It’s probably best to get something out of the way early on: with apologies to the 28 other teams in the league, we’re prepared to hand the canadiens.com title of Greatest NHL Road City to Nashville. Walking around in the 20°C winter weather while our friends back home were digging their cars out of snow banks probably would have been enough to earn the Tennessee capital consideration for at least Top 5 honors alone, but add a strip of live music venues and a few real-life cowboys to the mix and everyone else suddenly starts playing for second. With more aspiring country stars per capita than any other city in North America*, the only potential drawback to Music City is there are almost too many cultural and entertainment options for a visitor to choose from. Our solution: try them all and decide which one is best with our own ears. Before starting our very unscientific experiment with the city’s live music scene, we figured it was best to bone up on our subject matter with a stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame across the street from Bridgestone Arena.
Welcoming over 450,000 guests every year, the Country Music Hall of Fame has over two million artifacts on display, including everything from Elvis’ gold piano and Johnny Cash’s classic black ensembles to a slew of Dolly Parton-worn embroidered jackets and the very laptop used by Taylor Swift to piece together her music video for “I’m Only Me with You”. Since the Hall opened in 1967, 121 singers and songwriters have been enshrined in the Mecca of country music, although we were surprised to see Kenny Rogers among the list of 2013 inductees. The Country Music Hall of Fame’s answer to Pat Burns, how Rogers managed to fly under the radar of voters this long is astonishing, especially considering the man has racked up a combined 58 certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum records in his more than five decades in the business. Either way, congratulations to “The Gambler” on finally getting the nod this year!
After sufficiently completing our crash course in the history of country music, it was time to hit the streets and let the music be our guide. In order to make sure we were thorough in our research, we challenged ourselves to hit up 10 different venues within a four-block radius. Naturally, we started our trek at Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge, where everyone from 2013 CMHOF inductee Kenny Rogers to Elvis has performed over the years. With a constant stream of up-and-coming country artists flowing onto Tootsies’ two stages like clockwork, it’s a quintessentially Nashville experience and actually converted one of our rock/alt loving canadiens.com team members into a card-carrying country fan for the evening.
We were already ready to hand the victory to Tootsies based on pedigree and nostalgia alone, but after making an extended stay at The Stage next door, we realized we were going to have some trouble making a decision. Instead, we just decided to call it a draw and get our two-step on at the rest of our stops: The Second Fiddle, Bootleggers Inn, Honky Tonk Central, Robert’s, Bluegrass Inn, Big Shotz and finally, Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie bar in the historic Printer’s Alley, whose unofficial motto is “Laissez les bons temps rouler”. They may have taken some liberties with their French on that one, but we appreciate the sentiment – it is, after all, what earned Nashvile its aforementioned canadiens.com title.
*Not a real statistic.