by Jesse Crow
On any given evening, chances are there’s a party happening at Sneaky Beans. A band performs on the porch and their sound radiates throughout Fondren. The crowd flows from the porch onto the sidewalk and driveway. The music and people stay well into the night. The energy is contagious and welcoming.
It’s hard to remember what Fondren was like before Sneaky Beans. Since opening in September 2008, Sneaky Beans has given local musicians a venue and exposed Jackson to music from outside the area.
“The Bean,” as Sneaky Beans is commonly known, is the brainchild of Jackson native Byron Knight. Knight had just graduated from recording school, but the studios that had job openings weren’t for him (too much metal music, he says).
“I grew up with Mike Peters’ two boys and we got to talking one day about how cool Fondren was becoming and how it needed some music and something open late,” Knight says. “I started messing with the idea about a little coffee shop with beer and music, and then The Bean happened.”
From the beginning, Sneaky Beans was going to be a place for live music in Fondren. No doubt, it has fostered and grown the music scene in Jackson. Knight gets dozens of emails a week from bands wanting to play at Sneaky Beans.
The coffee shop hosts most shows on its front porch. Some shows are held in the back parking lot, but only if the band(s) is big enough to warrant charging a $5 cover. During the winter months, The Bean hosts shows inside in the main room.
Since Knight has an education in recording music, he has the technical skill to make sure every band that plays at Sneaky Beans has good sound. “I take pride in that and bands remember that,” says Knight.
In the five years that Sneaky Beans has been open, it has brought a new life and consistently well-received music to Fondren.
“I think The Bean helped start small show culture in Fondren,” says Knight. “Morningbell does a lot of little shows and Drew used to play here all the time before he opened Morningbell.”
“I also think Sneaky Beans started a party scene (in Fondren)” he says. “Arts, Eats, and Beats and Fondren Unwrapped didn’t have music when I opened. I booked a few bands, and now music is a staple at those events.”
Knight also organizes the music festival Sneaky Fest–an all day affair in Fondren with multiple musical acts.
“Sneaky Fest began after Jubilee Jam stopped,” explains Knight. “I thought, ‘Somebody’s gotta do something.’”
The first Sneaky Fest was in the back parking lot of Sneaky Beans. Since then, it has expanded to the Duling Hall parking lot, expanded to two stages, and draws in crowds upwards of 2,000 guests.
“You gotta have music to have fun,” says Knight. “You got to.”
Byron Knight has a fantastic ear. He brings a balanced mix of up and coming local and national talent to perform at The Bean. Here’s the short list…
When not managing Sneaky Beans, Caitlin Cox has performed there as half of Liver Mousse.
Spirituals (Jacksonian Tyler Tadlock) performs on the front porch, often during Fondren After Five.
Fondrenite Hunter Stewart was one of Sneaky Beans’ first employees and has been a regular performer since 2008.
Seryn, a band out of Denton, Texas, “absolutely blew me away,” says Knight.
LA based band Little Red Lung performed at Sneaky Beans in the fall of 2012 and Bonaroo in the summer of 2013.
The Poison Control Center performed at The Bean in the spring of 2011 and has shared the stage with Of Montreal and the Mountain Goats.
Jesse Crow contributed this fantastic piece to the Fall issue of Find It In Fondrenâ„¢ Magazine, on stands this weekend!