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imageIf asked, some may peg me as more of a “Bah Humbug!” than a “Deck the Halls” type of gal. It’s true that organized religion and I had a falling out and may never reconcile, but the promise of the Christmas season has always filled me with a hope for humanity’s goodness that seems lacking the rest of the year. The music helps.

When I was a child attending Christmas mass with my family, the music director was a master at building emotion over the course of the service. As midnight approached, the lights would dim and the congregation would softly sing “Silent Night” by candle light. When the bells tolled for Christmas and “Joy to the World” was sung, that joy was tangible.

For me, traditional hymns will always rekindle the emotional response I felt each year while surrounded by family, love, ritual and magic. However, the fun, fantastical, puckish nature of the season is best portrayed through non-traditional music.

I’ve put together a list of my favorites here for you.

1. “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues. Louisiana, Dec. 1988. I was an angst-ridden teenager. Too young to have fun like the adults and too old to want to hang out with the younger kids. Enter my aunt’s best friend, Stuart Riordan, with one of the coolest gifts I’ve received: “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” by The Pogues.

2. “It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop” by Frightened Rabbit. This song captures the hope that we can all be better people — if only for one day.

3. “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt. Sure, this is a song about a woman flirting with Santa as she asks for expensive gifts. Yes, it’s rife with innuendo. But when Kitt sings, it’s not trashy. It’s sultry.

4. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby. One of the best Christmas songs of all time sung by one incredibly smooth man.

5. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Henry Rollins. Though not technically a song, Rollins takes the classic poem and turns it into a report from an urban war zone. Points for creativity.

And now, for the worst. The following songs should never be played under any circumstances. The videos are simply for illustrative purposes.

1. “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney. Worst. Song. Ever. I have threatened violence on people who think of singing it in my presence. I will not enter a store in which it is playing.

2. The Chipmunk Song. Shoot me. Or shoot the stereo. Just make it stop.

3. I discovered that Justin Bieber has a Christmas album.

4. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. I think they’re too busy worrying about food, tribal warfare and disease to think about your Christian holiday. The sheer idiocy of this song aggravates me.

5. “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” by John Denver. When John Prine sings about Christmas in prison, it’s funny. When John Denver sings about his drunk father and sobbing mother, it’s just depressing.

Honorable Mentions

Among the best:
"Happy Christmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. This Beatle got it right.
"Gabriel’s Message" by Sting. Every time I hear this, I wish it were longer.
"Christmas in Hollis" by Run-DMC. First, they sampled the horn section from Backdoor Santa by Clarence Carter and that’s just awesome. Then they throw together an oddball storyline and have fun in the delivery of it.

Among the worst:
"Christmas Conga" by Cyndi Lauper. The saving grace is that I think I’ve only heard this travesty twice in my life.
"Funky, Funky Christmas" by New Kids on the Block. I hope they got paid well for this. I couldn’t even listen to it all the way through.
"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" by Elmo and Patsy. Look, the rest of the world already has a bad enough view of Southerners. Our ignorant hick reputation doesn’t need any more help. 

Merry Christmas to you all. Whatever you listen to, I hope it brings you joy.


The Rock 90.3’s Daily Pick from UT Knoxville: Senryu is a band that has been performing in Knoxville for as long as I can remember. They show off a combination of two of their hits that build in intensity in World’s Fair Park. 

Find out what they’re listening to at UT Knoxville with The Rock’s College Radio Countdown.

Knoxville band Senryu was featured today on the MTVu Tumblr, via a recommendation from WUTK 90.3.

The band, fronted by Knoxville musician and songwriter Wil Wright, has been around for more than a decade.

News Sentinel music writer Wayne Bledsoe is a big fan of Senryu, and he’s written about them several times over the years — such as here and here, for example. So has freelance writer Jer Cole, as evidenced here.

Bledsoe even named Senryu’s “Half Wild” as one of his picks for best album in 2011.

Senryu offers free downloads of various songs online at senryu.bandcamp.com.

I was researching the history of hashtags and how they came to be for a recent #trending print column, and I ended up on this hilarious YouTube video.

Paul Nowell is a Los Angeles-based trombonist and educator who posts videos of himself playing the trombone. The video above is a short musically-inclined history that explains the history of the simple #hashtag. Enjoy!

Fountain at Bonnaroo in 2011

Fountain at Bonnaroo in 2011 (taken via Instagram).

I’m at home today, preparing my gear and snacks for the 2012 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival! Reporter Hayes Hickman, photographer Adam Brimer and I will depart for our three hour-long drive to Manchester, Tenn., early tomorrow morning.

Our Web coverage of Bonnaroo has changed heavily in the past decade, and that’s the topic of my Sunday print #trending column.

In 2002 and 2003, our Bonnaroo coverage was cursory with stories and photos and perhaps an entry or two just for the Web.

In 2004, music reporter Wayne Bledsoe and photographer Saul Young shared their ‘Roo experiences on blogs called “Wayne Blogsoe” and “Saul at Bonnaroo.” A year later assistant visuals editor Lauren Spuhler joined the team, giving our online coverage a boost.

Spuhler shared photos and snippets of the scene in a Bonnaroo blog. She experimented with podcasts, took photos for a Web gallery, and created video profiles of concertgoers with hidden talents — Bonnaroo Idol. In 2007 she started a Twitter account as part of her coverage, sending tweets via SMS. We snagged the Twitter handle @bonnaroo, which was readily available at the time. We sent tweets as @bonnaroo for a while until the Bonnaroo organizers contacted us and claimed their handle. We gave them @bonnaroo and are now known as @bonnaroonews.

Spuhler embraced the upgrades in prosumer technology that boomed in the mid 2000s. She posted a lot more video and tweeted away from the festival. Her followers were enthusiastic and she arranged tweet-ups. (See our coverage from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Some links in the older content may not work anymore due to major technological upgrades, but you get the gist of our coverage plans.)

Owle Bubo

Last year, I took the coverage reins from Spuhler. I had the luck of attending a photo manager workshop a few months before the festival so was armed with some fun apps on my iPhone that I wanted to try out. I used a little point and shoot camera to take video and used my iPhone for photography. Armed with an Owle Bubo device (basically a lens attachment for a phone) I snapped, tagged and uploaded away. I took panoramic images with the phone and also shared photos via Instagram.

The most thrilling part of the process was uploading photos just moments after they were taken. I loved seeing the instant retweets of my coverage and the realtime engagement.

Florence Welch waits for a porta-potty at Bonnaroo 2011 (photo by Adam Brimer)This year, in addition to our usual Web coverage plans on Twitter and Facebook, I will post a lot of photos to Instagram and Tumblr via my iPhone. The Tumblr is a new experiment, and I’m excited to see how many fans, follows and reblogs we will get. The photos we’ve posted on there right now are already generating some interest. A photo by Brimer of Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine waiting on a porta-potty at Bonnaroo in 2011 already has a lot of reblogs.

Brimer will also be posting photos to our Tumblr and sharing photos via his @adambrimer Instagram account.

Videos will be posted to YouTube. Our traditional stories and photo galleries will continue to be posted to www.knoxville.com.

I hope you’ll follow our coverage and get a feel for the Bonnaroo vibe.

PS: In short, here is a concise list with links to all our standard coverage platforms and areas:

Today is a big day for Knoxville’s one and only LiL iFFy.

Back in November, before the wizard rapper’s debut album “Wandcore” was released, Wayne Bledsoe wrote that iFFy was “finding an audience around the country.”

Well, today, that audience is a bit more solidified: the LiL iFFY Daytrotter session has been released.

(Daytrotter, for those who are unfamiliar, is a music site by recording studio Horseshack in Rock Island, Ill. Daytrotter sessions feature popular and upcoming musical acts recorded in studio as they pass through town.)

The session comprises five tracks — a welcome track and four original songs, ‘Sorted Affair,’ ‘M Pomfrey,’ ‘Sorted for Greatness’ and ‘Untitled,’ a travelogue immortalizing iFFy’s February national tour.

The chances you may come across this link on social media is pretty great. Friends and fans have been sharing the session all over the Web since its release this afternoon.

Wil Wright, longtime Knoxville musician, is the man behind iFFy, with the help of his ‘Dude Source’ crew — local DJ/producer Tom Ato, Playboy Manbaby, Baylatrix and Mr. Nine and 3/4.

For more information on LiL iFFy, check out his Facebook page or visit wandcore.bandcamp.com.

And for more on Wil Wright, visit wmwright.bandcamp.com.


Yeah. I did that.

It’s the end of Sundown in the City - the outdoor concert series on Market Square -  and such an announcement deserves a certain degree of cheesy solemnity.

I used to enjoy going down to the Square, hearing some live music and watching the crowd. Back in the day, it was a sweet assignment to go down to Sundown and record a few minutes of audio so that we could put together an audio slideshow in the morning.

However, when the crowds got so large that I couldn’t navigate through them and when middle school kids in the audience were the norm, my interested waned.

That seems to have been the major detractor for most people that aren’t heartbroken that the experiment has come to an end.

Reactions online have shown people to be either bummed, ambivalent or kind of glad. No one likes to see something really cool jump the shark.

I think if you look at Twitter, you’ll find the responses to today’s news pretty evenly split, but the Facebook crowd seems to fall more toward the “bummed” sided of the spectrum.

Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, the man that brought us Sundown in the first place, has intimated that there are some new ideas he’s toying with that might take place in the downtown area.

Let’s hope so.

our awesome mayor, Madeline Rogero, is here at #waynestock we are sooooo honored! #Knoxville

With all the Stacey stuff broiling about the past few days, a very important local musical event has been relegated to the back burners.

Waynestock 2: For the Love of Phil is this Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Feb. 2-4) at Relix Variety Theatre.

This year’s Waynestock proceeds will go to Phil Pollard’s Children’s Education Fund.

It’ll feature a ridiculous amount of local musical talent - especially considering the low, low price of $5 a night. 

Check out more information at www.waynestock.org.