Downtown nightlife centers on Market Square. Here you can catch up with friends at Preservation Pub (28 Market Sq., 865/524-2224, cover varies). In the shadow of its exposed-brick walls decorated with funky art, you just can’t help but feel cool. Fabulous drink specials, a hip, youthful attitude, and a steady stream of local rock, folk, and country acts makes Preservation Pub a popular destination. It is also a restaurant.
Also in Market Square, World Grotto (16 Market Sq., 865/226-2962, cover varies) is an intriguing subterranean hangout that offers an eclectic array of entertainment—groovy DJs, skateboard movie debuts, and live music of many stripes. Descend into the grotto and be greeted by crystals upon the walls, a springy bamboo dance floor, and Moroccan-style benches on which to hang out with your friends. A bit more urban-world chic than other Knoxville choices.
Located in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood, a few blocks north of downtown, is the cozy and intimate Sassy Ann’s House of Blues (820 N. 4th Ave., 865/525-5839, cover varies). As the name suggests, Sassy Ann’s specializes in the blues—visiting performers, homegrown talent, and open mic–style—but they also book rock and folk artists. Housed in a 100-plus-year-old townhouse with two bars and lots of intimate pockets for seating, Sassy Ann’s is a bit like going to a grown-up house party, with live music to boot. Generally speaking, Sassy Ann’s has DJ music on Sunday and Thursday nights, with bands on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
The Valarium (1213 Western Ave., 865/522-2820, cover varies) is a 1,000-person standing-only entertainment venue located under the Western Avenue Viaduct, in a seeming wasteland of highway interchanges. Once a venue for cutting-edge bands, then a gay dance hall, this cavernous hall now books performing artists of all types. The bar is outside, allowing the owners to make this an all-ages club.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition