News Column

The International plans to be a music venue worth looking for

June 5, 2014

By Wayne Bledsoe, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

June 05--The International building may have gotten knocked out a few times through the years, but it doesn't stay down long.

The venue reopens Thursday night with a free housewarming show by Pop Rox, followed by a paid performance by Zomboy and on Saturday will feature a metal show headlined by Whitechapel and Devil Driver.

Brian Coakley, one of the new owners of The International, which simply takes its name from the actual name of the building, worked at the venue when it was called The Valarium.

"I started out there in marketing and became the talent buyer," says Coakley from his office on the property. "I really became passionate about booking. It was exciting to make offers (financial bids for artists to perform) and putting shows together was like putting together a puzzle."

When the International building first opened as a music venue at the dawn of the 1990s, it was called The Orpheus. In later years it was known as the Electric Ballroom, The Valarium and, most recently, Blackstock. It was maddeningly hard to find for the first time. Its address was either 1213 Western Ave., 112 Ramsey St., or 940 Blackstock Ave., depending on the source. The Western Avenue address was accurate only if you understood that there was a tiny piece of the old Western Avenue that ran three stories underneath the overpass that has been recognized as Western Avenue for approximately half a century.

"There are three different properties here with three different addresses," says Coakley. "The landlord has one-lotted the property, so now all of it is called 940 Blackstock. If you put it in GPS it will take you here."

When the owners of The Valarium called it quits and it became Blackstock, Coakly had to find a new home for his successful Midnight Voyage electronic dance nights. The events became a fixture at NV in the Old City, but will now move to The International.

Coakley says he'd stayed in touch with the landlord for building and when Blackstock folded, he got a call.

The new owners -- which includes Coakley, who concentrates on booking, and Jennifer Barlow, who handles the more nuts and bolts aspects of the operation -- have initiated several improvements to the property.

Knoxville's TERI productions were contracted to install 30 new self-moving lights. The sound system has been tweaked and the carpeting has been replaced with a painted floor. The ticket booth has been revamped so that patrons can enter the hall more quickly and, overall, the room has been given a more open look. Similar improvements have been made in the adjoining building now dubbed The Concourse.

Coakley says he hopes to book a wider variety of artists in the hall than it's seen in the past.

"We want to step it up with a level of diversity," says Coakley. "We're going to explore seated options, because that will give us the ability to do some different shows. We can't compete with the Tennessee Theatre, but we might do some stuff that's a little more chill. I'd like to do some comedy, too. ... We want to make it comfortable for people who like more than dance and metal. "


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Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)

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