Nashville, Baby

The man behind the counter is large, the kind of man who eats sausage for breakfast, shredded pork for lunch, and ribs for dinner. He talks so fast and with such a thick Southern accent I can’t understand him so I say, “Huh?”

“Putch ya haynd ow.”

Oh. So I put my hand out and he fills it with a taste of the beef brisket he’s just hacked off a slab of meat with what looks like a mini-machete. My hand is instantly covered with grease. So is the bun slapped on my sandwich. So are the green beans on the side. And the plate. Come to think of it, so is the cup I fill with Diet Coke. But I don’t mind because the brisket is

Blurry, but adequate, depiction of Jack's BBQ

So.

Freakin’.

Good.

My husband and I are in Nashville and Jack’s BBQ is our first meal. We simply ducked in to escape the rain and luck out.

(Side note: Obviously, I have not yet become a vegetarian, contrary to the promise made in a previous post. It is impossible to be a vegetarian in Nashville, at least on Broadway street. So I’ve added, “except when traveling” to my list of exceptions.)

Though my husband and I like to try new spots while on the road, we can’t help but go back for lunch the next day.

We also crave a second breakfast experience (I just made myself cringe. Who calls eating a meal an “experience”?) at Fido, near Vanderbilt. I’m not a foodie, but I swear I have never tasted eggs so good and fluffy. Softer than a warm marshmallow. Unfortunately, my husband and I are not the only ones who appreciate food that doesn’t leave you sad, so when we venture back the next morning the line at Fido’s is about forty people long. We skip it and walk across the street to what we later learn is a chain. Makes sense. I cry over my eggs.

But enough about food. We’re in Nashville for the music. (Mumford & Sons at the Ryman–more on that in another post.)

I don’t care if the only station you ever listen to is 101.9 The Mix and the only show you ever tune in for is Eric & Kathy. You still have a chance in Nashville. The music is so ubiquitous and so good, you won’t be able to help but be a music lover.

Imagine a place where you can pop your head into any old bar or restaurant most any time of day and hear not just good, but really really really good music. Like, “Sheeplishly-glance-around-because-I-got-away-without-paying-cover” GOOD.

Broadway street

Except there are no cover charges on Broadway. No. Cover. Charges. (Like the brisket, this deserves extra periods.) You simply walk in, listen awhile, and walk on out to the place next door if you want a change. If you like the band, throw a few dollars into their tip jar.

I suppose it’s appropriate that there are no cover charges, because these aren’t merely cover bands. Yes, they mostly play other people’s music, but they are without a doubt musicians. You have the feeling you’re at a house party super early in the Next Big Thing’s career. And you get to see how it all began.

Much of the music is folk and country. But there’s a pretty wide variety of cover songs. We hear Violent Femmes and the Beastie Boys, among others.

Let me add that my husband, whose playlist consists of Dr. Dre and Eminem, is anxious to come back.

Johnny T at The Stage

The only smudge on an otherwise fantastic musical experience (what is it with me and that word today?) is the night we try to see a show at the Station Inn. (We’d heard that Mumford & Sons once played a surprise show there so basically yes, we are stalking them.)

The place is off the beaten path (ours, anyway) and even charges cover. But by the time we arrive, the show is sold out. The nice guy at the door recommends we head to 3rd and Lindsley a few miles away, where a former guitarist with Allman Brothers is playing.

Brazilbilly at Robert's Western World

“If I wan’t hay, I’d be thay,” he says.

We hop back in the car, find parking, pay the cover, and sit to wait for the show to start but finally look at each other and admit we have no desire to listen to Allman Brothers music. So we trek back to Broadway and pop into Robert’s Western World where the band is playing Folsom Prison Blues, one of my favorites. We settle in to the last thirty seconds of the song, when the lead singer promptly says, “Now we’re gonna switch it up a bit and play a little Allman Brothers for you.”

After a few days and nights at Robert’s Western World, Tootsie’s, The Stage, Layla’s, and Bootleggers, after all the run-ins with friendly Southerners, I am so moved I almost buy a pair of cowboy boots. I’ve had plenty of opportunities, as there are no less than thirty establishments on Broadway itself. The boots I find are gorgeous and fun, but also $350. That’s right, leather again. I say no to the boots, and head next door for a little more music and a shredded pork sandwich. Baby steps.

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14 thoughts on “Nashville, Baby

  1. You should be writing advertising blurps for travel agencies…..makes me want to go to Nashville. Great description of what sounds like a really fun city.

  2. Love it! Next time, get tickets for Bluebird Cafe, eat at Burger Up or J. Alelxanders, visit Ann Patchett’s new bookstore Parnassus Books, and I guarantee you’ll be writing more about Nashville — my son’s home for 8 years while in Vanderbilt’s MD/PhD program. Oh — and I can tell you if he’s performing anywhere that weekend, and you can see him too!

  3. Yeah, Nashville is good, maybe great?…but we’re right here–right now in Austin, TEXAS for SXSW !!!… and I’d put this music scene and barbecue above all others on the planet! Come on down, y’all, for this one of a kind experience!

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