The Square Room

four portraits

Artistic portraits line the walls of the square room, creating an artistic atmosphere pleasing to the senses of sight, sound, and spirit.

The Square Room, located behind Cafe 4 in Market Square, is a venue for music, relaxation, and hospitality.  Known for its extravagant hospitality for both artists and guests, the Square Room operates on the Christian concept of hospitality.

History

The building housing the Square Room today was originally a large shoe department store in the 1950s.  The shoe store eventually fell on hard times and left the building abandoned.  However, in 2007, several non-profit organizations (including the Haslam Foundation, Cornerstone, and Provision) bought and renovated the former shoe store, as well as two adjacent buildings.  These three buildings (Market Square 4, 5, and 6) were combined to form Café 4 and the Square room, which opened only a year later, in December of 2008.

Since then, the Square Room has demonstrated tremendous success and acquired incredible popularity amongst both guests and performers.  “The Square Room is all around the best small concert venue in Knoxville.  It’s one of our favorite venues in the country to play,” says Cameron Cunningham of the acclaimed rock band, The Few.

Multi-purpose Mezzanine

comfy chairs

The Square Room offers over-the-top hospitality for absolutely no cost

The artistic, laid-back lobby and mezzanine of the Square Room serves as a great “hang out” spot before and after concerts, as well as a relaxing study during the week.  Guests can gain access to free Wi-Fi as well, without being pressured or obligated to make any purchases from the Square Room or from Café 4.  Manager Ben Bannister stresses the Square Room’s mission to actively demonstrate the hospitality of Christ to guests at the Square Room.

Visitors to the Square Room / Cafe 4 mezzanine are offered quiet comfort.

“We want to engage the culture with Christianity,” Bannister says.  However, neither the Square Room nor Café 4 “forces” any sort of religion onto its patrons; guests of all religions and denominations are welcome.  “Part of our mission is to both a community center and a center of the community.  We want to be a sacred place, an ‘urban monastery,’ and just a place for rest,” Bannister explains.

Indeed, the architecture, furniture, and overall design of the mezzanine does give one a feeling of rest and relaxation.  The calm, dark color scheme itself brings refreshing serenity.  There are many available chairs and couches, so that standing is never necessary.  What’s more, the mezzanine even has a widescreen television!  Further, because the mezzanine is so separated from the café, there is truly no pressure to buy anything at all.  The separation from the “hustle and bustle” of the café also contributes to the tranquility.

Simple Exterior

square room market square

Located in the middle of Market Square, Cafe 4 and the Square Room can indeed function as "a community center and a center of the community."

A simple sign outside indicates entrance to the complex, artistic interior

Because the Square Room already has such a great reputation, the exterior part of the building certainly isn’t a spectacle.  While the outside appearance definitely doesn’t take away from the Square Room, the exterior certainly does not present an ostentatious spectacle for the traveling flaneur (that is, a person perusing a city).  Furthermore, a gaudy gimmick would indeed deviate from the overall style of the Square Room: chill, artistic, and laid-back.

Complex Interior

The Square Room’s interior design and architecture alone immerses the visitor in a panorama of artistic appreciation and speculation.  “It’s so artsy,” comments one teenage visitor. “I feel cooler

The Square Room stage

just being there.”  Indeed, scores of artwork adorn the walls, which are themselves bathed in a dim, soothing light.  The relaxed, pleasant manner of the staff adds to the calm appreciation of the building and the art presented there.

However, the purposes of the design of the building is not limited to aesthetic appeal alone; the building’s architectural design serves multiple functional purposes as well.  For example, the back wall of the Square Room is slightly slanted in a way that optimizes the acoustics of the space.  In addition, the back wall is also soundproof, minimizing the amount of sound that would have been lost had it been able to pass through the wall.  Thus, the back wall reflects the sound waves back into the room, allowing listeners and performers alike to enjoy a superb listening experience.

The seemingly simple back wall of the Square Room is actually soundproof, and tilted at an angle that optimizes acoustics

The chairs in the audience are added and removed as appropriate.  For more formal performances, such as the NYE Johnson swingtet, chairs are brought out.  For ‘rocking’ performances, such as those given by the Few, chairs are removed.

Adding the Square Room’s versatility is a large curtain capable of spanning through the center of the Room.  Bannister explained that the curtain could be utilized to separate simultaneous events in the Room.  Although the Square Room is primarily a music venue, two church services, “Crossings” and “All Souls” meet in the Square Room every Sunday. Thus, the performances taking place in the Square Room are not limited to those of music, as religious activities are performed as well.

Types of Performances Hosted

Rocker Thomas Boyd of the Few involves in his entire body as he performs at the Square Room

Rocker Thomas Boyd of the Few involves his entire body as he performs at the Square Room.

Primarily a music venue, the Square Room hosts a variety of music performances.  From hard “rockers,” like David Cook, to blues, jazz, and bluegrass players, to alternative / “indie” performers like Sugar Glyder, to country singers like Gavin deGraw, and to everything in between, the Square Room has something for everyone.  Many of the Square Room’s performers are difficult to categorize, given their unique style.  Performers such as Ben Sollee offer a new level of entertainment, as listeners can enjoy both a skillful, interactive performance as well as a new sound.

The Square Room can also boast past performances from hit music artists such as Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Imogen Heap.  Guests lucky enough to get a ticket to one of these shows get a better bargain than most concert-goers, in that the comparatively small size of the Square Room allows a much closer proximity and view of the performers.  Even at the back of the Room, a guest at the Square Room will get a better view than someone on the fiftieth row of a large concert forum.

Below are YouTube videos of pieces of performances at the Square Room.

During a typically laid-back Square Room performance, Erick Baker and his band provide the audience with both comedy and a good show.

The NYE Johnson “Swingtet” offers a peppy, uplifting beat and a nice variety of instruments.  The swingtet is yet another example of the colorful variety of artists Square Room listeners have to opportunity to experience.

The Few, formed only about a month before the above recording, has received sudden, astonishing praise and a wide, enthusiastic fan base.  The rising rock band has already named the Square Room one of their favorite venues in the entire country.

One of the more intense performers to visit the Square Room, David Cook fans were thrilled to see their rock-idol at the Square Room, where all “seating” could be included in the coveted “mosh pit.”

Audiences


The Square Room is self-reportedly geared toward “art lovers and artists alike.”  In addition, all events are suitable for all ages unless “otherwise posted.”

Indeed, a wide range of age groups can be found at the Square Room, from middleschoolers and high schoolers, to college students and young adults.  Not as many senior citizens attend the shows, but they would certainly be welcome.

Visit the Square Room’s official website to get information on upcoming shows and events: The Square Room Official Website

Page created by Elizabeth Southerland.  Last update: 5/13/2010

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