Last year, we celebrated our 20th anniversary with 20Fest, a downtown-wide music festival that featured nothing but local bands and musicians—and it was awesome. 20Fest raised more than $10,000 for the Joy of Music School, and friends old and new enjoyed some very special performances. So we're doing it again this year. MetroFest, featuring 25 Knoxville bands, will take place in eight venues downtown and in the Old City on Friday, Sept. 28, starting at 7 p.m. We know and love all of these bands, but this time around we decided to ask the performers themselves to write about each other—providing some pretty unique insights on Knoxville music.
90 Proof • 8:45 p.m.
Kevin Abernathy loves beautiful things. He can rock you joyously, and then roll you effortlessly on down a tender road that you hadn't planned to go down. His favorite subjects are the less-favored characters and places—troubled people in beautiful settings with limited options. He cut off his mullet and hightailed it out of Madisonville in the '80s, moved to San Francisco, and perfected his monster of rock, then clarified his voice and vision in Nashville, and returned to us here in East Tennessee to deliver the songs meant just for our ears—universally beautiful songs about a very specific place we all know well. (Steph Gunnoe of the LoneTones)
Boyd's Jig & Reel • 7 p.m.
Acme Shows is a local enigma, a mostly studio project (so far) that released a strange, dark Southern-rock opera five years ago and has only made sporadic appearances since. But founder/guitarist/singer James Kennedy has found a reliable partner in recent months in percussionist Larry Ciparro, and the pair have settled into a winding groove of experimental Americana. (Matthew Everett)
Preservation Pub • 10 p.m.
A casual bluegrass session has gradually given way to something much bigger, and less traditional. Over the last five years and through a steady procession of gigs all over town, Big Country's Empty Bottle has outgrown its humble roots into a local progressive bluegrass institution. The recent addition of drummer Stephen Corrigan has given the original quartet—singer/guitarist Adam Petty, guitarist Sam McAteer, mandolinist Jon Keeney, and bassist Will Ross—a solid foundation for its increasingly ambitious forays into jazzy, jam-band-style explorations. (M.E.)
Pilot Light • 10 p.m.
This is how cool Coolrunnings is: The band doesn't need a space in its name. You should pronounce the two words in the name as one, so that you're slurring them together, almost out of breath. It's kind of like the state that listening to Coolrunnings' music can put you in—a synth-pop, trancey, hazy daze of a groove. It's not music that knocks the breath out of you, but music that flows as effortlessly as the air entering and escaping your own lungs.
Coolrunnings is the solo project of musician Brandon Biondo, a former member of the Royal Bangs; he also happens to be the man behind the label Dracula Horse. His music harkens to the New Wave era of the 1980s, the shoegaze days of the early 1990s, and the electronic music frontier of the future. Coolrunnings is equally of the past and the moment, icy chill flecked with fragments of emotional warmth. It's music to respire to. (Cari Wade Gervin)
Boyd's Jig & Reel • 9:15 p.m.
This is a band passionate about tradition. After playing lots of Irish traditional music at local sessions, they finally came together as a band after being part of a benefit concert in 2004 to save the historic Bijou Theatre. Although the band members—Chad Beauchaine on fiddle; Gil Draper on guitar, bouzouki and mandolin; Rick Hall on hammer dulcimer, vocals and bodhrán; and Jason Herrera on vocals, bodhrán, flute and whistle—love their traditional Irish sounds, they know how to put their own spin on things, with influences from modern innovators of Irish music such as the Bothy Band, Planxty, Dervish and Lunasa. Come on down and enjoy of the traditional yet unmistakable sounds of Four Leaf Peat! (Kukuly Uriarte of Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego)
Latitude 35 • 8:45 p.m.
If MetroFest 2012 were to be cast as a remake of A Christmas Carol, the obvious choice for the Ghost of Smartass Knoxville Rock Past would be Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes. But the Ghost of Smartass Knoxville Rock Present would clearly be played by the French. Like their predecessors, the French are smart, quirky guys who write and play punchy, clever rock 'n' roll songs, only with a bit more spit polish.
With a lineage that reads like the world's worst action-packed supernatural weather punchline ("A ghost, a daredevil, a sun, and a twister walk into a bar..."), the French are seasoned veterans, but don't hold that against them. They don't let that hold them back.
Here are some things to like about them: They have three guitarists (including one really bad-ass guy who builds his own axes); they cuss a lot in their songs (the chorus to their anthem "We're the French" includes the insanely catchy tagline, "f--k you, f--k you, f--k you, f--k you," although I'd argue that it's a direct lift from Israeli glam-metal geniuses the Genders, whose own theme song, "F--k You, We're the Genders," predates the French by several years); they're not really French, they're from around here, so good 'mericans can like 'em, too (although I hear their bass player is both a Yankee and a former member of Jag Star); frontman Brett Winston used to go by the moniker "He Who Cannot Be Named" when he was in the Ghosts.
Most importantly, they're more fun than Waffle House at 3 a.m. Check 'em out. I like 'em; you should, too. (Tim Lee of the Tim Lee 3)
90 Proof • 8 p.m.
Horns of the Headless aren't quite punk, and they're not quite metal, but their straightforward hard rock is loaded with a little bit of both. The band—with echoes of Corrosion of Conformity and early '90s Metallica—might have gotten radio airplay in 1975, but the 21st century has consigned their chugging, mid-tempo brand of bad-ass guitar rock to the underground. When popular bands talk about getting back to the basics, this is exactly what they mean. (M.E.)
The Square Room • 7 p.m.
Pity the poor journalist coping with his adjective addiction when writing about Hudson K.
Keyboardist Christina Horn and percussionist Nate Barrett create gutsy pop that is lyrically elemental and melodically sophisticated, avant-garde without a smidgeon of art-pretense. Hudson K essentially is Christina Horn, although it's hard to imagine the band without the yang balance provided by long-time partner Barrett, a veteran drummer with too many local bands to list here. But it is the sonic gems crafted by Horn that make Hudson K such an enthralling journey. The New York native—a horn player in high school—has transformed herself from being the keyboard player/chick vocalist in other people's bands to full-fledged auteur whose reputation strains at the limits of regional stardom.
Diminutive and chameleon-esque, Horn masters the stage from her gadget-lined cockpit like a mothership commander. Past comparisons to Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Portishead, Björk, and PJ Harvey are inadequate. She also cites a dozen other "pop idols who changed my mind." Like many of them, from Madonna to Nicki Minaj, Horn isn't afraid to present a sexual persona onstage—keeping in mind that, as her eye-popping new video for "The Knife" shows, the symmetries of gender can cut both ways.
"I have always lived out my sensual fantasies through music," Horn says. "I don't think I was ever doing it consciously. I am now. Music equals sex—you must balance tension and resolution." Raised Catholic, she says, "I was taught that sex was only for procreation. I have had a lot of work to do changing my own view of it and am now feeling quite liberated."
In the late '90s, Horn began experimenting with self-recording. "When [digital audio program] Ableton Live first came out, it was kind of a beast to work with," she says. "Once I got a computer powerful enough to run the software, things really began to flow. Now I can control the computer in the same way I control a piano. The difference is that I can also sculpt new timbres and textures that are not possible with the piano alone."
Horn exults in music's digital revolution even as her lyrics explore the fundamentals of being human, showing how these dualities forge our future. (Jack Rentfro of Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet)
Latitude 35 • 9:45 p.m.
Itchy and the Hater Tots, I've just learned, got their name from a '60s cartoon and an Indian buffet. Guitarist Phil Fuson says the band was started as a trio project for other friends to sit in with. Friday night at Latitude 35, the trio, rounded out by Allen Smith and Vince Harris "in the engine room," will be joined by Fuson's old bandmate, Knoxville icon Brian Waldschlager. They play American rock. It's a rock that's well versed in the blues and touched by a satisfying taste of twang. You can hear influence from standards like Tom Petty and the Replacements (and how do you leave out the claim of Andy Griffith and Barney Fife as mentors?) cooked into its own Knoxville dish. And it's glad to be there, conjuring the involuntary dance groove in the crowd. That's what I saw, anyway. I caught them on a porch in North Knoxville one keg-enhanced spring afternoon. It was Record Store Day at Lost and Found. They shined in an amazing local lineup, with dancing and hoisted beverages all around.
Phil and Brian rocked previously in one of Knoxville's prouder moments, the Dirtclods. They were voted Knoxville's best band in 1994 by Metro Pulse readers, with Brian voted best singer. Since first wandering into the local music scene, I've seen Brian sing in several great projects. First the Five Twins at Bundulee's, then the amazing Wh-Wh with Terry Hill at Vic and Bill's on the Strip. Then he really got busy. Boogie Disease, Dirtclods, Shinola, solo, and now appearing with Itchy Bruddah at MetroFest.
Oh, yeah. The cartoon was King Leonardo and His Short Subjects from '60. Itchy was the king's scheming brother. And Hater Tots can allegedly be found on the buffet at Sitar.
Phil says: "To paraphrase The Tick, time, like gravity, is a cruel mistress. We, like yourself, have become elder statespersons of the ‘local musical zeitgeist,' whether we like it or not. How much gravitas we bring to the table is open to debate. So, uh, I guess our sales shingle should say: ‘If you like Iggy, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Petty, the Scorchers, or other roots-rock action figures, you might dig our shtick.'"
Might's ass. Don't miss this. (Rus Harper of Teenage Love)
Bistro at the Bijou • 9 p.m.
Musical misfits contentedly out of step with our cybernetic century, the Johnson Swingtet has been lurking late, playing if not the poshest, then the most interesting venues in town, delivering, as they like to say, "a sultry midnight swing set or a riff-romp down Happy Street."
Despite some changes in personnel, appearance, and general demeanor now and then—when last seen they were a dapper quartet of young gentlemen who may well have been suspicious characters in a Raymond Chandler novel—they maintain their devotion to string jazz and especially to the remarkable career of one M. Django Reinhardt. They rarely play anything that maestro of mirth and melancholy wouldn't recognize. The Swingtet's leader and namesake remains Knoxville's friendliest bohemian, Eugene Johnson, whose interest in early jazz is rivaled only by his interest in exotic Eastern music; talk to him and you realize it's all on the same continuum of cool. (Jack Neely)
Boyd's Jig & Reel • 7:45 p.m.
For its debut album, One More Heart to Break, Kelsey's Woods runs the gamut of country-ish music, from moody bluegrass-inspired anthems ("Santa Fe") to barstool weepers ("Just Ain't Enough," "Little Darlin'") and hell-raising stompers ("Living in Sin"), all of it infused with a sense of backwoods hellfire-and-brimstone fatalism. (M.E.)
Boyd's Jig & Reel • 8:30 p.m.
Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego is a unique sound and one that Knoxville should really appreciate, for the simple fact it brings so many pieces of world music to the hills of Tennessee that wouldn't otherwise be here. Kukuly Uriarte, the lead player and vocalist of the band, comes to Knoxville via Peru and Argentina and along the way has picked up musical influences from hot guitar jazz, tango, Latin flavors from Brazil, Peru, and Argentina, all topped off by American swing jazz. Kukuly's goal with this band is to continue to explore and fuse the rhythms of these musical styles. Kukuly and the Gypsy Fuego consists of Uriarte on guitar and vocals, cellist Andy Bryenton, drummer Alonzo Lewis, and violinist Seth Hopper, with some of Knoxville's finest, like saxophonist Jason Thompson and pianist Jason Day, joining the band as regular guest artists. (Chad Beauchaine of Four Leaf Peat)
The Square Room • 8 p.m.
I fall in and out of love with rock 'n' roll all the time, as it grows and ages and changes, with genres and gimmicks ebbing and flowing and adjusting to an unstable and weird music industry. But when I see the Tim Lee 3 play their rowdy, blues-driven shows, my faith in rock 'n' roll swells back up, even if just for a minute, every time Tim and his wife, Susan, make eye-contact. It is real love, forged in rock. It is something truly rare and special.
Tim Lee has been touring and playing rock 'n' roll for decades, early on in the Windbreakers and in recent years in the band that bears his name. (Alongside him in the TL3 are drummer Chris Bratta and Susan on bass.) The Lees seem to perpetually be traveling and/or recording—that is, when they aren't coordinating Knoxville fund-raisers (they are major elements in the annual Waynestock benefit and last year's Rock and Roll Velodrome) or helping rescue bassett hounds. They are where I look when I need a renewal of faith in rock 'n' roll, or in the goodness of people. They are prime examples of both. (Wil Wright, aka Lil Iffy)
The Square Room • 10:15 p.m.
Knoxville's music scene has seen waves of activity and inactivity since the '80s. At times it was hard to find anything going on, apart from ubiquitous Tall Paul acoustic shows. These days there are so many bands and venues that staying abreast of the entire spectrum of musical performances is a full-time job in itself.
Artists have to compete for the top-tier gigs and packed audiences. To get noticed you need more than originality; your music has to seduce the crowd and transport them into a different reality, where they can take a break from their everyday concerns. Lil Iffy and the Magic Hu$tle is a perfect example of this kind of group. A Lil Iffy show is a trip into a different world. Their swagger and sensual, infectious beats will enchant you into doing things you wouldn't normally do—don't be surprised if you find yourself grinding on the dance floor with the rest of the sweaty, champagne-soaked crowd. Let the magic of Lil Iffy take you on a flight that transcends anything you've ever heard:
I call my witch the crucio and she calls me patronus and we
hop a couple brooms and leave the f--king world below us and we
know that we are doomed but until then, it's Leviosa
And the wand-bearers continue to flock to their shows. Their current North American tour is packing clubs all over the Eastern U.S., with more dates to follow in California and New York; MTVu called Iffy "the greatest wizard rapper alive" for good reason. Don't miss your chance to experience Wandcore. Accio everything. (Sara Washington of Lost Holiday)
Knoxville Visitors Center • 8 p.m.
The thing about the LoneTones is, nobody knows what it is. Indie folk-pop? Psychedelic string band? Hypnotic-mando jam? They seem to have written the book on how to make your folk band sound beautifully indescribable. Whatever genre-bending title you want to put on it, every record is an artistic gem, and in my book the LoneTones are one of the most original bands you'll hear in this town. (Kevin Abernathy)
Knoxville Visitors Center • 7 p.m.
Since she moved back to Knoxville from New York, Jodie Manross has become slightly more well know for her booming acupuncture business than her long-heralded songwriting skills, but when it comes down to it, the two really aren't that different. Manross' songs needle into you just under the skin—you can't really feel them entering, but then they're there, working their magic, turning your insides out.
Manross is a little bit folk, a little bit country, a little bit Americana—whatever you call singer/songwriters these days. But Manross transcends mere genre with her heartfelt vocals and instrumental expertise. The woman can play, even if, these days, she doesn't do it as often as she used to.
Luckily for us, when she does deign to get on stage, Manross' understated charm is enough to quiet the room. The poignancy of her guitar does its work, and her voice reverberates above the notes. You can't help but be swept along, into her world, deep in the heart of Manross. (C.W.G.)
Pilot Light • 9 p.m.
O Youth is an aptly named band. The collection of mostly Knoxville natives (all but one graduated from Halls High School) sing songs about the trials of early adulthood. What differentiates the young band is its marriage of Americana—in the group's rhythmic, strummy acoustic guitars, bluesy electric riffs, and everyman vocals—with the universal tenets of rock 'n' roll: love, rebellion, and questions. The band, very much in the same vein of folk-rock as Mumford and Sons and Bright Eyes, draws inspiration from Manchester Orchestra, Bob Dylan, and the folk scenes in Seattle and Portland, according to lead singer Brad Fugate. (Fugate says he's heard the band referred to as doom-folk, which sounds pretty cool.)
Fugate still spends a lot of time in Murfreesboro—he's studying audio production at Middle Tennessee State University—but gets back to Knoxville, where the rest of the band members live, at least three or four times every month. The band is set to start recording its debut album next week. (Paige Huntoon)
Knoxville Visitors Center • 9 p.m.
Dear Mr. Rentfro:
Why do you avoid my gaze in public? Do you know I abhor potatoes? They make me hurt on the inside. I understand that rock stars must maintain an air of mystery. Jack, you always wear sunglasses. I just can't read you. You comment on about 86 percent of my Facebook posts. I know you know me. I know you care. Talk to me.
Hudson K (spud-free since '86)
I know most of what I know about Jack Rentfro from his anecdotal Facebook quips. I have determined that he is obsessed with spuds. I found this snippet on one of Jack's threads: "I yam that I yam."
This particular reference led me down a rabbit hole. In his 1952 novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison used the phrase "I yam what I yam" in reference to accepting and welcoming one's own heritage as a solution to the question of purpose. Could it be that Rentfro was slightly altering the meaning of the phrase by throwing in "that" instead of "what"? Could it be that this slight twist of phrase is enough to send me into an existential loophole?
I yam, too, Jack. I yam, too. I just don't potato. Don't you see? We are not that different.
I asked this question in an e-mail. In my mind, writers and musicians become artists when they have a message to share and the skills to deliver. Skills apparently mastered, I asked Jack if he had a message. "I want to make people think for themselves," he replied. "In the meantime, if I can get them to laugh, that's the bonus track. Oscar Wilde said, "If you're going to tell people the truth, you better make them laugh. Or else they'll kill you."
And then there is this: "Lee Greenwood murders a hobo every Labor Day. It's in his contract." Jack Rentfro obviously loves America. And somehow, I just know he loves me, too. (Christina Horn of Hudson K)
Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes
The Square Room • 9 p.m.
You might assume that every band fronted by Todd Steed is just another Todd Steed band. There have certainly been a lot of them over the decades, and they've all featured the same distinctly off-kilter songwriter, singing his funny/wistful songs, playing his jangly/boomy guitar. But that would be selling short Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes, Steed's second and (yeah, I'll say it) best band. These guys transcended themselves.
Knoxville has had more famous bands, more popular bands, more successful bands. But Smokin' Dave and the Premo Dopes were our most influential band, daring to embrace their Knoxvilleness at a time when the number-one goal of most musicians here was to get out of town as fast as possible. By doing its own counterintuitive DIY thing, Smokin' Dave set an unlikely example: Carving out a music career in Knoxville might not be such a stupid idea after all. Fame and fortune can be nice goals, but sometimes it's worth doing something because it's worth doing.
Arising from the Fort Sanders/Cumberland Avenue scene in 1982, Smokin' Dave played its first gig at Hobo's, now famous in local music lore for hosting R.E.M. and Iggy Pop. Unlike their contemporaries, the Dopes weren't notably ugly like some of the punk bands (any group with Rus Harper) or cool-looking like some of the straight-up rock outfits (any group with Brian Waldschlager, who was actually an early member of the Dopes). They were, in a word, schlubby—the record-store clerks of rock 'n' roll.
But onstage, they played like—well, maybe not gods. Let's say imps. On any given night, Steed's playful guitar, Dug Meech's frenetic drumming, and Dave Nichols' spidery bass would coalesce into spectacle, sparking the beer- and cigarette-scented air with flashes of unassuming brilliance. Underlying the driving rhythms and crunching guitar solos was a distinctive wit that took this "college rock" into an unexpected place: dizzy sophistication that you could dance to.
Funny, self-deprecating, maybe a little reflective, and always rockin', the Dopes followed their own talents, even if they inevitably led straight back to Knoxville. Their first single, "Ethiopian Jokes"—a bittersweet slam on shallow frat boys by someone who'd actually been to Ethiopia—seemed like it was their springboard to fame in 1986, getting reviewed by Creem and plugged by critic Dave Marsh. But it turned into more of a lesson on how to stay true to yourself. (As Steed recalled in an interview: "We had a couple of labels call us and they'd say ‘Well, I really, really, like your energy and you've got some good ideas. Now if you could just take the humor out…' And it just wouldn't work. Take the humor out? That's all we got, man!")
So the Dopes eschewed major-label control for self-rule, touring the country in their beloved van, performing some 500 shows, and inspiring a music scene's worth of local bands. After breaking up in 1993, the guys went their separate ways (Meech to Nashville, Nichols to the circus, Steed to various countries around the globe before returning to you-know-where), but they reunited to perform in 2000 (first, accidentally, at a West Knoxville pizza joint, and then officially at the Longbranch Saloon). Since then, Smokin' Dave sightings are a regular phenomenon—a pleasant reminder that great Knoxville music is timeless. But it's been a while, so we're all overdue. (Coury Turczyn)
90 Proof • 11 p.m.
The Sons bring back the arena-sized Southern sound of salvation from years ago, with an updated and much-needed kick in the pants to the homogenized modern rock sound. With blazing guitar work, a pulsating bass and crashing drums, the Sons have a certain swagger and an oozing slink that reverberates through songs like "Jacque" and "Roll and Go." With balls-out rockers and a Cornell-ish vocal performance on a softer-ballad ("Send Me Home") or two (those, of course, build into soaring and screaming, thumping and pumping heartbeats of sex and good old-fashioned rock), these Sons are out on the prowl for your daughters and wives, but also looking to revive a rock sound that has been missing for decades. If you're down with drinking a beer (and some whiskey) and holding it high up while listening to loud-and-proud dirty garage-boogie classic Southern-roots rock, adopt these Sons as your own. Now. (Russ Torbett of Kelsey's Woods)
90 Proof • 9:45 p.m.
Performing classic R&B and soul seems like a thankless task in 2012—what was once raw, daring, and overtly physical has long been accepted into polite society. But Tim Spencer and company keep their tightly wound funk attack dangerous, with Spencer's commanding presence and soulful howl and a sharp horn section topping a disciplined, committed rhythm section. The hard-working combo has refined its funk attack through countless gigs over the past few years, and teased fans with a short EP in 2010 in advance of a long-awaited full-length album, which should be out sometime soon. (M.E.)
90 Proof • midnight
Grizzled, gnarled, and way more than old enough to know better, Knoxville's longest-running punk-rock outfit plays the kind of dirty, evil, mindless punk music that made America great. Or at least it made American hardcore great, back in the early and middle '80s when Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys and the Circle Jerks were making the rounds at disreputable little college dives all over the country. Fronted by the irrepressible Rus Harper—penner of subversive poetry, screecher extraordinaire—Teenage Love made their bones opening for the likes of those artists at long-forgotten beer hovels all over Cumberland Avenue. Now, after a roughly 15-year hiatus, which came to an inglorious end when the band reformed to play the 2004 Metro Pulse-sponsored Metro Fest, the ravening four-piece are bringing the noise again, for a generation too young to remember safety-pin piercings and beer-addled slam dancing at the old Vic 'n' Bills. A punk-rock outing the whole family can enjoy! (Mike Gibson)
Latitude 35 • 8 p.m.
These oddball classic-country throwbacks claim inspiration from the usual sources—Waylon, Willie, Merle, etc.—and jack it up with a little bit of ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin. Their fictional backstory has the Ramblers migrating from the fictional West Texas town of Texola (in between Odessa and Pecos) to Nashville and then to Knoxville; it seems like a long shaggy dog story, but the honky-tonk good-timers' elaborate prank pays off when they take the stage—it's a punchline, emphasis on punch. (M.E.)
Latitude 35 • 10:45 p.m.
It has been said that there is a guitar chord so deep and so powerful that if a man listens to it his soul burns away into nothing. That underneath Gay Street there is a secret society of clubs and restaurants where the city's elite watch monkeys fight each other to the death using knives and psychological warfare, and then intentionally get arrested on the way home just to see their name in the paper. That if the sun hits the Sunsphere in just the right way a map to all of the Haslams' treasure is revealed to those who are brave enough to find it.
Solid-gold amplifiers used to be everywhere. You could throw a beer bottle out the window of your apartment and hit one. Or hit something, anyway. Nowadays we are lucky to find just one solid-state Peavey and a dirty, sticky cable that has spent too many nights dragging across a floor covered in beer, fake blood, and what I am afraid may be Zima. And why are Peaveys always talking so loud while saying nothing?
These are all bad metaphors—terrible, even. There are people in public offices right now who know all of this is true and, contrary to what some people may claim is impossible, those same public officials have perfect teeth.
Then there is the hidden chord within the song "Rocky Top." That is right. You thought I wouldn't bring that up. No one is supposed to talk about it. It is obviously two D chords, but which ones? I would play them, but this is a print article and you couldn't hear them if I did, but let me assure you it would sound like hot butter being poured over a baby unicorn. Speaking of sounds, the Westside Daredevils sound awesome. You should really go and see them at MetroFest. (Brett Winston of the French)
Pilot Light • 11 p.m.
Yung Life plays fuzzy, dreamy synth pop, the kind that hints of M83 and New Order and Suicide, the kind that sounds like it was made in 1982 instead of 2012, the kind where shadowy vocals are muted behind swirls of hazy keyboards and throbbing beats. But while the tone of the band's songs may have a retro appeal, the band itself is a little too young to appreciate how far it looks back. Make that a lot too young—not a single member of the band is older than 21, and the youngest member is still in high school. Despite the band's name—a pun on the high-school Christian youth group Young Life—the songs demonstrate a poise and maturity beyond the members' ages.
Still, there's no escaping the band's New Wave postpunk sound—it's not the synth and fuzz of shoegaze but that of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Yet Yung Life manages to breath new life into what could, in lesser hands, sound like a cover band. No other Knoxville band right now so fully captures this particular sound—its of-the-moment lucidity and its faded throwback charm, its under-the-radar roots and its unashamed commercial ambition—which is pretty much the sound of indie rock in 2012. (C.W.G.)
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story provided the wrong name for the drummer for the Tim Lee 3. He is Chris Bratta, not Bill Van Vleet.