Hello there, I wanted to rescue some of my old MySpace blogs and archive them here on my own site. Over the next few weeks I will retroactively chronicle a particularly colourful period exactly two years ago. This was originally posted on November 24th, 2007.
It’s late, but I feel I should jot this all down before it all becomes a tired blur.
First I was generously invited to stay in Asheville for Thanksgiving by Bryan & Hope. But before the good food and cheer kicked in, a trip to the picture house beckoned.
But what would be our holiday film? Enchanted? Fred Claus? This Christmas?
No. We went to see The Mist. And it was great.
There’s nothing like foggy, buggy, doomladen horror on a Thursday afternoon.
It was a perfect choice, the bleak coda making for a perfect warm up to appreciating your full plate of turkey and veg.
I had seen the film in the edit earlier in the year, but it was great to see it finally finished. The creature effects, especially in the latter half are something else.
So, my first Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely lovely, basically like pre Christmas dinner with some extra Southern trimmings in Carolina. (Biscuits. Good).
I was heartened to see Brussel Sprouts making an appearance and to find fellow fans of the much maligned vegetable. I am firmly in the Pro Sprout lobby.
So, still with a full stomach the next morning, I hit the fucking road for Nashville at 6.15 and sailed through the Smokey Mountain Tunnel.
I was briefly tempted by both Flea World (Tenessee’s most unique flea market) and the twin charms of Dollywood and…oh, that was it.
But, no. I pressed on.
The only thing that distracted me from my GPS “Shortest Time” route, was the town of Lebanon, Tenessee. AKA Stuntman Mike County.
I only wavered off course briefly, but upon failing to find an Italian Vogue* I zipped over to Nashville toutsuite.
No sooner had I checked in to the Union Hotel, was I already out of the door, trying to find a spot to eat. Unfortunately many uniquely Nashville joints were closed up; Elliston Street Soda Shop, Kijij Coffee, Harpers, Monell’s et al.
Eventually I found coffee and chow at Fido’s – a cool little place in Hillsboro Village.
I then hightailed it over to – yes – the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum.
Now, confession to make. I’ve never been much of country fan. For a long time, my only concession to listening to a little C&W was the version of “Rawhide” by the Blues Brothers. I was the kind of child who would become deathly bored by the song sections in any Clint & Clyde film or late 70’s Burt Reynolds Deep South vehicle.
But I have made more attempts of late and was willing to totally immerse myself on this trip.
My first step was a concentrated blast of Country History at the Hall Of Fame. And pretty good it was too.
I saw Marty Robbins ‘Among My Souvenirs’ exhibit of his costumes and cover art. Now, I don’t know a lot about the guy, but his nudie suits were mighty impressive.
Not to mention his custom made Nascar outfit. Shades of Ricky Bobby.
I also saw a whole bunch of gold plated Elvis nonsense; a grand piano, a big ass car with in built 24 carat record player and television. Crazy.
Best of all was a potted history of country with lots of clips from the 60’s and 70’s variety shows like Johnny Cash’s show and Hee Haw, which I’d heard lots about but never seen. It looked like a cross between Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In and Deliverance. It was truly terrifying.
Most exciting of all was seeing Gram Parsons mary-jane embroidered nudie suit from the cover of the Flying Burrito Bros. album.
Now, I’m not going to try and pass myself off as being hip enough to actually be Burrito Brothers fan.
Truth be told, I only bought my first Gram Parsons album two days ago.
But it was still pretty exciting. And I bought the album immediately after.
Okay. A hollow triumph of cool, I know.
Then, I made a quick detour to Broadway and did three things. Each more significant than the last.
One – visited Ernest Tubb’s record store. Two – bought my own nudie style cowboy shirt. Three – bought a ticket to that night’s Grand Ol’ Opry at the Ryman Auditorium.
Ironically, John Landis had insisted I do this when he heard I was visiting Nashville.
I then skipped back to Hillsboro and caught the 4.10 of I’M NOT THERE at the cool Belcourt Cinema. Really enjoyed it too. Amazingly Cate Blanchett has never been sexier than when playing Bob Dylan.
It’s the damndest thing. It confused my brain/loin connections.
Then as soon as the film was over I zipped over to the Opry; running down at least 30 Hannah Montana fans on the way as they buzzed around the Sommet Centre.
Arrived 15 minutes into the Opry and arrived red wine in hand, never looking more English and foppish. The place was rammed and I was stuck on the end of a row.
The Grand Ol’ Opry was much more entertaining than I had bargained for. The music isn’t really my thing, but I could appreciate the showmanship…godammit. And the quite incredible sway it had over the capacity crowd. I even tapped my foot.
The show is oddly structured though. The 2 and a half hour show is split into 5 half hour chunks each sponsored by a different company.
So it was that between the likes of Jeff Bates and John Conlee (who seemingly had a massive hit with Rose Colored Glasses in 1978, when I was too busy coloring in my 2000ADs), that we had to endure endless sponsorship for the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.
A humorless presenter by the name of Eddie Stubbs basically trotted out the Cracker Barrel party line between every other song.
Imagine the Reading Festival being halted every two tracks so a Carling representative can hawk their weak lager. Double Hell on Earth.
The 2nd half hour was even weirder at the same presenter, Mister Stubbs was now talking up MarthaWhite.com and her Pumpkin Muffin mix.
I never thought I would be aching for the country to start again, but there you have it.
The acts in the second half were goofy and fun; Riders In The Sky (kind of a real life Three Amigos), The Infamous Stringdusters and a band called the Bar D Wranglers, who had a seemingly octogenerian lead singer and a catchy tune called ‘No Good Son Of A Gun’.
The 2nd 30 minute segment ended with one of the Riders In The Sky doing a Yoda impression and saying ‘Use The Horse”. A first.
The 3rd half hour segment (sponsored by U.S. Bank) had barely begun when George Hamilton IV began a Christian holiday themed song.
And I was out of there.
I grabbed some chow, spent all of five seconds in a crowded Tootsies Wild Orchird Lounge and then headed over to the Station Inn – an authentic Bluesgrass joint.
Again it was packed and while very impressive, I lasted one drink and three songs. It all being a little Every Which Way But Loose for me.
So I had an hour to kill, before a midnight screening of Scorcese’s THE LAST WALTZ at the Belcourt (which I’d never fully seen).
I stopped off at a 24 hour cafe place called Cafe Coco. Much like every other bar, they had a band playing. And again, it was mighty impressive.
The band at Cafe Coco were called Gypsy Pompe and I can only describe them as the Bluesgrass Artic Monkeys, since they were all about 19, spotty and dressed super casual.
And they played an amazing 10 minute long bluegrass cover of the Spiderman theme tune. They called it Spiderman Or Spiderpig? I called it Spidey Mountain Breakdown.
Either way, it was amazing for a free show in a coffee shop. Some couple were even dancing. Like proper dancing you only see in Grease.
Or that ‘Shaking The Rug’ scene in Top Secret!
Having made my very own Nashville discovery, I headed over to the Belcourt and watched THE LAST WALTZ until 2AM, smug in the knowledge that I was doing something vaguely hip.
I have now had way too many espressos and may just cat nap before leaving for Memphis baby!
Tunes for this part…
Shout Bama Lama – The Detroit Cobras
Just Can’t Get Enough – Depeche Mode
Cybele’s Reverie – Stereolab
Destination Diamonds – Diamond Nights
Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire it Doesn’t Apply – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Little Honda – Yo La Tengo
Clap Hands – Tom Waits
Chateau In Virginia Waters – T.Rex
Rip It Up – Little Richard
Chantilly Lace – Jerry Lee Lewis
Abacab – Genesis
Hippie Hippie – France Gall
Dos Guitarras – Los 4 Planetas
(*One for the DEATH PROOF extended cut fans)
P.S. Please note that you cannot give me sightseeing suggestions for a past road trip. Unless you happen to know a rakish, Samantha Mumba romancing, time a-travelling Guy Pearce.