East Knoxville Blues

The Broker Banquet Hall opens its doors to the blues—and to a racially mixed audience

Blues Banquet

Since January, the new go-to venue for grown-up entertainment—not that kind of grown-up entertainment—in Knoxville has been the Broker Banquet Hall, a 21-and-up, non-smoking, classic blues and R&B venue on Magnolia Avenue near Chilhowee Park.

"Some of our customers have asked about a place where the mature crowd can go dance and relax," says Tony Kimbrough, manager of the Broker, the adjacent Magnolia Cafe, and the Malibu 7 nightclub on Martin Luther King Boulevard. "Most night spots are designed for young people, because that's who's out.... The average age of our crowd that's been coming to shows is 45 and above."

The Broker is also one of the few clubs in town that consistently draws a racially integrated audience, with crowds regularly split evenly between white and African-American patrons. The 299-capacity club benefits from its East Knoxville location and its association with Michael Gill, who books the Alive After Five series of jazz, R&B, blues, and classic pop shows at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

"We have a unique clientele," Kimbrough says. "My clientele is predominantly black, and Michael's is predominantly white. It's some of the same people from Alive After Five. He's familiar with many of the people down there, and a lot of them have been coming here."

Gill booked one of the Broker's biggest shows so far—Texas blues guitarist Zac Harmon in February—at the Broker after Harmon's well-received New Year's Eve performance at KMA. Guitar Shorty, who played with Willie Dixon, T-Bone Walker, Little Richard, and Sam Cooke, played at the club in April. The legendary Mississippi bluesman Bobby Rush and his big-band revue will play a Broker-supported concert at the Malibu 7 on Friday, May 9, at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

"The room at the Broker's not big enough," Kimbrough says. "So we're having an old-school night at the Malibu 7. Bobby Rush's show, with his entire revue, the band and the dancers, requires a larger stage. So we're having the Broker at the Malibu that night." (Matthew Everett)

For the Benefit of Mr. Pilot Light

Before he leaves on a three-month tour, first as part of the backing band for Durham, N.C., indie popsters Physics of Meaning and then with his own band, Senryu, Wil Wright wanted to do something nice. So he and Senryu are headlining a benefit for Pilot Light at the Old City rock club tonight, with Brother on Skates and Tim Eisinger of Matgo Primo.

"I felt like I could leave with a slightly clearer conscience if I did something for Knoxville before I left," Wright says.

The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $5. Proceeds from the show will go to the club. Wright leaves on tour May 8. (M.E.)

Local CD Review

re-SEARCH Identity Theft (Shadowfacts Records)

Residing in the not-so-far-off burg of Harriman, rapper reSEARCH (aka Travis Harman) has delivered a surprisingly solid debut collection, Identity Theft, on his own Shadowfacts label. With more than a passing nod to the backpacker sound and outlook, reSEARCH presents 16 sketches of a young man's struggle with those haunting existential questions that plague us all.

reSEARCH offers a sound that includes old- and new-school elements. The pulsating, bass-heavy beats usually fall in the mid-tempo range, employing a soulfully funky street thump that is peppered with an occasional postmodern glitch and just enough dissonance to catch the listener off guard.

While the beats are certainly well done, reSEARCH's introspective rhymes are the key to Identity Theft's overall success. The medium-paced tracks allow for a steady lyrical flow where each and every utterance is clear, and reSEARCH clearly has something important to say. Tracks like "If You Only Knew" and the standout, "Keep it Right," are introspective and upbeat, but not preachy, most reminiscent of the raps of Atmosphere's Slug. Skipping over the hackneyed street thug pose, reSEARCH's credo seems to be "get your mind right and keep it right." (John Sewell)