Blue Plate Special Draws Downtown Crowd

Jim Avett, father of the Grammy-nominated Avett Brothers, headlined the Blue Plate Special concert series in downtown Knoxville on June 21.

The free concert, also featuring The Green Boys band, was held inside the Knoxville Visitor’s Center and is part of a summer series that includes live lunchtime performances six days a week. More than 75 people attended the show, some bringing their own lunch.

“We have two performances every day and we love the crowd that comes out, their energy attracts the performers we are lucky enough to book,” said Tony Lawson, program director for WDVX.

Avett has played in New York, California and Nashville in the last two months but enjoys coming to Knoxville. Being raised in North Carolina, on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains, he sees the similarities in the people and feels comfortable here.

Explaining to the crowd that he usually plays Knoxville when he is passing through to Nashville, he sang “Leaving Knoxville”, his song about running from a woman although he loved the town. Written in Knoxville, the smooth tune led many Knoxvillians to follow along with bobbing heads and tapping feet.

Avett told stories about each of the six songs he played, from revealing that he wrote “Leaving Knoxville” in a Strawberry Plains motel room to warning young men about the danger of certain phrases uttered by their lovers.

“When she says ‘I love you, but’, you’re headed down the toilet, son,” Avett joked with the crowd.

While Avett has toured since the ‘70s, The Green Boys formed two years ago and recently released their first album. What they lacked in folksy stories, they made up for in energy.

Featuring an upright bass, guitar, banjo, mandolin and lap steel guitar, the four-piece band combined the sounds of Appalachian bluegrass and honky-tonk country. The diverse footwear of the crowd, from boots to sneakers to a barefooted man, went from tapping to stomping.

Dressed in neckties, black slacks and boots, the Virginia-based band played six songs from the album they released in May, taking breaks to make jokes about having bottles thrown at them in bars and admit to their lack of touring experience.

“We’re trying to play regionally now,” said guitarist Sean Green, “this is the end of our 12 day tour through North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.”

The concert series runs from Monday through Saturday until July 31. Listeners can also tune in to WDVX 89.9 FM to listen if they cannot attend the show on Gay Street