Follow the Signs

COPYSHOP runs into Knoxville's sign ordinance, AC Entertainment takes over Birmingham's City Stages, and World Grotto books '80s one-hit wonders

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

The whole point of COPYSHOP—a combination retail outlet, gallery, and performance space inside the Art Gallery of Knoxville on North Gay Street—is to challenge the ideas supporting copyright protection, fair use, and intellectual property. Their First Friday event this week is a display of Stars & Bucks merchandise based on a Starbucks knock-off in Ramallah in the West Bank. So it's maybe not too surprising that an organization dedicated to free exchange and public art got into a little bit of trouble with the city of Knoxville this week over its new sign.

The gallery owners didn't get a permit from the city's building codes department before they painted the first-story front of the two-story brick building white and added "COPYSHOP" in bold red in early November. And since the gallery's only open on Friday and Saturday evenings, the city's sign-enforcement inspector, Scott Brenneman, had a hard time tracking them down to inform them of the violation.

"It doesn't matter if it's a billboard or if it's painted," Brenneman says. "Whatever kind of sign it is, it's in the [downtown-design] overlay, and it's got to be reviewed by somebody to make sure it fits the criteria." The application for a permit would have been forwarded to the city's new Downtown Design Review Board, which considers new construction and improvement designs downtown according to guidelines adopted by the city this year.

Brenneman finally got in touch with Chris Molinski of the gallery on Monday morning. Molinski agreed to submit an application and retroactive plans for the design to the city. "Scott let us know this is an issue that's come up several times," Molinski says. "We're more than happy to go through all these steps."

Sweet Home Alabama

AC Entertainment's deal to book the City Stages music festival in Birmingham, Ala., looks like a no-win situation—the contract with the 19-year-old City Stages has a clause preventing acts from playing both that festival and Bonnaroo, AC's signature event, held the same weekend and just 200 miles away in Manchester, Tenn. But AC President Ashley Capps says part of the reason his company was asked to manage City Stages through 2010 was to craft a recognizable identity for the three-day festival, and he thinks they can do that without following the Bonnaroo blueprint.

"They're two very different events in many ways," Capps says. "Only a small portion [of acts] overlap, in terms of the kinds of artists they're looking for....The point of the agreement is for them to regain their identity, and we hope to help them do that."

Last year's City Stages was headlined by roots artists like Dr. John and Rickie Lee Jones and retro acts Earth, Wind & Fire, the Steve Miller Band, and Poison. Bonnaroo stars included the reunited Police, the White Stripes, the Flaming Lips, and Wilco.

I Ran So Far Away

The line-up for the World Grotto's upcoming '80s Legends series—Flock of Seagulls on Saturday, Dec. 15, Missing Persons on Jan. 12, and Tommy Tutone on Feb. 16—seems like a punch line, but the real kicker is the price. Tickets for each show range from $35 for general admission to $55 for a VIP pass that includes access to a private bar and lounge, seating at the side of the stage, and a meet-and-greet with the band. Tickets for the entire series can be purchased for $85.

"These bands don't tour. They're not out on the road," says Grotto owner Susie Dew. "It's hard to get them, because they're not coming through town, and it's an intimate experience with the bands, even if you're not in the VIP area, in that small a room, with just 300 people. You're closer to them than you could be any other time."