AE_0204_BlackLilliesJoseph Llanes

The Black Lillies
The Black Lillies have survived a tough couple of years: After some significant lineup changes in 2015, a trailer full of the band’s gear—some of it vintage equipment that can’t be replaced—was stolen from a hotel parking lot in Texas in January. But adversity will only make Cruz Contreras and company stronger. Hard to Please, the band’s fourth album, from 2015, demonstrates the Lillies’ commitment to keep moving forward, with the addition of hard-edged jukehouse R&B and honky tonk to their formidable country/folk/rock sound. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Handsome and the Humbles, Guy Marshall

The Romeo Kings
This hard-working band delivers blue-collar electric blues, favoring classics by B.B. King, Freddie King, and the Nighthawks, with a little ’70s boogie—Eric Clapton and ZZ Top—thrown in for good measure. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Crawdaddy, Devan Jones and the Uptown Stomp, Grits From Dumplin Valley (three-way tie)

DJ Rev. Phil
The Rev has been holding down Thursday nights at Sassy Ann’s for years now—his throwback dance nights there are a big part of the reason the Fourth and Gill institution won Top Dance Club in this year’s poll—but he’s all over Knoxville, from regular nights at the Edge in West Knoxville to frequent appearances downtown at Preservation Pub. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: DJ Eric B, DJ Stan duh Man

Trae CrowderClay Duda

Trae Crowder

Trae Crowder
Knoxville’s own Liberal Redneck and his pals have stormed this nation this summer after Crowder’s profanity-drenched back porch rants against racists and gay-bashers went viral on YouTube. He has since quit his day job in Oak Ridge, become the “Hillbilly-in-Chief” for the New York Daily News website, launched a successful national tour from Scruffy City Hall, and published a book this month co-written by his fellow touring comics Drew Morgan (a former Knoxville public defender) and Cory Forrester. Crowder’s stand-up is less intense than his Liberal Redneck persona, but just as full of Tennessee twang, culture, and a genuine love for the same blue-collar folks that (misguidedly, he believes) line up behind Donald Trump. Among Crowder’s more moving recent rants are a very personal take on opioid abuse (his mother was an addict who sold pills) and a really convincing argument about why rednecks, of all people, ought to be the first to support the Black Lives Matter movement. (S.H.D.)
Popular Picks: Alex Stokes; Jeff Blank & Shane Rhyne (tie)

The Coveralls
The consummate cover band—if there’s a song you want to hear, whether it’s a ’60s pop hit, an MTV-era smash, or a favorite deep cut from your favorite classic rock band, chances are the Coveralls know it.
Popular Picks: Pop Rox, Same As it Ever Was

Sassy Ann’s
Take a stately old three-story house in Fourth and Gill. Add a couple of bars, three weekly dance nights, big holiday dance parties, and one of the best drinking patios anywhere in Knoxville, and you’ve got Sassy Ann’s, a community center for Knoxville’s most free-wheeling and liberated party population. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Hanna’s, The International

cover_1020_blackatticusJ. Holt

Black Atticus
Joseph Woods is a hip-hop renaissance man—rapper, producer, spoken-word poet, and all-around advocate of old-school hip-hop. (Check out Black Doom, his recent tribute to MF Doom, to verify his bona fides.) His latest effort to promote good music and good vibes is the Good Guy Collective, an affiliation of other local rappers and producers designed to build an infrastructure for Knoxville’s hip-hop scene. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Good Guy Collective, Hypenkrunk

Knoxville Jazz Orchestra
The Knoxville Jazz Orchestra gets around—the local big band, under the direction of founder and director Vance Thompson, takes the stage at the Bijou and Tennessee theaters several times a year with some of the biggest names in jazz (recent guest stars have included Christian McBride and Cécile McLorin Salvant), and the monthly jazz lunch series at the Square Room showcases the best local players paying tribute to icons of jazz history. And during the summer, the Marble City 5 combo jams on the Market Square stage every week. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Frog and Toad’s Dixie Quartet, Marble City Five

Toot’s Little Honky Tonk
Lots of bars may offer karaoke, but few can compete with Toot’s atmosphere and its cast of regulars. (C.T.)
Popular Picks: Bullfeathers, Marie’s Old Towne Tavern

Club XYZ
Long before Happy Holler was a destination for craft beer, vinyl, and vintage, Club XYZ was there. Credit the club as an anchor for the hip development of the last several years—but credit it even more as a fun, open, friendly late-night hot spot with karaoke, drag shows, and more. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: The Edge, Kristtopher’s

Scruffy City Hall
Just like musicians, comics need a good room. This recent addition to Scott and Bernadette West’s Market Square empire is just right for comedy—not too big, not too small, conveniently located, and with two full bars. The best way to judge it is by hitting the Scruffy City Comedy Festival in November, when Scruffy City Hall fits the best local, regional, and national comedians into one weekend. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Open Chord, Pilot Light

Tennessee Theatre
The classy dame of Gay Street approaches her 90th birthday in great shape, with a newly refurbished marquee outside, the still-glorious interior improvements from a $25 million 2003-05 refurbish, and a consistently impressive lineup of performances, ranging from the dazzling Broadway at the Tennessee series to the high-class artistry of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and Knoxville Opera to top-notch rock shows. And history’s still being made there—next month’s Bob Dylan concert will be the first headlining performance by a Nobel laureate at the Tennessee. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Bijou Theatre, The Mill & Mine

Electric Darling

Electric Darling

Electric Darling
The demise of the Dirty Guv’nahs in 2015 left a hole in the local scene—one that ex-Guvs Cozmo Holloway and Kevin Hyfantis went to work on filling almost immediately. But instead of a straight-up revival of their previous band’s Southern-fried alternative Americana, the duo recruited Yasameen Hoffman-Shahin and took a welcome, fresh direction toward hard, soulful psychedelic blues rock. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: Black Cadillacs, Steve Rutledge and Groove Evolution

Pilot Light
This humble Old City dive is a veritable institution. It’s hosted some surprisingly big-name acts (Neil Hagerty, Junior Boys, and Destroyer have headlined there in just the past few weeks), incubated top local bands like the Royal Bangs, and provided an outlet for some of the weirdest, most sublime music experiences that Knoxville has seen in the last decade and a half—experiences that almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if this place didn’t exist. Its attainment of nonprofit status may ensure that it will keep existing. (M.E.)
Popular Picks: The International, Open Chord
See Also: Top Dive Bar, in Drink