August 21, 2011
The Sounds of Pensacola: Summer Country Jam(Introduction repeated from Part One)
Summer Country Jam is a new free concert series for Pensacola. It features up and coming country music artists that have been signed by a major record label but haven't made it big yet. Let's call them what they are, the B-listers who one day may be A-listers (or maybe not). It started July 14th and runs every Thursday until September 1st. There's an opening act at 6:00 or 6:30 with the headliner scheduled for 8:00. I don't know if this is going to be a regular concert series or if it's just happening this summer. So enjoy it while you can. Scheduled to play* are:
*In a change from how I normally handle the concert series, my plan is to come back and update this topic after any concert I attend.
But keep in mind, I am not a photographer and all I have is a very basic point and shoot compact. I wouldn't know an F-stop if it hit me on the head.
This series is different from the other regular concert series in Pensacola (Bands on the Beach, Sounds of Summer, Sunsets at Plaza de Luna and Evenings in Olde Seville Square) as Summer Country Jam is the only one put on by private business. (The other four are either government or non-profit events.) Given that it's put on by private businesses, not surprisingly, Summer Country Jam is the only concert series to be held in a private business, the restaurant that's one of the main sponsors: The Fish House. The Fish House (see map) is located in downtown Pensacola. The concerts happen on the Fish House's Deck Bar which overlooks Seville Harbor Marina on Pensacola Bay. The Fish House is not associated with the marina, but if you want to take a boat to The Fish House, you can contact the marina management or Lanier Sailing Academy for slip rental.
The Fish House's Deck Bar
These are free concerts, so there's no cover charge and no drink minimum, though, of course, The Fish House wants you to buy drinks --- and do they ever sell them. Do not go to this concert if you can't take really drunk obnoxious people crowding you and spilling drinks on you. Yes, technically the concerts are at a restaurant --- but the whole Deck is nothing but a bar. It's an evening at a bar. What do you think it's going to be like? There was a drunk woman who broke a wine glass and just left the pieces on the deck where another woman in sandals cut her foot on it. The drunk woman was old enough to know better by 25 years, but middle-aged drunks can be the worst. (Though talk about instant karma, minutes later the woman who broke the glass lost her iPhone and never did find it.) Although I've seen a handful of children at this, this is not a family event. Let me repeat that: Not a family event, Not a family event, NOT A FAMILY EVENT. Do you get my point? The people who brought kids came early and left early before the crowd had a good, solid drunk on them. If you absolutely have to see someone who's playing, leave the kids at home. If you want to take the kids to a concert on Thursday night take them to one of the other two free Thursday night concerts in downtown Pensacola.
I don't know what it is about Thursday nights and free concerts in Pensacola. But we have three different concerts happening on Thursdays all within walking distance from each other. At least the start times are staggered. Sunsets at Plaza de Luna at Plaza de Luna park is from 5:30 to 7:30. Evenings in Olde Seville Square, which was the original Thursday concert (it's in its 24th year) spreads across two adjoining parks: Seville Square and Fountain Park and goes from 7:00 to 9:00. Both Sunsets at Plaza de Luna and Evenings in Olde Seville Square are perfect concerts to take children to. Those are family events. Summer Country Jam at The Fish House is not.
Free Thursday Night Entertainment in Downtown Pensacola
(Image courtesy of Google Earth)
But if you're an adult and you enjoy country music and you don't mind drunk people (or you don't mind them too much), then definitely go to Summer Country Jam. Despite being located in the Deep South, Pensacola has a dearth of good country music soloists. Last year we had two locals, one male, one female (Crystal Miller, the American Idol contestant, who I mentioned in "The Sounds of Pensacola: Bands on the Beach"), who were very good but I think they both moved to Nashville. We do get the big names (the A-listers) playing at the Civic Center, but I stopped going to those concerts when the ticket prices reached the level of "That's ridiculous. I wouldn't pay that to see the second coming." So Summer Country Jam is your chance to hear some good country music singers for free.
Lucas Crutchfield, the house player, is the regular opening act.
I'm trying to cover two or three concerts on Thursdays so I only get to The Fish House in time to hear him play one or two songs.
But from what I've heard, he's good. Good enough I'd like to go back on a different night just to listen to his set.
The person introducing Brett Eldredge mentioned loving hearing him sing Frank Sinatra. That seemed an odd introduction for a country singer, and I didn't understand it until I heard Brett singing "Night Moves." His is a cross-genre voice. Some country singers can only sing country (and gospel if they're so inclined). Most can sing country and rock. But Brett Eldredge had a wide range. If this whole country thing doesn't work out, he could have a career singing the standards. He did a fine job on "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone." I didn't hear him sing Sinatra that night, but now I'm curious to, as Ol' Blue Eyes is very hard to sing well, but Brett Eldredge might be able to do it. When it comes to love songs, Brett Eldredge understands the goal is to make you feel like you could melt into someone's arms; and when he sang a love song, I closed my eyes and imagined doing just that. His dark, smooth voice fit well into heartbreak songs like "One Mississippi" which he performed under dimmed stage lights accompanied only by the keyboard. Because he sang such a wide range, this show had the least country music of any country music show I've seen. But don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Brett Eldredge seemed to really enjoy physically interacting with the audience. Some singers do; some don't. But Brett was constantly coming up and reaching out to the audience, much to the thrill of the women up front. When he sang "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," Brett came and sat on the edge of the stage where he was promptly engulfed in women. He would come up to the edge of the stage and sing directly to someone for a brief moment. Those are the kinds of techniques that the best performers do to make a connection. When it comes to live performances, being technically proficient is only part of it, you have to make that connection with the audience. (I met one talented local singer who could not understand that.) But Brett Eldredge has mastered the delicate line of making a personal connection while not making it too personal. (I don't enjoy seeing a performer and getting the sense that they're going to be bringing particular people back to the bus afterward. That's way too much information.) At the end of the ninety minute show, he made a point of reaching out and touching hands with everyone who'd been in the front row. That included me even though I'd spent much of the show sitting which is probably not what singers want to see as I'm sure they want to see everyone on their feet dancing.
As to why I'm sitting in a chair.............I came as close to fainting as I have ever done during the Chuck Wicks show from standing in that heat for an hour and a half. (It took about 45 minutes to set up, then the show lasted 45 minutes.) Everything went black on me, and I could feel it happening but couldn't stop it. Knew I was about to faint ---- embarrassing --- and took the slightly less embarrassing option of squatting and putting my head down which kept me conscious. I have a folding chair with me for the other Thursday night concerts. Since I've got it, I said, "Screw it, I'll just use it," because I don't want to repeat that whole fainting thing.
Brett Eldredge is a lot of fun to watch, but he's hell to photograph. The only time he stands still is when he's at the mic. When he's away from the mic, he's in constant motion. And my little $75 compact doesn't handle that very well especially under lower lighting situations. I took a lot of photos where by the time my camera had finally focused, I snapped him leaving the frame.
Brett Eldredge has a back-up band of five: a keyboardist, a drummer and three guitarists (one of whom plays the acoustic guitar, normally the instrument played by the lead singer, but Brett put his guitar down for much of the set). Four out of five of them were funny to watch. The non-funny one was the keyboardist. The other four.........the other four........picture a woman giving birth to a 14 pound baby with no epidural: those were the expressions that crossed their faces, especially the acoustic guitar player and the drummer. They were really hamming things up on stage. (And, no, no alcohol involved. The Fish House put a case of bottled water up on the stage while setting up.) I get the impression, and it's just my impression for what it's worth, that this group would be a ball to tour with. They seemed to have a lot of fun together which made the band fun to watch too.
The show closed with an energetic performance of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)." Though I don't suppose there's any other way to perform that particular song besides energetically. Brett Eldredge was jumping up and down on stage, and the audience was jumping with him. I don't know if Brett did a meet & greet afterward; he didn't mention he was going to do one. (If he didn't, he would be the first performer not to.) But the show itself was wonderful; Brett Eldredge was the best all-around singer so far.
Brett Eldredge Music Videos:
Takin' It to the Streets
One Way Ticket
Night Moves (The Elevator Song)
Jared Ashley is a cut-up and as cute as a bug in a rug. Watching him I wondered if he was the class clown in school or if it's an act he developed for the stage. The man plays a polka dotted guitar. "Man" and "polka dot" are not two concepts that normally go together........not when it's a heterosexual guy which Jared Ashley is as he auditioned for "The Bachelor" TV show. (I presume he would no longer qualify as a contestant as he's wearing a wedding ring.)
Jared Ashley just had a wonderful, funny rapport with the audience. He even made me laugh a couple of times. And to understand how hard that was to do, I had gotten some sickening, hideous news that morning and, after I broke down sobbing on the phone with a friend, I spent much of the day in tears, hugging the cat for comfort (whether he wanted to be hugged or not --- it's moments like that I tell the cat he's paying his rent). The prospect of even going to this concert..........as far as I was concerned I didn't give a rat's ass about going to some goddamn concert. The only reason I went was this is work. A self-imposed assignment, but work nevertheless. So I went even though I had a sick feeling in my stomach the entire time, and all I really wanted to do was go home and curl up. I never expected I'd laugh, but Jared Ashley was such a ham, a total comedian on stage that I did ----- briefly.
Other unusual things about Jared Ashley: He's the first Summer Country Jam singer to have had a fairly recent acquaintance with a razor (probably not that morning, but in the last day or so). He's the only one who set up his own equipment. I always find the progression to be intriguing from musicians who haul their own gear, set it up and do the sound check, to becoming people who leave the preparation to someone else and who won't set foot on a stage until they're ready to perform. (When I saw The Band Perry on New Year's Eve I was amused to note those three very young kids already feel they've reached that point.) When, I wonder, in a musician's career does this transition happen? And they really attempted to start on time. I also notice the "bigger" someone gets, the less "on time" means to them --- a fact that irritates the stew out of me as I'm actually one of those people who's in my seat at the time the ticket says the show starts. Whereas, for most small-time bar acts, if the sets are supposed to run from 7 to 11, they run from 7 to 11. Scheduled to start at 8:00, Jared Ashley started about five after.
When he was on stage setting up, Jared Ashley wore a baseball cap. When he was ready to play, he switched to a black cowboy hat. But those felt cowboy hats are hot, and it was already hot. It was stifling in the crowd with all the bodies, so I imagine the stage was just as hot with those lights. (I do wish The Fish House would install outdoor fans on The Deck.) So halfway through the set, Jared switched back to the baseball cap. Though he would have been cooler if he had not worn any hat at all. It's not like he needed to keep the sun off. Some guys just seemed to be convinced they have to wear a hat at all times. If you're certain Jewish denominations, it's part of your religion. And I get the bald guys doing it. But I don't think Jared Ashley is Jewish, and he didn't appear to balding (he's too young), so why the need for a hat? Men think women and fashion are confusing. Let me let any men out there in on a secret: we women often find your male styles to be just as confusing.
I've never seen a singer be given more drinks or a wider variety of drinks than Jared Ashely got. If it were up to the crowd, the man would have been completely tanked, but I noticed that Jared would politely take a sip from what he was given, then set it down. He brought a beer on stage with him, but only drank the neck (he put it down right in front of me and there it stayed); he mainly stuck with what he brought on stage which was some red drink with ice.
Billing this concert as Jared Ashley is misleading. You're not getting Jared Ashley and his back-up band, you're getting the Dirty South Band. The Dirty South Band honed its skills playing the college circuit. And there was something about the interaction that did feel very collegiate. I couldn't help but wonder what the band thought of this crowd as there weren't many college aged people in it.
The Dirty South Band has two lead singers: Jared Ashley and Nick Sturms. (Apparently this Dirty South Band doesn't have a website or I would have linked it.) But having two lead singers was fine by me. Nick Sturms is a good singer. They're best friends, and their vocal ranges complement as each can sing songs the other can't. (I did not get any usable photos of Nick Sturms. If I had realized soon enough, before the crowd got jam packed, I would have; but by the time I realized Nick was an equal lead singer I was locked into one spot and Nick was on the opposite side of the stage.)
Speaking of (or to be precise, writing of) photographs, I ended up taking over 150 photos which has reached the point of being utterly ridiculous. I thought it was just plain ridiculous when I took almost a hundred photos of Tyler Reeve, then I come back from this show, upload the photos the next day and realized I'd taken over 150 which is utterly ridiculous. But Jared Ashley is a good shoot. (I only wish my camera would cooperate more.) He likes to come up right to the edge of the stage and play. So he kept coming up right in front of me ---- I could have reached out and touched him. (Though I wouldn't have goosed him like his bassist did.) Since Jared Ashley kept standing right in front of me, I kept taking photos ---- to the tune of 150+ of them.
The Dirty South Band played for two hours and twenty minutes tying the length of Rhett Akins' show. I'd describe it as a 50-50 mix of country and rock with a rap set thrown in toward the end. (Want to hear something funny? Jared Ashley with his can't-cut-it-with-knife-thick, Southern accent doing Vanilla Ice, but he did it well.) Jared Ashley has just released an eponymous album this month (available only by download), so they played quite a few songs off of it including "Put a Little Stank On It" and "Last Train to Memphis." They also played some of Nick Sturms original music. And they did do a meet & greet afterward.
Jared Ashley Music Video:
Promo Video includes "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" and "Hicktown"
Yet another country band where no one played an acoustic guitar. I hope this doesn't become a trend.
I've already had to accept a massive infusion of rock and pop music in country; I hope country music doesn't totally lose its roots.
I keep waiting for one of the bands to have a fiddle player, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
In the background is the bassist who goosed Jared.
When the woman standing next to me saw that she said to Jared that she wanted to do it too.
But Jared didn't turn around and offer though I think that would have been funny.
After all, female music fans regularly ask the singers to autograph either their butt or their boobs.
This would have been turnabout.
James Wesley is engaging with a big, toothy grin -- one you could never refer to merely as a "smile" as it wouldn't do it justice. In person he looks remarkably like a giant-sized Ken doll (but without the plastic hair and, presumably, with the anatomical corrections). One look at him and I thought Mattel could have used him as their model for Barbie's ex. And if being the walking model for Ken weren't odd enough, in photographs he doesn't look like Ken; in photos James Wesley looks like the actor, James Garner, best known for playing private detective Jim Rockford on "The Rockford Files".
After last week's refreshing change of Jared Ashley checking his own equipment and starting on time, we were back to the diva behavior this week ---- which is the norm for this concert series, Jared Ashley was the exception. Someone else did James Wesley's sound checks and the show started half an hour late. For a brief moment I thought the show was going to be starting almost on time when a DJ got on stage at 8:05, but he announced, "James Wesley isn't coming out yet," leaving me thinking, "Well, that sucks." But, as I said, that's the norm. (Which doesn't mean I approve of it.)
What I do approve of is James Wesley's voice. He has my favorite kind of voice for country music: strong, deep and overwhelmingly masculine. Tenors are fine for opera and Irish music, but when it comes to country, the deeper, the better as far as I'm concerned. As far as that preference, James Wesley had the best country voice in Summer Country Jam.
What I also approved of was James Wesley's selection of music. Finally, we got a genuine country music show with genuine country music. Of course he played his hit song, "Real," a song that when I hear it on a country music station actually sounds like it belongs on there. (My reaction to a lot of the so-called country music being played on so-called country music stations today is "How in the hell is that country? That's not country. That's pop! In fact, that's 1970s pop." Which doesn't mean I hate the song --- though sometimes I do --- it does mean I don't think it should be passing itself off as country just because it isn't heavily synthesized dance music.) But in addition to "Real" played quite early in the evening and not saved for the show closer and other original music like "Jackson Hole" (A beautiful spot, I've been there, but, boy, is it expensive --- thankfully I was camping in the Grand Tetons National Park), "You Should Be Here with Me" (guaranteed to make any heterosexual woman think, "I only wish") and "Didn't I," we got a lot of the old school country and not just Johnny Cash (who everyone plays since "Walk the Line" came out) but Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, etc. Those are people you never hear being played any more, and it was nice they got dusted off. The only rock song James Wesley played was also an oldie, 1957's "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On" from Jerry Lee Lewis -- an artist, who by today's standards would be considered country.
One thing I particularly liked about James Wesley's performance was we heard the story behind many of the songs, both his original songs and his cover music. With the cover music we heard about the part this music had played in James Wesley's life listening to it at his grandmother's house growing up.
In telling us about his music, James Wesley mentioned more than once that he used to work construction. When he did, I thought, "Lucky wife." A man you can hand the "Honey, Do" list to in the morning and ask him to serenade you in the evening. That's almost my ideal. (My perfect fantasy involves being serenaded by a cello, not a guitar and sitting by a mountain lake in the Rockies or the Sierra Nevadas, not in Nashville.) But, of course, as a musician I'm sure he's gone a lot of days and that "Honey, Do" list must really pile up.
James Wesley's guitarist was so young I took one look at him and thought, "He's not old enough to drink!" He looked so very young I asked myself, "What? Are they homeschooling him on the tour bus?" After the show, I had to ask. He said he got asked his age a lot. I'll bet. He also said he was 18 years old. Meaning he's not old enough to drink. Technically he wasn't even old enough to be at The Fish House Deck as the promotional material for the Summer Country Jam concerts specified "21 and up." But the kid didn't drink. In fact, no one in the band drank anything other than bottled water.
The one disappointment, and it's a big one, was the shortness of the show. James Wesley barely played more than an hour. It was an hour fifteen minutes top. When he said it was his last song, I couldn't believe it. It was so early, at first I thought this was part of the show leading to one of those fake encores like the A-listers do, and he'd come back on the stage. But, no, James Wesley really ended the show that soon. I thought Brett Eldredge's 90 minute set was short. I just couldn't believe maybe 75 minutes. I just can't put a positive spin on that. Has James Wesley already reached that point in his career where he's forgotten the excited feeling of being on stage and not wanting to get off? Where he's lost that desire to keep on playing? Are these shows something he's grinding out and he gets them over as quickly as possible? I expect that from A-listers. I don't expect it from people who are still working on making it big. As I said in Part One, "It's what I like best about performers who are still on their way up...........they have an eagerness and enthusiasm to perform that people at the top of their game frequently lack."
He didn't appear to be feeling unwell. And I don't think the 18 year old guitar player had a ten o'clock curfew. My observation is James Wesley had a pre-written song list, played it, and that was the end. I can't help but compare it to Rhett Akins and Jared Ashley playing for 2 hours 20 minutes and, frankly, James Wesley comes up short (especially since Jared Ashley took request after request from the audience and didn't stick to some pre-defined list). To be fair, as far as length of show, I don't know what the contract specified. All I can go by is what everyone else in the Summer Country Jam series has done, and it wasn't playing for little more than an hour. (I'm excluding Chuck Wicks' impromptu, jury-rigged performance. Those were special circumstances as the official show was rained out. Actually, Chuck Wicks was a performer who went above and beyond, insisting on singing despite the rain. Sadly, it's something I get the impression that James Wesley wouldn't have done.)
After that, the only thing I can say is at least James Wesley did do a meet & greet.
I can't get over how much James Wesley looks like James Garner in this and several other shots.
This photo caused me to have an existential crisis:
If someone who doesn't look a thing like James Garner photographs exactly like James Garner,
then does James Garner look like James Garner in person?
Watching Kip Moore I wasn't surprised to learn he was a surfer who lived in a hut in Hawaii prior to moving to Nashville nine years ago. People who surf, people who really surf, carry something of that attitude about them in the other parts of their lives. Not that country music shows are known for their formality, but there was something especially laid-back about Kip Moore's performance. His interaction with the audience was friendly in a "We've just met on the beach and we're never going to meet again, so let's just enjoy the moment" kind of way.
Kip Moore mentioned he considered Pensacola and Destin to be "home" he spent so much time here growing up. (He even had two aunts at the show who he said he hadn't seen since he was eleven.) After this Thursday night show in Pensacola, he had a Saturday show in Destin. I hope that wasn't outdoors because it's Saturday as I type this and there's a tropical storm pouring rain on this stretch of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to western Florida. On the bright side, we were getting huge swells from the storm, so Friday was excellent surfing if he brought his board. Finding out that Kip Moore visited the Panhandle often and that he's a surfer made me wonder if he learned how to surf here.........
As you'd expect from someone with a laid-back, surfer's attitude, Kip Moore didn't exhibit a speck of diva behavior. He did meet & greets before and after the show. He set up his own equipment and performed his own checks. The show started 15 minutes late, but that wasn't because Kip Moore wasn't ready. Everything was prepped before 8:00. The delay seemed to be due to the DJs. And after the show, Kip Moore put up his own equipment. He's actually the only singer in these eight weeks that put his own equipment away.
Every singer in Summer Country Jam played the guitar. It seems to be the unwritten rule in country music that a male lead singer must play a guitar while a female lead singer doesn't have to play anything but the audience. But Kip Moore was the only singer in the series to switch between an acoustic and electric guitar. I had never thought about it before, but with Kip Moore it was very noticeable that acoustic and electric guitars are played in two different styles. With the electric guitar Kip "jammed," playing with his body more curved over the guitar while he played the acoustic guitar standing upright. Even the showmanship moves are different between an electric and acoustic guitar.
Kip Moore put on an enjoyable show with the usual mix of country and rock. On the rock side, it was the first time I've ever heard Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" sung with a distinct Southern accent --- I wonder what the Boss would think. Naturally Kip played some of his original songs with "Mary Was the Marrying Kind" being the big hit with the crowd. "Somethin' 'bout a Truck" was another popular song. In introducing "I've Got a Motorcycle" Kip Moore made a point of emphasizing that even though the girl in the song had a boyfriend, in real life she didn't. I get it. Songwriting's like blogging. People expect the material to be based on the writer's life. But as Kip Moore said songwriters "make shit up." David Bowie used to get a lot of flak because his music wasn't telling the story of his life. Kip Moore wanted the guys in the audience to know that he didn't go after another guy's girlfriend -- I guess that's not his life. (That's songwriting. My blog is 100% my real life and real thoughts.........which might account for the readership level.)
Kip Moore's bassist got himself a nickname that night though he doesn't know it. The band was on stage setting up; when I saw him, after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I leaned over to the woman standing next to me (who I'd met at the Brett Eldredge show) and I said, "Did you see how cute that guy with the long hair is?" She replied, "Oh, Fabio's son" which was the perfect nickname to describe him. She also went to compliment his "bubble butt" though she thought he was too skinny whereas I liked his build. One look at him and I think I regressed to being 15 years old again ------ which was a long time ago. Except at age 15 I didn't keep saying "shit" every time I looked at a cute guy. But in the vernacular of those long ago teenage years, he was stone cold fox. We never did learn the names of the band, so in my mind he will forever be "Fabio's son" which is how I'll be referring to him. Not that I'll ever see him again, but Fabio's bubble butted son is going to make a cute anecdote should the subject of this concert ever come up.
It wasn't a long show, but it wasn't the shortest either. That was still James Wesley. Kip Moore played for about 85 minutes including an almost acoustical version of "Everything But You" -- it was played with just two guitars, one acoustic, one electric. And he didn't stick to a pre-written song list as he took one request. But I noticed that Kip Moore has already reached the point of having a fake encore in his act........or do artists prefer it if you called it a staged encore? (I don't care. I call them fake. And I don't like them. When it comes to encores give me the genuine thing.) He left the stage, but I overheard him telling a woman at the front he was coming back, which he did for the one song "encore."
Although I enjoyed the show, I had an earworm of the single line "Mary, Mary.....Mary was the marrying kind" stuck in my head for two damn days which I did not enjoy. Even if you like a song no one wants to hear a line from it going round and round in their head for two solid days. Somewhere in the second day I was considering either crying, screaming or cursing Kip Moore for writing a song with such a catchy hook before that earworm finally went away.
Kip jammin' with "Fabio's son"
Less jamming and more playing around
In the middle of a song Kip Moore forgot the lyrics to the second verse.
He asked if anyone in the audience knew the words. One woman did come up to the stage to tell him the lyrics, but couldn't get his attention.
"Fabio's son" had pulled out his phone and they were busy looking for the lyrics online.
In doing some research for this two parter, I found myself learning about Nashville, specifically about its country music scene. Nashville is where everyone who wants to make it big in country music has to go. And most, if not all, of the singers from Summer Country Jam live in Nashville.
Nashville is a classic example of that saying, "Different strokes for different folks." Or as I put it when I've traveled this country, "It's good people who like a place live there...........It saves the rest of us from having to." (And, yes, that applies to Pensacola too. I love Pensacola; but I've known people who hated it. Different strokes.) From what I've learned of Nashville I'd rather be shot in the head than live there. (That's one step up from New York City for me. Because I wouldn't have to be shot in the head if I were forced to live in New York City. I'd kill myself first.)
What I've read about Nashville reminds me of the one time I had lunch in Beverly Hills. I was sitting there with a friend who'd driven down from Sacramento. She had ambitions to be a documentary filmmaker. I was just a tourist. (Looked like one too with my running shoes, shorts, backpack and camera in a fanny pack. I've never been ashamed of being a tourist.) The entire restaurant was buzzing around us. My friend thrived on it. There was such a sense of people on the make, and she admitted she'd be one of them if she had the chance. But for me, just being there was enervating. It's not a pace or a lifestyle that attracts me. (Though the chicken and pasta with garlic cream sauce was the best I've ever eaten.)
On the one hand Nashville sounds like a real party town. An overabundance of bars and clubs teeming with ambition. Different club every night. People out drinking and partying. On the other hand Nashville is a business and a particularly ruthless one at that. Nashville is a company town. And the mere phrase "company town" raises my hackles and puts me in an obnoxious mood -- witness me writing this epilogue. "Company town" is an affront to my sense of independence with the implied sucking up it requires.
By definition Nashville is filled with young talent on the make: singers, songwriters, musicians. (Most of them destined to have their dreams broken no matter how talented they are.)
Also by definition Nashville is filled with the people who want to use them. Shark hungry record company executives looking for the next hot thing. (I think the "talent" isn't thought of as people, but properties.) Music reps/agents, who from the thankfully very little interaction I've had with them, most of whom would suck the marrow from your bones and not even give you a glass of water in return.
There are big stars who get away with the worst kind of public behavior and excess because they're rich and famous. I'd love for some of them to meet me because my reaction would be, "Who?" (Which was my reaction one day when I opened my front door and saw the tackiest white Hummer, as if that weren't bad enough, it was a stretch white Hummer across the street from my house and found out later it was owned by some guy who played for the New Orleans Saints. [Don't ask me who; I don't remember, and I don't care.] All I could think when I saw the thing was "Someone's badly overcompensating.") No one's ever said to me, "Do you know who I am?" I try to avoid places like that. But, if anyone ever did, my response would be, "No. And I don't care. You're absolutely no one to me."
Nashville sounds like a place where other people either expect you to know who they are or they want to be one of the people that others know who they are. Definitely not my kind of place.
Except for the airport, I've never been to Nashville; it was never on my list of places to visit. My travels are about mountains, caves, good hiking, the history of the settlement of America (especially in the form of living history museums ----- I adored Colonial Williamsburg), art museums and the history behind books I love. Nashville doesn't qualify as any of those. After learning about Nashville, I'd much rather go camping in Jackson Hole again.
For more about the Pensacola music scene, look in the Archive for "The Sounds of Pensacola" series including:
"Summer Salute IV" (country music featuring Craig Morgan)
"Bands on the Beach"
"Sunsets at Plaza de Luna"
"Sounds of Summer"