I am a huge fan of Knoxville. The outdoor activities alone, including miles of bike trails and numerous rivers, lakes and reservoirs, make it a vacation destination and many people end up making it their home, myself included.
Tennessee is also known for its rich tradition of music. From Beale Street in Memphis to the rockabilly roots of Jackson to Music City itself, Nashville is known worldwide as a hotbed of roots-music talent. Knoxville has had its share of memorable music venues, and boasts a vibrant music scene in its own right. The one thing that our scruffy little city is missing is more midsize music venues. In fact, if you are looking to put 300 people in a room, there are not many places in town where you can book your show.
Enter The Stage, is in South Knoxville at 2619 Chapman Highway, just south of the Henley Street Bridge, in the same plaza as The Disc Exchange. Previously The Stage was Kandy, a gay bar that was open for all of a month or so before the owner decided to change the club's format. Before Kandy, the bar was Copa Cabana from 2008-2011.
When you walk in the front door of The Stage, it's pretty impressive how much of the venue sits right in front of you. At a quick glance I estimated the capacity to be around 250 for the room. To the right is the bar, fully stocked with a bevy of flavors of vodka along with beers and other liquor lovers' libations. For some reason, vodka now tastes like anything. Odd flavors of vodka include Cupcake, Cucumber, Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Bacon and even Smoked Salmon. Yuck. Thankfully, The Stage only had the ones that normal people would drink.
Beyond the bar is a 30-foot-wide stage with a DJ booth at the far end of it. A decent size dance floor sits directly in front of the stage, surrounded by a railing that has tables and seats poised all around it. Toward the back of the venue was a room sectioned off with couches, arcade games and black lights in the ceiling to make the vibrantly colored paint on the walls brightly shine. I made my way through the venue, taking it all in as I walked along. Near the room in the back was a second bar, perfect for nights when the room gets packed and patrons are ready for another cold beverage. I headed back up front to the main bar and had a seat.
Bartender Candice Teague stood behind the bar mixing up a drink when I walked up. She smiled as she glanced up with that "Be with you in a minute" look. She served up the drink and I introduced myself. She told me of the work she and fellow bartender Michelle Watkins had put into getting the word out about the bar. Both Candice and Michelle had spent time as bartenders at Coyote Joe's, a bar on the north side of town. They seemed exhausted but eager at the potential of The Stage making a mark in the Knoxville scene. With a new name and live music as the main attraction, The Stage hopes to draw in a younger crowd of music lovers.
With the enthusiasm of the two young women behind the bar and the right crowd starting to come in the door, The Stage could be the next great live music venue in Knoxville. See for yourself! John Fee will appear live at The Stage tonight to kick off Labor Day weekend.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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