Road Blog: Friday November 17, 2023 - Knoxville, TN
November 17, 2023
We loaded luggage and guitars out of our AirBB in Dayton in a miserable downpour and headed out, over the Miami River, through downtown, and to the Hasty Tasty Pancake House. Gretta was there waiting, as has been the tradition in recent years, and we had nice breakfast hangs and conversations. I had to mix it up, push the buck, take a risk, so to speak, so I got the Western Omelet smothered in chili. The boys gave me dirty looks from across the booth, knowing we’d be spending the day in the van together, but I assured them it would be fine, hopefully. Maybe. We said our goodbyes to Gretta and headed south on I-75 towards Kentucky.
The drive was mostly uneventful. It rained on and off all day. I nodded in and out on the back bench. There was horrible traffic in Cincinnati, which isn’t unusual. We stopped for gas at some scary Podunk gas station somewhere north of Lexington and survived the experience. We played The Cure, Blacktop, and The Get Up Kids as we crossed into Tennessee and found ourselves on a winding, mountain road along the Clear Fork Tributary river, through hollers and gorges, and all around beautiful scenery. Some of those houses and shacks look like they must’ve looked 200 years ago. Karen Jacobsen - The GPS Girl seemed to know what she was doing so we played along and ended up at our AirBB in LaFollette, Tennessee.
We had to stay well outside of Knoxville because there were no AirBBs for under $350 and even our normal dive motel chains were approaching $200 a room. That’s what happens when the Georgia Bulldogs come to town to face the UT Volunteers. Still, it’s a bit closer to Cincy tomorrow, and we get nicer digs for less money, so a little extra drive after the show was worth it. It’s nice little ranch house in a quaint, but beaten up rural town that sits 10 minutes east of the interstate. I have a nice bedroom with home made quilts and rustic furniture, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s room in The Beguiled, and was already looking forward to some needed sleep a few hours later. There’s a sign in the kitchen that says “Life Happens, Coffee Helps” which we thought was ironic because there is no coffee here, except a few packets of instant (yuk) hazelnut (yuk).
I cranked Loverboy – Super Hits as we headed into Knoxville, a good 50 minute drive, which got the boys all riled up and ready to rock. Our first stop was our fav local record store Lost and Found Records. Always good to see the crew there and thumb through their bins. I was hoping to find the new Nancy Sinatra Demos and Singles compilation, having previously picked up her re-issues there, but they didn’t have it. We had some good conversation about the show and the new Dolly Parton record before we headed over to Market Square for load-in.
Our November trip to Knoxville has become an annual trek for us for the past several years, and it’s a run we always look forward to. We always play The Preservation Pub, but this time we were at Scruffy City Hall, the Pres’ sister club next door. Market Street is a couple block stretch of downtown bars, restaurants, and stores (and an amazing Dolly Parton mural) blocked off to traffic. There’s a lot of foot traffic and tons of energy, but it’s not an easy load-in, double parking and carrying gear from the edge of the pylons to the bar.
We had dinner at a nearby joint called Downtown Grill And Brewery. I got the black and bleu burger, medium rare, plus guacamole, with the bleu cheese and bacon mashed potatoes. The burger was great - it came out an honest medium-rare, which is less common than you’d think, and I ate half of it and saved the rest.
Scruffy City Hall is a big room, especially for us, with a high stage, tall, ceilings, and full-pro lights and production. The setting is like the courtyard of a castle, so, so cool, and we were cautiously excited to tear it up. As I was dialing in my guitar rig I played the first few chords of “Stiff Competition” by Cheap Trick, as I often do, to test tuning, intonation, and tone, and Erik, the quiet and reserved sound Engineer perked right up: “Stiff Competition?” Id broken the ice! We had a great talk about Cheap Trick; he’s well entrenched into their catalog, even deeper than me on some records. It was shaping up to be a good night.
We went on right around 8pm and the crowd was thin, if I’m being honest. There were a few rowdies hootin’ and hollerin’ from the balcony and few stragglers coming and going for a bit. I mentioned the game, got a hearty “MICHIGAN SUCKS” from the balcony, retorted passive-aggressively “Um, they kina don’t, What is UT ranked?”, but with all humor and love, and I think we all had a laugh because they didn’t leave and I didn’t get my ass kicked. After a few songs the room started to fill up and we had a pretty decent crowd after a while. Knoxville is a late crowd, so the early sets are mostly to warm up the room, but it turned out to be a fun set and we glad to have a bunch of faces to play to.
We wrapped up at 10:30 and tore down. The second band, Wasted Major, introduced themselves and we had some good chats with those dudes. They’re all super nice and we offered help up our way if they ever wanted and hope to hang with them in Nashville some day. I didn’t know what to expect from them, I had no chance to check them out before hand, but I recognized the riff to their opening tune and lit right up as they went into “Victim of Love” by The Eagles. I love that tune and that album (Hotel California) and was super excited to hear them play it. It was awesome!
We hung for another 5-7 songs or so and had to get our gear off the floor, which was pretty packed at this point, so Jacob and I went and fetched the van, we loaded out in a steady, but not too bad drizzle, and drove back 50 miles north to our AirBB in La Follette, TN. I was exhausted after the show, the difficult load-in and out, and the few whiskeys Gabriel was feeding me, so I crashed out pretty quick, after heating up what was left of the black and bleu burger and bleu cheese and bacon mashed potatoes and splitting it three ways with the boys.
This morning I’m drinking a shitty instant hazelnut coffee, but Jake’s up and just went to a nearby coffee shop for real caffeine, so that should remedied here shortly. We’re off to Cincinnati in a few, for our last show of the year tonight at Fretboard Brewing. More about that tomorrow, but THANKS to everyone at Scruffy City for a super fun night – Erik, Wasted Major, Scott & Bernadette, drunken UT fan – ALWAYS love coming to Knoxville, and we’ll see ya next year! xx