I was going to write a summary of the Nashville trip yesterday but I fell asleep on the couch watching the Daily show. Anyway, I suppose I’ll move on to the task at hand. What do they call natives of Nashville? This isn’t a one liner I’m just curious. I was thinking they could be called Nashvillains, but I think that would be degrading seeing that the word Villain is in there. Perhaps, they are called Nashvillians. See what a difference reversing two letters can make in the realm of public perception?
In any case, on Monday afternoon, John Vacanti and I hopped aboard American Airlines flight 1533 to Nashville Tennessee with continuing service to Dallas-Ft. Worth. John and I were seated a couple of rows apart and therefore did not converse at all during the flight. I spent the majority of the 2-hour flight trying to figure out this Su Doku craze and reading “The Fountainhead”. The two topics go hand in hand because I was up to the part in the book where writers of the Banner, a New York Post-esque newspaper explain, that if you tell the public what they want they will blindly follow suit. This is how I see the ascension of the whole Su Doku craze. All of the sudden, the New York post wrote a big article about the new hot puzzle game of Su Doku and everyone started doing it and now there’s all of these damn puzzle books. Everywhere I go I see people with ripped out Su Doku puzzles. If you pick up a stray newspaper on the train, it will undoubtedly be missing it’s Su Doku puzzle. But I digress.
Upon our arrival over Nashville I noticed no buildings and a very spread out landscape. Every city I have ever had the fortune to fly over seems to at least have some sort of noticeable architectural landscape, but not Nashville. When we finally arrived on the ground at about 3:30pm Central Standard time, John picked up his stuff at the baggage claim (I hadn’t checked anything) and we headed to the Comfort Inn on Music row where we were greeted by an unkempt Earl Pickens with a fresh new guitar on his back.
We wasted precious little time in squaring away our things and we headed to the Bluebird Café, home of the legendary Monday night open mic. On the drive over, I was further amazed at how Nashville looked similar to Rockland County or Syracuse, or any other non-city I had ever been to. It was lined with strip malls normal looking houses and apartment complexes. I expected Music Row to be a strip of large buildings championing the names of the record labels and publishers they housed. Instead I found normal suburban looking office centers that could have been anywhere. When we got to the Bluebird café it had not opened yet. It seems we were about an hour and a half early. Earl, John, and I figured we would kill time getting something to eat so we asked the hairdresser next door if there was any good places to eat in the area. She pointed out that there was a Wendy’s around the corner and a McDonald’s next door. That wasn’t exactly what we had in mind so we decided to wait until the café opened. Besides, she had said that the Bluebird had pretty good food, so why should we waste our money on usual fast food fare when we could experience some special tastes of Nashville. Instead we killed some time at the “Corner Pub” across the street drinking a pitcher of Yazoo while Earl tuned his new guitar for his possible open mic performance.
After a beer we walked back to the Bluebird to find a line had formed. We waited online and we struck up conversation with a few of the musicians. One was a guy from Florida and another had been displaced by Katrina and told us how his praying helped him to get shoes and other necessities. Several minutes later we were inside and delighted to be at our own table not being forced into awkward conversations. We immediately seized the menus preparing ourselves for the fine cuisine that would satisfy our hunger and which we had shunned McDonalds and Wendy’s for. We were disappointed to find that the “pretty good food” was your standard bar food. John and I had the chicken fingers and I think Earl had a ham, turkey and cheese sandwich. Soon after that the MC took the mic and announced that due to the Bluebird’s policy of honoring stamps given out to previous attendees of open mic night, only 19 people who had previously been to the Bluebird would be playing that evening, ruining Earl’s chance of playing that evening. We were disappointed but we figured we’d probably see some good music that evening seeing as Nashville is known as a haven for songwriters and that this café was a well-known pit stop for people on their way to stardom. Twenty songs about Katrina and 9/11 later, we were a little less optimistic. It’s amazing how much tragedy can spur on the creation of crappy artistry. That being said, there were one or 2 good songs out of the 40 songs performed. Here’s a little chorus I wrote about disasters:
Sinners Repent. You’ll find Jesus Saves.”
After open mic night, the three of us headed downtown to check out the Nashville nightlife and maybe see some good live music as well. Mostly every bar on Broadway had live country music blaring through the door as well as a bouncer that looked like Tim McGraw. The first place we entered was The Stage, which had an upbeat country cover band (I think they were a cover band but maybe not) keeping a diverse crowd of tourists and locals entertained. About two or three songs later the band finished up giving way to a Motley Crue greatest hits compilation. I think we heard about half of that compilation before the next band came on. I was moderately excited to hear some good live music, and I was also moderately drunk at that point but that’s another issue altogether. Much, to my, Earl, and John’s chagrin we were not really in for a night of good live music as the band launched into a Foreigner cover and later two consecutive Bryan Adams covers. There was also a drunk girl who continuously approached us and who seemed to be having the time of her life. We had to get out of there and fast.
Next we stopped into Robert’s Western World where there was a decent country cover band who did a version of David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name”, but I don’t remember that much. Soon after it was time to call it a night, but not before we had several strange interactions with fellow bar patrons.
The next morning I woke up feeling very hung over. It was a miracle there was no sickness involved. Actually it’s not a miracle. I’m old enough to know how to deal with my own hangover status. John and I went and got some of the hotel’s continental breakfast as Earl had already woken up and had some. Back after at the hotel we caught a video for what be the worst country song ever, entitled “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” by Trace Adkins. I don’t know if you can imagine how bad it is. Afterwards, John and Earl went to take some meetings with Radio Promotions and Publishing folks, which I understand went quite well.
I spent the greater part of the early afternoon wandering in and out of Nashville giftshops up and down Broadway and 2nd avenue. There wasn’t much in the realm of scenery where I was. I came across a Hooters and a Coyote Ugly, though I couldn’t justify going into any of those places by myself. Instead, I settled for a sandwich at a quiet place called Danica’s Deli where I read the local alternative weekly magazine and listened to my ipod while eating a French dip sandwich.
Soon after my lunch I met up with Earl and John again and we walked around. We went into the Willie Nelson Family General Store and got some souvenirs and killed some time at a Rippy’s sports bar across the street from the Gaylord Entertainment Center where there was a live broadcast of a sports talk radio show going on and a host of Predators fans awaiting the right time to enter the arena.
Two drinks and a basket of fries later it was time to go to the Kazu restaurant where Earl was playing. When we walked in we were kindly greeted by the club’s owner Kazu,, which is short for something but I forget what and I don’t want to mess it up out of common respect, because I always hate when people misspell my name E-v-e-n. John and I ordered food and Earl got some tea and soup I think, but I could be making up what he got. The show started at 7pm with an introduction by a guy named Chuck whose last name escapes me but who organized the event and was just a really nice guy. The crowd was not too big but not too small. I think there were about 30 or so people in the area where the gig was going on, give or take. I think each performer had a camp of supporters. That being said Earl’s had to be the smallest since it consisted solely of John and myself. Earl played 2nd on the bill after Dar Frantz (I think that’s how it’s spelled). Each performer had five songs and I think Earl really made the most out of his showing his range as a performer combining the earnest with the humorous, not to mention his self effacing charm that endears him immediately to most audiences that he plays before. The showcase was too short though as he only got to perform If I Could Sing Like That, New York Woman, Come on Up and Haunt Me, Moon, They Were Just The Opening Band. Despite the short set and the small crowd, I’d say the performance was a triumph. I definitely think some new Earl Pickens fans were made in Nashville that night.
Earl’s set was followed by Kristi Rush, who’s sound was more of a pop/rock sound than anyone else that evening. After Kristi, was Don Wharton, who apparently survived an icy plane crash several years ago near Gnome, Alaska and wrote a book about it. When all the music had ended there was a friendly vibe circulating throughout the room. John and I had conversations with most of the performers and everyone was really genuinely nice and seemingly supportive of everyone else’s aspirations. I even might have started a new Evankessler.com chapter off fans as I was wearing my newly acquired Evan Kessler & His Only 2 Friends t-shirt and Kristi, who played after Earl asked me about it and said she would check out the site. Evankessler.com Fan Club, Nashville Chapter, I can see it now.
Earl, John, and I left Kazu at about 10 or so and we headed to the hotel ready to call it a trip. When we arrived there was an all out bitchfest going on between two girls screaming at the top of their lungs on two different levels of the hotel. Each girl yelled for the other to either come down or come up and fight. It was amusing but we didn’t get to see the outcome of the fray. We left to get one more beer at a bar called “The Tin Roof.” This was a bar that I had heard about as a local music industry hangout, or at least a lunch hangout, maybe it wasn’t quite the late night spot but it was pretty crowded with people watching game 3 of the world series and people just generally drinking. We moved up to the front of the bar and a band soon took the stage. We were hoping our Nashville bar scene experiences would be redeemed with this last band but to no avail. The band took the stage and played “Wish You Were Here” and soon launched into an all out assault on Modern rock covers by Train and Fuel. I guess one needs the other so they make sense being played back to back. Next the band started playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but we didn’t have the stomach to really stay there much longer, so we took off. We had to wake up early the next morning anyway as Earl’s flight was leaving at 6:30am and the flight John and I were taking was at 7:30am.
We woke up before the crack of dawn and got a cab to the airport where we learned that the cab driver was really angry at all of the Somalians in Nashville. I’ve never heard of anyone specifically angry at Somalians, well at least not since that whole military action in the 90’s that spawned hit films like Black Hawk Down starring Hollywood heart throb Josh Hartnett. So that was it, the three of us got off at the airport, checked in and said our tearful goodbyes. The rest of the day went off without a hitch except for a medical emergency on our plane that I think got us in to LaGuardia a full half hour earlier than expected. Thus was the trip to Music City. A little disappointing, but hey, we went on a Monday and Tuesday. It’s probably much more lively on a weekend…or maybe not.