After a decade and a half, one of downtown Knoxville's biggest events is officially over. AC Entertainment announced last week that the Sundown in the City series of free concerts "simply no longer fits its Market Square home."
What that means for the immediate future is clear, even though the statement from AC Entertainment head Ashley Capps released on March 16 doesn't explicitly say so: no Sundown in the City this year, and no good reason to expect its return.
The Thursday night concert series, which grew from a single V-Roys show in 1998 to include headliners like Steve Winwood, Sleater-Kinney, George Thorogood, and Jamey Johnson, had become increasingly contentious in the last few years, as some Market Square merchants and downtown residents complained about the large crowds, which were estimated at 10,000 or more. AC Entertainment scaled the series back in 2010 and 2011, from 12 shows to five. There have been rumors that Sundown would move from Market Square to a bigger location, like World's Fair Park, but for now AC seems content to simply discontinue the concerts.
Scott West of Preservation Pub hints that he may be interested in maintaining a free music series on the Square in the absence of Sundown. The Pub hosted a concert by Cutthroat Shamrock and Ian Thomas on the Market Square Stage as part of a St. Patrick's Day celebration on March 17, and West says he is planning a Cinco de Mayo event.
"Market Square is made for music," West says. "Our point of view is that events and festivals are what Market Square is about. Music is the spirit of the place."
AC Entertainment marketing rep Matt Hendrickson did have some slightly more positive comment on the possible return of AC's Big Ears festival, last held in 2010.
"It's something also that's at the forefront of our discussions," Hendrickson said on Thursday. "We obviously would love to do it again. We've thought about it on our end, certainly, and how we want to present it. The goal would definitely be to do it again. We have not abandoned the idea of the festival by any means. We're still talking about it."
But it's unlikely to happen this year. "It's March already, and to pull off something quickly, I don't think would be in the best interest of us or in the best interest of the city. We need to really do this right, and we want to do this right. We haven't set a timetable."