Where Does the Time Go?

Editor’s note: Tim wrote this “Diary of a Never Was” installment back in November, but it fell between the cracks during winter hibernation. Now maybe that lazy bastard will get back in the groove sometime and start writing these blog entries on a regular basis. Who knows?

November 14, 2015

I figure since it’s been about exactly three months since I scribbled for you, that maybe it’s time to do it again. To be honest, my brain has been a bit scrambled here lately dealing with the new world order at Casa del Lee. We’ve been plenty busy (and then some), doing the things that pay the bills as well as those that feed the soul. All that added up leaves little time for pecking on the keyboard.

Last night, I was at an art fair at Ironwood Studios, a cool local metal and woodworking shop. Lots of local artisans were on hand, displaying their wares. Susan shared a table with our friend Billie Sue Owens. Susan had her Wrist Rock-Its out for perusal alongside Billie Sue’s handmade jewelry. The whole deal was a good time with several good friends, barbecue courtesy of Sweet P’s, and cool art.

I was talking to one of the artists, a guy I’d met at Music Room Guitars, the shop owned by our guitar pusher Brad Gibson. He mentioned that he’d enjoyed my blogs on here, which reminded me how long it’s been since I’ve done one.

So, here I am again. I’ll try to play some catch-up and not get too bogged down in the details. I wouldn’t want to be boring or anything.

When I last left off, it was mid-August and we were facing a run of local music festivals throughout the month. Bark had already played Fatty Fest and Brewfest, but during the summer these days, there are multiple festivals every weekend. On Saturday the 15th, TL3 played Smokin’ Day at Sweet P’s, an all-day affair that featured bands inside and out. After the morning rain cleared out, our Charlotte-area pals Amigo got things going on the outside stage with a rocking set that culminated in my favorite song of theirs, “Where Have All the Bad Times Gone.”

Shortly after Amigo wrapped up, Jennifer Nicely kicked things off indoors with Brock Henderson on guitar. They sounded great, nice and moody. As I was stage-managing and playing, I only got to hear a little bit before I had to set up my stuff outside for the upcoming TL3 set.

As usual, we had a good time and blasted through a bunch of songs.

RB Morris, along with frequent collaborators Greg Horne and Daniel Kimbro, played a great indoor set before Joey and Kelly from the band Glossary closed things with an acoustic set outside.

Glossary are a band from central Tennessee who’ve been around forever, and I’ve been a fan since the first time I saw them playing in the backroom at Old City Java here in Knoxville. Must’ve been pretty early in the double-naughts. They were sharing a bill with much-loved and long-gone locals Dixie Dirt. The tiny room was packed, and the floor moved up and down like a trampoline as the music washed over us all.

It was a great introduction to a young band who I’ve followed kinda loosely since. They’ve made a bunch of great rock n’ roll records that sound like Springsteen and Pavement put in a blender and topped off by Joey and Kelly’s fabulous harmonies. Joey’s songs are killer, very evocative.

All of this is to say it was a pleasure to get to hear them play some of those songs in a stripped-down setting. Just fantastic. Joey has a solo record out now, and he and Kelly are hitting the road some, so watch for ’em.

The following week the TL3 was slated to take part in Blankfest, a downtown Knoxville day of music and comedy performances on Market Square. Our pal Rusty Odom puts out a monthly rag called Blank, and Blankfest is his annual deal. He had bands on the square, as well as in local venues Preservation Pub  and Scruffy City Hall.

Rusty likes a “grand finale” aspect to his events (he likes the term “Super Jam,” which is just a bit too K-Tel for me), so he charged local drummer Steve Corrigan with the task of putting one together. To Steve’s credit, he managed to make a pretty good thing considering how many people flaked out on him and that there was only one rehearsal. The core band was Steve, Jon Augustus of the Theorizt on bass, our pal Christina Horn (of Hudson K and who played a lot of the keys on the last TL3 disc), and yours truly on guitar. Guest singers such as Adam and Sarrenna of Guy Marshall were enlisted.

On the Thursday before the fest, Christina and I met at Hops ‘n Hollers for a pre-game beer before heading over to the rehearsal. Steve had a plan of sorts, but we adapted it as we went along due to the personnel dropouts, but before it was all said and done, we’d worked up a credible set of cover songs that ran the gamut from the Band to Prince to George Michael (I’d never heard the George Michael song, which was shocking to the younger players in the room … but hey, it was a pretty good four-chord progression). It was loose, but it was fun.

I’m not much of a cover-band guy. At my age, I refuse to romanticize that necessary evil of my early musical development. It was a means to an end, nothing more. That said, I do enjoy getting to play with a variety of folks so it is rare that I turn down any invitation to make racket in an unfamiliar group setting.

That was just a couple days before Blankfest, and when the day of the show rolled around I realized that I was slated to make four appearances that day (that rarely saying “no” thing). I played with the Barstool Romeos when they kicked things off on the Pub stage at 5. As usual, it was a hoot and I was pleased with my playing (somedays it just works). JC Haun & the Dirty Smokers were up next, and they sounded great despite nagging problems with the house bass amp.

The 3 was on deck, and I was getting a bit worried about the bass rig. JC and company were playing what should have been one of their best sets ever. They were firing on all cylinders, but that amp just kept cutting out on Josh Sidman (who was doing double-duty with the Romeos and the Smokers). You could see the frustration on their faces as they soldiered on with Stevie Jones trying to cover some of the missing bass parts on his keys. I felt terrible for them, because it was not their fault at all.

I let it be known that we would not take the stage if the amp wasn’t sorted out. I told Rusty we’d load out and go home before we’d put ourselves through what we’d just watched the Dirty Smokers endure.

If you know me at all, then you probably know how this played out. Nobody knew anything about making the bass amp work, so I stepped up, located the problem, fixed it, and we played our set. I think we even started close to on time. Either way, Susan and Chris were on fire, and it was a blazing performance, if I do say so myself. Great fun as always.

I left my amp over to the side of the stage, and following Mic Harrison & the High Score, I joined Guy Marshall for a couple songs: one of theirs and Neil Young’s “Vampire Blues.” As I’ve said before, I love that band so it’s always fun to play with them.

With some time to kill before the late-night finale (scheduled for after 1 am), I stashed my gear backstage at Scruffy City and made my way across the square to SoccerTaco, where I bellied up to the bar for a plate of fish tacos. The tacos were pretty good (any time you can get Tacos at midnight, something must be going right), and I sat back and watched the crowd change over from the wing-eating college kids to more of a local feel. Nobody else sitting at the bar was speaking English by the time I left to make my way back across the square.

In time, we got the finale underway. It was late, and things were loose, but there were still some folks on hand who hadn’t had enough. Guests continued to fall away, and just moments before going on stage songs were still being assigned to singers. In the end, it was kind of a joyous mess, but with plenty of good moments, particularly Christina duetting with Jon Whitlock on “1999” and Sarrenna McNulty’s killer vocal on “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

By the end, I was exhausted and wasted little time in packing up and hitting the dusty trail back to the house.

After a couple days of getting back in the groove, Susan and I hosted the August edition of the Songwriters in the Soul House at Sweet P’s on the following Wednesday evening. Our guest was the amazing Malcolm Holcombe. I could write volumes about this man, such a unique and singular artist. Plays his acoustic guitar like he’s trying to kill it, beating out chords and pulling out notes with a singular fury that doesn’t lack in precision. He spits and sputters his lyrics, all the while rocking precariously back and forth in his chair. Malcolm came out swinging, kicking things off with my favorite song of his, “Who Carried You?”

“From a Cajun diner to Carolina
Sick in the mornin’ to see the town doctor
Life and Agatha Christie in a Trailway back from New Orleans
Who dunnit, who carried you?

From the church yard to the liquor store
From the clothes line clean out the door
Life and Agatha Christie in a Trailway back from New Orleans
Who dunnit, who carried you?

Thelma Marie, three boys love Pearl and Gene
Fifty-nine to heaven
Through thirty-seven years, oh Lord
Who dunnit, who carried you?

Remember sittin’ on a lap
Smellin’ Listerine in black and white
Might be a Fada TV, or a Fleetline to the A&P
Who dunnit, who carried you?

Pure poetry. I’ve seen Holcombe plenty of times over the years, and he never fails to elicit an emotional response and more than one shiver down the spine. It was truly an honor to host his performance.

Prior to the start of the show, I was eating a bowl of red beans and rice. Malcolm, who’d I’d only officially met maybe 20 minutes earlier, walked up and said, “You like hot sauce?” I replied in the affirmative. He muttered, “Hang on, I’ll be right back,” and walked out to his car. Upon his arrival, he plopped a jar of orange-colored material on the table in front of me and said, “I’ve got a lotta time on my hands. I made this with stuff from the garden.” For the record, it is killer hot sauce. Susan and I had it on salmon patties just recently, and it was delicious.

During the last weekend of August, Susan and I were involved with … you guessed it, another local music festival. Hungry Otter Fest. For the second year, we along with Greg Horne and Christina Horne put together a three-day showcase of Knoxville bands, as well as a few out-of-towners, at the Pilot Light and Big Fatty’s.

Each day featured some great performances. Among my personal highlights was the return to the stage of our pal Jeff Heiskell. Jeff was in a ’90s alt-rock band called the Judybats who were on a big label and had videos on MTV. Since then, he’s made sporadic solo records, and the material just gets stronger all the time. I’ve worked with him on his last two, so it was a lot of fun to see him on stage. Oddly enough, it was the first time Susan and I had ever watched Jeff from anywhere but on the stage with him. It was a treat.

He had a band made up of other friends of ours: John Baker, Gray Comer, Jason Ratliff, and Bo Ratliff. They were great, really together. I’d been invited to join them for a couple songs, which was a blast.

Jeff’s new record, “Arriving,” is really good. You should check it out.

Bark followed Heiskell with an energetic set, possibly one of our best.

Then our long-time pals from Columbus, Ohio, Scrawl took the Pilot Light stage for their first (and possibly only) show of 2015. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’ve already written many paragraphs about Sue Harshe and Marcy May of Scrawl. Just the best people, you know.

Scrawl had a good crowd, and they proved that nearly 30 years after forming, they still deliver the goods. It was also worth it to see my pal Eric Lee (no relation) smiling during their set. Eric is a longtime Scrawl fan, and it was his first chance to see them. Eric’s band, White Gregg, had been scheduled to play the Otter fest, but after recent hand surgeries Eric was still recovering and WG had to cancel. That was a bummer, but I’m glad he was there.

That was Saturday night. On Sunday, Susan and I met Sue, Marcy, and Jovan for brunch at Big Fatty’s, the site of the final day of H’Otter Fest. In time, we were joined by Christina, Greg, and band whisperer extraordinaire Amanda Starnes. After the meal, Scrawl hit the road and we prepared for the afternoon’s music.

It was a fun afternoon with a variety of music from the Bearded, Red Shoes & Rosin, Spades Cooley, and Black Atticus. It ended with yours truly, behind the bar, pouring shots of our sponsor Sugarlands Distillery’s products for everyone.

It was a fine way to close out the month of August. Following that weekend, we had a week or so off before the gigging picked up for the second week of September. I’ll tell you all about that next time.

Until then, wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.

— TL