Trust me, I’ve racked my brain for weeks to find a suitable pun or sly reference to the 100 blistered miles we hiked through sheep shit six months prior to our road trip from his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia to Music City, Nashville Tennessee. But I’ve got nothing. I have failed you, Moebes. I’m sorry.
Michael ‘Dadcation‘ Moebes and I were two of twelve in the Dads4Kesem cabal traipsing through bogs and up over the crags of the Hadrian’s Wall trail across England this summer and I hadn’t seen the bloke since we bid adieu in Newcastle in mid-July, but last month, just before our families would be carving turkeys and passing the cranberry sauce before passing out on couches in Pennsylvania and Georgia, I had the opportunity to fly into Atlanta, a city I’d never visited, rendezvous with him, saddle up a spiffy new Kia Optima Hybrid, and make the relatively short drive to Nashville, a city I’d spent only a single, uneventful night in many years ago.
My next 24 hours in Nashville would be anything but uneventful.
After a short stop to stretch legs in Chattanooga and to find a cool mural to pose our Kia Optima in front of, Moebes and I finished the journey by pulling into the stately Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on a crisp Monday evening, tossing our keys to the valet, checking into our 10th floor rooms, and agreeing to meet up in ten minutes time to make a chilly, longer than expected (thanks a lot, never-ending freight train!) stroll, sans sheep shit this time around, to spend some of my wife’s hard-earned money at Jack White’s Third Man Records Nashville outpost.
After taking my girls into his Detroit store a couple of months prior, I needed to find a copy of The White Stripes “Hotel Yorba” 7inch vinyl record because my youngest daughter fell madly in love with the song after having it on repeat on the turntable in Third Man’s listening booth, and this Christmas is when I start her and her older sister’s soon to be cherished vinyl libraries.
Plus…a few more records, sorry honey, but live pressings from in-store performances by The Shins and The Divine Fits, and our favorite album by Pokey LaFarge that we didn’t own on vinyl yet, called out to me.
Much to my wife’s chagrin, these wouldn’t be the last LPs I’d buy on this trip.
Because the 30 minute stroll to Third Man Records from the Loews was all downhill, meaning the return leg would be the opposite, and because the mercury in the thermometer was dropping steadily, we hopped a Lyft ride back to meet up with the rest of the press crew assembled for this Kia road trip to walk a couple of easy blocks for a fantastic dinner at a loooooong rectangular table at Union Common on the northwest edge of Music Row, the famed hub of Nashville’s country music culture and business world. In my mind, those two hours spent munching and laughing at Union Common will be remembered by shots of what looked like soapy dish water that I didn’t partake in and the small ramekin of Bearnaise sauce that I absolutely did. Oh Bearnaise, what a complicated love story we’ve written together over the years. Terrific meal, and even better conversations including a passionate one, with the aid of YouTube, about the greatness of Kirk Gibson with Ming Chen, star of Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men.
A good night’s sleep was had by all, I presume. Let me be honest by saying I really was only concerned about me, my night’s sleep, and my still aching back from hurting it…wait for it…in a hot shower a couple weeks earlier. I’m ‘hurt myself standing pretty damn still in a hot shower’ years old, apparently. The bed at the Loews Vanderbilt was one of the most comfortable I’d ever slept on, and it was much, much needed. Anyway, on to day two.
Although we’d just arrive, we had plans to leave Nashville in the dust in our Kia Optima Hybrids, but not before a bountiful breakfast at the famed local haunt, Our Lady of Perpetual Lines Out The Door, the Pancake Pantry. Remarkably, we, a party of 14, arrived unannounced and were seated within 5 minutes. Fuel efficiency, meet dining efficiency.
Our first stop on this Tuesday was The Factory at Franklin, a rustic old place, some 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, that’s been reborn as a retail space for indie coffee shops, bakeries, crafty things, a record store (more later on this) and the fine purveyor of rare and small batch rock, blues and country axes, Artisan Guitars.
After a tour of the collection with, and a little demo finger-picking and slide guitar-ing by, W.T. (and Moebes showing off his skills on a fine Waterloo Guitar), I walked down to Luna Records and was immediately reminded how freaking great everything sounds whilst being projected from record store speakers, and in such, I walked out of Luna with the debut album of Midwestern soul by Durand Jones & The Indications. The band’s “Smile” quickly vaulted into my top songs of 2016 (full list reveal coming closer to year’s end).
By now the time was tolling wine o’clock and I guided our sleek Optima Hybrid another 15 minutes or thereabouts to Arrington Vineyards for a tour of their wine making process, if not, for me, a taste of the fruits of such laborious labor.
As a process nerd, my thirst had already been quenched. Plus, I was driving. Oh, and plus, I don’t drink the alcoholzz but you already knew that.
A refined wine tasting then happened upstairs in a barn with approximately 753 wine glasses laid out in front of us.
The key thing about this sophisticated tasting was that there were tiny tastes of tiny foods paired with the wine, as one does, and those soups, cheeses and oh my lordy, that raspberry blackberry dark chocolate truffle were divine. I came home with a 6-pack of said truffles, available no where else in the world than at Arrington Vineyards, and I’m still nursing them to this day.
Moebes and I then took advantage of scheduled free time to freestyle down on Broadway, a few block stretch of Nashville that helps to give, or to reinforce, there’s definitely a chicken/egg thing here, its Music City moniker.
It was barely 5pm and the live music scene was already bustling, with country & western, country, country rock and pop country (I think they like country music in Nashville) emanating from nearly every bar and storefront. Speaking of storefronts, if you need a new pair of boots I’ve got a few (dozen) places to recommend.
We sauntered down to the river for a rad view of the Titans stadium just before a tugboat muddled up the still water, and just before we reached the water I heard music, a live radio broadcast, coming from Acme.
Inside was a young musician, Nicole Boggs, performing an on-air set from her new EP Something New and maaaaaaaaan is she good, like Adele with an acoustic guitar. I found that session for you, the one Michael and I watched from the street. Enjoy this:
Later, we stumbled into a bar (that was sort of the theme of the evening we’d just gotten started enjoying) and found Jimmy Charles pleasing on the ears inside Tin Roof (I’m a sucker for a Band cover, “The Weight”, of course, and for a band that dares to play original music in front of an audience craving more “Sweet Home Alabama” and Journey — stop it, there’s no such thing as “South Detroit”). After dinner, we’d meet up with Mr. Charles and his band again at The Valentine, a spiffy new rustic Broadway music haunt with a badass chandelier.
Then came dinner at Merchants and then came baskets of thick sliced fresh sourdough bread with butter infused with some kind of sensual sweet syrup of the maple variety that I’d lather with each morning if socially acceptable. And the short rib. And the white truffle grits. And the black truffle mac-n-cheese. And the Tums I needed shortly thereafter. Great, great spot for a meal in Nashville, and with a soundtrack that could’ve been culled from my phone: Dawes, Wolf Parade, Waxahatchee. Awesome.
Finally, it was the night that didn’t end ahead of the obscene 5am flight out I scheduled so that I could pick up the girls from their half-day of school on the Wednesday before Turkey Day. We hit the 3rd floor of Crazytown, which lived up to its name, Tootsie’s, Robert’s Western World (remarkably cool authentic old school country hang), and others I can’t recall the names of, and as we closed each Music City establishment, there’d be this young deep-voiced busker out front, playing a mix of Johnny Cash and George Straight on his plugged-in acoustic, doing the real work in the cold darkness of a weeknight.
What’s awesome about this part of Nashville is that the music started early, with the sun still up there in the late year sky, and with no cover charges, you can easily enjoy a pleasant stroll along the potent musical scene with your kids and soak up the sounds of the city, of Music City, for free, together, with no needed to buy food or drinks. Just listen, enjoy, move on, and repeat. Then go to town on that sourdough across the street at Merchants. No joke, make a plan to do that someday.
I never did sleep that last night in Music City. I got home, got my girls, and crashed for hours, waking up in the weird darkness of 5pm, confused and groggy, with guitars, drums, voices and songs still bouncing around inside me.
What a 24 hours in Nashville is was.
*Kia arranged and covered the costs of this trip from soup to nuts, but all opinions and accounts of my 24+ hours in Nashville are presented bias-free, as per usual. The Optima Hybrid is a fly ride from Atlanta to Nashville, Nashville to Franklin and back again, to explore Music City or any city. That’s the hybrid life, yo. Test drive one and discover The New Kia.