We once played a show in Tacoma with a lovely group of travelers called “Band of Lovers”. They have since disbanded (no pun intended) and gone their own ways. However, one of the ex-members, Dave Strumfeld, has been living and playing in Nashville for a few years and he reached out to us to connect! As he is constantly working, playing (bass, I think) with cover bands around town, our chances to actually hang out with him may be slim, buuuut he DID recommend an open mic to us for Thursday night. So we have got ourselves a Thursday night plan! As it is currently Thursday afternoon as I type this, I have no new news…
I do have some thoughts, though.
We have not even been here four days! We have made so many friends, plans, connections, future plans, etc. We were scared to do this. We were overwhelmed with unanswered questions.
“What if it’s like last time?”
“What if it’s all for nothing?”
“Why are we going to do something we’re not gonna make any money at?”
“Why would we leave our son for so long on a hunch?”
“Are we good enough?”
“We don’t have any gigs lined up!”
We let ourselves ask these questions, feel the feelings, have the doubts…then we got in our truck and asked more important questions.
“Who will we meet?”
“What will we learn?”
“How can we grow?”
“What have we got to lose?”
“How can we tell our son to chase his dreams, if we won’t?”
“Let’s go find gigs!”
Four days. With a different attitude, a new perspective, and open hearts and minds, we have already accomplished more than we even thought we might. I am proud of us. It’s so hard sometimes to take our own damn advice, but dammit…it’s good advice and every now and then, you’ve just got to “Turn it around, turn it around!!!”
Ok! New news to report now!
So what we are learning here is that there seems to be little consistency within the open mic scene. “Sign-ups are at 5:00” may mean “4:30”, may mean “We’ll see”. Well, apparently this open mic at the Bowery Vault, a TINY little upstairs, almost attic-like room, with a stage lined with used cowboy boots, a bar, a restroom and maybe eight two-person tables, is a hot spot! We got there at 4:55. We were #14 on the sign up list!!! Every act got to do two songs, and the hostess kept things moving along really well. So many different acts represented, from an old cowboy named LH Halliburton (who’s probably been playing since he was fifteen years old) to an autoharp player that proudly confessed, “This is only my second time ever playing this thing out, and my cat doesn’t completely hate it…so that’s something.”, to a couple duos, some tormented singer/songwriter young men, a phenomenal guitar player who did an instrumental song about a park in New York City that made me feel like I was there, a woman who is writing an entire album of “Hobbit” based songs, an older lady whose new nylon string guitar was out on its maiden voyage was almost as big as she was, and several newbies to the open mic scene. There was even a dude from North Carolina, who sang a song called, “Spider Bit The Booty Hole”. Of course we all sang along at the end!
There were obviously not enough seats for the performers, let alone anyone who came to support, so people were standing at the back and at the bar. The one good thing about arriving even a little early was that Jared and I got seats. We sat right next to LH Halliburton and enjoyed a few exchanges with him.
The true surprise of the night was from the sound man. A small, quiet guy, really good at his job, and incredibly unassuming, John Dennis got up after all the sign-ups had played, and closed out the night with two songs. Jared likes to say that, in Nashville, the local bartender is probably the best guitar player you’ve ever heard, the sound guy is probably the best singer, and so on. In this case, Jared was pretty spot on. The minute John began to play and sing, we knew we were witnessing something really special. Not a person moved, or maybe even breathed. He took us right along with him as he weaved melody, story, heartbreak, guitar picking, and nuance all together with a voice full of character and life, into two incredibly beautiful tunes. (Here’s a version of one of them, pretty close to what we heard). He could have been in his own room at home and we were just all witnesses. He was honest, transparent, and unforgettable, and we were just grateful to have happened to be there.
Of course, not to get braggy, but Champagne Sunday was on top of their game! Still pushing our two newest, “Naked” and “Don’t Wait”, we had them both laughing and crying and got a HUGE response! The host got up as we left the stage and said, “Well, they hit every point, didn’t they?” More cheering. Really receptive crowd, and so fun to be part of. When I sat down, Mr. Halliburton leaned in to me and said, “I’ll tell you what I told yer beau, there…Y’all done woke up Nashville!” That may be just the compliment we ride on until we return home. Thank you Mr. Halliburton, and the rest of you lovely humans at the Bowery Vault open mic. We may even come back next week!
(During this open mic, we got a text from our friends, Paramount Junction Band, asking if we wanted to play a 10:00 slot at a BBQ place near downtown, called “The Row“. We, of course, took the gig. I will share about the experience in “Part 2” of “Day 24”