ultimately passed on the $78 Nazareth live album. From there it was three miles south to downtown Knoxville, up to the edge of the pedestrian-only Market Square, hazards on, and load-in to the Preservation Pub, a few yards into the square. It’s a rough load in with that distance, and they do have a back door, but our van is too big for the alley, so we have to go through the front. No worries, we’re pros, and we know the drill.
We set up our gear and the moment of truth came as I fired up my Matchless quarter-stack. (That’s a powered head and 2x12” speakers for you non-guitar-geeks). You see, loading out in Lima on Thursday night, the head took a spill on the way out to the van and hit the blacktop in the parking lot pretty hard. It’s in a heavy-duty, pro road case, but still, there’s lots that can go wrong in there. Welp, nuthin. Barely a sound, though a faint sound was coming out. Gabe and I did what we could to make sure the tubes were all intact, and they seemed ok, but it’s hard to get to a couple of them without taking the whole thing apart, but that’s a job, and there was no time. I ran the cabinet from a cable to the `out` on my Fender Deluxe Reverb and did what needed doing. It was a bummer, that Matchless is the cornerstone to my tone and she’s down. But the Fender is a fine amp, and I can still get the volume I need and sound killer, so I’m fortunate I had a second rig up there. Looks like I’ll be visiting my pal Tom Currie up at Guitar Hi-Fi when we get home.
After soundcheck I was taking a leak as I heard the increasing pitch of feedback coming from the stage. I knew it was my amp - and you can’t have that - so I stopped mid-stream and ran out to mute the amp so as to not scare all the patrons away. I did go back in to wash my hands and flush the toilet, but four hours later I looked down and questioned aloud to Jacob…”Hmmm…I wonder how long my fly’s been down….”
I went for a walk around the square, as I always like to do when we play there. I called TrooperGirl22 who was just out the door to go see her favorite band in Detroit – Easy Action. I told her about my amp but she was too busy pre-gaming and getting ready to rock out herself to lend a sympathetic ear, so we agreed to get caught up on Saturday when timing was better. It was nice to see Christmas lights up in the park and I always enjoy the nostalgia of those pre-show routines and rituals I have in so many of these cities that we return to over and over again.
Right before we went on we learned that a mainstay at the Preservation Pub had just died within a couple hours of that moment. Irv was an employee, and when he wasn’t working he was always there. Everyone knew him and it was a somber atmosphere. We had work to do, so we did our best to elevate the mood and help people have a good time, but it wasn’t exactly a “Let’s Party Knoxville” type of atmosphere. A couple came up in tears and asked us to dedicate a couple songs to him saying “He would have loved you guys,” which we did, and in our second set we led a whiskey-shot toast for him (great idea Jacob!). There were lots of hugs and tears, and while I didn’t know the dude (that I’m aware) he’d almost certainly seen us play before. The crowd was light and the mood was dark, my amp took a shit, and we had a half-naked lady on our motel room door, but we persevered through our three-hour set, played well, and did what we could to brighten up the atmosphere. As our set went along the bar filled up and we were playing to a pretty rowdy bunch for our last few tunes.
We wrapped up at 11pm and broke down our gear and stowed it at the front of the bar. Brother Smith went on after us. I had a nice chat with Wesley and another one with Amberly. We talked about our love for Lexington, Kentucky (their home town) and threw some names around that we might have in common. They went on to a good room and played a killer blend of classic americana, jammy-jazzy riffy rock that had `em all dancing and singing. It was a lot of fun and they’re good people we’ll likely run into again sometime. I also ran into my pal Niles who we met the first time we played Knoxville in 2015 and it was great to get caught up a but, despite the sad news. He's a laid back, positive dude and we had a nice visit.
As we were finishing loading out three Knoxville police asked us if we were in the van (“um no, but they told us it was cool if we put all their gear in this sweet van and drive away with it while they had a beer”) and where was the Preservation Pub? There’d been a call I guess, though they wouldn’t say what. I took the wheel and got us back to the [Cr]Applebees next to our motel for last call and the bastards had closed early. Jake found a place called Just one more bar in a maze of a strip mall hell a mile up the road that was willing to have us. We turned a few heads as we walked into the smoky, townie strip-mall vibe, but they were friendly enough, poured a good, honest single, and we had a nice nightcap.
Back at the room we heated up our leftover pizza, scarfed some down, and crashed out. I got a solid five hours of sleep, which I’ll gladly take, and woke up feeling not too bad, which is the blessing that comes with it being your turn to drive after the gig. We’ll see how the boys are doing here in a bit.
So it was a strange night at the Preservation Pub – we’re sorry that there was such a significant loss for all those people, and we understood that when something like that happens, things are gonna be a bit different. Everyone has always been so nice to us there, and they still were. We’ll be back and next time it’ll get rowdy again. Thanks Knoxville. Xx
See ya tonight in Eaton, Illinois, where we’ll play at Taffy's of Eaton! This show has been postponed twice by Covid, but not tonight. My half-alive guitar rig and I along with Gabriel and Jake are gonna end the year with a bang and Wesley Ladd is opening. See ya there Dayton/Eaton peeps! Xx