So long, Sundown in the City: Downtown Knoxville concert series will not return for 2012

In an April 13, 2006, photograph, Little Feat performs during Sundown in the City at Market Square.  (Jeff Adkins/News Sentinel)

Photo by Jeff Adkins

In an April 13, 2006, photograph, Little Feat performs during Sundown in the City at Market Square. (Jeff Adkins/News Sentinel)

Ashley Capps

Ashley Capps

High Score guitarist Robbie Trosper jams during a Sundown in the City performance on Market Square on June 23, 2005. 
 (Paul Efird/News-Sentinel)

Photo by Paul Efird

High Score guitarist Robbie Trosper jams during a Sundown in the City performance on Market Square on June 23, 2005. (Paul Efird/News-Sentinel)

Scott Miller and the Commonwealth perform on June 13, 2002, during Sundown in the City.  (Saul Young/News-Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young

Scott Miller and the Commonwealth perform on June 13, 2002, during Sundown in the City. (Saul Young/News-Sentinel)

The time has come for the final sundown on Sundown in the City.

The free downtown concert series, one of Knoxville's most popular events, will not be returning for 2012.

"The reality is, it's like sending your baby away or something," said Ashley Capps, whose AC Entertainment has presented the event in some form since 1998.

"It's been a great run, and it's been really gratifying to see how it's grown and what it means to so many people, but the reality is that it's incompatible with how downtown Knoxville is now. It's become increasingly challenging to stage it properly, and it's no longer a good fit."

When Sundown began with a CD release show by the V-Roys on Market Square on Oct. 9, 1998, downtown Knoxville barely seemed alive after dark. That first event drew a crowd of 2,000.

A CD release show by RB Morris was similarly successful the following year.

In 2000, the event became a concert series, and by 2006, shows were drawing upwards of 12,000 people to Market Square and were a weekly event Thursdays from April through June.

Merchants saw business go up during the nights that Sundown was held and saw return business on nights that Sundown was not being held. Capps said that Sundown definitely had a role in the revitalization of downtown Knoxville.

"If nothing else, it sparked people's imagination about what downtown's potential was," said Capps in a call from Austin where he was attending the South by Southwest festival. "And it also served to introduce people to downtown for the first time. Those two factors together provided one of the sparks that led to the renaissance of downtown that we're experiencing now."

When Sundown began, few parents would've felt comfortable dropping their teens off downtown after dark. Now, with the opening of the Regal Riviera movie theater and thriving restaurants and businesses, it's common.

Over the past few years, patrons, merchants and downtown residents became critical of the crowd that spread out across the city during the Thursdays that Sundown in the City was held. Increasingly, Sundown patrons began to turn the event into less a concert on Market Square than a party that spread across downtown.

Capps said he and his staff had considered ending the event a few years ago, but instead decided to scale back. After reaching a peak of 25 shows in 2002, the series dropped the number of concerts over the next several years. Five shows were presented in 2011.

Presenting the series outside of Market Square had been considered. The event was held in the Old City in 2003 when Market Square was undergoing renovation. Capps said that there were challenges in presenting the event in the Old City, World's Fair Park or another location.

"I'm also pretty convinced that one of the qualities that made Sundown so special was the location in downtown Knoxville," he said. "There's a certain synergy and an experience there that's not going to be easy to replicate someplace else. Sometimes you have a choice to keep something on life support or turn your energies to doing something new and creative."

While Capps would not elaborate, he said AC Entertainment was looking at some new projects that would be held in downtown Knoxville.

"It was a tremendous success and it had a really great run and we're very proud of it," he said. "But it's now at a stage where it's best to just let it go. And it may open the door for someone else to do something creative on Market Square.

"At the same time, there's just naturally a lot of activity downtown now, and that's wonderful as well."

Remember When?

What's historically considered the first Sundown featured the V-Roys in October 1998 on Market Square.

In 2003, repair work on Market Square prompted the series to move to the Old City.

Headliners have included John Mayer in 2001, Steve Winwood in 2005 and Jonny Lang in 2011.

Little Feat drew an estimated 13,000 people in the 2006 opener, one of the largest single-attendance marks.

The season's bill shrank basically by half in 2010, a sign Sundown was on its way out.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 40

websiteworld_com writes:

Never went to one, unaffected.

ArmyDad writes:

Sad news. Saw a lot of great shows during Sundown's run.

miz_skribble writes:

Bummer, indeed. Also, missing word "or" in 2nd paragraph, "series, one Knoxville's."

trollhair writes:

Well I don't know about you complainers, but I had a GREAT time. It was fun, entertaining, the shops that were ready to sell me things. I will miss it. What I do miss is Shakespeare's in the Park at the Amplitheatre. I do not like it at Market Square Mall....well except it is close to Preservation Pub......

joseph_mccarthy writes:

Leave it to a few to ruin a good thing for many. Fortunately those that ruin events like this help keep the court employees and law enforcement officers employed with paychecks.

Sanfutoo writes:

No one will miss it.

debbie_joan#282181 writes:

What about finding a large area like a field or something and making it like another Woodstock? Like, a once a year event. Just and idea. Seems a shame to just lose that altogether.

webbofconfusion writes:

Yet another sign that Knoxville is not on the horizon as a place you should want to live. We are being surpassed by our Southern Neighbor for all things Jobs, Culture, etc...
We have a major university, and..... Service industry????

The mayor needs to get to work.... Our city is surrounded by scandal and scoundrels. Shameful.

debbie_joan#282181 writes:

About the new Mayor with new Ideas. It seems to me that the city would lose money by just not having this event at all. Think of all the revenue it brings in with the tourists and all. Don't make since for the new Mayor to stop it without logical reasoning. Can Knoxville afford to lose the money? I know it's free and all, but the people who attend spend money here.

LocalGirl writes:

I will miss it. I have many great memories of times there with friends. The last few years haven't been so great, but it wasn't the fault of Sundown promoters. Thank you AC Entertainment for a good run, sorry your vision got so tainted by careless "parents' that used you as a babysitter for their brats.

Debt writes:

So, they're saying this has nothing to do with the businesses & people who live around the market square area complaining these last few years causing the event to become shorter and shorter? I call bullhockey, these events were great for knoxville, but knoxville is too stupid to realize it. I for one, now have zero reason to spend any cash in and around market square.

To all you naysayers, I hope you're happy. This is lost revenue for your beloved knoxville.

RIP Sundown, I will greatly miss you.

PaulJ writes:

Very happy to hear this since it was not much of a child-friendly event. Even though it was free, folks were not allowed to bring their own food and drink into the area. Not a nice scene in that regard, although live music can be very nice. Too bad everything has to "make money" in our society.

dantzknox writes:

So the event that started a downtown renaisance is now so big and successful that we must end it. That makes perfect sense in Knoxville logic. Maybe if the acts wore ugly orange jerseys and threw a ball around during their performance, the city would find a way to properly police the unruly members of the crowd and everyone would be more tolerant. In a few years, the downtown merchants will be complaining again about the lack of business after dark. Hopefully, some other group will pick up where AC is leaving off and the powers that be will be supportive.

RandallBrown writes:

"Nobody went anymore because it was too crowded." It will be interesting to see what AC comes up with next.

YoYo writes:

in response to PaulJ:

Very happy to hear this since it was not much of a child-friendly event. Even though it was free, folks were not allowed to bring their own food and drink into the area. Not a nice scene in that regard, although live music can be very nice. Too bad everything has to "make money" in our society.

Seriously Paul take your sheltered kids to ChuckECheese or West Town Mall. This is ridiculous.

bertnernie writes:

As usual Knoxville gets screwed-what is WRONG here-we have NO decent venue for a good concert-(ok the Tennessee Theatre-but I mean a good stand up and rock venue)Asheville has the Orange Peel, Chattanooga has track 29 we have the un-airconditioned creepy Valarium-also, Thursday night was silly for a concert-again Chattanooga has us beat-there's is on Friday night as it SHOULD be-Nashville's is Saturday, still good. Great job once again Knoxville.

leprechaun writes:

Good riddance!

Just a gathering place for aging hippies, down-n-outers, and other assorted lowlife.

knoxnavymom writes:

in response to Sanfutoo:

No one will miss it.

I will.

volfreak#210492 writes:

This is too bad. Have gone to them every year and have had a blast. It was great being able to tell people what a neat thing Knoxville had; free music one night a week in the summer. And not only local bands but big names, too. Nashville has its free music shows, so does ATL and Chattanooga, too.. Scruffy ol' Knoxville goes back to being just a little more scruffy.

Sad...

knoxnavymom writes:

in response to leprechaun:

Good riddance!

Just a gathering place for aging hippies, down-n-outers, and other assorted lowlife.

Really? Because I am an employed, semi-conservative, upstanding member of this community and I enjoyed at least 2 shows a year. Since when does loving music make you a lowlife?

bretticus25#294810 writes:

in response to Debt:

So, they're saying this has nothing to do with the businesses & people who live around the market square area complaining these last few years causing the event to become shorter and shorter? I call bullhockey, these events were great for knoxville, but knoxville is too stupid to realize it. I for one, now have zero reason to spend any cash in and around market square.

To all you naysayers, I hope you're happy. This is lost revenue for your beloved knoxville.

RIP Sundown, I will greatly miss you.

Nonsense. There is always Tomato Head, a great restaurant. If Tupelo Honey comes, it is a great restaurant. There is ice skating in the winter. There is Gay Street next door. Parking is generally cheap, close, and easy. There is cafe 4, who have great artists in there all the time. David Wilcox, blue plate special, etc.. It seems a bit childish to say you won't go there because of that one issue.

Heck, I stayed away from it, and now I have reason to go even more with less people around.

volfreak#210492 writes:

in response to leprechaun:

Good riddance!

Just a gathering place for aging hippies, down-n-outers, and other assorted lowlife.

You are clueless! I've brought business partners here and have even had people schedule a business trip to coincide with certain bands.

I likely put in more hours per week than you do. I'm a professional with 35+ years of experience, served in the USMC, and have only drawn unemployment for about 2 months 30 years ago after I got out of the Marines and before I went to work for the NSA. I've run my own business and am a manager at a local company and have been here for over 12 years. Lowlife? No way. Down and outer? No way. Aging hippie? Sometimes. But I like music and I like what having events like this mean to the city. Just like TV; if you don't like the channel turn it off. If you don't like going, keep your uppity, clueless arse away!

voyagerdjc248#254895 writes:

Bonnaroo happened. Sundown is now a mere afterthought in the scheme of money.

I am not a Capps fan anyway. His association with the Tennessee Theatre has ruined whatever event comes there. Patrons cannot watch the show for all the drinkers and drunks who constantly go back and forth to get more drinks. Not to mention the stench after an hour or two of constant beer. Paid big bucks to see my last concert at the Tennessee and the drunks ruined the concert by heckling the singer while he tried to sing. Haven't been back since.

The same thing has happened at Sundown. Seems every person on the square comes to drink and drink some more. The smell in the heat of the summer is horrible. I would never "drop my teen off" downtown.

Lizard60 writes:

in response to leprechaun:

Good riddance!

Just a gathering place for aging hippies, down-n-outers, and other assorted lowlife.

You are SO right...I agree about the aging hippies, and other assorted lowlife!!

MerrieLong writes:

I'm an anti-crowd kinda gal. If that pic above is any indication as to how they all were, I'm glad I never went. I never attend Boomsday or any other cramped-up event like that. Some people don't like heights, spiders, enclosed places. Lawdy, all the loud and in-close-proximity strangers just set my nerves on edge and I am prone to the vapors, lol.

That said, it's a shame to see it go. Sure looks like a lot of folks enjoyed the concerts and probably spent some money while downtown. Hope that an alternative venue is located and/or another equally popular event takes it place.

On a sort of similar note. I did enjoy the young fella at Mkt Sq that does magic a couple of weekends ago. Small crowd and dude was very entertaining. Good with the kiddies and good with the grown ups too. I'm glad they allow street performers there. Feels like a REAL city when you visit!

Lizard60 writes:

in response to knoxnavymom:

Really? Because I am an employed, semi-conservative, upstanding member of this community and I enjoyed at least 2 shows a year. Since when does loving music make you a lowlife?

Of course, there are the upstanding citizens in attendance as well. It's the aging hippies and perverts who hang out there to watch the college girls that are so disgusting!

Debt writes:

in response to bretticus25#294810:

Nonsense. There is always Tomato Head, a great restaurant. If Tupelo Honey comes, it is a great restaurant. There is ice skating in the winter. There is Gay Street next door. Parking is generally cheap, close, and easy. There is cafe 4, who have great artists in there all the time. David Wilcox, blue plate special, etc.. It seems a bit childish to say you won't go there because of that one issue.

Heck, I stayed away from it, and now I have reason to go even more with less people around.

So....its ok when you say that you will go more often now since there is no more sundown, but its childish when I say that I won't?

You can go in my stead, sound fair?

ladyshine writes:

in response to miz_skribble:

Bummer, indeed. Also, missing word "or" in 2nd paragraph, "series, one Knoxville's."

Do you mean "of" instead of "or"?

ladyshine writes:

in response to LocalGirl:

I will miss it. I have many great memories of times there with friends. The last few years haven't been so great, but it wasn't the fault of Sundown promoters. Thank you AC Entertainment for a good run, sorry your vision got so tainted by careless "parents' that used you as a babysitter for their brats.

Ditto -- I, too, will miss it.

SaintDeacon187 writes:

I think we should end music in Knoxville altogether. Nothing good comes out of these "performances." I'm glad Big Ears got cancelled, and especially pleased with the cancellation of Sundown. Now, if only Preservation Pub, The Pilot Light, Barley's, Downtown Grill and Brewery, TN Theatre, the Bijou, the Bistro, Crown and Goose, Longbranch, Latitude 35, Tin Roof, the Civic Auditorium, the Square Room, Valarium, Thompson Boling Arena and Relix Variety Theatre would follow suit.

james330i writes:

yeap..i can see their reason. It just got too big. Downtown is focused on development and getting more people to live there. This is not a neighborhood get-together anymore but has become a high school and college drunkfest. It's unfortunate but if city planners are focused on increasing residential growth, Sundown was a distraction.

Debt writes:

in response to james330i:

yeap..i can see their reason. It just got too big. Downtown is focused on development and getting more people to live there. This is not a neighborhood get-together anymore but has become a high school and college drunkfest. It's unfortunate but if city planners are focused on increasing residential growth, Sundown was a distraction.

To get more people to live here, we cut out the fun & exciting things! Gotcha!

Urban_jj writes:

Commenters, other than the trolls, seem to be saying SD was "this" OR "that." They are wrong--it was this AND that, and that jumbled mass of contradictions was both its popularity and its downfall. In the same instant, we can say we will sorely miss it and breathe a sigh of relief.

In the 1998, there were very few viable street level businesses downtown and almost no nightlife. SD was a real honest-to-goodness fun public event and made Knoxvillians realize what they had been missing--downtown could be the community glue that was, and had been, sorely lacking. SD worked because it was an event in the compressed space of Market Square that created energy and excitement. Anywhere else with plenty of room and it would have been just a band on a stage with people watching.

Downtown took off and so did the popularity of SD. What had been a music event became a social draw, especially for teenagers. Underage drinking and other conflicts with police made headlines. There were more restaurants and shops downtown--some did good business while others were negatively impacted. It became impossible for other events to co-exist with SD because of parking and access. What had been the glue for downtown Knoxville was now hopelessly stuck by its own success.

The time had come to move on to new music events and a new downtown. And to Sundown, thank you--job well done.

jonathan#509413 writes:

Sundown was one of the best things Knoxville has done in years. It was also one of the few seemingly 'original' ideas I have seen in Knoxville - celebrating what they are rather than trying to copy some other city.

Knoxville's problem is that it wants to act like a 'real' city while still remaining a one horse town. Yes, I am sure there were problems involved with Sundown. Any time there is a large gathering of people in a small place, especially in an urban environment, there will be problems.

I remember the early '90s when the Old City was reviving. It was hip, then, to talk about revitalizing the Old City. There was also a strong police presence with bicycle cops and even one or two on horseback. Then the police presence dropped, a few bad things happened (some not even really in the Old City proper, just nearby), the interesting businesses that had opened began to close and people started staying away in droves..

Knoxville, you have to take the good with the bad. You aren't going to gain the reputation of being a real city with a real downtown area while trying to maintain a Mayberry attitude.

knoxnavymom writes:

in response to Lizard60:

Of course, there are the upstanding citizens in attendance as well. It's the aging hippies and perverts who hang out there to watch the college girls that are so disgusting!

I guess I was paying more attention to the performers than the crowd. I have been going to this event for years and took my children many times. I have never had a negative experience. Weird how people can go to the same event and have such different experiences.

djtnsunshine#404168 writes:

thanks for the good times Ashley Capps, guess nothing last forever, but it was so much fun, now I'm bummed out, bring us something to replace sundown quickly please.

whatwhat writes:

in response to debbie_joan#282181:

What about finding a large area like a field or something and making it like another Woodstock? Like, a once a year event. Just and idea. Seems a shame to just lose that altogether.

Yeah. And we could hold it a place where nobody goes 51 weeks out of the year, and we could get AC to produce it and we could call it . . . Bonnero.... oh - never mind.

bretticus25#294810 writes:

in response to Debt:

So....its ok when you say that you will go more often now since there is no more sundown, but its childish when I say that I won't?

You can go in my stead, sound fair?

"Childish" wasn't a good choice of words. Sorry about that.

My point is that "sundown" is neutral. I could take it or leave it. There are many other events in Market Square, and the businesses there are pretty good (some of them keep me coming back for sure). Everyone is different in their tastes. I did find the experience to be a negative one, personally, to get to the places I wanted to eat and shop during that time. But I work around it. That isn't childish, for sure, neither is avoiding crowds with bad press around it on multiple occasions.

If Tupelo Honey comes in, I do think your boycott will be short lived, especially if you go where your friends will want to go. That is good stuff!

tjmuscadine writes:

Why can't we move the concerts to the World's Fair Park field? Plenty of space there and we could have strategically placed beer buggies. Sundown don't go!!!

mikky writes:

in response to Sanfutoo:

No one will miss it.

You must not have any love for differnt kinds of music.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login