June, 2010 (posted belatedly)
Well, here we are again. Our 4th year of making the trek to Nashville for 4 days of country music fun, good food, and great friends. For the past 4 years we've driven to Nashville to meet our friends Peg and Jeff (from mason, ohio), colleen (from New Hampshire) and Moe (from Boston). We've stayed the last 3 years in luxury and wonderfully, reliable air conditioning at the Hermitage Hotel (6th and Union). On a day like today when its 94 degrees and a heat index probably over 100, the hotel is a welcome oasis to rest and recharge before heading back out to have fun in downtown Nashville.
This past May, Nashville (and much of Middle Tennessee) was hit with historic flooding that impacted a considerable number of businesses and venues in the downtown. What is truly amazing is that you can hardly tell. The effort, which MUST have been 24/7, to clean up and get businesses reopened is astonishing. There are a few places that smell a little musty and whose floor boards are worse for wear and I'm sure they've got more work to do after the Festival is over. But restaurants are open, western wear and honky tonks are alive and kicking, and the spirit of Nashville has never been more enthusiastic. There is much work left to do in the area outside of Nashville and contributions to rebuilding organizations are greatly appreciated. This year a large portion of the CMA Music Fest proceeds is going to rebuilding.
We arrived Wednesday in Nashville. We ate dinner at Monelle's on 6th Ave North in Germantown area of Nashville. Family style dining with home cooking food. Fried Chicken, fabulous porkchops, greenbeans, corn pudding, cold slaw, broccoli salad, cucumber salad, biscuits, and peach cobbler. Sat a table w/ a family from Tennessee and Ohio. We've eaten there for breakfast before (which in some ways in even MORE food than dinner). Had a great time as always and waddled away to the Marty Stuart's Late Night Jam.
For the 9th year Marty Stuart has held his "Late Night Jam" celebrating traditional country music and raising funds for Nashville's Music Cares program. Its held in the old Ryman Auditorium and is always a treat for seeing country through Marty Stuart's experiences and eyes. This year we were also treated to acoustic performances by Keith Urban!!! and surprise guest Vince Gill. The concert starts at 10pm. We left at 1:30 (and it was still going strong).
Fontanel. Yesterday we went to the newly opened Fontanel Mansion. Formerly the home of Barbara Mandrell and her family, it is the largest log home in the world and is now owned by a music producing duo. The mansion is open for tours. Grounds are open for hiking and horsebackriding. A great restaurant (operated by the Loveless Cafe folks) is located at the entrance to the grounds (along w/ a gift shop). The Mansion has only been open since last Monday but it is well run with a very friendly and acccomodating staff. The tour of the home is both about Barbara and her family as it is a mini tour of memorabilia of major country stars (such as Alabama, Big & Rich, Kenny Chesney, & of course the Mandrell sisters). We were invited to hold guitars of famous artists while toru guides took pictures of us with our own cameras (no price gouging for photos here). Barbara's daughter, Jamie, is director of hospitality for the Fontanel and she spoke with us for awhile with no pretense and good humor. Lunch at the cafe was excellent (wait staff was a little rusty on the menu, but heck they'd only been open for 4 days). We spotted John Rich as he walked into the gift shop for an autograph signing session. All in black and VERY fit!
That's John Rich's guitar!
Loveless Cafe. Having a hankering for fried chicken and biscuits, we drove out to Hwy 100 and the Loveless Cafe. As always, food was great. Jerry swears the biscuits are the lightest and fluffiest on the planet. (I bought a biscuit mix in the gift store, I'll see if I can replicate them).
Thai Phooket An unlikelier spot for a good Thai restaurant would be harder to find. Located in a single story, dumpy looking building with temporary signs plastered across the roof, Thai Phooket is located directly across from LP Field in the middle of a large parking lot. We had seen it when we drove into town on Wednesday. We decided to try it last night before Concert #2 at LP Field. (As the thought of another evening of LP field hamburgers and pretzels wasn't appealing. The restaurant was excellent, authentic, and very friendly. We'd go back again, concert or no concert.
Concerts. The food and Fontanel are great, but the real draw for this week (and why we come in the HEAT of June, instead of some more appealing time of year weather wise) are the concerts at LP Field. And so far, we haven't been disappointed. Our favorite performances so far? Alan Jackson who was surprisingly and charmingly chatty and nostalgic and had a much longer set than last year. Josh Turner, magnetic and energetic as always. Lady Antebellum in perfect harmony. Jason Aldean who hits the stage running and never lets up (am I the only one that thinks he reminds me a little of Elvis?). Miranda Lambert whose performance style has really matured over the past few years. She has a much more nuanced performance alternating between the hard charging rock and roll style of "loves given up on me" to the haunting "The House that built Me". Keith Urban was just electric!!! He is just the BEST. And he was joined by the gals from Little Big Town to rock "A Little Help From My Friends" in honor of all the many people who helped out (and are still helping) during the Nashville floods. Carrie Underwood gave a high energy show on Wednesday. And Reba was wonderful, although we thought her set was too short...making room for Kid Rock who we didn't stay for.
Hillsborough Area Went out this morning for late breakfast. Ate at Fido's on 21st Avenue. Great brunch and fabulous latte. A much better deal without the wait than the Pancake Pantry just down the street...i know blashphemy...but true. We walked the few short blocks in the area of stores. There are very nice boutiques, an expensive but astonishingly well stocked kitchen store, and BookMan/BookWoman bookstore (used). Jerry says that the bookstore has the widest selection of used Science Fiction he has ever seen anywhere in a used bookstore. And we've seen our share of used bookstores.
We will be back next year...already made our reservations. We're hoping its not so hot, so we can get down to the Riverfront stages for more rockin' music!
For more photos of Nashville CMA Fest 2010, check out my Flickr set at: