“So what brings you to Nashville then?” Seems to be the opening gambit of every uber driver we have encountered since we touched down on Thursday. That’s actually a good question. I suppose a combination of Rayna James and Bob Harris. Yes I am a big fan of the TV series Nashville but I have also found myself occasionally listening to the country show on Radio 2 and quite enjoying it. Then I stumbled across a BBC Four documentary which Bob Harris made about the city and I just thought, yep, if I get the chance I would like to visit.
I have to say my knowledge/liking of country music is not extensive, amounting to a few Taylor Swift albums (before she went all pop), Lady Antebellum and the Bellamy Brothers “let your love flow”. But for most of my teenage years I had an inherent hatred of country music as I was forced to play Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline every single week as requests on hospital radio, so I have come a long way in 30 years. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. The drama series is obviously a drama, so you can’t rely on that (although there are some surprising similarities. Our Airbnb host is actually a songwriter. There is an article about him on the wall of the loft we are staying in, he’s had number ones and everything. If we ever set up an Airbnb I will make sure that there is a Radio Times billing of a Songs of Praise episode framed on the wall…and a magnifying glass so they can read my name at the bottom). So I guess I was relying on whispering Bob to show me what the place was really like.
One of the things he did do was go down Broadway to the Honky Tonks. These are bars which have bands that play in them. They are usually free to get in and if you like what you hear, you pop cash into the hat when it comes around. When Bob was going around these bars there were a few people in the bar sedately watching and appreciating the musicianshipness (not sure if that is a really word. What am I saying, I’m in America. It’s a word now). I think Bob filmed his interviews on a wet Wednesday afternoon in the winter. Believe you me, its a very different place on a Friday afternoon/evening in late September when the temperatures are still in the mid twenties late into the evening.
There are apparently 60 Honky Tonks and they are concentrated over a space of four blocks. As for the ambience, imagine every bar, club and pub on the Golden Mile at Blackpool concentrated into a fraction of the space, but not quite as refined. Oh, and replace the rock shops with boots shops. Not Boots the Chemist, but cowboy boots. Lots of them.
Then add the hen parties, or bachelorette parties as they call them here. (I’m sorry, but that is just extending a word for the sake of it. We have stag and hen parties, they have bachelor and bachelorette parties. A bachelorette isn’t even a real thing is it? When I was engaged to be married, no one ever said “and who is the lucky bachelorette?” Actually, most people said “about time!” but that’s another story.) So the batchelorettes; there are a lot of them. They outnumber the bachelor parties about ten to one, in number, volume and drinking ability.
The standard uniform is short shorts (Daisy Duke short), vests and Cowboy boots. I’m not if sure this is what the young ladies normally wear, or if this is just for for these occasions. Oh and occasionally tutus. You generally see them on the street on these “travelling taverns” where they pedal around the city drinking as they go. (I think they have to take a drink when they get stopped at a red light, which happens a lot around here.)
Tonight it’s manic in town as we have a perfect storm of; a normal Saturday night; town being busy as the Titans are playing the Raiders tomorrow afternoon and Kanye West is playing the arena tonight, which is about 100 yards from the Honky Tonks. At one point tonight I saw a group of women walking up the street towards us. (That is something else they don’t tell you, Nashville is reet hilly.) They were all wearing orange tutus and matching T shirts. “Oh here we go” I thought, but as we got closer I noticed that the group was a bit older than the usual groups. It was only when they got close enough to us we could read their T Shirts which read “Irene’s 60th”. Thankfully they weren’t wearing short shorts.
So the Honky Tonks are mainly full of groups of very drunk women in very short shorts dancing. Actually, now I think about it, this is much better than the Nashville Bob Harris showed! Y’all come back now.