Saturday, February 16, 2013

While I'm Out In This Tent With These Freaks and Musicians

Sometimes, it pays to be in the right place at the right time.  Actually, I'm betting it always pays to be there, but it's such rarity for me that I'll just enjoy it when the occasion comes along.

Earlier, this week I was miserably sick, which is usually a big pain in the ass, but it kept me home in bed for a few days instead of actually, you know, working.  And since I wasn't working, I was goofing off on Facebook, which is almost impossible while I'm at the office.

Anyhow, like most people do, I follow one of my all-time favorite musicians, Todd Snider, and keep an eye on his posts, hoping for early info on concert dates, new albums, and stuff like that.

A lot of you may have never heard of him, and that's understandable--I didn't hear about him until about four or five years ago.  While I was living out in Las Vegas, my sister Amy made me a modern-day mix tape, basically a CD of a bunch of stuff that she liked that she thought I might like also.  In fact, at the time, I think I wrote a post about it--the CD was called Hello CD Listeners (Check out the archives for March 2008, 'The Tom Petty Reference' for the full story).  Anyhow, the first song on the disc was Todd Snider singing Vinyl Records, which was not only a great song, but it cracked me up.

Hope you enjoyed it, but that's just a taste of his collection. Not only does he write fun songs, his live shows are great because of the stories he tells between numbers--they are sometimes the most memorable part and always good for a laugh. 

I had the opportunity to see him live at the Ryman Auditorium last fall, and if you ever have the opportunity to see a show at the Mother Church, please take advantage of it--unless you have the misfortune of sitting under the balcony, it is one of the greatest places in the world to see a live show.  Words can't quite describe the coolness factor, and for an old-school venue, the acoustics are excellent, and most of the seats are fantastic--I've yet to have a bad one for any of the shows I've been to.

Anyhow, after finally being able to see him do a live show, I was hooked.  I had so much fun and was amazed at how good of an entertainer he is.  Some people have a real talent for it, and others, while being great artists in their own right, either don't care or never really learned the craft of entertaining.  Hell, Bob Dylan is one of American music's greatest songwriters ever, but if I paid a few hundred dollars to see him sit on a bar stool for two hours, never looking up, never engaging the audience, just working through his songlist, I'd be pissed.  But Todd Snider, he knows how to entertain--those of you who've been to a Bruce Springsteen concert will understand.  He's got a reputation for putting on high-energy shows where everyone in the audience has a great time.  Eddie Vedder and Bono are supremely talented, but I don't want to pay to get preached to--I come to see them sing, not pontificate.  But that's a whole different rant I guess.  My point is, some artists have really embraced the performing-for-an-audience gene, and Todd Snider is one of them.  It would be well worth your time to familiarize yourself with his music and go see him next time he comes to your town.

Point is, I'm a huge fan.

So when I saw on his Facebook feed that he said he'd be playing a semi-impromptu gig at Drifter's BBQ in east Nashville the next night, I was all in!  A few weeks ago, he put the word out that he'd be doing an open rehearsal in town and everyone was invited, and it turned out that it was in that very same rehearsal space that I wrote about a few posts back--he was there the night before we were and only about fifty people showed up.  Up until then, I'd never been to that place, so I had no idea what he meant when he said he'd be at 'the big purple across from the red door'.  Of course, I found out when Scottie and the guys were doing their Geek Jam practice and the sound guy told us that Todd Snider had been there the night before.


Yeah, we were all a little pissed that we'd missed it, but at least now I know.  I already knew that the guy lived, and drank, in East Nashville, so when he's not touring, he's just hanging around his neighborhood like a normal guy.

Speaking of East Nashville, for those of you who aren't familiar, I guess a few details are in order.  I actually lived in 'East Nasty' eight years ago, just before I moved out to Vegas.  Back then it wasn't nearly as hip or as trendy as it is now.  It was pure ghetto.  And old.  It's across the Cumberland river from downtown, so the running joke about going there is 'over the river and through the hood'.  It's come a long ways since then, and although it doesn't have the upper-middle class cache that Franklin and West Nashville have, the wannabe hipsters that infest the place are just fine with it.  All the tourists hang out on Broadway and Second Avenue downtown.  East Nashville is where the real people live.  Especially if 'real' means having a neck beard and 60's nerd glasses, wearing a beanie hat 24/7, you like to be seen drinking tallboy cans of PBR, and never did quite made it to Austin... (Sorry if that last bit sounds snarky, but all seeing all of these stubborn individualists trying to look exactly the same cracks me up)

Most every place you want to go is within a block or two of Five Points--lots of bars and restaurants and such, and maybe my next post will be about the Vodka of Doom we had at Mad Donna's, also in the area.  But if you ignore the hipster d-bags, there is a lot of coolness to be found in the neighborhood. Just not a lot of parking spaces.

Anyhow, I told the hippies (Amy and Scottie) about the show, and we made plans to go. I was feeling well enough to finally get out of bed, and was looking forward to solid food for the first time in a couple of days, too.  While the show wasn't scheduled until 7:00 pm, we wanted to get there early.  The  announcement had way too many 'likes' on Facebook, and we wanted to make sure we got seats.  I found a place to park about a block away and scored two small cocktail tables and three chairs maybe twelve feet from the 'stage', which was actually just a taped-off corner of the tent in the alley behind the restaurant. About the time I took my first sip from the front end of a two-for-one Sweetwater 420, Amy and Scottie walked in and joined me.

We had about an hour to kill before the show started, so we ordered some dinner.  I got a basket of some excellent hush puppies for an appetizer (made with bits of jalapeno!), but could only eat two of them.  For dinner, we all got variations of their signature BBQ.  I had three sliders--one pork, one brisket, and one chicken.  They were great, but entirely too much food for me.  I managed to eat two of them over the course of about a half an hour, then just picked at the chicken from the third one.  The bun just got in the way.  And even though I rarely, if ever, eat french fries, I was told that their seasoned fries were pretty good.  I ate two.  They were.

As we ate dinner, the crowd started showing up and space in the tent got to be a premium.  We'd scored primo seats, and nobody could get in front of us, so it was ideal.  About twenty people had seats around the stage area, the rest was Standing Room Only, so it was nice to be part of the chosen few.

The show started a few minutes late, but well worth the wait.  Todd came in talked to the crowd for a minute and thanked us for showing up, and kicked in to a couple of his more popular songs to start things off--Play A Train Song and East Nashville Skyline (a huge hit and a favorite local anthem).  I guess that was it for his play list because then he just asked us what we wanted to hear.  Both Amy and I offered up Vinyl Records (much too early in the evening to yell Freebird!, although later, somebody behind us inevitably did).  The word from people who've seen him a lot more times that I have is that he rarely plays Vinyl Records in his live shows, and he didn't do it when I saw him at the Ryman, either. But it's our favorite and he looked right at us, got up off the stool, and off he went.  The rest of the band caught up in no time and the small crowd all went bananas for it.  (And bananas is good!).

He played every request we tossed out, so it was like having our own personal concert.  Imagine sitting front row at a concert and just dictating the playlist to your favorite artist.  Yeah, it was that cool.

He took a break after about an hour to let everyone go to the bathroom, have a smoke, or get a refill.  And while the tent emptied out and everyone headed inside to the bar, Amy went over to talk to him, got a hug, and then I had the chance to spend a minute or so talking to him.  Nicest guy in the world, and genuinely appreciative that we'd come to see the show and knew so many of his songs.  Now, he's not a hugely famous artist by any stretch, but he's got a pretty big following and could easily have a big ego and attitude to match, but that's just not the case. (This is Nashville fer cryin' out loud--the town is full of musicians with big egos!).  He's totally laid back and mellow, and it's quite obvious that he knows he's got a good gig going--people will actually give him money to sing for them!

After the break, he played for another 45 minutes or so, and had a few other people from the crowd join him on a few songs.  He took requests the entire time, too.

An absolutely awesome show.  And it was totally free, except for the dinner bill.

By the time it ended, I was absolutely drained.  I'd gutted it up for as long as I could, and was glad that I made it as long as I did, but I was back on the freeway headed home less than ten minutes after the show.  I made it back to the house, took a hot shower, and collapsed into bed, thinking I hadn't had this much fun since I left Vegas.



Eejit said...

No wonder he doesn't do vinyl records live that often. How on earth could he remember those lyrics.
I've gotta check out the rest of their stuff, thanks.

aksarben99 said...

Glad you're back, Mikey! I loves me some Todd Snider. Have seen him serveral times and have all his stuff. Really appoachable after shows too.