It practically gallops!

The Mane Event

The management company for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra didn’t just give me good seats for the band’s Knoxville concert on Wednesday, they gave me great seats. My wife and I had seats on the floor of Thompson-Boling Arena, in the center of the tenth row.

Before the concert, I wondered if I would need earplugs. I didn’t. The volume was just right.

When the music started, I was impressed with how perfectly the sound was mixed. The show is also a visual treat with video images, lasers, flames, cranes and more.

The men and women in the show took hair-shaking to another level. Sevearal of the singers and guitarists whipped their hair in time to the music.

Throughout the show, flames shot out from various parts of the stage. From our seats, we could feel the heat on our cheeks. I can only imagine how hot it felt to those in the front row.

In addition to tickets, the management gave us backstage passes to meet the band after the show. My wife and I gushed like groupies when we spoke to the talented musicians. We saw the “East coast” tour. The “West coast” half of TSO was in Atlanta that night.


Voyage to Greeneville

Sinbad the comedian did a few interviews in advance of his appearance at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. I recorded a conversation with him today. We talked about comedians who influenced him including George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce.

I chose about three minutes of the interview to play on WNOX, centered on his riff about ADD. Here is our full conversation:


Wizards of Winter

Trans-Siberian Orchestra played to a very large crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night. The band divides into two groups for holiday tours. “TSO East” was in Knoxville while “TSO West” was in Atlanta.

My wife and I were grateful to receive fantastic seats to the show. I posted one quick photo to Twitter at the end of the concert. I must have a hundred more on my phone that I need to sort through.

Singer Jordan Hill and her parents must have been seated within a few rows of us. She posted a few videos on Instagram. I became acquainted with Jordan when she participated in Star 102.1’s Dancing with the Knoxville Stars.

Wow! Enjoyed taking my parents to see an Awesome show by Trans Siberian orchestra tonight!! #transsiberianorchestra #happybdaymomanddad #bestlightshowyoulleversee

A video posted by Jordan Hill (@missjordanhill) on

We hope everyone enjoyed the #TransSiberianOrchestra show tonight. It was AWESOME! #pyro #TBArena #TSO

A photo posted by Thompson-Boling Arena (@tbarena) on


Glove and Special Sauce

 During winter months, smartphone users can wear special gloves that work with their touchscreens. My wife and I saw a catalog ad for a product that turns any gloves into smartphone gloves.

I joked that I should try putting Nanotips on my actual skin. My hands get so dry that I sometimes have trouble getting my smartphone to respond to my touch.

I’m supposed to put lotion on my hands throughout the day. I rarely do it because I don’t want to touch the equipment at work or my computer at home with greasy hands. I need to do a better job of moisturizing. When I applaud vigorously at a concert, my skin starts to crack. At that point, I need to use Neosporin instead of hand lotion.


Giving Props

The Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Memorial is being built in Nevada, near the site of a plane crash that killed 14 men on November 17, 1955. The memorial is due to open in late May, 2015.

My uncle, Terry O’Donnell, was one of the men who died. He was only 22 years old and had joined the CIA after his graduation from college that spring.

Most of the wreckage is still near the top of Mount Charleston. In 2001, one of the plane’s propellers was recovered from the site and put on display in a temporary exhibit. On Monday, workers mounted the propeller onto a boulder at the site of the outdoor memorial.

When the memorial was still in the planning stages, my grandmother traveled to Las Vegas at the invitation of Steve Ririe, who is chairman of the memorial’s board. She saw the propeller from the plane in which her son perished. When my grandmother died in 2011, Steve posted a photo of her on the memorial’s Facebook page.


Doing the Appy Dance

David Dwyer’s portrayal of Drosselmeyer in the Appalachian Ballet Company’s 2013 production of The Nutcracker inspired me to add some business on stage when I played the character in Oak Ridge this year. I was even more attentive to his performance when my wife and I attended this year’s show on Saturday.

We purchased the tickets in a silent auction benefiting Blount County Birth to Three. At the time, we thought we were buying a voucher that could be redeemed for any show. When we won the auction, we opened the envelope and discovered that the tickets were for Sunday afternoon. We already had a commitment for that day. My wife called the Appalachian Ballet and explained our dilemma. Fortunately, they let us exchange our Sunday tickets for Saturday evening’s show.

During intermission, we bought a Drosselmeyer ornament just like the one pictured in a set of four. I imagine that someone else must have purchased the other three and left poor Drosselmeyer to be sold alone. Like last year, they sold a pair of worn-out toe-shoes signed by the lead ballerina. The beat-up shoes illustrate how hard the dancers work even though they make it look effortless.


Take One Down, Pass It Around

Three chance encounters with the Knox Brew Tours bus on three consecutive days seemed like a sign.

On the night before Thanksgiving, I made a late trip to Kroger to pick up some missing ingredients for the next day’s feast. As I left the store, I saw a small bus with the self-explanatory name, Knox Brew Tours. I took a picture with the intention of cracking a joke on Twitter. Later that night, I saw a news story on WATE-TV about Knox Brew Tours, which was going to have its first public tour on Friday.

On Thanksgiving morning, my son and I were driving home from church along Fox Lonas Road. I saw a white bus in the distance. I assumed it was a church bus but I said that it would be funny if it was actually the Brew Tours bus. As we came to a stop sign, I could see that it really was the Knox Brew Tours bus.

On the night after Thanksgiving, I helped staff the WNOX tent at the Regal Celebration of Lights in Krutch Park. When I was done working, I joined my wife and son for dinner on Market Square. After dinner, we walked to The Casual Pint, to redeem a gift certificate I had received. The Knox Brew Tours bus was parked in front of the bar.

Over the next few days, Zack Roskop contacted me and invited me along on an upcoming Knox Brew Tours expedition. As luck would have it, I was available on Friday. I had requested the day off months ago. My plans for the afternoon fell through and I took the 4:00 p.m. Brew Tour instead.

We visited three different microbreweries. Our first stop was the Blackhorse Pub & Brewery in Bearden. Next was Calhoun’s on Bearden Hill. The brewery at Calhoun’s is the predecessor of Smoky Mountain Brewery, which has four locations. The last stop was Saw Works Brewing Company in the Old City.

During the tour, Zack told us about several new breweries that will be opening in the next year. Some of them have already made plans to be featured on future Brew Tours. Each tour will still visit three breweries. New routes will be added.

 We learned about the brewing process at all three stops. Live yeast converts some of the ingredients to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Excess carbon dioxide passes through a tube into a bucket of water. The bubbles tell you the process is working. Calhouns mills their own grain while Blackhorse buys milled grain. The hops came in pelletized form that looked like rabbit food.

 Saw Works takes its name from an old painted sign on the outside of the building. A saw-sharpening business was once there. Saw Works uses brick tanks for some of its brewing. Those came from a previous tenant whose microbrewery went out of business. I wonder if the closed brewery was too far ahead of its time.


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