Swing music, progressive rock and break dancing – oh my!
While these three distinctive genres do not ordinarily elicit comparisons, they shared a common audience Saturday night at Knoxville's Relix Variety Theatre.
Local acts Swingbooty, Oroboro and VolatomiX took the stage back-to-back for an evening in which the dance floor was undoubtedly the place to be.
True to its name, the venue's inclusive variety of entertainment allowed for concert-goers to practice their Lindy Hop one song, and their Six Step the next.
Megan Patterson, freshman in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology and psychology, thought the impromptu swing dancing that erupted during Swingbooty's gypsy-jazz set made for a pleasant surprise.
"Swingbooty was fantastic," she said. "Watching a crowd of 21st century college students break it down like our grandparents' generation was extremely entertaining and unlike any other show I've attended.
"Although their sound was foreign to the typical college scene, they really drew everyone in and owned the crowd."
When not jitterbugging herself, Patterson, a first-time visitor to Relix, made note of the venue's offbeat, scruffy feel.
"What stood out to me was the relaxed, eclectic atmosphere," she said. "I think the fact that it is further away from campus ensures that only actual fans of the band will make the trip and everyone at the venue will be into the performance."
The all-ages show drew as diverse a crowd as its musical attractions. Audience members spanning from teenagers with glow sticks to older couples in dapper, 1940s-evocative looks intermingled on the floor.
A curtain of heavily draped string lights created a starry stage backdrop, and a large canvas accompanied by an assortment of acrylics invited passers-by to leave their artistic mark.
Part of a live art installation by Lisa Leturno, the brightly painted canvas added a thoughtful touch to the evening, said Jimmy Russell, a recent graduate in psychology.
"Lisa Leturno rounded out the culturally diverse night with some live painting that took on a life all its own," he said. "A dozen concert-goers joined in to contribute to a psychedelic mosaic that constantly evolved throughout the night with the individual touches of everybody that contributed."
Equally experimental was the performance of Knoxville band Oroboro, Russell said.
"They play great music with a psychedelic touch that seems to be surprisingly rare in this scene," he said. "What really stands out is the talent of the musicians: from the frenetic, rat-a-tat-tat drum beats of Matt Johnson always keeping you on your toes with constant variations so flawlessly stringed together, to the expertly crafted and technically impressive guitar riffs of Jay Torrance.
"He truly does the Jimi Hendrix tattoo on his shoulder justice."
For Lee Paulsen, a 2010 political science graduate and Relix regular, the diversity of both the musical acts and audience added to the evening's worth.
"I think the diverse demographic of people who go to Relix is really great," he said. "A lot of venues will cater to one specific scene, like you'll have a jazz club targeted toward older married couples and then a place like NV that's obviously more popular with the college set. At Relix shows, like tonight, everyone here is on equal footing.
"We're all here for the music, and it's music that can appeal to wide variety of people."
The night's end drew the unconventional crowd together for a similarly unconventional last hurrah. Seven-piece breakdancing troupe VolatomiX commanded the audience's attention for a routine with music ranging from Jay-Z to "The Lion King" soundtrack.
"The breakdancing group's closing performance may have been the highlight of the night for me," Patterson said. "They put on a great performance and then ended by spreading out and going freestyle with the crowd."
A jam circle formed in the middle of the dance floor in which both members of VolatomiX and the audience took turns busting a move in the spotlight. As young and old alike stepped up their two-steps, turtles, and head spins, the onlookers' cheers grew into a deafening roar.
The group's energy and enthusiasm was contagious, Paulsen said.
"I'd never seen breakdancing live before," he said. "It was a completely different experience for me, and one that turned out to be really interesting. They're obviously passionate about what they do and had a pretty big fan base present. I hope to see them perform again.
"It's always a good night when you're exposed to new forms of entertainment and art, and I'm definitely walking away from Relix with the experience tonight."