THE METRO NASHVILLE BROADWAY SCENE | Darrin Henry
A night in the Nashville Broadway bars with live music and drinking Hap and Harry’s Tennessee lager has been a birthday treat I’ll never forget. And this after zip-lining in Nashville, earlier today.
After a superb burger dinner in Rippys Nashville, Sharon and I caught a series of live bands playing tonight in the Music City. Broadway Nashville on a Wednesday night was positively buzzing. Our honky-tonks tour included the performances of Casey Edgar and Lefty Ferguson in the Second Fiddle Nashville, a quirky Cadillac Bar at 305 Broadway, and the sweet fiddler sound of The Rische’s at the Full Moon Saloon Nashville.
Big Numbers For Metro Nashville
Approximately 650,000 people live in the city. Davidson County and Nashville city merged in the 1960s, becoming simply, Metro Nashville. Broadway Street Nashville is the country music focal point of the Metro. It’s a mecca for fans like me who make the journey from all over the world to see the centre of Nashville music.
The fact that the mid-week nightlife was so vibrant shouldn’t come as a surprise. A whopping 13.1 million visitors came to the city last year (2014), that’s over a million a month! Tourism is big business in Tennessee, and in Nashville in particular.
Rippy’s Bar And Grill Nashville
We began the night at the two storey Rippy’s Bar and Grill. The choice of three live bands in different parts of the building at the same time is in complete contrast to where we’re from. On St Helena we basically have one nightclub and live music is becoming rare.
Celebrating my birthday visiting the Nashville Broadway bars, as a country music fan, is as cool as it gets; certainly takes the edge of the ever increasing number of candles on the cake! We’ve even left the car at the motel and taken a taxi for the night out; serious business!
The Zac Brown Band is my kind of country; I like Little Big Town, Gretchen Wilson and you can’t go wrong with a bit of Brad Paisley. But I grew up listening to Loretta Lynn, my dad’s idol, so I’m also easy with classic country.
Tonight is a break from our healthy eating regime on our road trip. From Rippy’s menu a decent cheeseburger and fries is a prerequisite for the drinks to come. The food is excellent. Sharon chose sliced pork loin which looks more like strips of bacon to me, but she’s making approving noises.
We’re upstairs and our tall table has a great view of both the band and Broadway Nashville TN out the window behind us.
With the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows, Hap and Harry’s Tennessee lager sliding down nicely and the band getting the early evening crowd in the mood, it really is quite magical to be here.
Just like we saw on NOLA’s Bourbon Street, every half an hour one of the band members takes a ‘Tips’ bucket around the room. Apparently, this is how they make their living and we’re reminded there’s no cover charge. Mind you the drinks are not cheap! I notice everyone gives quite generously on the first round but are not so keen the second time. This ‘begging’ can’t be fun for the band.
The Cadillac Bar on Broadway
Two drinks later and bellies full, we head out onto the bright neon buzz of Broadway. There are hundreds of people about, it’s warm and exciting.
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway catches Sharon’s eye – in her house growing up it was Mr Tubb on the stereo. We make a visit for her dad’s sake and then ‘hit’ another honky tonk.
The Cadillac Ranch bar is our next Nashville Broadway bars stop. This venue is quite big with a full size Cadillac suspended from the ceiling. The band does a Garth Brooks’ cover, “Friends In Low Places” which gets plenty of cheers. Sharon’s switched to margarita; I’m still sampling the local brews.
Looking For Deacon In The Nashville Broadway Bars
We’re spoiled for choice as we wander down Broadway heading toward the Cumberland River. There’s music spilling out from every bar we pass. We pause in each doorway for a quick listen, see what takes our fancy, but much of it is beginning to sound the same. It seems the beer drinking, sing-a-long favourites are being played everywhere. No self-penned numbers like that of Deacon Claybourne or Scarlett O’Connor, from the TV show ‘Nashville’ which we had come to expect. We cross the street and try our luck on the other side.
There are a few buskers out on the street adding to the atmosphere.
Lefty Ferguson Plays The Second Fiddle Nashville
Then, we stop outside the Second Fiddle and right away I’m hearing some great country music. In we go.
Up on stage is Lefty Ferguson, a lefty guitar player with super vocals and the whole sleeveless, Kenny Chesney thing going on. When the bartender comes to take our order I really regret not being able to just say, “whiskey!” Well I could, but it would be pointless as I don’t drink whiskey. But Sharon does, she has a cinnamon flavoured ‘Fireball.’
Surprisingly there are very few cowboy hats to be seen, in the bar or on the street. The male country singer’s uniform of choice these days is jeans, t-shirt and baseball cap. Only the cowboy boots remain.
Not a sequin or rhinestone in sight! Country music has changed of course, both the music and the fashion. We know this already, but even so, I’m surprised how complete the grungy, rock look has become.
Sitting at the bar we get chatting with a couple visiting from Boston, Billy and Mary-Ellen who buy us a round when they find out it’s my birthday. Lefty’s set is over just before 11pm; he was awesome.
Singer/songwriter, Casey Edgar from Oklahoma, takes the stage next. Initially I’m missing Lefty, but this new guy is good. His interaction with the room and especially a party of ladies celebrating a 40th birthday is very natural and entertaining. The women keep asking him to sing Mark Ronson’s pop hit, ‘Uptown Funk’ and eventually he agrees. Reading the lyrics off his mobile phone, this country singer is belting out ‘Uptown Funk’ and it’s fantastic. Respect to Casey Edgar.
Last Chance at the Full Moon Saloon
Eventually we move on. Across the street we go again in our quest to sample as many of the Nashville Broadway bars as we can. This time the sweet sounds of The Rische’s draws us into The Full Moon Saloon.
The Rische’s are a refreshing change to the cover tunes we’ve heard up and down Broadway tonight. Previously going by the name, Jypsi, The Rische’s are a family band with a distinct bluegrass, Dixie Chicks feel. Violin, acoustic guitars and beautiful harmonies, performing songs they’ve written themselves; this feels more like the Bluebird Café, Nashville, with Scarlett and Deacon.
I should mention, we were stopped for ID for the first time tonight coming into the Full Moon Saloon. Either we’re looking younger or just looking a bit suspect from the night’s traipsing!
But, I’m clearly getting older, the effects of the night have suddenly caught up with me and at quarter to one in the morning it is time to grab one of the many taxis waiting outside and head home.
Honk tonk hopping in Nashville – not a birthday night I’m likely to forget in a hurry.