THROUGH THE LENS: Crossing the Country to See Steve Earle & The Dukes at the Ryman
Steve Earle at the Ryman - Nashville, TN - Photo by Peter Dervin
Have you ever wanted to make a cross-country trip to catch one of your favorite legends in concert? While not many of us have, that’s exactly what regular Through the Lens contributor Peter Dervin did last week. Peter (and his camera) traveled from Seattle to Nashville to see Steve Earle at the Ryman Auditorium. I am extremely pleased to share with you the results of his three-day visit to Nash City. Here’s his report, with photos in the gallery.
Peter Dervin in Nashville
When it was announced months ago that Steve Earle & The Dukes would be playing the Ryman Auditorium with Los Lobos opening, I jumped at the opportunity to see a couple of my favorites at the “The Mother Church.” My three-day stay was my first visit to Nashville in 20 years.
As the weeks went by through the summer, an uptick in caution because of the COVID-19 delta variant started to take its toll on touring bands and artists’ plans to perform in indoor venues. Sadly, due to miscommunications regarding protocols, Los Lobos canceled on this show, as Tennessee had few safeguards in place. Not until after Los Lobos’ cancellation did the Ryman require proof of vaccination for entry and a request that those attending the show wear masks.
First Day in Town
The four-hour plane ride to Nashville was uneventful, and after arriving at my hotel, I walked to the downtown entertainment district — known as Lower Broad — where no one was wearing masks. I had dinner at the Johnny Cash Bar & BBQ, selecting a back table where I enjoyed catfish and hush puppies, as recommended by staff, while listening to a great cover band. Later I stopped in at Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge for a beer, and upon my return to my hotel room I learned that The Mavericks, who were playing at the Caverns in nearby Pelham, had postponed their show just prior to its start time due to COVID safety challenges.
On show day, Aug. 30, I walked around and took in some more sights. I started with a tour of the Ryman to learn more about this historic venue that began its life in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. I took a few photos capturing its unique architectural aspects, but just walking around in this hallowed venue was pretty darn cool. Then I headed off to find Third Man Records to check out what vinyl I could add to my collection. I was able to capture a few pics in-store, including the recording booth where Neil Young, Eddie Vedder, and others have recorded. I picked up a Jerry Lee Lewis live album, a live Mudhoney LP, and a Wanda Jackson 45.
I arrived at the Ryman and hour before showtime and saw that the staff were diligently confirming vaccination verifications. So far so good. But once in the auditorium the masks came off. I’d say 98% of the audience didn’t comply with the venue’s and artists’ requests to wear masks during the performance. For me, I double masked as I have no desire to pick up any dreaded virus.
On to the show. The Mastersons, featuring husband/wife duo Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore, filled the opening slot with a wonderful set of their songs. They shared that they had released their latest album, No Time for Love Songs, in 2020, and COVID hit just as they started their tour. So the current tour is their first opportunity to share the music with a live audience. Both Eleanor and Chris are members of The Dukes, so it was double duty for them. The evening’s performance was also special as they were celebrating their wedding anniversary.
After the break, Steve Earle and The Dukes came out on stage to a rousing reception. While Earle played a variety of songs from his deep catalog, many of the songs were from his last two albums, one being Ghosts of West Virginia, inspired by the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, and the other J.T., which offered the most emotional moments of the evening as Earle performed the songs of his late son, Justin Townes Earle.
As the show came to its conclusion, Earle implored the audience to take COVID precautions seriously. As he and his band have been touring since July, they deal with COVID as a direct, daily challenge. As he noted, this evening one band member was missing due to testing positive.
Traveling to Nashville to photograph this show was fantastic for me. There are not too many artists that I would cross the country to see. But when you have the opportunity to to photograph a legend in a legendary venue, you don’t let that slip by.
Now, the photos. Click on any photo below to view the gallery as a full-size slide show. You may see more photos of Peter’s Nashville trip here.