This past weekend was a HUGE weekend for Nashville and for music in Middle Tennessee. Actually, we're talking about four days here, from Thursday thru Sunday, 11 to 14 June. For one, it was the annual Country Music Fan Fair, now officially titled the CMA Music Festival. This shindig is for Nashville sort of what Fiesta is for San Antonio, Texas. A couple hours drive to the southeast of the city, near Manchester, a much younger music event called Bonnaroo sounded forth.
Unlike San Antonio's Fiesta which I attended every year that I lived in central or south Texas, Fan Fair had never seen me 'til this year. During my earlier residence the event, founded in 1972 (same year as Opryland Park), took place at the State Fairgrounds south of downtown. And native Nashvillians tended to despise it, even more than some native San Antonians despise Fiesta (and they are FEW).
When I arrived back here almost a year ago I soon learned about the name change -- but lots of folks and even the Web still call it "Fan Fair" -- and that it had moved to downtown. The big-name country star concerts are in the NFL Titans' stadium, once called Adelphia Colosseum and now LP Field. But I heard on WSM-AM 650 that most other events and performances, across the Cumberland River inside actual downtown, would be free. Dear reader, my ears always are listening for and my eyes looking for, news about freebies! I was delighted to know about this, and that one of the free venues, a temporary stage outside the Sommet Center, would host Rhonda Vincent on Friday.
But already on Thursday the Eleventh I imbibed in the festival. Bill Cody announced on his WSM morning show that he and Charlie Mattos would be broadcasting live in mid-day from the famous Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Lower Broad near the Ryman. So after I got off work just before noon I hied myself down to downtown and the said store. And yes, there were my two deejay friends! Their guest at the moment was Jeff Cook of the former country-rock group Alabama. It was fun to be present for the light-hearted interview! Outside, I noticed that Lower Broad had the look and feel of many parts of San Antonio during Fiesta. Sort of a "block party" gone wild. Or maybe a better adjective is "gone electric", in the sense that there was an "electricity" of celebration and of "this is where it's at!"
That evening it rained on the party, or its biggest venue. Reba McEntire, who earlier showed up at Fan Fair for autographing for the first time in several years, and another artist got to perform as scheduled. Then the sky opened up over Nashville in a violent thunderstorm, and the stadium had to be evacuated for three hours. Then the concert resumed where it had left off, and the final artist on the list knocked off at two in the morning!
Friday turned out to be similar for yours truly. Late in my shift I was tasked to do an ASAP prescription delivery to Thompson Station, a village well south of Music City. This gave me a couple hours extra on the clock for pay purposes, but also delayed my arrival at the Sommet. When I got there I was told that, yes, Rhonda Vincent had already done her performance. I consoled myself, what little consolation anything would have been for missing my favorite lady singer, by going up to the back side of Ryman Auditorium, where Bill Cody and singer Steve Wariner were conducting a charity auction of country music stars' guitars. While I was there, they displayed and opened bidding on Vince Gill's contribution. The back side of his guitar's body was covered in green felt and otherwise made to look like a golf course. Vince is more fanatic about golfing than he is about doing country music, as his guitar attests!
Later, Friday evening I planned to go to bed early, since I'd put in a full, split-shift work day and faced another several hours of work on Saturday. But as usual I got engrossed in reading and still hadn't given up the book for the sheets at ten. And shortly after ten a long series of "booms" reverberated thru the night sky. Before I even ascertained the direction whence these explosions came I knew they were fireworks set off at the end of Friday evening's big-name concert at LP Field. It was very similar to last autumn, when the Titans would win at home and up would go the firecrackers from the stadium.
As I stated at the start of this post, Fan Fair is Fiesta for Nashville. And being a celebration of country music, with some other genres included to a measure, the simile is apt, I'd say!
While Fan Fair was going on here in Music City for the 37th time, a Tennessee version of the famous 1960s rock concert Woodstock was ensuing a couple hours drive southeast in the fields and meadows outside Manchester. This was the seventh edition of Bonnaroo. I'd never heard of the out-in-the-country rock concert until last year. At that time I had flown into the Nashville airport on a brief preliminary visit to the Volunteer State, and there were signs all over the air terminal about this "Bonnaroo". When I enquired about it, I was given a description of it that evoked memories of what I'd read of Woodstock, and also what I remembered from my alma mater's version of that iconic rock concert, Blue Mountain at the University of Idaho. Shall we say that I "outgrew" rock concerts before I'd even graduated from the U of I? It really didn't take much of the weird "blue haze" (i.e, smoke wafting around from thousands of marijuana joints) of Blue Mountain to mature me out of such shindigs! Thus you can safely bet that I'll never take IH 24 down to Cannon County for Bonnaroo.
It is interesting that THIS year the two music festivals occupied the same weekend in June! I suppose that if you're in a family where some members love country music and the others much prefer rock, the family could split up and the rubes do Nashville while the rockers do Manchester!