While checking out the all (relatively) new Trader Joe's in West Hills I came across a joint called Paul's Oasis. I had seen the name multiple times when browsing the entertainment calendar on Knoxville.com. I also remember seeing it when researching places my predecessor Greg Wood had already covered. Paul's Oasis seemed like your prototypical friendly neighborhood bar from what I recall reading about it from Greg, so I decided it was time I went to see for myself.
It was last Saturday night. Tennessee had just suffered a crushing defeat in overtime, so I expected the vibe pretty much anywhere in town to be subdued if not a little gloomy. I arrived pretty late to Paul's hoping there would be a band playing and that the crowd might be a little better than you typical 9 p.m. stop-in to do this column.
I pulled in the parking lot where Paul's, Trader Joe's and a Toys 'R Us all reside in a shopping center on the northwestern corner of Kingston Pike and Winston Road not far from West Town Mall.
I parked a few spaces back from the farthest car in the lot closest to the bar, and I could already hear the sound of a snare jump pounding out a 4/4 tempo as I gathered my camera from the back seat.
When I stepped foot in the front door I was met with my first decision: To my left was a full-size bar with tables set up all around it from the dancefloor to the front windows, and farther past that was a stage in the back left corner of the room with wrestling ring roping off the front of the stage. To my right were a few pool tables and more sparse wide-open seating, with a lower volume, allowing more folks to converse and enjoy the music as a background.
The vibe was good and the folks were enjoying the music. The Jay McDaniel band was on stage pumping out a jukebox of hits. Jay crooned and growled through various numbers with an impressive vocal range, while on the other end of the bar, a few well lubricated birthday-party people talked loudly and continued with their game of pool.
It was nice seeing a partial separation between the two sides of the room. I walked through the area in front of where the stage was and I heard a voice from behind me singing the song that was playing on the jukebox (at this point the band had taken a break). I turned and said, "You have a voice, girl!" She smiled and quickly told me how she was just about to audition for the show "The Voice" in the next few weeks. She said her named was Vanessa Warren. I wished her luck and she darted off to help another thirsty patron.
I did have the thought I have every time I enter a bar or restaurant named after someone. Where the heck was Paul? Is this a place where I would ask for the person that the place is named after and they would say, "We're sorry, they died a few years ago, would you like to talk to his son-in-law Carl, who is currently running the business into the ground?" (Please note: The thing you just read was me having a fictitious conversation with folks who didn't exist in a bar I never went to.)
I went to the bar and politely asked the server "Is the manager in?" To which she responded, "The owner, Paul, is here, give me a second and I will go get him."
A few minutes later, there came Paul.
He sat down with me at a shorter set of tables in the back of the room where the pool tables were and we started chatting. He told me how he bought the place 8 years ago and came up with his entertainment format and stuck to it. Within minutes I was swearing casually, not because Paul was, but because he made me comfortable enough to slide back into my potty-mouthed self. We bonded over the show "Bar Rescue" and I briefly told him a few horror stories of places I had visited that never made it to this column. "You come here to get your party on," Paul told me was the bar's slogan. As we spoke he had to ask a very intoxicated lady to leave. Before long her much more sober boyfriend corralled her to the car and off they went.
I thanked Paul for his time and went off to check out the band before I left. They toyed around with some funk and finally broke into "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath just before I hit the door.
If you are interested in seeing some live music, check out Paul's Oasis, where Paul takes pride in booking only local acts to show his support for the scene. Coming up on New Year's Eve, Paul's will have Guy Smiley, a local favorite.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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