IMPORTANT NEW NOTES FROM JUSTIN:
US Tour Day 183, Part 1: Nashville
Nashville. Some people say it's the country music capitol of the world. Some call it Music City USA. Damn it, they both couldn't be more right.
Yesterday was Sunday. My friends had gone bowling and I didn't want to go. So, I headed downtown about 10:30 AM to see what was shaking.
Nothing was shaking. Nothing was even flinching. Downtown was so dead it made a cemetery look like a spring break kegger. Welcome to the Bible Belt on a Sunday: everything was closed. Except, that is, for the bars on the corner of Broadway known as Legends Corner. The sweet southern sounds of old Gibsons and three–part harmonies poured out of the doors and mingled on the sidewalk. My nose was met by the smell of beer that only comes in cans.
At ten thirty in the morning on Sunday morning there was nowhere I could buy a sandwich, get a shirt, make a photocopy, or get some batteries if my life depended on it. But, I could go see live country music for free and get drunk in any number of historic venues. Clearly, if you aren't in church, the only excuse you'd better have was to be listening to the sweet sounds of the mandolin and steel guitar while sipping a Pabst Blue Ribbon under buzzing neon beer signs.
I stepped into Robert's to hear some tunes and soak in the sights of the Sunday morning regulars. Three long shelves of new and used cowboy boots lined the longest wall, just next to a row of round bar tables. I guess you never know when you'll need to buy a new pair of boots.
Bright blue and red beer signs punctuated the few wall spaces that weren't taken up by posters, paintings, records and photos of country artists that had graced Roberts' little stage. The names on the walls were foreign to me. Where I grew up nobody listened to country. Nobody I knew would've admitted it if they had. I think I'd heard a Charlie Daniels song a few times, and maybe a Dolly Parton song or two. But, that was as far as my country knowledge went. But, my eyes wowed at the names and faces and pictures of idyllic country–western places.
I heard a few songs and kept walking. A band was playing inside a bar claiming to be the bluegrass capitol of the world. I recognized the singer through the window—I'd seen a poster advertising his show. Todd Bolton had a wide hat and a long, chin beard—sort of a country–western meets Chinese thing, hanging perfectly straight down like a plumb line. He saw me at the window and smiled at me as he sang. Then, still in the middle of his song, he ran outside—still singing. Quite the charmer, the enthusiastic performer saddled up to a passing tourist grandmother and serenaded her. The band kept playing in perfect time on the stage inside. I shot pictures frantically, trying to capture a moment that wouldn't have happened anywhere else in the world but here.
How did I walk into this moment of oedipal country music flirtation? Grandma Tourist probably wondered the same thing. She fumbled with her camera. The young girl inside her peeked out through her sixty year old exterior—looking shy and surprised and embarrassed and flattered all at once. Todd, still singing away, snatched her camera away and handed it to me. He moved right up next to her and smiled like someone who'd done this sort of thing five hundred times and couldn't wait to do it five hundred more. His eyes were bright, his smile spread wide, and his voice was strong and twangy. He was a magnetic if not a little–to–eager performer, and his business was a mix of music and enrolling people in his cause. He did both so well.
Where else in the world would this happen? Clearly nowhere. The moment faded into silence as the music faded on and up inside. I smiled, putting my camera back into my pocket and walking back down Broadway to see what other moments waited for me around the next corner.
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