Was I supposed to like it?
Last week I made plans to visit Nashville, which is 60 miles due south from my hometown of Bowling Green, Ky. My purpose was to meet a friend and to meet Janet Hanson of Scott66.com. I, in my silliness, fantasized about an afternoon filled with discussions about music and other such related matters. I fussed about my clothes, my hair, and my make-up. I painted my toes. My 14 year-old daughter worked out a hair-do she felt flattered me and she also painted my fingernails as I drove. I wanted to make a good impression. I brought along my camera, 2 notebooks, and turned up my spidey-sense in hopes of grabbing a nice little story for my editor–Kim Mason of the Amplifier.
Turning up my spidey-sense was a mistake.
I was aware that it was Bonnaroo weekend and attributed the traffic to that event. What had completely gone right past me was that it was CMA Week in Nashville. I lived in Nashville when that week of hell was called Fan-Fair. I have stories a plenty about things that have happened to me during Fan-Fair week. So when I arrived in downtown Nashville I was like WTF? I saw the parking signs, “Event Parking $20” . Then I saw the banners. I groaned, then I took a deep breath and told my child what she was in for and we agreed to make the best of it.
I experienced Nashville in the 80’s and 90’s. She ain’t the same town folks. CMA week is much nastier beast than Fan-Fair ever thought about being. The number of people that attend has gone exponential. Even with those realities I was not prepared for the visual hell and the correlation it implied.
Upon greeting the friend and Janet I said, “It’s a sea of cowboys.” The friend replied with, “And no cattle.” I returned with, “plenty of sheep…” I had already been flabbergasted my the sheer number of people dressed nearly exactly the same. I’m telling you Acme Boots should have had a crew there filming. The attire for the event seem to be cowboy boots, ‘boy-shorts’ or a mini skirt, a tube top covered by a netted shirt or a ‘wife-‘beater’ of assorted colors. Those women not wearing that get-up were in evening party dresses and what my oldest daughter calls ‘F*ck Me’ shoes(4-6″ stilettos). One out of say 100 women were dressed comfortable, or classy, or uniquely. I was with 3 females that fall into that the last category. The men at the event weren’t dressed much different than most of the women.
Did I mention the cheap, straw, colored and curled cowboy hats? Did I mention that I don’t think I saw one Stetson except for a few being worn by the artists on stage.
I have a daughter that lives in Brentwood, TN which is basically a suburb of Nashville. I toyed with the idea of inviting her, but now I’m glad I didn’t. I’m sure if I had called her she would have said, “MOM are you nuts? You don’t like main stream country. Why would you go down there?” As my little group walked along, standing out as we had not received the official memo explaining the dress code, I thought about this daughter and her best friend’s obsession with zombies.
That’s exactly what I felt like. I felt like I was surrounded by brain-eating zombies. Having my spidey-sense on high made it all the much worse. I heard ‘resistance is futile’ in my head. I know I experienced a Harlan Ellison like nightmare and wouldn’t have been surprised if the Tick-Tock Man had made an appearance. I tried to relax and enjoy the company I was with but even my child picked up on my silence. I talk. I ask questions. I comment. I take notes. I am a reporter.
I was so freaked out that my manners failed me. That southern standard of graciousness and gratitude went out the door.
I returned to my beautiful, quiet, and empty college town of Bowling Green that night. I posted all sorts comments in regards to the zombie experience in Nashville. I noticed I was not alone.
My disdain for the experience insulted my host. Completely bad form on my part.
After relating my story to Outlaw Country hoodoo princess Liz Bissette, aka Lonesome Liz, she pointed out the obvious. So much of the main stream music coming out of Nashville is mindless drivel. It’s pop. When you put that in front an audience over and over and over, the audience’s reaction is going to be mindless, and lack any kind of individualism.
That friends and neighbors is SCARY.
Is Nashville actually manipulating the fans of these artist? It sure seems that way, but I leave that to the science fiction writers of tomorrow.
Relating the whole story to another friend he said, “Don’t you work for a venue that specializes in Outlaw Country? ”
My musical up bringing was in Traditional Country, Western Swing, Rock n Roll, and Jazz. It was further educated by a submersion in the Southern Rock scene, Punk/New Wave, and Singer/Songwriter genres of the 70’s and 80’s. I love Newgrass. I adore what Missy Raines calls Jazzgrass. I’ve worshiped Todd Snider for years. I still know every word to every song on Marty Robbins album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.” And when I meet Eerie Von I felt like a teenager. I went outside and text everyone I knew.
I have a ‘good ear.’
It’s been well trained by my cousin, a very loved Delta Blues player. He taught himself how to play piano on a player piano. We would sit side by side on the bench. He’d let the roll go about three or four feet and then try to to play what we had just heard. He would say to me ‘Was it this or was it that?’ I was taken to practices, shows, and spent endless hours with him as he taught himself countless chords and riffs. His band mates would fire questions at me about the sound quality and such.
I am a music snob.
That there was true unique talent in Nashville that Thursday playing somewhere I’m sure, I just didn’t get to witness it. Monotony in art is soul killing. In visual art an artist will do a series and change it up. If you’re a chef you reach for things to excite the palette. In dance you desire grace. In theater you want the undivided attention of your audience. In music your want them to hear and feel you. If one songs sounds like the next song and the next new song, regardless of the artist, is it a wonder that Sam Bush went to Bonnaroo instead of the CMA events of Nashville? I thought why did my Newgrass hero go to Manchester?
I know why now. Music is an art form. Art is about expression. Though art is subjective, when it has nothing new to give, no new story to tell, it’s time to throw away the box. The meal was good when it was fresh, but now it’s stale, tasteless, and devoid of color.
And in the words of another Outlaw Country princess, Kara Clark…….that is all.