I've been thinking about buildings. This wouldn't surprise anyone that knows me. Lately its been theaters. Places where two of my favorite things, architecture and music, combine for amazing experiences. Since the BIG EARS festival, how the two interact has been on my mind.
I won't get into any theory, but what I'd like to bring up is a trend I've been seeing lately: artists and music listeners have been demanding better quality digs to have concerts in. Often smaller venues too, sacrificing selling more tickets for a better quality experience.
Case in Point: I was looking through The Black Keys tour schedule and it looks awful. Not because of the music, but because of the venues. Places like "Time Warner Amphitheater" and "Verizon Wireless Music Center" fill the list. Interestingly, the Orange Peel in Asheville (one of the few venues I would be interested in) was already sold out. Probably because it's smaller, and probably because it will be one of the best concerts on the tour. Why? The quality of the venue.
Second Case in Point: On Friday there was much excitement shivering through ranks of indie kids when Sufjan Stevens' tour tickets went on sale. On his site it said that Sufjan "personally structured this tour around some of the most historic theaters and venues in the country." Our little Bijou made the cut, presumably because of BIG EARS (it also sold out in hours). I'm betting that this tour could have made a lot more money playing big outdoor amphitheaters with corporate names. But an emphasis was placed on the architecture the music will happen in- something I think more musicians are considering. The 90s model of mega concert, where Dave Matthews was a little moving spec so you watched the jumbotron screen and paid $10 for a Coke, seems to be slowly being subverted by the intimate concert experience.
Knoxville is lucky in this regard. Somehow, we managed to not tear down the last few historic theaters. And we have desirable venues of all sizes- big Tennessee, medium Bijou, smallish Square Room, and micro Pilot Light. Perfect places for tours of all sizes. I'm seeing Knoxville pop up on more and more tour lists (shout out to AC). It's worth noting that our "Music City" neighbor is often missing from the lists that we're on. A musical critical mass is developing in our city. And, I would theorize, the wonderful architecture (and the musical experiences it facilitates) of our venues has a lot to do with it.