Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Review of Nashville Tennessee's Broadway

I recently spent two long afternoons, and about an hour at night-time dry bar crawling Nashville's Broadway street. Right off the bat, I noticed two defining characteristics of the buzzing scene: women, and honky-tonk.

One side of Nashville's Broadway, the other side has even more bars and restaurants.

Before I describe all of the various ways I enjoyed myself, I'll begin with some unsolicited advice: If you're going to visit this area... and you're older than, say, 25 years old... go during the day time, it's much better. The sun shined down on me and as I walked up and down the street to scope out the scene. At first, I just peered into various bars, but didn't enter any. I had a cup of coffee and took a break on a nearby bench, and then I was ready to enter some of the bars. As I walked up and down the block, I was surrounded by countless beautiful women, many blonde, and with very attractive faces, and all decked out in blue jeans, beige leather or suede boots and jackets with fringe, and often cowboy hats. Needless to say, it's quite a sight.

After I broke the seal, I ventured into almost every bar along the main drag, over the several hours I spent in Nashville's Downtown. Yes, I even went into Kid Rock's ridiculous bar. After all was said and done, I found myself attracted to two places: The first and second floor of Tootsie's and The Bootlegger's Inn. There were various other bars that were also pretty good... The Tin Roof and Second Fiddle, to name a couple.

The main attraction on Broadway is the music. Each bar featured what appeared as working-class guys performing to a mostly thankless crowd, but the part that I couldn't quite ignore was the musical style itself. Each act was very similar, to the point of identical. When some of the bands or performers veered off the path of straight-forward country-folk, it was almost startling, because it just didn't seem to happen very often. Nashville's Broadway is country-folk, mainstream-country, honky-tonk bluegrass, "or die," to use a cliche.

A guy playing acoustic at an empty Bootlegger's Inn (Soundcheck?)

It's difficult to articulate what music sounds like with words. I'll try my best. All of the performances I saw in Nashville were of the same genre of music, let's call it "Country folk honky-tonk." This genre allows for easy-listening and enjoyment. The lyrics are usually cliches like, "We went out until the sun came up," or are alcohol related, "I love drinking whiskey." The actual music underneath is where I begin to take some umbrage. This guy, if you fast-forward 7 minutes or 8 minutes into the video, demonstrates this musical accompaniment style:


The best way I can describe this, is to select a series of open chords on an acoustic guitar. Say, C, D G Em, F...

If you just use these types of chords as underlying music, you can speak-sing almost any lyrics over the top, and you can play a sort of "stock" lead riff over this as well. But this isn't the be-all-end-all of music, there's just so much more you can do. That's my main criticism of the music I saw on Nashville's Broadway. Check out this video of Armor for Sleep playing one of their songs acoustically, to see a style that you will not find on Broadway:


So, to summarize: Is the music on Nashville's Broadway good? It's good enough. It provides the background music for a fun time, and I did see some interesting covers (i.e. a Bluegrass stomp version of Pink Floyd's The Wall), but overall, it's too homogenous of a music scene.

If I could create my own music destination (or utopia), what type of music would I feature? Country-folk is quite honestly a decent bet. You don't get tired of it because it's "easy listening." A bunch of loud and boisterous rock'n'roll bands would become grating after a while, and perhaps an entire block of disco music might dull the senses (or attract too many drug users), so what's left?

Any music that brings people together and promotes positivity is good music. The peak of musical creativity and sophistication are often simplistic, yet artfully crafted melodies and harmonies that excite the listener and bring them to not only a surface-level reaction, but an entire feeling.

I wouldn't be surprised if some musical genius out there could hit the scene on Nashville's Broadway and work within the musical constraints and conjure up a compositional style and delivery that forces the listeners and audience to wonder, "What exactly am I hearing right now?" The best art contains a level of variance and dynamics that is hard to pinpoint. A thoughtful and measured mixture of styles pushes music forward and that's what could bring this musical destination to another level. But hey, the endless stream of women in Cowgirl outfits is just about as good.

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