One of Knoxville’s little treasures is the Blue Plate Special hosted by WDVX (89.9 FM), and on Feb. 17 Maryville College was a part of that treasure. Broadcasted live, the Blue Plate Special is a Monday through Saturday music performance, hosted by the WDVX station at noon. Usually held at the Knoxville Visitor Center, the Clayton Center for the Arts was able to host this event as part of the Blue Plate Special Road Show.
While the Visitor Center is being renovated, the Blue Plate Special moved to a variety of venues across Knox and Blount counties. Hosting the event in Clayton’s Grand Foyer “was a great opportunity for us to work with WDVX on a different kind of event in a different venue,” said David Rasnake, CCA Technical Director.
“WDVX has brought their ‘World Class Bluegrass’ to the Nutt Theatre a few times in the past couple of years, but the Blue Plate is a unique opportunity,” Rasnake said. “It’s more casual, with more interaction between the performers and the audience.”
WDVX host Red Hickey gave everyone a warm welcome, encouraging the large audience to cheer loudly as the broadcast started. The event was completely full, with the entirety of the foyer floor, as well as wings, full of fans ready to hear live and local music.
Rasnake was a part of the performance, playing with the opening act Pistol Creek Catch of the Day. Pistol Creek is based in Maryville, TN, and is described in their bio as “a musical ensemble comprising guitar, fiddle, doghouse bass, tenor banjo, mandolin, maybe a ukulele and an assortment of percussion instruments, whistles and squeaky toys.”
Dr. Carl Gombert, Maryville College professor of art, is also a member of Pistol Creek, playing the stand-up bass. The band immediately brought the room to life with their quick and upbeat style.
The event was also joined by the group Rare Aire, a harmonica band. The members of Rare Aire all have COPD, a chronic lung condition. The group plays harmonicas together as a form of music therapy for pulmonary rehabilitation. Together with Pistol Creek, the groups played an upbeat “Flip Flop and Fly” to a chorus of harmonicas.
In another connection to Maryville College, the second band was Jay Clark and The Tennessee Tree Beavers. Dr. Jay Clark is an adjunct professor of biology and the experiential course “Sounds of Appalachia.” Clark’s music was somber and emotional. The band filled the space with music from Clark’s new album “Of Mountains and Heartbreak.” The band played songs “Wheatcroft” and “Seeds of Love,” both detailing his ties to his family and the land.
The Blue Plate Special’s Road Show performance at the Clayton Center was a great success, through local bands containing current faculty, students and Blue Plate regulars attending as well as the atmosphere of general positivity. Not a soul spent their afternoon listening without enjoying themselves.
“Overall, hosting the show hopefully helped introduce the Clayton Center to some folks – performers and listeners – who may not be aware of what we do,” Rasnake said. “Those are all exciting things and things we want to be involved with as a performing arts center. Our work with WDVX supports and supplements a lot of the Americana music that we’re highlighting, and I think we’ll look to continue and grow that relationship.”