Ride ‘em cowboy. It’s a cliché for a reason.
I appreciate country music, but I can’t say I listen to it every day. How can you hate it though? Any music genre that talks about that dog-gone fella who’s a whisky drinkin’, heart breakin’ son-of-a-gun has got me by the ear.
We* stayed in a dump of a motel in Nashville – Super 8 – because we made a last minute booking near the airport (the only part of town not booked out). And because we weren’t really that keen on coming home to sleep in our yellow-stained sheets or stand under our shower that didn’t drain, it was a good excuse to stay out until all hours in Nashville’s pumping honky tonk bars.
At the risk of sounding like an alkie, the best thing about Nashville, Tennessee was the honky-tonk bars. They’re open from 10am and host local country bands from open to close. For the price of a beer and a tip for the band, if you’re feeling generous, we listened to some incredible original country music, as well as a few pretty convincing Johnny Cash covers.
We were taught a country custom by some hospitable locals; the ‘holla and swalla’ (translation: yee-haw and then chug your beer). Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Broadway is the honky-tonk bar most popular with tourists and was constantly packed with sweaty bodies, if that’s your thing. We found the best beers and bands at The Stage, also on Broadway. It’s steeped with country music history, as well as being the place to spot an up and coming country music star, if that’s your sort of thing.
The CMA music festival is a four-day event and most country music fans fork out for a multi-day pass. We were only in Nashville for a few nights so we bought tickets to one of the nightly concerts. We enjoyed the massive street party on Broadway during the day without spending a cent, and if you didn’t want to go to the nightly concerts you could potentially enjoy the whole festival for free. Nashville’s Broadway was closed to traffic and the streets were littered with street venders giving away food and product samples, and fenced off areas with free concerts.
After a day or two you can imagine we felt seriously out of place without boots and a hat, so it had to be done. I got my genuine tan boots from – where else – Boot Country. Next stop was a street market to pick up a $20 straw cowboy hat.
Armed with our boots and hats we were blending in but starting to feel like big fat frauds, so to lessen the guilt we took a tour around the Country Music Hall of fame (complete with Elvis’s gold-plated Caddy). It’s definitely worth a look but I’ve got to be honest, a lot of it went over my head, especially some of the American country music artists from the 50s and 60s that I’d never heard of.
As we headed out of the museum we got sucked up by a sea of excited teenage girls lining up behind roadside barriers. About an hour later we walked past the same area again and finally realised what was going on. The CMT Music Awards were being held in Nashville that night, and the screaming banshees teenagers, were lining the red carpet.
Now, I know I’ve said we’re not mad country music fans, but who can pass up a real life view of Keith and Nicole? Or Taylor Swift? We simply couldn’t and apparently neither could anyone in the entire city of Nashville. Soon we were surrounded by thousands of people. One woman even got a leg up on her child’s wheelchair (yes, really) while screaming ‘Keith! Keith! We looooooove you’. Apparently a love of country music can make you do crazy things. Yee-haw.
*We = moi and the cowboyfriend.
Have you ever given in to a touristy cliche and discovered it’s actually FUN?