"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Nashville, TN: It' all about the music

...and we did our very best to honor Nashville's title of Music City. After getting warmed up with the Country Music Hall of Fame last week, we ventured on to the live music venues. (Even before arriving in Nashville I stealthily procured tickets to the Grand Ole Opry to see a "Big Name" in country music.) But our first live music experience was at Music City Roots at the Loveless Cafe, or actually the Loveless Barn out back.

The Loveless Cafe is one of the those places my hair dresser recommended, and though we didn't get there for a down home country dinner, we did get there for the music. In back of the cafe and the cutesy little Southern tourist shops, is the music venue that houses Music City Roots. Roots hosts the new and aspiring musician crowd, about five bands per evening. We saw Jonathon Scales Forchestra, Daniel Romano, Sturgille Simpson, Amanda Shores, and Leftover Salmon. One of the hosts, in the photo above, is a good ole local favorite, Jim Lauderdale.  Now, to be completely frank, we weren't wild about any of these folks, though they all had plenty of talent.  The big problem was that the volume was so loud that we were blown out of our seats by the second act. Too bad, because some of them might have been much more enjoyable with better sound engineering. 

On the other hand, our evening at the Grand Ole Opry was acoustic perfection.  I had been at the Opry about 40 (gasp!) years ago and saw some of the old timers: Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Tex Ritter and more. That was some experience. Then the Ryman Auditorium, which was synonymous with the Opry, closed down and the Opry show moved out to Opryland. I never saw it there, but I am in vicarious agreement with common sentiment that it just wasn't the same. But, the happy ending to the story is that now the Ryman Auditorium is refurbished and open again and hosts the Grand Ole Opry show about half the time.  

We got there early and had time to look around, take pictures and wear out our butts on the hard pews that are still the only seating at the Ryman. Smart audience members bring cushions. 

There are two levels, and our seats were on the lower level, under the balcony, and (apologies to Rick) behind a pillar. Well, not completely behind it; we could still see around it, but had to do the "lean to the left - lean to the right" dance all evening.

Here's the view from the tip-top location of the sound booth. And, as I mentioned, the sound was perfection. Not too loud and clear as a bell. You could understand what everyone was saying all the time. The Grand Ole' Opry has always been a radio show, so there are announcers who orchestrate the whole thing and engage the audience in clapping at the right times.  

By the time the show started it was a completely full house. The show is divided in to four equal sections, with a different musical host for each, and one or two artists per section.  The hosts for the evening were Jeannie Seely, The Whites, Connie Smith and John Conlee who I gather are the regulars. They each sang a couple of old favorites and introduced the featured acts. Those were: Sara Haze (sweet), The Roys (traditional bluegrass), Jesse McReynolds (mandolin player extraordinaire, Opry member since 1964), Josh Turner (a very handsome baritone - popular with the young women in the crowd), Jim Lauderdale (yes of Music Roots - sounding better here), Chris Janson (young and exuberant!!!), and...

...Little Big Town!!! You may (or may not) know them from their very fun hit song "Pontoon."

They were all great. Although some were more well known to us that others, they were all performers of the highest quality, and the Ryman just takes the cake. If you're ever in Nashville, DO THIS.

The other place where Nashville music and party lovers go is "honky tonkin'" in "The District." A honky tonk is a dive where there is live music, plenty to drink and few inhibitions. Broadway and Printer's Row are the prime locations to go honky tonkin', so that's where we went.  Here you see the intersection of old and new on Broadway. That's the AT&T building, looking like Batman overlooking Gotham City.

Now, those readers who know us probably know that we are not bar hoppers, and one of us does not, has not ever, imbibed.  So this was a really unusual event for us. We got some support from our good friends Nick & Cindy who stopped in Nashville on their way to Florida.  We couldn't have done it without them.  We headed downtown early, before dark and before the crowds, we hoped. It was a good plan, because by the time it got dark, the place was hoppin'. In fact, it was hopping when we got there, but not as crowded as it would get later. 

Our first stop, or pass through I should say, was Legends. 
Most of the places have front and back/side doors to ease "just passin' through."

Here's a snap of the inside. It's a typical setup. 
Bar near the back, seating or dance floor in the middle, and the loud band in the window. 

The music up and down the street is a mix of top ten country, rock/country fusion and some older country here and there.  We stopped for a snack and beverage at Rippy's, where there were three bands in three rooms on two floors. In any location you could hear all three, so they had to play loud enough to drown one another out. You can imagine, I'm sure. The open air second floor of Rippy's seems to be a favorite spot. We actually found a room right next door to sit for a drink and a plate of nachos where there wasn't a band, so we could hear each other talk.

We got a great view of Broadway from Rippy's. We even saw Elvis. 

Across the street is the infamous Tootsie's. We braved that place last. 

Just a few doors down the street was Ernest Tubb's Music Store, a traditional place to get your country and blue grass CD's if you haven't discovered I-Tunes yet, or if you're just caught up in the whole country music thing of the moment.

As the evening progressed, we had only one encounter with a drunk local boy at the Swinging Doors Saloon, who took offense at Rick's Patriot's hat.  I'm surprised it didn't happen more than once.  

Later the carriages came out to convey weary or romantic music lovers around the town. 

But for the fun-loving hard-drinkers, the Pedal Tavern is an alternative mode of transport, as long as you have the strength and where-with-all to stay on your seat. We stuck with walking.

Finally we tackled Tootsie's, thanks to Cindy. She was right, as long as you're here you might as well see it all. And Bobby, the nice guy who cut my hair, said that Tootsie's was the most disgusting place ever but we had to see it. He was right too. Here's a view from the back stairs, looking through the bar toward the front. The walls are lined with old autographed photos that are coated with smoke and dust and seem to be rotting in their frames. The floor is sticky and littered. And everyone is having a ball. We got in and out long enough to get the idea. 

Now here's the kicker. The best music we heard all night was coming out of this utility box.  
Really. Only in Nashville.

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