It’s a warm, late winter evening in Knoxville. A simple, light jacket has me all too comfortable as the evening turns to dusk. At a back table on the patio, I sit with Brian Coakley and Andrea Kerns. The mood is light and jovial, and full of stories from the past. These are the people bringing you closer to the premiere electronic music scene. These are the people behind The Midnite Voyage, a concert series at The Valarium that started as a radio show on 90.3 the Rock, WUTK. The food has come and gone. And a few beverages later, they are ready to chat.
BLANK: Where did Midnite Voyage start?
Brian Coakley: Midnight Voyage started as a radio show—nothing more, nothing less. I was working as a volunteer (at WUTK 90.3) and there was a guy doing a show called the A.M. Groove who played a lot of electronic music, techno and house. And the other guy doing the show had to leave. So I said to Benny Smith, the station manager at the radio station, “Can I do that show?” It was on Friday night at midnight. That was the whole reason I got into DJing—with the hope of somehow landing a specialty show playing electronic music. And Benny was like, “Yeah you can do that show. “ I had just come back from a festival in Florida called Langerado and that was the first time I had seen Ghostland Observatory. I was looking through their catalogue and saw that there was a track called Midnight Voyage. And I was like, “That’s the name of the show.” It starts at midnight; it’s the Midnite Voyage. That’s how it started.
B: How did you get involved with the Valarium?
Andrea Kerns: There were long steps.
BC: In radio, obviously, there is playing music and exposing people to new music. But the other part of it is spreading the word about events. It’s something that I didn’t really know that much about before working at the radio station. I would read liners and listen to promo spots all day bombarding me with information about shows in Knoxville. I started incorporating more of that into The Midnight Voyage radio show. Late March 2008, I started talking to people who were doing electronic shows around Knoxville. I started reading concert calendars. It was a lot of fun, not only to play music, but to talk about events that were happening in the area. And that’s how I met Andrea, who is now my partner in Midnight Voyage. It was my first time meeting someone like Andrea who was a promoter and talent buyer for that kind of music. And we started talking and collaborating and shooting off of each other and that totally helped it grow as well.
B: (To Andrea) What got you started doing concerts?
AK: Susie Dew at the World Grotto. I’d go there to spy on my daughter basically (laughs). Like, “Who is hanging out there? What is she doing? It’s all tye dye and trouble!” I would go there and check it out, and it was a great place and a lot of fun. These people are so much younger than me, but they’re fun. I became really good friends with Susie and started doing street team stuff for her. She was like, “Do you want to help me with booking?” I said, “Yeah, I want to book the Crystal Method.” And she laughed, in my face. She said even if we could afford them, they’d never play here. I said, "How do you know, it might just work out." They (Crystal Method) came back to us a week later. And we got together and booked them. They loved it and we did it again the same year. So I stuck with Susie for a while, and then she moved to California.
BC: Okay, we got a little side tracked. I’ll tell you how the Midnite Voyage became integrated into the Valarium. It’s all because of Darla Jean who is now about to leave Knoxville and go to [Los Angeles]. Basically we were doing the Midnite Voyage thing—just doing the radio show for the most part and a few giveaways. And we wanted to get more involved with street level promotions—hitting the streets with flyers and putting a lot of energy into it. At the time I was working with St. Thomas and Ben Allen who goes by the alias Dialectic Sines who just opened at Day Glow and (has at) Ultra before. Darla was putting on a show in December of 2009 with The Glitch Mob and Diesel Boy at the Valarium, and she reached out to me about helping with that show. That was the first big Valarium show that we helped promote. We hit that one super-hard and it ended up being a huge success that facilitated my relationship between Midnite Voyage and the Valarium. Darla was doing all the marketing at the Valarium and had been working there so long she was ready to move on and do something else; she wanted to pass the torch to someone else. It was passed to several people including Andrea and wound up in my hands somehow.
B: What shows do you have coming?
BC: If you’re into what The Midnite Voyage does, then you definitely should have checked out Day Glow, which was March 3rd at The Convention Center. It’s one of the largest electronic events that has ever hit Knoxville. We’re talking about 4,000-5,000 people at The Convention Center going insane.
March 16th at the Valarium, Excision with 100,000 watts of boom. Then, Halfway to Homegrown with Wick-it is on March 30th. A lot of what we like to do is support local and regional artist like Rapture Productions and Fly Like Us. There are no big headliners, just a lot of local and regional artists.
Wick-it is amazing and super-talented. He is blowing it up out of Nashville and will be playing with eight or nine regional artists. There are people from St. Louis and Kentucky, and several who have never been here before. It’s about the community and focusing on the talent here. We’re really excited about that.
April 13th will be our second Friday the 13th show of 2012. It will have Adventure Club, Ill-esha and Anti Serum. Adventure Club is on the verge of blowing up. They just played a huge sold out show at the Orange Peel in Ashville. April 20th is Gramatik and Break Science with Paul Basic.
AK: April 25th, Ill Gates is doing a Performance and Controllerism Workshop from 6:30-10pm at the Ciderhouse. The limit is 150 people.
BC: April 26th is when Bassnectar (at the Coliseum) is going to be in town. It will sell out. It is an all-ages show. For those who are 18 and over, and want to keep partying, they can come over to the Valarium where Ill Gates is going to be throwing down with Meatball Madness. And (to go back) April 6th is Mantis.
It’s creating metal with electronics. It’s deathstep.
It’s so amazing to watch music evolve into so many different things. And watching what people are doing with dubstep and electronic music is so amazing because it’s what people were doing back in the late 60’s with guitars…pushing the boundaries with having distortion and metal bands like Black Sabbath. Now people are pushing those same boundaries with electronic instead of guitars—especially with dubstep because it’s so rhythmic. It has that way of punching you in the face.
B: Who is the next best thing that will be huge in the next two years?
BC: If you want to dance your tail off, Feed Me is making some of the most creative dance music out there right now. If you want to listen to something cerebral and beautiful, you want to listen to John Hopkins (who provided sound design on a Coldplay record). Keep your eye on him. And of the people we have had—Signal Path—those guys know what’s up. Love and Light are from out west. They are slowly creeping their way over to this side of the country. They are super-creative.
AK: Younger Brother. They are like the Pink Floyd of the new millennia.
B: If you are someone who wants (to be) more involved, are there steps you can take?
BC: We are about the community and everybody working together. We value ourselves, not only as people who promote the talent, but as members of the community. We’re at the shows too. We go to shows in other cities. That’s the reason we do it. We found a way to get involved. And if anybody else wants to be involved, find us on Facebook.com/midnitevoyage or www.midnitevoyage.com. The more initiative you take and the more persistent you are, the more likely you are to find a place for being involved in all of this. The important thing is to not be afraid to be persistent. You don’t have to hit us up every hour. If you come to enough shows, you’ll start to see a lot of familiar faces and you’ll find that we’re very accommodating. If you see a crazy German lady with bright red hair, go talk to her.
AK: I want to be down in the crowd dancing. I’m going to go all out. If you really want to do it, make yourself known. Post in on Facebook. I went to the Grotto to see music live and then I started working. Mama Kerns is what they call me.