Nashville, 2006

Tom Waits announced a very short tour that wasn't going to come anywhere near Boston. I dithered and hedged and then made a deal with myself: if I could get a ticket to the only Saturday night show, I'd fly down to Nashville and see him there. The fateful Friday morning dawned and I hovered over the Ticketmaster site, then realised I was an hour early - tickets went on sale at 10am in the central time zone. I waited another hour, and then pounced! I got a floor ticket. I was going to Nashville. To keep costs down (hah), I just spent one night in Nashville, and flew early both mornings.
Jump right to the concert report

Sat Aug 5/06

I had the alarm set for 6:30am, and was able to drag myself out of bed after a restless night when it went off. I'd packed pretty much everything ahead of time, I just changed and ate breakfast while checking on my flight and the weather in Nashville. No rain, so I left that gear behind, though the pile of books I brought weighed me down enough. I took the 73 to Harvard, Red Line to Silver Line and was checking in around 8:30, in lots of time for my 9:20am flight. I dug out one book and passed the time until boarding. The trip to DC was fine, I had an aisle seat next to the two women who'd been sitting near me in the departure lounge. I wandered around checking out the food options, after seeing that my gate was only a short walk from where we came in, and read for a while opposite my departure gate (lack of seating) until noon. I like the Reagan airport a lot better than the other DC one, less overwhelming, but it could use more seats. I went to a sports bar for a quick lunch of fried clam strips (quite good), coleslaw, a couple of fries from the nest they were in, and manually sweetened ice tea. I still had more time to kill in my 2.5 hour layover, so back to reading. I ended up finishing the YA novel "Hatching Magic" (set in Boston) on the trip out. Eventually they called us to board the bus to be taken to our little jet on the tarmac, and I had a brief moment of hoping that I'd be by myself in my row, but a second bus load came in just before we took off. The flight was smooth, though, and I could see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House as we banked out of DC. The approach to Nashville gave me the impression that it was under a lot of construction, all sorts of subdivisions going up, with houses too close together and not enough trees. Once I got downtown, there were multiple areas where sidewalks were closed as work was going on there as well.

I was able to find the Greyline airport shuttle and bought a round trip ticket when it turned out that there was a stop right across from my hotel, a Best Western. I went outside to wait and read a bit again, but the shuttle bus soon came (a short bus). My only other paying companion (the driver had a trainee), was a scientist from the Boston area who'd flown out of Manchester to DC and was on my flight in. We chatted a lot on the way downtown (all 15 mins) - he used to be in the military so he kept mentioning different places he'd lived, and we compared notes on cities we've been to conferences in. The shuttle looped around and dropped me in front of the hotel. It was more of a motel, actually, I had to walk through the parking lot to get to the lobby, and my room was off a balcony that linked the rooms on my side of the building. I had a perfect view of the capital buildings from the balcony. I unpacked and washed my face and decided to iron stuff for later while I was decompressing from the trip.

I emptied most of my purse into the room safe, put on sunblock, grabbed my camera, and went out to wander around at about 3pm. My hotel was on Union, and I'd noticed Church as the shuttle made it's way to my hotel, so I went back down to Church and walked along it to 2nd. I passed the Library with one restaurant I'd checked into, and Tazza, and I grabbed a menu from the later to look over, as well as from it's neighbour Pacifica. A few homeless people were hanging out on Church St., but then it went touristy and as I turned onto 2nd, it exploded into a shopping and eating mecca. :) I gravitated toward a goth store called Karma, and spent some time blissfully shopping in the air conditioned and incense scented dimness. A pair of women from Detroit were there, and we talked with the proprietoress about goth clubs in Nashville (an 80's club is doing a goth night now) and Detroit (City Club and Luna). I tried on a few sun dresses and a tshirt (no mediums in the tshirts I liked, I ended up grabbing a L anyway in an Emily Strange/Oz mash up), almost gave into one sundress (with red piping corset like detail and a straight skirt that did wonders for my curves), then tried on some New Rocks but they only had 38 and 40 and I needed 39. The 38 buckled up, barely, but my calves are really too big for them, and the foot was narrow. Plus, they were $270, well above impulse buy purchase, though that seemed like a good price for them. I got into a discussion with the owner about Fluevogs (I was wearing my Bond Girl boots, and got tons of compliments on them over the course of the weekend) - she wants to start carrying them, and promised that if I came back she'd get more boots over from the other store. I took my tiny bag with the small tshirt over to Butler's Run and the praline shop there, getting a bottle of water and two peanut butter truffles to revive me. I made a detour down Broadway to look at the river, then walked up to 5th, passing what seemed to be a Harley convention. I looped around the Ryman Auditorium when I spotted it up a side street, found the entrance, but no marquee, and took a few pictures (coloured windows, and to mark the first time I've seen a statue with individual strands of bronze hair). I tried to take a pictures of the Harley's lined up outside a bar (I kept passing pubs with country bands playing in the windows) but the riders (half and half male/female) were kitting up and roaring out before I could get an inconspicuous shot. I climbed back up to Commerce St. and Church St. and lost my Southern no-sweating saunter, so decided to stop for dinner and take advantage of AC.

I decided to go to Tazza because they had tiramisu on the menu, but I ended up filling up before dessert and skipping it in the end. I had the spinach/artichoke heart/cheese dip with nachos, which was good, though came with way way way too many chips. Then my chicken salad arrived, and I was glad I didn't order the sandwich, because it came with cream of brocolli soup (with cheddar, didn't like it too much) and a muffin. The chicken salad was neat, had grapes, cranberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges mixed in. I made the mistake of ordering sweet tea, and the waitress refilled it before I could ask for unsweetened. I stuffed myself as much as possible and then rolled myself (with a protested doggie bag) back to the hotel. It seemed like there was a do on at the Heritage Hotel (the *really* nice one that I'd hoped to find a good deal on, but no luck), so lots of summery fancy dresses and suits were on display on the carpet out front, and the door men were hopping to open car doors. I skirted around them and went back into my budget room. I put my feet up on one of the double beds, read for a bit, then took a nice long bath before getting all dolled up for the concert (short skirt, scooped necked top, pendant from Sue, ubiquitous 'vogs). I headed back out at around 7:45 to go back to the Ryman. I walked along Union to try to find a route without loiterers for the walk back after the concert, which worked well.

As I turned down 4th, I saw the mass of people just past the construction site. Hrm, maybe doors didn't open at 8 after all, cause they were all going in. There was some confusion about will call versus wrist band versus ticket lines, but I followed an employees directions to go around the side of the building to a shorter line (by the tour buses, actually). That turned out well, as it dumped me right by the door I had to go to to get to my seat, to the very far left on the floor, near the back. :/ I wasn't too happy with the view at first, but as my neighbours started complaining, I realised that I had a straight line view of the microphone where Tom Waits would be standing, as well as the xylophone and the edge of the bull horn/grammaphone/speaker tube thingy in the middle. The roadies were finishing up their work, I popped out to try and get a drink, after I got immediately thirsty when I saw the huge cups of beer that my neighbours had, but the line was huge and I gave up before joining it. No merch on sale that I could see, so I went back to my seat. We were sitting on church pews, with just a number token on the back to show where we should sit, and there was an empty spot at the end of my portion of the bench - until the show started and the guy on the other side plonked himself down almost on top of me, forcing me back behind the tall guy with the buzzed head. I wasn't too happy about that, and just kept craning over toward him as necessary (tall guy kept shifting) as well as over into shoulder of the skinny kid on the other side. The crowd was *really* enthusiastic, one guy behind us actually drowned out the start of a story and got yelled at - he moved but was loud over there for the rest of the night. Lots of applause at guitar solos, starts of songs, ends of songs, for the encore, for every little thing Tom said. :) He seemed really happy to be there, and was very engaged with the audience, and turned often enough toward where I was sitting that I soon forgot that I'd ever been unhappy with my seat. They started off with "Make it Rain", and were all around amazing. There's a set list from the Atlanta show here, it was pretty close to that in Nasvhille as well, though the order was different. He talked about his advisors telling him not to play Nashville for fear of saturating the market and how he'd listened to them for years. Apparently when they called up the booking agent for the Ryman, and he imitated a squeaky old lady voice, they didn't think he could sell it out, but they ran tours until 4pm every day,and maybe if he played while they were around... I was sitting there with a smile on my face through almost all of it, just broke for tears during "Day After Tomorrow". There were some mic problems when they brought out the piano for the slower songs, but he was able to play through it after requests to fix it yielded no change from our side (he joked that he had no sense of rhythm and it was throwing him off, the audience was like a metronome). He was bantering with the audience throughout, his gravelly voice charming us all, at one point asking us to sing along and then saying that we did well, and we should sing. He was really energetic, jerking around like anything during "God's Awayon Business", wiping his face off on his jacket sleeve after every song. He had on a fedora with a feather, a cropped jacket, and tshirt and jeans, I think, kind of relaxed looking in a faded dark blue. Near the end, they had a stage level spot pointed up at him and the guitarist, and I could watch their shadows large on the curtains on the right side of the stage. "What's He Building?" was uber creepy, even with the joking looks that Tom was throwing over his shoulder at particularly outrageous sounds, and commenting that he had an over-zealous percussionist. It was great to hear "Blue Valentine" and "Get Behind the Mule" live. They played a few tracks from the newest CD, "Real Gone" and unfortunately supported my less than rabid reaction to the material. It's catchy and infectious in places, but too uneven within the songs, it feels like. We only got one encore, despite it seeming like we were going to get another one before the lights went up for real. I was able to get out as fast as I came in, and peeled off from the crowd, basking in the afterglow. Worth every penny of the trip, and the hours of lost sleep.

I decided when I hit Commerce St. that I'd been thinking about the sun dress with the red piping all evening, so I ducked back over to Karma to get it. The owner remembered me and said that they did have the boots in, but I escaped with just the dress. I made it back to the hotel around 11pm and packed most everything so that I had less chance of forgetting anything in the early morning hours. I set both the clock radio and my cell phone alarm, but for some reason didn't put in a wake up call - I'd had my cell phone off to conserve battery power as I didn't bring my charger.

Sun Aug 6/06

The buzz of the alarm went off next to my head at 4:30am. I had to turn the light on in order to find the off switch, and stumbled out of bed after a dazed moment to turn off the backup cell phone alarm. I opened up the muffin left over from dinner and was happily surprised to find that it was delicious, and just the right size for my still sleepy stomach to handle at that absurd hour. I ate it while getting dressed and throwing the last few things into my pack. The elevator was waiting for me, and took me right down to the lobby. I had to call a few times before getting an answer from the clerk, who turned out to be outside looking at the valet cars or something. He seemed just as awake as I was, but managed to check me out eventually. I walked across the street and plunked myself down on the cement stoop in front of the Sheraton. A shadowly business suited shape lurked in the air conditioned lobby, but I was content to just sit and wait for the shuttle to show up. 10 minutes later, on time at 5:05am, it did. It was still dark and still hot.

The driver insisted on putting my pack in the back, and then we took off to make the other scheduled stops. The driver sounded politely pissed off that the person who'd called to make a reservation from a hotel far from the others, wasn't around, but we still made a quick trip to the airport - unlike the last time I took a shuttle, in Toronto, and it was 1.5 hours, this time it took 25 mins. I had about 50 mins before my flight, was able to check in at an auto kiosk and made my way through security with enough time to get to my gate and start my book, "The Lady in Gil". I ended up in an aisle seat this time, backpack tucked under the seat in front of me, and two semi fussy women who didn't seem to have flown much next to me. Granted, they ignored the seat belt sign and one climbed over me without waiting for me to fully wake up (I napped most of the way, but had tea near the end) and move out of her way, but they didn't seem to realise that boarding time at Charlotte didn't mean plane leaving time, so they almost bowled me over when we were late getting in and put in a short holding pattern.

We ended up arriving about 25 mins late, I hiked out to the arrival pick up area and called Will at around 9:10am (I'd told him to expect me around 9). He was in the cell phone lot and pulled up a couple of minutes later. I tried to be all quick getting in, but the combination of two door car plus confusing seat back lever made getting my backpack into the back seat, and me into the front seat, a comedy skit. Eventually I sorted it out and we pulled out of the airport, catching up and chatting away straight through breakfast at Waffle House. I don't think I understood much of what our waitress said, my ear got tuned to the Tennessee accent or something, but my waffle and water got to me. Will indulged in a big plate of grease, and we scarfed down our food while discussing world politics and fiction and friends. Too soon, my lay over started to draw to a close and we had to head back to the airport to drop me off. It was a much nicer layover than I had in DC, though, and made it worthwhile to get up at 4:30 in the morning. :) I'd jumped ahead an hour with the break in NC, but time was kind of a fluid concept, as was much else, due to sleep deprivation, at that point. I was able to get back through the semi long line at security with no problems, and got myself a chai latte to attempt to wake up some more. I was in the middle seat, ahead of the doors in the big plane this time, and got on early enough to claim overhead room for my backpack. I read all the way to Boston, and then took the Silver Line to the Red Line to the 73 bus home. Cris was there, he'd done a short ride that morning, rather than the Providence to Boston trek he'd had planned, and I was a bit disappointed that I didn't get to fly over him on the approach to Logan.

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