eye (2006-25)

Knox Rocks the ’Roo

I, Audience

Knox Rocks the ’Roo

Knoxville chanteuse Robinella , blues stalwart Hector Qirko , the beguiling Gypsy Hands ladies and original rockers Nug Jug , Mitch Rutman , Garage DeLuxe , artvandalay , Tim Lee and The Rockwells put Knoxville on the map for new crowds of fans over the weekend at Bonnaroo. But we liked a few small moments in out-of–the-way spots among the Hoover villes and shantytowns set up for campers, too. Like…

• Talking futbol with fellow soccer hooligan Hector Qirko at his awning-draped vehicle in what amounted to a Knoxville Ghetto—er, “Guest” camping area. Hanging out the day after turning in yet another flawless performance Friday afternoon with his band, the affable guitarist decided to stick around Saturday to catch Bill Frisell and other acts. Qirko and his visitor were tempted to go watch the U.S. v. Italy game coming up soon at the Bonnaroo Cinema but both had given up on the U.S.’s chances at this World Cup, unaware until much later that the beleaguered U.S. team battled the mighty Forza Azzuri to a bloody draw, keeping U.S. hopes alive.

Meanwhile, the red-white-and-blue clad Rockwells report standing in line for roundabout two hours to get into the Cinema tent for the game, braving hell-caliber heat and, worse, forfeiting Clap Your Hands Say Yeah ’s afternoon set. Mid-game, an usher reported a mob of 3,000 angry fans hovering outside, alternately chanting “USA!” and threatening to tear down the tent. 

• Leslie Woods’ crackling good new lineup for Dark Mountain Orchid proved itself game to deliver some spookhouse vibes even at the unlikely time slot of 3 p.m. on a tandoori oven of a Sunday afternoon. Which gave “hot” extra meaning to her maxi-coated (appropriately slit, of course) Queen of the Night ensemble. We would much rather have seen Leslie and the boys (new drummer Jason Stark ; new guitarist Nathan “N8” Wright ; and regular DMO instrumental workhorses Bob Deck , Sean McCullough and Jeff Woods ) haunting some intimate boite at the ’Roo closer to midnight. The girl still managed to scare a few hippies. 

• Keyboardist Ben Maney being handed the keys to the Mitch Rutman Group so he could carjack the show in spite of carpal tunnel problems. The jazz-funk band had an overflow crowd of 400 people dancing on a Sunday afternoon—perhaps aided by the fact that his sideman was his friend, Bela Fleck saxophonist Jeff Coffin . Some spotted Flecktone Victor Wooten dancing in the audience.

• Gypsy Hands (brilliantly backed by an ensemble that included otherworldly guitarist Yanni Papadopoulos from Stinking Lizaveta , Matt Urmy and Tony Cheatham on drums and Om chants, and Alex Korolev on dumbek) burning down the Solar Stage Saturday night. Figuratively, that is, even though nearly all the ladies performed with torches in the stunning, mesmerizing midnight set. It was unfortunately followed by a jarringly revisionist burlesque show that included a goofy, faux stripping act. Hey, what about that female empowerment thing?

Observers are pretty confident the performances by the Knoxville bands have the rest of the world wondering what the hell’s going on here. 

I, Audience

Engineering pulled off a stellar set, even though a horde of Cold Hands fans had already closed their tabs and headed for the exits. “You all are lame!” someone yelled. “Get back in here!” another chimed in.

“Freebird!” went the wino.

“Boston rules!” came the guy who had far too much hefe-weiss.

Guitarist Zach Hinkle couldn’t make the show. But no worries. Engineering is nothing if not resourceful. A self-proclaimed artist/guitarist/drummer and “kickass bass player,” known only to us as “ Erica ,” made the trip, adding her metallic, droning guitar riffs to Matt Sapp ’s and Donovan Babb ’s bouncy drum-and-bass lines on their most memorable dance-track, “God Hates Good News.” Erica proved that it takes a special kind of person to tattoo her own image on her bicep. Kudos.

At the end of the night, a swaggering reporter tried to wax eloquent, tossing out one-liners, like, “Hey, that kicked ass,” and “Y’all doing any recording?”

Then there was a hole in the space-time continuum that sucked away our perceptions of chronology. We regained composure—everything slowed down—on some Fort Sanders porch in the early morning hours. Two girls ran up 12th street, giggling.

The Engineering song, “Don’t Act Surprised,” goes something like: “They showed us around / This empty space you call a town … never know where things went wrong.” Engineering had our town described before they even stepped foot in it.