I had never been to the Cider House, a sister bar to The Valarium, one of the only mid-size concert halls in town located in the Warehouse District of downtown Knoxville. Both venues are shadowed by freeway overhead. It had been drizzling, so rainwater was still dripping down, forming pools in the street. The railroad tracks nearby all added up to the likely scene of some unsolved crime from "Discovery ID." Now in my experience, this is exactly the setting where great entertainment happens, in spots that are tucked away and easy to miss in a neighborhood most wouldn't be quick to search for real estate in.
It was "Midnight Voyage Live," college radio station WUTK, 90.3's electronic music night. I arrived just after 9 p.m. hoping to get in and sum up the scene quickly before traipsing off into the night to do another venue. You see, Christmas was coming and I was going to be out of town so I had to pull double-duty to keep the column up through the holidays. As I stepped inside I could hear excited shouts coming from the other end of the room. As I walked around the wall that seemed designed just to obscure the view of the entertainment from the door, I saw two cornhole boards set up in the middle of the dance floor. The music had yet to begin, which quickly made we wonder exactly how literal the name of the event actually was.
I found out that I was indeed early and the cornholers were folks who had rented the space for a Christmas party. Christmas was just nine days away and much of the college crowd had already headed home for the holidays. It made me realize how God-awful I am at timing my nightlife reviews.
The Cider House is a vast venue in and of itself. A bar stretches for nearly 40 feet to the left as you come in the door. Just past the bar is access to a patio area for those who want to smoke. I have to point out that the venue admits ages 18 and up, which is very rare in Knoxville, but is soley the reason that the smokers must go outside. You see, according to the state of Tennessee 18-year-old lungs should be protected, but lungs 21 and older are fair game.
As 10 p.m. approached, the music kicked up with a dubstep version of "Carry On My Wayward Son." In case you have not heard of dubstep, just imagine porn music for Transformers. Being in my mid-30s you wouldn't think I would be into this type of thing, but for some reason even as a musician I continue to be intrigued by the sampling and remixing of modern electronica. The stage at Cider House was rather large and elevated about a two feet from the dancefloor. Seven stage lights cast a purple hue behind the turntables and laptops (instruments) set up on a table on stage.
The bean bag-tossing subsided completely and the music and lights seemed to fire up all at once as the group Subsurgence got the night started with some heavy dubstep-style tunes. The younger folks crowded to the front as the DJs bounced around behind their equipment. One worked like a mad scientist twisting knobs and physically grooving to the music as the other seemed deep in a mixing process with one of his headphones pulled down and the other covering his ear attentively. A few girls donned your typical rave gear with a glowing binky and massive amounts of bracelets. All present seemed to enjoy the music and atmosphere that the old warehouse-turned-music venue provided. I was one of them. I think I will make a trip back to see the weirdness of Lord T & Eloise on Jan. 21.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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