In October 2007, Nashville singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale took to the stage of the Bijou Theatre to celebrate the 10th anniversary of WDVX. The concert that night, featuring the Red Stick Ramblers, the Hackensaw Boys, the everybodyfields, Robinella, and Brent Thompson's Wandering Circus, was broadcast live on the Americana station and its website.
The success of that show has led WDVX and AC Entertainment to schedule a series of monthly live concert broadcasts from the Bijou, hosted by Lauderdale and starring national, regional, and local roots artists. The series, called Tennessee Shines, premieres Wednesday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. with the SteelDrivers, Darrell Scott, Shawn Camp, and the everybodyfields. Guitarist Dave Nichols of Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes and Todd Steed's Suns of Phere will lead the house band. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. The series continues on the last Wednesday of each month. (Matthew Everett)
It's like being in someone's house. Someone who is very odd, but generous enough to want strangers coming over. That's the Birdhouse, an art collective and performance venue in an old house in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood at 800 N. 4th Ave.
Graphic designer and artist Lauren Carrig handles booking at the house at the northeast corner of the eponymous intersection. She takes the place of the Birdhouse's original music promoter, Brian Formo, who left a couple of months ago for an internship at K Records in Olympia, Wash.
A couple of years ago, the Birdhouse was a day-care center. The owners left in the dead of night, leaving toys strewn all over the yard, according to Katie Ries, a neighbor who was part of the effort to convert the house near Sassy Ann's into a center for visual artists and bands. Artists Aaron McIntosh and Samantha Farmer, Circle Modern Dance choreographer Joy Davis, and musicians Holly Briggs, Mic Harrison and the High Score, and Scott Miller have rented studio and practice space at the facility. Bands from Italy, Australia, France, Canada, and a dozen states have performed there, as have Knoxville bands Royal Bangs, Twinkiebots, Woman, Fistful of Crows, may gray, Deek Hoi, Boozehound Gandy Dance, Fecal Japan, and many others.
"The purpose of the Birdhouse is always changing," Carrig says. "The space was originally not intended as a music venue until Brian Formo came along and saw the potential there.
"The money we take from renting the studio space goes directly toward paying the rent," Carrig continues. "The money people give at the door goes directly to the touring bands." Indeed, there is even a donation jar in the downstairs bathroom to pay for necessities like toilet paper. It's tough sometimes, making up for things like the loss of a PA system to burglars this summer.
A recent show by a musical theater troupe called the Missoula Oblongata demonstrates precisely the place the Birdhouse has in the Knoxville hierarchy of performance venues. The traveling trio conducted an ingenious musical playlet with costume changes and props set up under a geodesic dome built by Joy Davis in the verdant little backyard.
"We just want to give people we believe in the support and the means to do what they do best," Carrig says. "Even if five people see a show here, if it's a good one, maybe they will walk away with the inspiration to do other amazing things in Knoxville themselves." (Jack Rentfro)