For the last year, Relix Variety Theatre has been one of Knoxville's best venues—when it's been open. The club, a small theater built inside a former grocery store on North Central Street in the Downtown North neighborhood, has had occasional concerts over the last year, in addition to a weekly open mic night with Hudson K's Christina Horn, last year's Knoxville Horror Film Festival, and a three-week residency by Nashville banjo queen Abigail Washburn last fall. But most nights of the week, Relix has been closed.
In the past few weeks, though, the club has shown signs that it is finally becoming a mainstay on the local entertainment calendar. Tonight Relix hosts the Philadelphia indie-pop group Dangerous Ponies and local newcomers Hey OK Fantastic, with two shows set for Friday, May 27: an early Gulf Coast benefit performance by Oregon singer/songwriter Hunter Paye and a later set by Gyan Riley, the son of minimalist pioneer Terry Riley, making his return to Knoxville after impressing audiences at last year's Big Ears music festival. The club also kicks off the Knoxville 24-Hour Film Festival this weekend, with registration for filmmakers on Friday evening and availability as a location on Saturday.
The biggest development has been the hiring of Horn to oversee booking and promotion; she took over from owner Daniel Schuh, who is involved in several other development projects in the neighborhood.
"We started an open mic night there, and then Daniel and I discussed how he couldn't handle booking and everything else there by himself," Horn says. "I told him, ‘I think I can handle that,' and over the course of the next week or two dove in headfirst."
Horn has been joined recently by a full staff—Virginia Adams, who handles general management, promoter Andy Jones, and producer Ryan Foltz. Horn says the fact that the club has also recently gotten its liquor license has helped business.
"That helped kick everything into gear," Horn says. "It's like we were getting all the kinks worked out at once."
Additional upcoming performances include the North Carolina bluegrass band Chatham County Line (June 2), local electro-soul artist Fine Peduncle (June 4), former Sarah McLachlan guitarist Sean Ashby (June 13), and Knoxville expat Adam Hill, now based in Nashville (June 14).