[A Pig At Large by Wilfrid: May 27, 2013]
I think it's about six years since I was last in Nashville, and the place hasn't changed much. Work took me there on this occasion, but I found some time to play.
A welcoming city, nicely balmy at 80F, full of music (and beer, and whisky). A little too full of churches for my personal taste (overheard: "If you don't finish your homework, you can't go to Bible class.")
Not a center of fine cuisine, even with the strides made in other US regional cities. And in any case, I only had time for fast food.
At least there are independent burger and BBQ outlets in downtown. Not just the chains.
Late a night, work done, I headed for the obvious nightlife destination, that brief but legendary strip of Broadway lined with honky tonks.
I found myself reflecting on the fundamental difference between Nashville honky tonks and downtown music clubs in New York. The latter feature singer-songwriters eager to share the latest communings with their personal muse: pages from their diary, turned into song. It's about them (and there's usually a cover charge).
In Nashville, the music scene is highly competitive, and the performers work for tips. Grabbing a hot shift on a Friday or Saturday night and filling the place means making the rent. And so the overwhelming priority in Nashville is to entertain. It's not "here's a song I wrote about my recent relationship"--it's "what do y'all want to hear?"
Some of the joints have expanded and modernized since I was last here, notably Rippy's, which is much bigger and brighter.
But mostly, it remained the old, vintage scene. I wasn't noting the names of performers, but the two musical highlights of my stay were a breakneck, rocking version of "Lil' Ol' Wine Drinker Me," and a countryfied "No Woman, No Cry."
Mr Ryman still stands watch over the auditorium of which he was chief benefactor. Overheard: "It looks like a church." Of course, that's what it was: it was built for prayer meetings before anyone had the idea of hiring it out for a local radio show, which ultimately became the "Grand Ole Opry."
At the Honky Tonk Grill, I had a hard time turning down the Recession Special (fried bologna sandwich, chips, and a PBR--five bucks). I chose a juicy cheeseburger, freshly flipped on a very busy grill.
On a different evening, I should emphasize, the Double Wide Cheeseburger at Trailer Park Paradise, was a monster.
Very charred (there's no rare or medium nonsense here), dripping with melted cheese. I regret I didn't order the Big Al Challenge--five of those patties in a sandwich, served over chili fries. Not so much because I wanted to eat it, but because I wanted to photograph it for posterity.
And the bands played on. Mostly country, some bluegrass ("hillbilly" they call it), and of course some dispiriting mainstream rock. I was there during the week, but I bet you hear a lot more rock at the weekends.
And finally some whisky jars, usefully being used a light shade. Nobody was drinking out of them.