It’s Saturday night and already things are hotting up in Nashville, apart from the temperatures that is. Today’s rain and cloud has been blown along by a chilly breeze, and as I walk down Broadway the crowds are gathering at the local ice arena for a big game
Immediately next to the Bridgestone Arena are countless Honky Tonk bars – all offering live music for free, cheap beer and cocktails and food ranging from a hotdog and fries huge slabs of steak.
Almost all are saloon type venues, and the whole place has a feel of the Wild West, with customers slamming empty glass bottles into bins as they finish another drink. The music is of exceptionally high quality, given that most of the bands are playing for tips.
You get the impression that almost anything could happen here – and all of a sudden it does. Elvis walks out of the toilet. I kid you not. It’s barely 7pm, but he’s immediately surrounded by the increasingly drunken crowd.
WSM – THE LEGEND
Just a couple of doors up from The Stage is Robert’s Western World -a bar and grill with arguably the best performances on Broadway. The venue plays homage to WSM AM 650 - the radio station that even today still broadcasts every show from the Grand Ole Opry live.
The Opry itself moved out of town in the 1970s, but the band at the Roberts bring the house down. The guitarist plays 5 minutes solos, taking country music through the blues and into rock – and Joe on the double bass looks and sounds like a young Elvis. It’s incredible stuff.
Naturally as more beer flows, people get the singing vibe themselves and head to some of the karaoke bars in and around Broadway. At Troubadors, we’re joined by “Intern Adam” from local radio station The River (what is it about radio people and karaoke?). The karaoke host suggests that the bar is part of a “live performance on air”. I’m not convinced!
DAY EIGHT – Sunday 27th March
So it’s Sunday, and that means church – right?
Well, not quite. But the music never stops in Nashville, and Robert’s combines its history with a bit of Gospel style worship in the bar. Strangely they’re not officially serving or charging – but there’s free coffee and orange juice for all. There are fewer tourists around this morning and I realise that some of the congregation are Nashville’s homeless. It’s a very different and real side to the party town of last night.
There’s another slice of real life at Khan’s cafe on Commerce Street. It’s a great basic American diner, serving cheap and filling breakfasts – and makes a nice change from the comfort of the hotel.
Oh, did I mention the hotel…
Although the back of the building tells the real story of how the passenger railway is now a thing of the past.
Now normally I wouldn’t like a hotel room with an inside view. Ahem.