Tag Archives: nashville

Nashville: 2010

( #Nashville, #ThirdMan, #Hermitage )

Last week I spent a lovely weekend in Nashville. This was my 2nd trip to the city, my first was documented right here. This time we traveled with friends (Rob and Lisa) to see an Avett Brothers concert. We ended up repeating a few things and doing some new stuff. Here is the breakdown.

[Bellmead Plantation]
Website: http://www.bellemeadeplantation.com/

I knew our friend Lisa would really enjoy the Bellemead (which we visited last year). There didn’t seem to be much damage from the floods and overall was a good experience, but I am not going to re-hash.

[Cheekwood Gardens]
Website: http://www.cheekwood.org/

We also visited Cheekwood Gardens again to check out the new Chihuly glass exhibits. Last time we were there, we had to rush because they were closing, this time we walked around on a great sunny day.

The grounds were beautiful and worth checking out, but the Chihuly glasswork was “meh”. If you see one, you have seen them all.

[Bars]
Our first night in Nashville we went around the downtown area popping into as many bars as we could to take in all the bands. Most bands did mixes of country and pop tunes to appease the tourists like me. My friend Rob is a huge nerd for country music, so he really enjoyed himself.

All of the bars are essentially laid out the same in the downtown area – stage by the door, long narrow room, bar close to the stage. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

[Loveless Cafe]
Website: http://www.lovelesscafe.com/

The next morning, we were all planning on going to the Pancake Pantry for breakfast (another repeat), but the line was around the corner, so we opted for the Loveless Cafe. Allison had found about this place and the famous “Biscuit Lady.” I didn’t think we would have the time to go, but I was pleased that the Pantry was packed because the Loveless was excellent.

We opted to get a sit down all you can eat of breakfast meats, fruits, and of course biscuits. I won’t lie – I ate way too many of the famous biscuits and felt sick for most of the day, but screw it, it was worth it. The cafe is a little commercial, but if that’s what it takes for them to say in business, so be it.

[Third Man Records]
Website: http://www.thirdmanrecords.com

I wasn’t going to Nashville without checking out Jack White’s music store. As we approached, they were setting up the front for a private Halloween party (which sounded like an awesome time from the news I read last week).

Third Man Records was much smaller than I had expected, but it was charming and I am glad it is doing business. I pick up some interesting vinyl while there, which I will review at another time.

[The Hermitage]
Website: http://www.thehermitage.com

Our friend Lisa wanted to check out the historic home of Andrew Jackson. The grounds were spectacular and the staff was friendly. Touring the house and the garden was educational and very interesting.

As I mentioned in my 2009 Epilogue, Nashville struggles with their past as a Southern state with slave history. They use soft super politically correct terms to refer to slaves and they try to make it seem that the slaves lives weren’t so bad. The Hermitage tour incorporate the slaves like they were friendly characters from a book. While it is good that their stories are a main part of the tour, it seems to make their experience less harsh.

[Avetts/Ryman]

We closed out our time in Nashville with an excellent concert (that I already reviewed here). The Ryman was an excellent place to see a show.

[Conclusion]

We packed in a lot of activities for 2 days, and like any good town, Nashville had me wanting more when I left. Looking forward to the next trip to the city of music, where I might just keep driving to Memphis too.

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Concert Review: The Avett Brothers @ The Ryman Theater (Nashville, TN)

( #Avett, #GracePotter, @dookiefinger, #Ryman )

Opening Act: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Date: Saturday, October 30th, 2010
Location: The Ryman Theater – Nashville, TN
Band Website: The Avett Brothers

[Nashville]

My wife, a few friends and I decided to take a weekend trip to Nashville to see the Avett Brothers and enjoy the “City of Music.” Fall in Nashville was excellent: the weather was mild, the downtown area was decorated for Halloween, and there was a palpable excitement in the air. I will get to a recap of our adventures in Nashville in the next few days, but I wanted to share this concert experience first.

[Grace Potter and the Nocturnals]

When we sat down in our excellent center-stage seats, I started chatting with the costumed college kids in front of me. They had been to the show the night before and I asked them if there was an opening act, they said Grace Potter. I had heard of her, but did not know any of the material. The college kid said she was average the night before and I guess he must have been smoking some of the good stuff because…

Grace Potter was fantastic. This woman can sing her ass off, she knows how to put on a show, and she surrounds herself with excellent musicians. Her two guitars players were really good in that understated-but-know-when-to-turn it up kind of way (very similar to Sheryl Crow’s long time guitarist) and her bass player is one of my all time music crushes Catherine Popper. I wish I had caught this band when they were in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, but they are totally on my radar now.

My friend (who doesn’t follow any music not on the mainstream country stations) started screaming like a little girl when Potter invited country musician Kenny Chesney on stage. Chesney managed to bother me by standing in front of Popper, but sounded at home on the Ryman stage. Potter and the band finished their set and the curtains closed in preparation for the main event.

[The Avett Brothers]

When the curtains re-opened 30 minutes later, the stage was decorated for Halloween. The entire band came on stage dressed as mummies (and remained in costume the entire 2 hour show) and proceeded to entertain the crowd in their typical high-energy fashion.

While the band played well, it was really hard to hear over the audience singing along. Having long heard of the Ryman’s excellent acoustics, I was disappointed I couldn’t experience it for myself (I think it amplified the crowd instead of the band). The Avetts played several crowd favorites (but not many of their singles). The personal highlight of the night was the solo performance of “Murdered in the City” because the crowd went silent and I got to really hear the song.

Being their last show until New Years Eve, the Avetts really went for broke. Costumes aside, you could tell that the whole band was really happy to be playing (and then taking a break). Cellist Joe Kwon seemed to be soaking in the crowd as he left the stage before the encore.

This would not be an Ordered Chaos concert review without a little crowd report. Overall, the crowd was super cool and respectful. It was a nice mix of younger and older fans and everyone seemed to be mindful of each other… except the kid sitting next to me. The Ryman has these wonderful church benches to sit on (which of course nobody used), but it served the purpose of breaking up the crowd and providing personal space. This kid next to me kept getting closer and closer, crossing over the divider and bumping into me. As I learned to accept that, he started doing this wide clapping thing, almost elbowing me in the face at least a half-dozen times. I shot him a few dirty looks, but he did not get the hint. Eventually my friends left early and I got the personal space I craved.

Overall, it was a great show in a wonderful city and venue. I kinda wanted to see if I could get Catherine Popper’s autograph after the show (she was a part of my favorite album of all time), but a.) I had no idea how to do it and b.) I didn’t want to be that creepy fucker bothering a musician after a show – besides, my wife and I had to pack for the flight home.

Until the next show…

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Nashville: Epilogue

I was going to type this last word about Nashville in the airport or on the plane but then opted against it because it was such a douche-bag writer cliche. I got home an hour ago, and I had to throw out some old food and pick up trash the wind blew on my front door. Now that I am settled, I can do a little more writing.

I said my peace about Nashville as a town in my post yesterday. I wanted to talk a little bit about the people today. Nashville is a very friendly town. The second we arrived, police officers stopped to make sure we knew where we were going and to suggest places to see, most of the bartenders and waiters were friendly and helpful, it was very pleasant.

For the single guys, there are a massive amount of pretty girls in this town (Hi Nate). The number of women strolling around the downtown area was staggering. A guy (like Nate) could really clean up. They weren’t just pretty, they were friendly and outgoing (REMEMBER THIS NATE). The guys all sort of looked like normal frat dudes, but friendlier.

I noticed plenty of smokers which made me a sad but I guess that is just a part of rural (and rural-metro) living. I didn’t see many of the cliches that you would expect from the South: no strong accents, nobody fit the “redneck” stereotype, people didn’t seem any dumber there than here (with one exception which we will get to in the next paragraph). One odd thing I did notice, for such a small city, I don’t think people like to walk too much (sounds like Nate’s version of Heaven).

Our hotel staff was very nice, but they didn’t seem all that bright as a group. When we arrived, I asked our clerk for visitation suggestions, and they were okay but that was about all he knew. I asked about restaurants and he had no idea what I was talking about (famous places in the area). Any time we asked if something was in walking distance the answer was no, but we walked it anyway and it was no more than 8 blocks. I mentioned the situation with the taxi service that they recommended which I choose not to blame them for, but if you know your guests are going to rely on taxi service and going to be shelling out 80 bucks round trip to get somewhere, you might want to suggest renting a car. When I saw new people checking in and asking the same questions and the clerk suggesting people go to SUBWAY around to corner for lunch, I finally had to step in. Nice people but they could help the tourism industry out by just knowing theirsurroundings. But we figured out their limitations pretty quickly and forged our own path so no harm, no foul.

Getting to the airport was no problem this morning and dropping off the car was a breeze. Nashville didn’t piss on me on our way out and I appreciated that. Nashville is absolutely a city we would visit again… hopefully we can take some friends and share in the fun.

PS: As always read the blog at it’s origin point: Joey’s Blog

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Nashville Blog: Day 03

Welcome back true be-loggers! Today is my last full day in Nashville (we are leaving tomorrow at 7 AM), my plan is to post the bulk of my thoughts today and perhaps offer a little epilogue tomorrow when we get home. We packed in alot today, so lets get to it. If you are just joining the blog this week and are wondering what I am talking about, here is PART 01 and here is PART 02. Let’s begin:

[The Big Bang]

I left you yesterday with Allison and I preparing to go to The Big Band Dueling Piano Bar in downtown Nashville. We were meeting up with my mom’s friend’s daughter (who moved to Nashville three weeks ago) and her (maybe) boyfriend (didn’t get a clarification and we didn’t ask). I realized late in the day yesterday that Big Bang was a chain which usually makes me less inclined to visit, but Allison used to frequent a dueling piano bar in Baltimore when she was in college and I thought she would like it. I wasn’t sure if the place served food which is why I was doing research online before we left. I didn’t get a clear answer but reviews mentioned dinner so I thought we were good to go. When we got there, the place was empty so we settled out on their deck facing Broadway and took in the mayhem below. Our dinner partners informed us that they didn’t drink alcohol which in turn, made me feel like an alcoholic asshole, but I got over that quickly and ordered some drinks (in fact, I was drinking when they found us at the bar next door… here’s to first impressions!)

As for the dueling pianos… it was fantastic. The players were talented and funny – one dude was BLIND and played awesome. The crowd started to shuffle in and it was clear that this was a bar for drunk girls to go to. I was one of the few men there. NATE IF YOU ARE READING THIS – YOU NEED TO GO TO NASHVILLE. I will make a quick note for anyone going to Big Bang, the food was terrible. Everything was deep fried and in nugget form. After a solid 4 hours we started to look for another place. At first I got the impression we were going to get into a car and go to a coffee house near Vanderbilt which I put the stop to – it was close to midnight, I was looking to wind the night down, not head off in a car and start up again (plus the prospect of being in a place that didn’t serve booze turned me off at the time – I wanted a final nite-cap). “Maybe Boyfriend” took this in stride and lead us down an alley into a respectfully dirty looking dive bar. I was into it until I walked in and smelled the smoke. You don’t realize how much smoke sucks until you are away from it. It didn’t help that “Maybe Boyfriend” enjoyed the cancer sticks and this bar allowed him to partake in his one vice right in front of my face. Add to the situation that we were immediately next to the stage and this crazy loud yet pretty awesome band was blowing my face off. I hung in for three songs and cut out. I felt bad to leave our company, but I had to get the hell out of there.

While walking back we mentioned that we were sort of hungry but sort of not, I suggested a pizza. We ordered from a place called New York Pizza (I know, I know…). It took them 40 minutes to get the pizza over and I almost vomited when I tasted it. They just dumped Italian style seasonings all over it, it had to be a total FU job, because there is no way this was an accident. It was that bad. So if you are in Nashville stay away from:

New York Pizza
2215 Elliston Place
Nashville, TN 37203
WORST PIZZA I HAVE EVER TASTED IN MY LIFE

I brushed my teeth and went to bed wondering what I did to piss those people off…

[Hatch Show Print]

Website: Hatchshowprint.com

Over the last few days, we have heard about this awesome printing place that did all of the original posters for the Grand Ole Opry and the artists when they were on tour. The big draw is that this place still operates with wood block printing press which looks awesome. Allison and I took a walk this morning to buy some posters and check out the operation. Of course it decided to rain but we were not deterred.

The press was right on Broadway and looked like it was there for a 100 years because it probably was (or damn close). We picked up some posters and got some ideas to use the service in the future 🙂

[WhiteCastle?]

On our way to check out the “True South”, we came across a WhiteCastle. Ever since Harold and Kumor, we have wanted to go to a real WC and New Jersey doesn’t have one (yes the movie said Cherry Hill had a WhiteCastle, they don’t) Even though we knew we were eating lunch, we HAD to eat a real WhiteCastle slider.

I gotta say… The frozen burgers you can get at the store are just as good if not better and the fries suck.

I don’t know what they put in those microwavable frozen burgers to make them taste so good, but having had the “real” thing, my mind is blown.

[Bellemead Plantation]

Even though the rain was coming down, Allison and I wanted to do things outdoors today (because we didn’t have much of a choice). We read about Bellemead Plantation and decided it would be a nice place to spend the day. After a short drive, we were on the Plantation. We heard there was a restaurant on site and we hoped we could get a seat because we really haven’t had anything but bar food or BBQ since we got there. We managed to get a seat with 20 minutes left to spare on lunch seatings. I am so glad we were able to eat there. We had a great southern lunch: Biscuits, Fried Green Tomatoes, home-made cheese and fresh ham sandwich, Buttermilk Fried Chicken (we split all of this and the portions were not out of control thankfully) and we topped it off with a boysenberry tart with fresh ice-cream.

After a heavy lunch we were glad to be able to do a walking tour of the plantation. We signed up for a guided tour and got an educational 45 minute walk-through of the main mansion by an informative older woman named Anna. The Bellemead Plantation was the premiere horse breeding farm in the United States until the 1950’s. Almost every championship horse since 1870 can trace it’s bloodline to the first stud at Bellemead (which was one of five prize horses given to the US by Europe). We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the house, but if you have ever seen antique furniture from the late 1800’s you have see what is going on.

Once the house tour was done, we were free to roam the grounds which were massive and beautiful. Yes this plantation was host to slavery and I think it might have partook in what I call ‘the revisionist history” that I have seen in Nashville in regards to its involvement in slavery, but we will get to that later. In regards to the plantation and slavery they took pride in mentioning that their slaves were educated since the house hosted so many US and foreign dignitaries. The one remaining slave hut looked downright lovely, but the other five I saw in the pictures seemed to be missing…

Regardless, the Bellemead Plantation was educational, beautiful, and a great way to spend a few hours in Nashville.

[Cheekwood Gardens]

Five minutes down the road from Bellemead, Cheeckwood Gardens resides. If Bellemead was a beautiful girl, this place was the hottest woman on the planet. We arrived at 4 PM and were told we only had a half hour before it closed, so we were rushing through the several garden areas until we reached what is now called the Cheekwood Museum of Art. This massive, beautiful mansion was built on what became the Maxwell House Coffee Fortune. The home and the lands were eventually given over to the state to become a fine arts center. You have to see this place to believe it – the fact that anyone called it home is insane. I have see huge houses before, but nothing like this.

On the way out we checked out more of the gardens. I made a point to see the Japanese garden which didn’t look very Japanese to me. Regardless, this place was incredible.

[Passing Thoughts on Nashville]

My opinion of Nashville is that it is a city in transition. It is struggling to come to terms with it’s past involvement with slavery (they are softening up the exhibits to slavery, making it seem less harsh, they name streets after Rosa Parks and MLK) while trying to be this clean-cut family friendly country music haven. Even the music scene is shifting as more “mainstream” artists are moving into town and putting their stamp on the future. I think Nashville has the potential and will become much more. But as new sources of interest and income flood the city, it also had an odd influx of poverty.

In the three days I have been here, I have never seen so many homeless people. I am no stranger to the homeless, I do live near and work in Philadelphia, but homeless people are everywhere and there are two very distinct classes. It is clear that the arts community is bringing in a younger, artistic class of homeless that probably pass through for a while doing their music thing (or following a music scene) they reminded me very much of “Phish Heads” or “Dead Heads” (people who follow jam bands around). On every level I viewed these people as harmless and part of the Bohemian vibe the town was generating. But there was another plentiful group of angry older males who were obviously abusing drugs or alcohol. They were on every corner and sleeping in every nook; Did they bother us? No. But the sheer number had me concerned and curious. “Maybe Boyfriend” told me at the Big Band that Nashville is a big train hub and these men ride the rails to whatever their final destination is. My guess is the number of churches in Nashville means there are quite a bit of soup kitchens that will feed them which makes them stay a little longer.

In order for Nashville to become a truly great city, they need to address the homeless situation (and I don’t mean making them disappear NYC style). I hope these people get the help they need to get off the streets for good but they don’t crack down to the point where the artistic hippie vibe gets crushed.

Overall, Nashville has been a great city and I look forward to the next time we can visit (hopefully with Nate who can take advantage of the copious amounts of friendly girls in this town).

[Conclusion]

We are going to finish off our night with a nice dinner (hopefully) and then check out a few bars and finish the night at Big Bang. We have to be up at 4:30 AM to go home, so it will be an early night. Thanks for reading this week – but remember if you aren’t reading at my blog, you are not getting the full experience. Speaking of which… here are some pictures:

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Nashville Blog: Day 02

Welcome back true be-loggers. I am not going to waste space and bullshit, lets get right into part two (If you didn’t read part one, you can do it here:

[Bluebird Cafe]

To finish off the story of day one, Allison and I took a nap and then ventured to the Bluebird Cafe. The cafe is semi-famous in the music scene as a variety of musical veterans, newcomers, song-writers, famous, and non-famous artists come to try out new material and collaborate with friends. My friend Amber deLaurentis had played there last summer when she did a mini-tour of the area last summer and I made a mental note to check it out and I was sure glad I did.

The place was MUCH smaller than I had expected and the musicians basically sit in the center of the room in a circle and play. I guess there was a bit of a comedy theme last night as musicians Kacey Jones, Bill Floweree, Jesse Goldberg and Jon Mark Stone busted out some very funny jams (it was a unique take on the whole bastard/bitch husband/wife combo). The menu at the Bluebird had asurprising amount of greek influenced dishes which I did not expect, but as I roamed around today, I noticed more similarities. While the menu may have had greek influence, I am going to be honest and say that the meal was not mind blowing. It was solid, but nothing crazy, but honestly, we weren’t there for the food.

After the two hour set, I had to call the taxi to come and get us and they were very prompt, so I didn’t get a chance to chat with the performers (who apparently stay after to try to sell CDs and bullshit with the crowd – most of whom they already know). The taxi brings me to a little Nashville Travel Tip: Rent a car if you visit. The taxi cost $35.00 one way. Add the $25.00 to get from the airport to the hotel and you are at $100.00 for one day. To compare, we rented a car for the rest of the trip for $120.00 total (including insurance). After getting raped so badly by the taxi service, I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.

[Pancake Pantry]

After I got up this morning, worked out, and showered, Allison and I decided we needed to get a rental car. After we walked a couple of blocks to the rental place we decided to do lunch at the Pancake Pantry. I have been reading about this place for weeks, and I will admit I was concerned that it was going to be all hype. I am happy to report that the food was outstanding. I got sweet potato pancakes and Allison got blueberry. We split an order of “The Grill Cook’s Medley” which washash browns, ham, peppers, eggs, and all kinds of goodness.

Fully stuffed, we walked around Vanderbilt University campus shops, bought some books, and then hopped back into the car to go see…

[The Grand Ole’ Opry]

Thanks to the Blackberry’s GPS system we easily figured out how to get to the Opry Building. One thing about Nashville, you have to take exits to stay on the highway you are on, which is annoying and confusing. That being said, we got there without issue. Before going into the Opry, I had heard Gibson Guitars had an outlet store in the plaza. Well, I was sad to discover it wasn’t an outlet so much as it was their “Premire Retail Location”… bottom line – I wasn’t saving any money if I wanted to buy a guitar, but I could get free, tax free shipping (which I can do any time). So after wasting time on some excellent 6-strings and watching a mandolin being built, we headed to the Opry. We decided to do another tour against better judgement, but had to kill about 15 minutes, so we took a free tour of the museum. It was pretty good for what it was, and you got an idea of the history involved with the production.

Fifteen minutes later, we started our tour. Similar to the Ryman we looked at alot of freaking dressing rooms, but in this tour we got to see one of the Opry acts practicing for tonight’s show and also seeing some of the minor stars going into the building. Overall I got a better vibe from this tour and it was easy to see that there is a community element. One thing I don’t like is that the tour guides make it seem like big stars like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson come in and hang out with everybody, and you know that isn’t happening, but I guess it makes people think they can run into them at one of the several gift shops.

I don’t mean to sound negative, as I actually liked tour and would recommend it, but it sure seems like there are alot of malls, shops, and “retail outlets” swarming around Nashville’s history.

[Conclusion]

Ok, I have to get ready to go to “The Big Bang” dueling piano bar… more to come on that later. Check out some pictures!

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Nashville Blog: Day 01: Part One

Today starts a series of live blogs in Nashville, TN. We had to get up at 4 AM to get to the airport within “the appropriate amount of time” and I am a little tired, but that didn’t stop us from hitting the ground running. We arrived in Nashville at 8:30 AM (local time) and easily secured a cab to our hotel. Our room wasn’t ready, but the hotel staff was happy to suggest places to kill time, so here is the run down so far:

[The Capital Building]

A few blocks from our hotel, the Tennessee State Capitol Building offered us a chance to kill 35 minutes. The Tennessee Capital building is one of the oldest still in operation today. When we entered, we were greeted by a very friendly state trooper who was quite excited to meet a real “Jersey Italian”. The thing that stands out about the building is that it is all stone. ALL STONE. From what I heard from the educational children’s tours, there was a massive stone quarry that was used to create most of the historic buildings.

The other “big feature” is that a few people are buried at the site: Samuel Morgan (Chairman of the Building Commission) and William Strickland (the architect). Besides that, the building has too many oil paintings of long dead historical figures and very slippery floors. The building itself is awesome, the stuff inside, not so much.

Moving On…

[The Free Library]

Right across the street from the Capital Building is the Free Library. We didn’t go inside, but the exterior courtyard was awesome (check out the pictures below).

[The Ryman]

One of my “must-see” places was the Ryman Auditorium. Home of the famous “Grand Ole Opry” during it’s peak, the Ryman now hosts tons of contemporary artists. I was a little shocked when we walked in and was told the walking tour would cost $14.00 per person: it’s basically a converted church. We opted for the tour anyway and it was conducted by a gentlemen named Bill who might have taken his job a little too seriously. Bill first took us to the “Johnny & June Cash Dress Room”. The room was built in 2003 and Johnny never used it… He proceeded to take a revisionist’s approach to Nashville’s treatment to the Man in Black (saying how Nashville eventually opened their arms to Johnny again, which wasn’t true as stated by the man himself in “Cash” by Johnny Cash) when I corrected him, he got flush and shot me a look, I think I was on his shit list for the rest of the tour.

We saw more dressing rooms that were named after people who never used them and eventually we got to see the stage. I will admit I thought it was awesome to see it from that view, but the tour was a total rip off.

[Jack’s BBQ]

We exited the Ryman and Allison noticed a BBQ place, we walked down the famous Ryman alley and entered a room that smelled of charcoal and pork. We ordered up some BBQ pork and Beef Brisket sandwiches. Very good, not mind blowing, but there is a strip of BBQ joints to go….

Okay, I am taking a nap. That’s all for now!!!!

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