New Year's on the road
New Year's Eve in Nashville: Music City rocks
A giant eighth note drops over Broadway street, marking the coming of the New Year for tens of thousands gathered along the city's iconic party path singing and swaying to "Freebird" as delivered by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's New Year's Eve in Nashville.
Music City and the Live Music Capital of the World share a common bond: Music flows through the streets as a cultural lifeblood. And Nashville has a few things to teach Austin when it comes to celebrating that vibrant quality of life, especially over the holidays.
Broadway serves as Nashville's main musical artery. A walk down Broadway is a feast for the ears as live bands work small stages in every bar. It will remind Austin veterans of how Sixth Street sounded back in the '80s, before DJs and dance clubs took over. It's a magical feeling Austin should try to get back. Legendary Nashville venues like The Stage and Tootsies are surrounded by western stores and record shops including Earnest Tubb's Record Store.
At the end of Broadway, right below the Hard Rock Cafe and in front of the Cumberland River, a stage rose, the setting for a New Year's celebration featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The guitar drop served as a fitting icon marking time in Music City. I've been critical of Austin's well... lacking... New Year's Eve celebration. Years ago the Sixth Street merchants sponsored the drop of a star over Sixth. Of course the star featured a crappy plastic beer company banner and hung from an industrial crane. Not exactly classy, not even "weird," just tacky. Nashville does this right.
While we appreciate music in Austin, Nashville honors it and protects it.
The Country Music Hall of Fame
Of course Nashville's connection to music doesn't end on Broadway, it's not called Music City for nothing. This is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry. No visit here is complete without spending time at both of those icons.
The Country Music Hall of Fame especially should not be missed. The history of country music is well-told here. Whether you enjoy the genre or not, you will appreciate the museum pieces and the way the story is told in a gorgeous facility. If you love country music, this is on your bucket list and you can spend all day here looking at costumes, listening to iconic recordings and viewing memorabilia including Cadillacs owned by Webb Pierce and Elvis.
The Grand Ole Opry
Called "The Mother Church of Country Music," Ryman Auditorium housed the Grand Ole Opry for 50 years and still hosts the radio show that made it famous. You don't need to head to Opryland to enjoy the Opry. The Ryman show is spectacular, and of course you need to at least appreciate country and bluegrass. Our show on Friday night included country legends John Conlee, Riders in the Sky, Restless Heart and many others including Hall of Famers Jean Shepherd and Little Jimmy Dickens who, at 91, might be the dirtiest (and most hilarious) old man in Nashville. The show is sharp, the history palpable and the performers are the best in the business.
Nashville's history is in full view. Soldiers fought their way through the city during the Civil War and Nashville hosts the Hermitage, home to President Andrew Jackson. The tour is relatively short, easy and beautiful and provides a look into life early in the 19th century.
And then there's the food. As in any city, you have to get off the freeway to enjoy the local fare. Any trip to Nashville should include breakfast at the Pancake Pantry. Locals line up early and around the block to enjoy what may be the best pancakes on earth.
Of course, waiting in line might not be in your breakfast plan. Our daughter Allegra, who lives here while attending Belmont University, introduced us to The Pfunky Griddle (Pflugerville has got to get one of these). It's a small cook-it-yourself pancake restaurant — every table includes a griddle. You get pitchers of pancake batter or whole eggs or both and you cook breakfast right at your table. It's fun and the pancakes are incredible.
Nashville and Austin share a common musical bond, but Nashville has an energy attached to it that Austin often lacks. We Austinites would do well to learn from Nashville. While we appreciate music in Austin, Nashville honors it and protects it. So should we.