The Knoxville Museum of Art was awake with music last night as their latest event filled the building with soul.
The museum once again hosted the Alive after Five concert and dance, featuring the talents of local soul band Janine Fuller and the True Fund SOULdiers.
Walking into the art museum at 6:30 p.m. is a strange experience. An environment that’s usually quiet as it approaches closing is instead lively and bustling. Stepping down the white-stone staircase reveals an array of tables and a stage where there once was space for viewing artworks.
The interior of the museum had shifted into something new that fit the relaxed and fun tone that Mathew Gill, Alive after Five’s coordinator, intended.
According to Gill, Alive after Five is a social event where people of all ages can relax and de-stress on a Friday evening. The event achieves that goal through music.
As people settled in, Gill took the stage and encouraged all attendees to have fun as he introduced the night’s act: Janine Fuller and True Funk SOULdiers.
The group came on with a full blast of 1960s soul music. Throughout the night, attendees shook, shimmied and swayed through renditions of “I Feel Good,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” and “A Change Is Going To Come.”
Janine Fuller said that she wanted to educate listeners about classic soul singers while simultaneously providing entertainment.
“I wanted to pay tribute and respect to all those soul and funk (singers) that came before us. We started earlier this year. We’ve been going on and off with festivals,” Fuller said. “I wanted to educate as I sing while also giving entertainment and showing others a view of what’s to come in (soul) music.”
Alive after Five events don’t just feature soul music. According to Gill, the museum will feature any genre of music as long as someone can dance to it.
“If I were to boil it down to one type of music, I would call it swing. That may be swing R&B, or it might be swing blues, it may be swing orchestra,” Gill said. “If it’s music people can dance to, we’ll try to get it. It’s what attracts the most crowds.
If attendees ever tired of music and socialization, they could take some time to browse the museum’s artworks. Some attendees may have browsed those artworks for the first time.“
According to Gill, Alive after Five has been a great way for the uninformed to discover the museum throughout its 26-year run.
“There are still people in Knox County still unaware that there is a ‘Knoxville Museum of Art.’ For a lot of people, (Alive after Five) is their first experience with our museum,” Gill said. “Even now after the museum’s been here for 89 years, some people only first come here to see a band they know.”
Despite the focus on dancing, the overall mood of the event was calm. There was equal distribution between dancers and non-dancers, with the less groove-minded opting to socialize with friends or sample a few beverages from the bar.
Spirits were generally high. One such spirit was Terry Jenkins, who has attended the event for over five years. He enjoys the event’s musical aspect, and similarly enjoys how it introduces him to new artists.
“I come for the music, and there’ve been big improvements in the music over the years,” Jenkins said. “I hope they keep bringing in good bands from out of town, since that’s a good way to learn about new forms of music.”
Doug Harris, another Knoxville R&B musician who attended the event, concurred with this opinion.
“I always enjoy the shows that (the art museum) makes. I think events like this are very important for raising awareness of new bands,” Harris said.
The museum will host the decade’s last two Alive after Five events on Dec. 13 and 31. The events will feature the soul and blues artists Soul Connection and Mac Arnold respectively.