Friday, June 26, 2009

let the sun go down on sundown

Let me preface this post with a disclaimer.

I love people coming to downtown. I think anyone who comes to our little, loveable, live-able city will see why we here at the Wigshop have a deep and abiding desire to see it grow and thrive. That said…

I am so glad Sundown is over. That sham of a music event has become nothing but an excuse for sleazy 40 year old men to buy beer for half-dressed 14 year old girls. The city has created an environment in which people come into the city only to trash it, get drunk, and not patronize any of the local shops.

What started out as a summertime music show in the old city, has turned into a joke. The fact that I, and many (if not most) downtowners, avoid being anywhere around where we live on Thursdays is a great example of the problem with it. Market square, which looked beautiful this spring with a beautiful lawn and open space turns into a cattle yard where anything and everything that can be destroyed, is.

I made the mistake of trying to go to LaCosta for dinner last night, not only could I not get through market square, but the patio was taken up by people who had water, no food, and only one person had an empty beer with no apparent intention of getting another, but were they going to move along and let others eat, no. They set up shop from 6-10 actually decreasing the amount of business that LaCosta does in a night.

I can’t stand to walk by 200 emo tweens who are sneaking a smoke off their grandmothers Virginia Slims and trying to suck down a 40oz Miller lite before the security guard catches them.

The city does great street festivals, has family friendly events like Shakespeare and Movies on the square, but has let this event turn into a colossal waste.

Scale it back or move it. It’s no longer an appropriate event for the venue.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Pol. I abandon home every Thursday to get away from it. I am the biggest music fan there is, but I can't stand Sundown. Used to, we'd get to see cool up-and-coming acts like the Avett Bros and My Morning Jacket. Now all we get are washed up 90s acts and drunken out of towners abusing out beautiful city. I used to love going to Pres Pub for Sundown. It's just not the same anymore. It's, like you say, a waste.

The Modern Gal said...

Preach on, Pol. Having not attended Sundown since 2004ish, I was blown away when I went this year and realized just how much it's outgrown Mkt Sq. I miss the quaint shows from years past, and I hate trying to find parking and deal with the crowds.

B said...

Every time I've worked on the Square during Sundown, I'm appalled at people's behavior. It's as if they come in wanting to start a fight. And the drama from the emo tweens! I'm so glad it's over.

I biked over to the Square right at 10 last night. I've never seen it so trashed.

Lord Von Lord said...

Well said, all. I've wearied of it for the usual reasons in addition to the ones listed here.

Entropy is the nature of these things I guess. It was once an event that all music lovers could embrace but now it is a farcical exercise of posers and the culturally bereft.

cmmoxley said...

I wonder why there can't be some kind of compromise. Put the huge acts at World's Fair Park and turn down the volume of the ones at Market Square. I was there three weeks ago and it was just too loud to enjoy. And I'm not a prude. Raised on rock concerts. I also think more police visibility around the event would help - the parking garages, Krutch Park, etc. That's where a good deal of the underage misadventures take place. Good job. We posted a link to your discussion from "The Blue Streak."

Robert said...

yep. venue change is the answer. town's need stuff like this to remind suburbia that there is a downtown, that they are part of a 'community' (be it a collective of emo kids and drunken rednecks), Market Square just has such a better vibe when there is no meat-market horrible event going on, and businesses on the Sq. are usually doing pretty good anyways.

One memory of my first/last Sundown this summer: I was sitting outside at Pres Pub around 5:30 having a drink w a friend and waiting for the show to start (and for us to make our exit). A 50 year old guy walks up and asks if he can join us at our huge table. Of course we said 'yes.' He told us that he'd driven in from Rogersville for the night, and we were talking about how much we like downtown, how much its changed, how its growing in a good direction, and he interjects with 'the only thing this place (Mkt Sq.) is missing is a decent strip club. You can't find one anywhere within walking distance of downtown.'

I tried to explain that that probably didn't fit with the family-friendly aesthetic they were going for, but alas, it fell on deaf ears.

This is the problem. Sundown is getting so big (relatively speaking) that its attracting people like this, willing to drive an hour and a half, to completely miss the point of why downtown is worth saving.

end rant.

Discordia said...

I agree completely. The problem is despite the business lost in Market Square by the sundowners, Knoxville as a whole gains business by all the out of towners who travel into the city just for key sundown shows.

All that aside, it has become a white-trash, redneck, overcrowded booze-fest, complete with all the punk-wannabe high schoolers trying to act cool while smoking a cigarette laced with pot.

It's kind of disgusting, and has been slowly morphing into something very similar to my hometowns redneck incarnation: FunFest.

The question is, what do you do to fix it, or do you just kill it and give the west knoxvillians even less reason to journey to downtown?

benjamin said...

The last time I went to Sundown (besides seeing the everybodyfields last summer, R.I.P) was to see My Morning Jacket back in '04. And during three or four songs, there was a couple standing in front of me having sex. LITERALLY. She lifted her skirt inconspicuously and he "whipped it out" - it was horrifying. And it's sad that I barely remember MMJ. I only remember old homeless person outdoor sexual adventure.

Also, I was probably in the 6th row of people from the stage. It's very possible that Stan was there. A Little Korean was standing next to me.

Jeffrey Nichols said...

As a Gay St. resident, I agree. I've avoided Sundown for the most part. There must be a better way to attract people downtown. I was really impressed with the Rossini fest this year. We need more events like that.

benjamin said...

PS. The point of my anecdote is that free outdoor concerts attract the worst people. There's no getting around it.

B said...

benjamin, I was there and am very glad I did not see what you saw.

That concert, as I remember, was the last time I enjoyed myself at sundown.

benjamin said...

B, that is because you were up in that sweet loft above Subway with Amelia and some of her homies. Lucky!

benjamin said...

Also, I rememeber you having at least a decent time at the everybodyfields. Weren't you brought to tears when the covered "Today"

Lord Von Lord said...

Love Rossini, Mr. Nichols...that's as fun an event as it gets.

Even when I've liked the performance at Sundown, it's been a mixed bag. A few years ago when the Gin Blossoms played I was burned with cigarettes twice by careless smokers. Ruined a perfectly good shirt.

If the venue was changed to the WFP, that would help although I do think that there's potential there for mischief and bad judgment as well. I was over there yesterday afternoon and the number of swimsuit wearing people in the actual water behind the ampitheater was not easily counted. I'm no nanny statist, but come on...get those folks out of there. That stuff is nasty.

Herb King said...

I don't ever go to Sundown. Too many people that call other people rednecks and Emo punks.

Not very judgmental are you?

Anonymous said...

Much Agreed!

Anonymous said...

I am happy to defend that the Pol did not once use the terms redneck or white trash in his post.

Anonymous said...

If there's one thing that's been consistent over the entire course of Sundown (which didn't begin in the Old City, btw), it's been the bitching. Not enough people, too many people, the wrong kind of people, the lineup stinks, etc. The common thread is that it used to be good but now it sucks, even though it really hasn't changed much except in people's selective memories.

Who, exactly, put a gun to your head and marched your crabby ass down there? If you don't like it, don't go to it. That's the strategy I use for the WIVK-era "Saturday Night on the Town," and it works great.

Discordia said...

Herb King,

I'm not one for labels usually, but there are demographics in the south that i abhor. And those demographics tend to flourish at sundown.

Coincidence? Not really. But in the wise old saying if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, spills beer and screams, "free bird!!!" like a duck, beats its kids in the middle of a public concert gathering like a duck, wears attire only seen in a walmart after 2 am like a duck, and litters uncontrollably like a duck, why refer to it as a goose?

Wax S. said...

Guys, you know I love this blog, but I kind of agree with Herb King. I don't see any problem in advocating a venue change for Sundown, or openly discussing some of the problems associated with it, but this rant and a lot of the comments really turn me off because of some of the blanket characterizations being implied.

In my current form, I quite closely resemble a privileged, snobbish, treehugging yuppie professor, but I'd be pretty unlikely to pay much attention to a blog post that railed against them en masse. You don't gain much credibility by alienating, even unintentionally, potential readership.

It's also wise to remember that the more open the discussion of downtown is to various demographic groups, and the more relevant the continuing redevelopment is to the general public, rather than a targeted population, the more successful it will be. Don't forget that these audiences are actually having a good time and leaving with a positive view of Market Square and downtown. Let's not vilify potential allies, let's consider how we might better use their energy.

Pol and the rest of the Wigshoppers usually do a great job maintaining an intensely respectful tone by calling out the problems without being too nasty towards any particular group. Please keep doing that...

Discordia said...

And Anon, no one put a gun to my head and marched me down there. I enjoy Preservation Pub quite a bit, and I channel the crying native american when i see how trashy market square looks shortly following sundown.

It deserves to be kept nicer than the way the sundown masses treat it.

Discordia said...

Wax S.,

I have a feeling part of what their saying is that the capacity and draw of market square is bringing in a crowd which isn't going to maintain the wholesome family-fun atmosphere sundown was intended for.

To be honest, I'm shocked there hasn't been a shooting/stabbing/serious altercation yet. I'm afraid that when this inevitably does happen though, the city will shut it down and we'll lose out on a sometimes-but-not-lately enjoyable summer tradition.

Athomp said...

From my perspective on this issue, being a downtown business owner, Sundown in the City helps rev up business during the spring. We end up doing a couple extra thousand dollars every Thursday and that really helps out. We aren't on Market Square, though, and I imagine I'd have some different ideas about it if we were.

Being on the Square, it's up to the businesses to take a stand against squatters. They should kick people out if they don't buy anything. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just good business sense.

No one should be getting a free ride, it's hard enough to own a restaurant and bar in Knoxville, trust me.

As far as the comment about complaining being consistent, one thing that I feel is very true that others have mentioned is that the lineup has been kind of weak for the last two years. I'm not sure how AC funds their acts or what, but I think it must be underfunded (well, the concert is free).

Nonetheless, I am very thankful for AC putting together a concert which I imagine they can't possibly make that much off of.

ps. The kids being down here is not their fault, it's the fault of their terrible parents allowing them to wander around at night with no guidance.

pss. I'm of a different opinion on the "redneck" issue. Getting undereducated and less enlightened people into downtown at anytime should be encouraged. I can think of no other place in Knoxville that they are going to get a better chance to broaden their horizons. West Knoxville is a terrible conglomerate of big businesses and mismanaged building plans.

Anonymous said...

Puh-lease. The sophistry being touted by the supporters of the untenable status quo won't save this event.

Only a matter of time before economics or safety demand it be moved or reduced in scope.

And the characterizations about the emos, slutty tweens, and drunk rednecks? DEAD ON.

KSA said...

I do miss the early days of Sundown. When the event first started, it was a great venue to see many talented bands and bond with other musical enthusiast, in most part it was a very laid back crowd that would venture to the Square to enjoy the show, majority being in the same mindset.

As the years progressed, and the crowds grew, the overall vibe of the event changed also. It no longer feels like an event where the majority is there to listen to the bands. What I experience and see are people coming with different agendas, other than appreciating a good performance.

When did people start dressing up like they are going out clubbing on a Saturday night to enjoy an outdoor music show? Has Sundown evolved into the new arena for hookups?

Why are there junior high and high school children there? The majority of unaccompanied children I have noticed at the event show no interest in the band, and little respect for the segment of the audience that is. It appears to me that their agenda is underage drinking, drama and being an annoyance.

I wonder if Old City Live is going to have the same negative issues as Sundown? I guess will find out on July 2nd.

Courtney said...

I agree with The Pol. Sundown has gotten too big for Market Square; although I've seen some bands there that I've enjoyed, the experience has always been marred by drunk underage kids or people who don't know how to behave in public. And since the event apparently is doing nothing for Market Square businesses, I say move it to World's Fair Park or somewhere that people can spread out more. I know I'd enjoy the bands more if I didn't have to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people who spill their beer all over the place or throw their elbows into people's noses.

benjamin said...

I feel like I should apologize for making it sound as if everyone at Sundown is having sex with homeless people. They're not. And everyone that comes to Sundown is not the worst, either. If that were the case, then my friends and I would be the worst.

However, these are the people that come to Sundown on a regular basis. Dog cradled in arms - child on leash. CASE AND POINT.

ps. :)

micah daniel said...

ben, that photo is absolutely the saddest irony i have ever seen. i'm wondering if i should even be shocked anymore. yikes!

B said...

I just wanted to commend the pol on his enthusiasm and unabashed opinions expressed in this post. I think he actually practiced restraint without compromising what he actually thinks.

As for the negative comments, I appreciate being called out when needed. I know one of the most valuable things I can do for the world is to learn how to love the man that barks at me and spills his beer on my shoes or the woman that tips me one dollar after serving her 23 beers. That is a quest all in itself.

Anonymous said...

this blog's always been snobby, delusional and faux hipster.


benjamin said...

aka: a blog.

Discordia said...

"snobby, delusional, and faux hipster"

"aka: a blog"

I lol'd.

B said...

i guess we're doing it right then, eh? congrats, team!

Anonymous said...

Most of the restaurants on the square charge a minimum bill charge for the outdoor seats. If people are paying a minimum charge, they are entitled to sit there and drink water as long as they want, even if someone as cool as the blogger wants his front row seat at La Costa back from the uncool old men, emo tweens and 14 year old girls. Im pretty sure the business owners on the square are happy to charge someone a minimum charge for a seat and have them drink water all night.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure you'd be wrong. Water doesn't add up like regular food and beverages--'minimum bill charge?' Yeah, right.

I'M SURE however, that the servers whose tips are based on that cost don't enjoy bearing water for the aforementioned detrius of sundown. They are part of the business as well you know, a business that at the end of the day would prefer increased sales rather than your preposterous and highly dubious minumum charge.

Wax S. said...

Dang, I wonder if My Morning Jacket ever would have come to K-Town in the first place if we lacked the vapid decadence (and ticket revenue) of the local Emo Tweens?

And shoot! If Lucero, The Felice Brothers, Scott Miller, Justin Townes Earle, Lucinda Williams, and all the other polite and temperate bands we love seein' downtown ever decide to stop singin' songs that feature drunk redneck lifestyle, I guess I'll have to drive my rig outside Knox County to get any culture 'ceptin' Signor Rossini!

Seriously? None of you guys were ever inconsiderate when you were in your teens? You never flicked a cigarette butt on the ground? Stayed out past your cerfew? Got drunk and made a fool of yourself? Hate the sin, but not the sinners, gang, sheesh...

Discordia said...

Not speaking for anyone else, but when I was an inconsiderate teen I had the decency to behave like the common inconsiderate teen that I was and spend all my time at the mall.

I also now only go to malls out of necessity for the same reason.

In all honesty, I think sundown would be great if it added one or two shows to the list that were 18 and up only. But the city would never fly for that.

Anonymous said...

Cafe 4 has a minimum seat charge of $75 per individual.

Anonymous said...


I think all of us here behaved roughly at least a few times when they were younger. Having said that, as an adult I don't have to enable that behavior(magnified 100x) these days at Sundown. The authors and commenters here aren't uptight or prudes, and its taken YEARS for people to finally say enough is enough.

Many of the teens down there aren't of smoking age...far younger than the usual latter age teenage suspects of underage drinking and smoking. Crappy kids usually turn into crappy adults unless their parents or to a lesser degree society as a whole gets involved to correct this behavior. Behaving like a savage should be discouraged, not tolerated.


Wax S. said...

Charles, I totally agree we should encourage good behavior, and I'm not against folks being annoyed by behavior they don't like in a place they live and work.

The bloggers and commenters that frequent this site are trying to make Knoxville awesome, and they value and support many of the exact same qualites of community that I do.

I just take issue with the tendency to blanket characterize a group of people based on specific actions of individuals. I think this habit is fatally counterproductive to what they're (and I'm) trying to achieve.

regi said...

sundown has had a weak line up for the past two years, and i agree that somethings needs to change.

i propose:
AC needs to step up their musical acts. heck, knoxville needs to step up their musical acts. maybe AC needs to start charging a couple bucks for sundown to bring better bands? i'm not really fond of this idea, but if that's what needs to happen to bring better music, then so be it.

move the venue where a bigger crowd can be accompanied. where ever the venue is, all kinds of people will flock to it. yes, this is a very good thing. music is supposed to bring people together! (world's fair park would be a great venue. also, this is still downtown and in walking distance from market square, not to mention people would still park there. businesses may take a hit, but would still get business from customers attending the event.)

KPD needs to increase their security, wristbands for the drinking folk maybe

increase the number of garbage receptacles to cut down on trash,



p.s. ben, thanks for bringing up that traumatic experience at mmj, really, thanks.

Ian Blackburn said...

To the folks complaining about the lineup being "weak" - more prominent/well-known/"better" bands bring bigger crowds, and that's one of the main things people complain about. A lot of thought and planning goes into the lineup, including consideration of the expected crowd size. You can complain that the Rolling Stones never play Sundown, and you can complain that the Sundown crowds are too big, but please don't do both in the same breath.

Regi - there always have been wristbands for the drinking folk.

benjamin said...

Your welcome, Greg. Sorry I forgot you were there too. I'll never bring it up again.

Also, I am confused. Are restaurants really charging a minimum fee? I've never heard of this? Why would someone pay $75 to go to a free concert to sit at THE FURSTEST restaurant from the stage, Cafe 4? That is ridiculous. And maybe "anonymous" was being sarcastic, in which case, joke's on me.

Also, where are these fabled wrist bands coming from? I've never been given one.

benjamin said...

*You're welcome. Dang it.

ck said...

Wow. 44 comments later, I'm not sure what we're talking about anymore.

I, for one, am fine with anybody coming downtown for whatever reason because the city NEEDS all types of people, rubbing elbows (or ashing the occasional cigarette on you). Downtown is for everybody. So while I agree that Sundown has become dominated by certain subcultures, they can have the Square a few nights a year. I'm glad they are a part of this crazy urban mess.

Speaking of mess- anytime you get thousands of people together, they're going to trash everything around them. As long as the event organizers arrange for it to be cleaned up, everything should be OK.

Speaking of event organizers- AC Entertainment does a great job doing what they can with a free concert. "Sundown is not is good as it used to be" is not just hipster bitching- the City helped fund Sundown until two years ago, and after that the overall quality for the acts started to weaken. You can't get what we used to get for half the price. That's just the current economic reality of the concert series. We're lucky to have AC in Knoxville and that they are willing to put on Sundown for basically no money.

And speaking of money- restaurants charging money for the luxury of sitting down out of the crowd and having someone bring them beer and food isn't outrageous. As long as they share some the money with the servers to make up for lousy tips- it's their real estate so more power to them.

Thanks everyone for the (mostly) civil conversation here! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I simply couldn't agree more.....Brian

Anonymous said...

Some Sundown shows should be reserved for 21 and up patrons ONLY. If I wanted to hang out with children, I'd work at the church daycare. Don't bring your BABY in a STROLLER to Sundown. Seriously.

I only went to Sundown once this season, to see Gavin Rossdale. He was worth wading thru all the teenage smokers and baby strollers.

Ken said...

Great thread!

I absolutely agree that Sundown has changed over the years. My favorite times at Sundown were actually the very early years, before Market Square was remodeled. Those years it felt like Knoxville was a small town, and I felt like everyone I knew would be at sundown every week. Now, I only get to Sundown once or so a year.

Like most everything does, Sundown grew and evolved. It's a great event that we're lucky to have and it makes sense that people from across the region want to attend. The fact that it draws so many is exactly what makes it able to survive without public funds that supported it early on. Sponsors need exposure to make it worth their investment. I think that's really the crux of the situation, it's hard to have the growth Sundown needed to survive, and also keep the same flavor it had as a smaller event.

I think a change of venue might be great, and WFP is the obvious choice. Even then, it won't be the old Sundown's we remember. I'd settle for room to move at this point though.


Max Gambit said...

It's pretty simple: If you want less people and more affluent people attending the event, start charging for tickets. The same thing happened to Vanderbilt's Rites of Spring Music Festival a few years ago, the free concert attracted what students called 'Nash-Trash' so the school started charging in order to get better bands and keep out the riff-raff.

Ken said...

Sundown has to be free at this point because it's on Market Square. Charged events are not currently allowed there.

Kase! said...

Sundown was created revive market square and to help boost businesses. I have always attended Sundown. Now, with todays young adults I no longer enjoy it, although I am myself a young adult. Todays generation is a major let down of trashy, half dressed, uneducated drugies. It's sad. Every time you turn around there is a fight. They have been doing sundown for years, but now it's a disturbance to the neighborhood? Anyways just throwing me opion in. Bye! :)