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Hard Knox

Hard Notes/Hard Nights: It's a Hard Knock Life

Dec 19, 2014 03:51PM ● Published by Diana Bogan

Knoxville doesn’t have a thriving music scene, it has several, and it will take several writers to cover them all. First up is Niles Haury, whose years spent jamming his way through many of K-Town’s choicest dives makes him a perfect fit for the Hard Knox Independent. His new column, Hard Notes/Hard Nights, is a behind-the-scenes chronicle of K-Town’s nightlife as seen through the eyes of a local musician. – J.J. Stambaugh, editor

Local musician Henry Gibson. Photo courtesy of Gibson.

 “So, either you guys go there, or we go over there with a gun and settle it ourselves.”

That’s what longtime Knoxville rock’n’roller Henry Gibson’s neighbor told police he was going to do to in response to Gibson and his new band rehearsing at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.

When the police officer knocked on the door to relate the neighbor’s threat, Gibson and his band were only 20 minutes into their second practice. The cops had come to investigate a noise complaint and warn him of a neighbor’s vigilante-like threat to take volume control into their own hands if band practice continued. When they arrived, the police said, they could hardly hear any music from the distance of one house down the street and what they could hear they rather enjoyed. Still, they thought it best with the current situation if Gibson cut practice short.

Fortunately, peace was kept and no shots were fired that Sunday afternoon. Who knows if they would have been? Who knows if there was even a gun? Who knows which neighbor made the call? With a face of disbelief, Gibson explains: “That’s the thing, I don’t know who it is. The cops don’t know who it is and they’re there to ask if I knew.”

His palms turn up as he shrugs his shoulders, smiles, and says, “The neighbors on the left, they’re nice. I mean, I’ve waved at them.”

But ultimately Gibson can’t know which neighbor is possibly glaring through his window, clutching the phone in one hand and cocking a gun in the other because a day of rest has been inconvenienced by some music. It seems civility is on a lunch break.

Again, mind you, this is only the second practice for the band. It’s so new it has yet to be named and still, somehow, only twenty minutes into these first notes, some universal authority has called and is presenting a case for the quits, for doubt, and for that good ol’ “what to do now” kind of feeling.

Well, please consider this: at their busiest, a musician lives the glamorous part of music for two or three hours a day, and that’s only if they are deep in touring. The rest of the time, 99% actually, is the crazed journey of trying to get there. And not only with those in the band, but also with girlfriends, boyfriends, current jobs, past lives, future ambitions, money issues, family issues, and of course, gun-wielding neighbors. It’s hard enough just to wrangle guys into a room for practice, let alone build enough energy to make a successful go at a career playing music.

Gibson knows this quite well. He has been playing and touring on-and-off for more than a decade. Most extensively, he toured with the Royal Bangs across the United States and also on a small European jaunt, making essentially no money but grinding it out in pursuit of the elusive profession of music. Gibson’s newest band consists of himself (on bass and lead vocals), Jake Jones, and Tobias Campbell, both of whom play for the Knoxville-based band On My Honor. Jones and Campbell are recent “free agents” since On My Honor has made the decision to disband (their farewell show is planned for Jan. 24).

After his recent venture with the four-piece band Echoes evaporated, Gibson was excited to be back in the pursuit of music with new members, new songs, and new hopes to write and tour. He now has a new girlfriend that supports him and a new home they can practice in and an old job that could now give him the hours he needs to bring music back to “pure love.”But alas, a neighbor’s phoned-in threat and a handful of hard knocks sees hope’s tune turn to white noise and then silence. The unnamed band of three, who are now left with a severe case of musical blue balls, are cop-blocked almost before it even began.

So what to do now? Why keep it up? Why pretend Sisyphus is happy? For fame? For money?

“Oh, yeah. I’m past that,” Gibson sighs. “It’s back to pure love. To make music, to tour, that’s what really drives me to live, and this is what we love to do. So let’s figure out a way to do it!”

And there it is, the hook! The heart of the musician! The artist’s love of expression! To tap in to a higher power through rhythm and melody. To become greater than the sum of parts, lost in song and dance. And so Gibson posts on his own Facebook page, “btw looking for a new practice space…”

By Niles Haury, music columnist
Arts+Entertainment Music Hard Notes/Hard Nights Niles Haury Henry Gibson Knoxville Music Scene

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