That big construction project on the southeast corner of Market Square, the one that's been underway for about a year, should finally come to an end in a couple of weeks when the Square Room music venue and the adjacent Cafe 4 open for business. The two businesses will be operated by 4MS Entertainment in three heavily refurbished buildings—4, 6, and 8 Market Square—and will include a 450-capacity concert hall and listening room, a full-service restaurant, and a coffee shop and bakery.
The Square Room is scheduled to open on Saturday, Dec. 6, with a performance by the experimental New York cabaret-rock outfit My Brightest Diamond and the jazzy pop of Clare and the Reasons. The room is located at the back of 8 Market Square, with an entrance and box office on the side of the building in the courtyard running to the Miller's Building. A wooden frame for a vertical LED marquee has recently been placed atop the door.
"It'll be eclectic," says Ben Bannister, a former AC Entertainment employee who's handling booking and promoting for the Square Room. "It's a state-of-the-art venue and it's designed to be an intimate setting, sort of a listening room. We'll have a wide range of stuff—singer/songwriters, Americana, jazz, and music from the local scene.... We consider ourselves Knoxville's missing venue. There's a breach between the small clubs and places like the Bijou. We're the next step. An artist on the way to the Bijou can play here."
Two other shows are scheduled: the traveling showcase of Nashville songwriters called Ten Out of Tenn, on Wednesday, Dec. 10, and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors Christmas Tour on Friday, Dec. 12.
The Square Room doesn't have a bar, but director of operations Brent Thompson, of local folk-pop group Brent Thompson and His Wandering Circus, says a mobile bar can be brought in for some shows. (Cafe 4 will serve beer and a selection of organic and sustainable wines.) There are plenty of amenities for performers, however, from a Baby Grand piano and a hydraulic lift for loading in and out to an artists' loft, where visiting performers can lodge.
"Hospitality is our core value," Bannister says. "We want to be an incubator of local talent, but we also want to bring in the best national talent."
Bannister and Thompson, along with 4MS Entertainment and Cafe 4 head Lori Klonaris, envision the combined 34,000-square-foot, $6.5 million space as "downtown's living room," Bannister says, with an upstairs lounge area and free wi-fi.
4MS Entertainment is a non-profit organization, funded by the Christian organization Cornerstone Foundation of Knoxville. Cafe 4 and the Square Room, however, are for-profit enterprises run by the non-profit organization. "We've still got to turn a dime and make sure we appeal to a broad range of folks," Thompson says.
Shameless Staff Promotion
The Quintron and Miss Pussycat show scheduled for Monday, Nov. 17, at Pilot Light was postponed when the New Orleans duo ran into car trouble on the way to Knoxville. Quintron and Miss Pussycat, with Metro Pulse art director Travis Gray opening performing as Rumblytums, will play on Sunday, Nov. 23, at 10 p.m. Admission is $8. (Matthew Everett)