Indie artists perform at Smart & Becker

Two Nashville-native artists, Augustus Carroll and Austin Feinstein, performed with local artist Daje Morris in an intimate concert at the Smart & Becker Wednesday night.

As Carroll and Feinstein planned to perform in Knoxville, Morris reached out to the touring duo and helped to book their appearance.

Feinstein opened the show with his first song, “Side by Side.”

“It is sort of my anthem to dealing with the darkness that is in my life,” he said of his first song. “Saying that no matter who comes to me with any problems or whatever darkness that is in my life, it is not going to hold me down.”

The southern-folk artist explained that he did not become passionate about performing and writing music until last year. His inspiration for writing seriously resulted from a break-up last year. Feinstein first learned to play guitar at age 11, but he now focuses more on his music and writing.

“I’m still learning the ropes,” Feinstein said.

After Feinstein finished his set with “Oh Heaven,” Morris performed songs and poems. She began with “Come,” a song infused with both singing and spoken-word poetry. Morris finds inspiration through her memories and other poems.

“Poetry and music is a way for me to process noise and that how I can stay grounded,” Morris explained. She said memories sometimes infiltrate her thoughts and distract her from living. “Music and poetry is a way for me to clear that.”

While Morris receives her inspiration through tragic memories and other poets, Carroll gains his inspiration through everyday occurrences.

“It could be just a thought I have throughout the day or just one occurring thing,” he said.

Carroll began his set with “Ghost” along with a cover of Leon Bridge’s song, “River” to which the crowd sang along.

Feinstein and Carroll continue their tour in three more cities. They will perform next in Asheville, North Carolina. Morris will perform at the Kuumba Festival next Friday, June 22.

 

Image TNJN archives

Edited by Lexie Little

 

Daje Morris performs at Big Ears Poetry Expo

This year marks the ninth annual Big Ears Festival in Knoxville. The Big Ears Poetry Expo ran March 22-24, including open-mic events with guest spoken-word features. Writer, photographer and singer/songwriter Daje Morris performed as the featured guest Friday night at Awaken Coffee.

Last year, Morris participated in the swamp poetry expo. This year marked her first time as a featured artist. Morris performed four songs, two infused with poetry.

“I like to keep the songs around that speak to me at that time,” Morris said. “‘Blackbird’ is one of those that I find something nearly every time I perform it.”

Based in Knoxville, Morris performs at festivals like Big Ears, Rhythm ‘n’ Blooms and the Dogwood Arts Festival. Her new spoken word single “Blackbird” will be released this summer. She published her first poem collection, “On Becoming Gold,” last year.

University of Tennessee student Anna Helms met Morris while participating in the Women in Jazz Festival last week.

“I thought she had this amazing vibe,” Helms said.

Morris’ vibe translates appeals to the larger community as well. All print copies of her poetry collection sold within four months of publication.

I.N.K. hosted the event featuring Morris and others. A comedy and poetry duo Lane Shuler and Courageous humored the crowd with their improv and a spoken-word poem comparing cooking to relationships.

The poetry expo event ended March 24 with “Loud & Clear: Big Ears Indie Poetry Slam Finale. The winner received a $500 prize.

The Big Ears Festival intertwines music, art, film and performance at venues across Downtown Knoxville each year.

Featured photo by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little/Chelsea Babin

The photographer behind the iPhone

Knoxville-based travel photographer Corey Wolfenbarger worked on four continents with several popular companies. He still does not understand how he earned his opportunities.

“Sometimes you do not know how these things happen,” Wolfenbarger said.

Wolfenbarger, 24, visited the University of Tennessee Wednesday, Jan. 31 for a talk in Lindsey Young Auditorium at John C. Hodges Library. He shared his photography journey and a few photo editing tips from apps on his smartphone.

Wolfenbarger got his start on Instagram and Tumblr in 2012. Now, his portfolio contains photos from companies like TOMS, Urban Outfitters and Holiday Inn.

Equipped with only his iPhone 5, he set his sights on the Blue Ridge Mountains and took as many photos as possible.

“I was sharing them on Instagram and getting twenty likes,” Wolfenbarger said. “Nobody was hyping my stuff but I was still really hyped on it.”

Wolfenbarger’s life revolved around photography during his college career. He often skipped class.

“I decided that if I took photos at sunrise or sunset then my photos were going to be way better,” Wolfenbarger said. “So, I would make the executive decision to not go to class anymore.”

In 2014, he decided to drop out of college. He moved in with his parents and turned his scope to the Great Smokey Mountains. Almost every day, Wolfenbarger took trips to the mountains. His photos gained popularity on social media.

New Year’s Eve 2015, something clicked to Wolfenbarger.

Surrounded by talented and successful photographers, he knew he could make a living by taking photos.

“I saw that if I work as hard as I can and stay humble and realize that I don’t know everything… give it my all and that I can do this and people will pay me eventually,” Wolfenbarger said. “If it was little at the time or whether it as nothing. I can make a living with this.”

By 2016, Wolfenbarger’s popularity increased, and he received requests to take photos. All he had at the time was his iPhone.

“I just had an iPhone,” Wolfenbarger said. “I was not going to out myself so I would make up some obscure excuse why I could not do it.”

He decided if he wanted to receive serious pay-work, he should buy a DSLR camera. New technology became a setback for Wolfenbarger because he only shot photos from his iPhone prior to requests. He knew he needed to progress.

“The DLSR was terrifying for me,” Wolfenbarger said. “I did not know how they worked. I did not know how I was going to edit my photos.”

Wolfenbarger initially struggled to learn the basics like aperture and shutter speed.

“When it clicks for you, it’s the most beautiful moment of all time,” Wolfenbarger said.

Wolfenbarger received many opportunities to work with companies in 2016, a “dream year” full of travel and unexpected chances.

Wolfenbarger continues to learn and strives to improve his photography. He is currently working several booklets and plans to travel to Yosemite National Park.

“It is very frustrating and it does have a lot of setbacks, but it is where I am at in my work right now in my photography,” Wolfenbarger said. “I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.

Edited by Chelsea Babin

Featured Photo by Sage Davis

Asian American Association, CEB host 865 Night Market

The Asian American Association and Campus Entertainment Board hosted the first 865 Night Market March 31 at 8 p.m. They gathered many organizations from UT showcasing different cultures from around the globe.

The 865 Night Market marked the conclusion of Culture Week, ending with a bang. The festival was open to the public to learn about different music while eating their nation’s cuisines.

Rapper Dirty performs at 865 Night Friday, March 31 during Culture Week 2017. Students listened to music and enjoyed food from around the globe to end the week.
Rapper Dirty performs at 865 Night Friday, March 31 during Culture Week 2017. Students listened to music and enjoyed food from around the globe to end the week.

The Filipino-American Association displayed the Tinikling dance, a traditional folk dance done with long bamboo sticks. A person stands on both sides of a stick, tapping it on the floor and sliding them together. The audience participated in the dance.

Pellissippi Community College student Simmone Smith enjoyed learning a new dance.

Students perform traditional dances at 865 Night March 31 during Culture Week 2017. Groups showcased talent and cultures from around the world.
Students perform traditional dances at 865 Night March 31 during Culture Week 2017. Groups showcased talent and cultures from around the world.

 

“I really liked the different organizations and the different foods,” Smith said.

Many clubs from UT had their own stand offering food and drinks from their culture. The Asian American InterVarsity offered bubble tea and fried rice. The Latin American Student Association offered homemade churros and the German Club sold fresh bratwursts. The Korean Student Association also sold tteokbokki, a spicy rice cake.
During the night, different clubs performed for the audience. Devin Huggins, a member of the German Club, recited a poem called “Der König” by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. The Korean Student Association members performed a dance to K-Pop music. Rap group StudyBreak Cypher also performed.


“I never knew about these kinds of clubs,” UT student Jaime Baizen said.

Baizen was amazed at the number of clubs and organizations centered around different races and diversities.

“I wish we would have more of these festivals,” Baizen said. “Looking around UT, I wouldn’t have thought there was a lot of diversity but seeing stands for countries like Bangladesh and the German club surprised me.”

Images and Audio by Sage Davis

Edited by Lexie Little

Terou shares food, community importance message

As-salaam ‘alaykum,” Yassin Terou, owner of Yassin’s Falafel, greeted the audience.  He explained that the phrase means “peace be upon you.”

Tuesday, March 28, Terou shared his famous baba ghanoush and pita along with his story of being a refugee at the UT International House for Culture Week promoting messages of peace and community.

“Peace is for everybody. It’s not just for us [Muslims and Arabs],” Terou said.

The night started with his famous cuisines and a short documentary about his hardships as a refugee in the United States.

After the video, Terou explained immigrant life in-depth. Being an immigrant made finding a job hard, but being a non-English speaking immigrant made it more difficult for Terou. That is why he hires immigrants at his restaurant. He empathizes with the struggle of being an unemployed immigrant.

Terou did not only try to shed light on being an immigrant in America, but also shared his love of being part of a community.  When coming to Knoxville for refuge, he felt love from Knoxville community members. He was confused by their smiling and how friendly they were toward him.

“What they doing?” he would ask, confused why they smiled at him.

Culture Week participants serve Yassin's food to attendees at the UT International House March 28, 2017.
Culture Week participants serve Yassin’s food to attendees at the UT International House March 28, 2017.

Owning a restaurant was not focused on earning money, but building connections with his customers.

“We want to part of this community and help build it,” Terou said. “It doesn’t feel like a restaurant to my customers. It feels like their home.”

When President Donald Trump was elected president, Yassin’s Falafel filled with people.

“It became a place of respite,” said Nadeem Siddiqu, Terou’s friend and business partner. He is also the University of Tennessee’s Muslim chaplain. “It is a place to come and be with people and help them deal with what happens.”

UT students came to support Terou and became inspired by his message.

“People like Yassin embody the American dream,” UT student Sara Porch said. “There is so much bad and conflict and inner fighting happening in America right now.  And to see a community come around to something as cool as falafel is heartwarming and makes me optimistic for the future.”

UT graduate student Cory Smith agreed with Porch’s statement.

“The fact that he is interested in the community and became a pillar of Knoxville is pretty important and certainly keeps my faith in America alive,” Smith said. “I see immigrants, and especially refugees, who are facing fear coming here and of themselves and they still believe a promise in America is inspiring.”

Edited by Lexie Little

Featured Image by Sage Davis

Annual Mardi Growl parade brings excitement for spectators, raises money for Young Williams Animal Center

It was a dog lover’s dream come true as many locals celebrated Mardi Gras with the 10th annual Mardi Growl parade on Saturday, March 4.

While many attendees were excited to enjoy the many dogs dressed in amusing costumes, there was more to this event than just parading dogs. Mardi Growl was hosted by the Young Williams Animals Center. The goal of this event was to help fundraise enough money to keep the Young Williams Animals Center to continue their services to about 12,000 animals.

The parade started on Willow Ave. at 11 a.m. with the street filled with hundreds of decorated dogs and was led by Fulton High School’s marching band through the Old City. Hundreds of spectators waited with anticipation as the band led the parade to Gay Street. The Grand Marshall was in a red convertible, waving to the crowd with Smokey the dog as the other guest celebrity.

Many dogs were dressed in Mardi Gras colored tutus and boas. Some dogs were spray painted hot pink while another one’s body was covered in boas, leaving only the legs and head to show.

Dog owners had the chance to compete in the category of their choosing: ‘Best Dawg Pack,’ ‘Best Couple,’ ‘Best Vol Spirit’ and ‘Best Naked Dog.’

After revealing the winners of the categories, Market Square was open for all attendees with over 60 vendors. Each vending station catered to a dog’s needs. Rescue centers were also set up.

 

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Images by Sage Davis