Entering Nashville from the west is my favorite: you've spent the last hour noticing the trees get more dense, watching the striated rock rise up around you, and feeling the rush of the city getting closer. Then there's a bend in the freeway, and you clear the corner, and there's the Bat Tower framed by the rest of the city. I'm always surprised at how manageably sized Nashville is, and then bewildered at how the freeways constantly peel away from themselves...
Nashville knows how to please folks like us. Not only was the bright yellow sunlight banging the whole trip down, but the radio between St. Louis and Nashville is always the best: we get about an hour of KDHX, then all the country pop we can handle til we reach the 24-hour bluegrass station that brings us to the classic country station that guides us in. It's definitely not as cool without WRVU to look forward to, but still.
We had a little time to kill, and a baseball team to cheer on, so we found a spot called Taco Mamacita and got a place at the bar. We started talking with both the bartender, Colby, and the woman seated next to Paige, named Nancy. Both were exemplary representatives for the city's friendliness, and we caught a couple innings together before we had to get to soundcheck. Out of nowhere, Nancy insisted on picking up our tab—bless her soul, wherever she is, and we couldn't be more thankful.
At Grimey's, we were determined not to go upstairs to the record store, because we've never stepped inside without buying anything, and we didn't have the cash to spare. But our good friend "Indie" Anna Lundy was up there, so I ran up for one second to give her a hug, wish her a happy birthday, and let her know we'd arrived... and got caught by the stack of new Pujol 10"s. We played with Pujol on our last trip to Nashville and he was SO good—plus, Stewart Copeland from our sometime tourmates King Arthur is out playing drums with Pujol right now, so there was really nothing to do but buy the record. Grimey's wins again!
Downstairs in the Basement, the Cardinals were holding a slim lead as we got set up. The Basement is one of the coolest band rooms in the country, in my opinion, and I've never had anything other than a great time there. Tiny, dark room, full brick walls, a great patio and sweet sound—we were set.
Black Patch is Anna's boyfriend Joseph's band...and one of our new favorite Nashville bands. There's something about their songs that makes me feel like we have a lot of the same records in our collections. It sounded effortless and fun and classic, somewhere between Flaming Lips and Pavement and GBV and a whole lot of Olympia in the '90s... Rumor has it that there's an unreleased clutch of Black Patch recordings, and we're holding out hope those songs make their way out into the world.
Hands Off Cuba is an instrumental band made up (we hear) of some of the sharpest players in the city. It seemed to me like Nashville's answer to Tortoise: elegantly interwoven rhythmic patterns made on analog instruments, danceable but not for a dance floor, songlike in shape but endless in structure. It was masterful and strange, and I feel lucky to've caught it.
Anna and Joseph got us safely back to their place, a veritable museum of hip music cultural production. I could spend hours with my neck craned sideways checking out all the vinyl and publishing rarities on the shelves... but sleep pulled us under.
Friday there was just enough time to make a very quick stop in East Nashville for a few photos, then get ourselves to Hatch Show Print to see our good friend Laura Baisden. Hatch Show Print is probably the oldest, and definitely one of the coolest, poster printing shops in the world. Besides getting to see the giant wooden fonts, the letterpresses and papercutters in action, we traded one of our posters for Laura's killer TV on the Radio poster, and watched the Hatch Cats wander around and own the whole place. Yet another reason Nashville keeps calling our name...Laura and her printmates Carl and Heather joined us for some burritos up the street, and we jumped back in the van with JUST enough time to get ourselves back to St. Louis to catch Immediacy Theatre Project's much-loved Drawn & Quartered performance. It was good to be back in St. Louis, but Nashville, we miss you already!