How to: Navigate the Crowd

katherine holmgren, beaverdamusa.comFirst and foremost I want to give a shout out to my Grandpa Wendell, a faithful reader of the blog, because I told him I would. Grandpa Wendell and Grandma Ellie have lived in the same house for over 50 years in Edina, Minnesota and every Wednesday they snuggle into their respective recliners with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies and Grandma Ellie reads my blog aloud. Most of what I just said is speculation, but it’s probably accurate.

This weekend I went to see The Lone Bellow perform at Exit/In in Nashville. If you have not listened to The Lone Bellow you need to educate yourself and I will wait here while you do it. I could describe their sonic brilliance but I don’t need to waste blog space on something you should already know.

Aren’t they the greatest?!  

Exit/In is standing room only which makes sense because the people that attend shows there are unfit for music venues with seats. An alarming number of girls with big purses kept excuse-me-can-I-get-past-you-my-friend’s-over-there-ing me and I lost track of how many times I had to shuffle around to create paths for others to get closer to the stage than me. Maybe it’s my classical musician side–or perhaps I am just a better human than almost everyone–but concert etiquette is a real thing and we need to discuss it.

First of all, you are only allowed to leave and come back to your spot in the crowd two times during any given concert at an indoor venue with no seats. I honestly don’t know what errands you are running during the show that you need to squeeze-past-oh-sorry-scuse-me five different times. You can have one bathroom break and one additional trip to the bar but I will not sacrifice my enjoyment of the show because you are a poor planner. Would you pull these shenanigans if we were sitting in seats?!

Secondly, please don’t make your route my problem. I am tall so I absolutely understand that a situation might arise where I would be in your way. If you’re going to inconvenience me, I would rather you do it in a way that elicits the smallest possible exertion of effort from me. For example, do not tap me on the shoulder to tell me you need to get by me. This will force me to stop whatever I’m doing (listening to the music), process your needs, interpret my surroundings, move myself to a different location, and grumble when you leave. Instead, you could just push past me and I’ll have a moment of disgruntled confusion but in the end will not have been required to problem solve. Do you see the difference? Just get yourself from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible and if you’re lucky no one will see your face to be specifically mad at you.

Finally, consolidate your personal belongings. I was willing to pack myself into a room with 400 people, not 400 people and their coats and bags. Always assess the ratio of time you anticipate spending outside to time you anticipate spending inside with 400 other people. In this situation, I estimated a 4 minute walk from my car to the venue in 30 degree weather, 3 ½ hours standing inside the overheated personal bubbles of at least 20 strangers, and a 4 minute walk from the venue back to my car in 29 degree weather. Do you really need your heaviest winter coat for 8 minutes of mild discomfort? Are you okay with holding your coat and giant bag for three and a half hours? Do you understand that your colossal tote bag is digging into my back and altering the contour of my spine?

I could go on forever about this but it’s getting late and the more I write, the more my inner “50 year old single lady with cats” personality comes out. I don’t even like cats. Or youths. Oh no! She can’t be stopped!

All this to say, go see The Lone Bellow if you get the chance. They put on a killer show and I loved every minute of it. Thanks to my friend and band-boss Erica Bryan for buying me tickets as an apology for making me miss their Live on the Green performance last fall because she needed me to “tour and make money as a musician.” Booooorrriiiiiinnnnng.


musings 250_edited-1No, not that phrase; in this case, it stands for Same Story, Different Day.  And I’m not talking about Groundhog Day.  This will be my first musing where I muse about the same subject, a second time.

I previously wrote about seeing Mac McAnally (read it here) at the Franklin Theatre (“re” vs. “er” since it is in Franklin, TN).  I had the opportunity to see him again at a relatively new music venue in Nashville named City Winery.  It bills itself as a listening room which basically means – shut up and listen while the band/artist is playing.

The stage is in a huge room with tables instead of regular theater style seats.  They pride themselves on their wine list and their menu.  The menu for the listening room is limited compared to the dining room menu.  All of the items would fall in what I call “pretty food” and they only have micro-brews.  However, it is a great place to listen to music.

Enough about the food; this is a music column, not a restaurant review column.  I was very excited about this show because I had great seats.  As a Christmas present to my wife, I had gotten us seats at the front table.  [Yeah, she saw through that as well].  We literally were resting our elbows on the stage.   We were surrounded by Mac fans.  One drove from Atlanta to see the show and quickly introduced himself and presented a business card touting his Jimmy Buffett fan club.  Our other table mate also drove in from far away (can’t remember) and had an influence on the set list – more on that later.

As Mac played, you really got the feeling that he loved what he does and acted as if he couldn’t believe that people would actually pay to hear him play.  He also went through about six different guitars as he wound his way through the set list.  He didn’t disappoint in his song selection or showing why he is seven-time CMA musician of the year.  As I said in my previous post, he is a songwriter’s songwriter and a musician’s musician.

set listSpeaking of the set list, here is a pic of the actual set list taken by the lady sitting across from us:

I told you we were close.  The handwritten notes to the side are notes on which guitar Mac would use for the song.  He added another song about two or three songs from the end.  It was a song named “Barney” which is on his debut album from 1977.  He added it because of the previously discussed lady at our table.  She kept asking him to play it and he did.  It was refreshing that he did that because it is a great song and it shows that his shows are some slick, highly produced sets.  He also closed with the Duane Allman’s instrumental “Little Martha”.  He told the story again of how he kept trying and trying to learn this song years ago only to find out that it was two guitars on the song and not just one.  You can also see that he paid tribute to Mr. Buffett by playing “A Pirate Looks at Forty” which was another song not on the list.

As you can tell, I am a huge Mac fan and encourage anyone to go see him if you can.  He truly loves his songs and the stories that each tell.  Here is a no zoom picture to show again how close we were:


Musing in Music City


P.S.  As a closing nugget, the stage announcer introduced Mac as “Mac McNally” to which the majority of the crowd heckled the announcer.  Later in the show, Mac referenced that and told the story of how Buffett is always laughing when he calls Mac.  Seems that Siri pronounces Mac’s name as “Mac-Anally” with a long “A” on the Anally part (as in “anal”).

Concerts: Yesterday and Today music musings zach claytonHaving recently seen Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Ryman and thinking about the KISS/Def Leppard show coming this summer, I was thinking about how concerts have changed over the years.

My first concert was my sophomore year in high school – Eddie Money played Vanderbilt Memorial Gym. My friend Joe and I got us some dates and off we went. Having heard all the stories about concerts and the debauchery that occurs there, we were pumped. I can’t remember the cost of the ticket, but it couldn’t have been more than $10. Well, it wasn’t the drunken orgy that we imagined, but I was hooked on live shows.

Most of the concerts I saw in the ‘80’s – 90’s were at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. My first show there was Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam. The Municipal is a round venue which held probably about 9,000. In the mid-90’s, most shows moved to Starwood amphitheater in Nashville, which was a completely different perspective. Being able to lounge on the ground under the stars was cool – zach clayton, reo speedwagon, beaveredamusa.comunless it was August and raining, or May and raining. An added benefit of Starwood was the fact that it sold BEER. Wow, you could drink at a concert without having smuggled a bottle into the venue in your shoe, crotch, or wherever. They even had an area where corporations could buy box seats and have servers bring you drinks, food, etc. Maybe this is when the transition started. What transition, you may ask? Let’s compare yesteryear to today:

Yesteryear – My buddy Joe & I decide to go see Journey on the Escape tour. We drive to Nashville & find a Sound Seventy ticket outlet. We pay the exorbitant amount of $10/ticket. The tickets have raised lettering with cool designs custom-made for the particular show.

We roll to Nashville, perhaps sneak a bottle of Jack by the searching Metro police at the Municipal, and we are ready to rock. (Side-note – wonder if a Metro policeman on Municipal duty ever bought liquor?) We arrive about an hour and a half early so we can get good spots standing in the general admission area in front of the stage. We park a couple of blocks away on the side of the road and walk to the auditorium. Occasionally during the show, I glance up towards the ceiling. There, through the haze of smoke, cigarette and other, I make out a faint glow – NO SMOKING in a warning hanging from the ceiling. For encores and power ballads alike, the crowd (even non-smokers) holds lighters aloft begging for more. Before Journey comes out, the question is “what will they open with?” or “wonder if they will play Lights?” After the show, Joe and I make a most difficult decision – which shirt do we buy to wear to school the next day? While either will smell like the interior of a Cheech & Chong van, we have to choose between the $5 t-shirt or splurge and get the $7.50 jersey.

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Today – You decide to attend an arena concert. You log on to the Ticketmaster website from your computer, tablet, or smart phone. You hope your 45-year-old eyes can read the random letters and numbers that allow you to proceed without having to resort to the Dick Tracy decoder glasses. Once you make it past scalper security, you select your ticket with prices starting around $40 (top row, back of arena) and ending at $1000 (backstage 5 minute photo op with the band). You can either print a bar code or have the generic looking tickets mailed to your house. The night of the show, you pay another $10-$20 to park and then walk about 4 blocks to the arena. The menu choices have changed, but so have the prices. You can get a $4 hot dog or even more expensive burgers, BBQ, etc. Wait, what is that – BEER & LIQUOR!!!! With no crotches or socks involved. Yes, you pay for it, but it is available. You can see clearly because smokers have to go over the river & through the woods & hang about 3 blocks to reach the smoking area outside. You already know what the band is playing because you have checked the band’s website, clicked on the tour button, and seen the set list for all the stops prior to your city. You also notice something else – there are kids. I mean middle and elementary school kids. This is ROCK & ROLL, not the Wiggles at TPAC!! You admit to yourself that probably the folks on stage may be getting Medicare currently or will within 5 years.

Yes, it is different, more expensive, and in some aspects, not as fun. But I am thrilled to have seen the shows I have. As Billy Joel says “It’s still rock and roll to me.” Also, never forget that if it’s too loud, you are too old.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Rocks the Ryman

Johnny wants you to know:
“Skynyrd’s in the House!” lynyrd skynyrd zach clayton

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Photo: Zach Clayton

On Monday November 11, the Mother Church of Country Music (the Ryman Auditorium) was transformed into the Mother Church of Southern Rock as Southern Rock icons; Lynyrd Skynyrd shook the cobwebs out of the Ryman’s rafters. Except for a free show on New Year’s Eve about three years ago, it had been a while since Skynyrd played a show in Nashville. I must say the Ryman’s intimate venue was perfect for their return back to Music City.

Ironically, Nashville was the first city the Skynyrd survivors played after the fatal plane crash and the first city they played when they reformed in 1987 with Johnny Van Zandt as lead singer. Johnny now has over 25 years standing in his brother’s spot which is longer than Ronnie had the spot in the first place.  In addition to Johnny and Gary Rossington, Skynyrd is comprised of Rickey Medlocke and Sparky Matejka on guitars, Johnny Colt (Black Crowes, Train) on bass, Michael Cartellone (Damn Yankees) on drums, and Peter Keys on keyboard.  Throw in Carol Chase and Dale Rossington (yes, his wife) and there was a small town on the stage.  While Gary is technically the only remaining “original” member, Medlocke and Cartellone have been in the band well over 10 years each, which makes them “old timers” in my book.

Regardless of the longevity of the band members, the crowd gathered in the Ryman and anxiously awaited the band.  Based upon the age of the crowd, I fully expected an AARP table or leaflet under the seat.  However, when the band came out after AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, the crowd proved that one is never too old to rock & roll.

musings 2The band opened with Last of A Dying Breed which released in 2012, was the only song that the copyright date started with a “2”.  The rest of the set was a stroll down the memory lane of every Southern rock fan.  The band sounded tight and pretty much held true to the original songs.  Medlocke and Sparky employed every stereotypical move ever done by a guitar player while Cartellone brought his large and loud rock drumming to the stage and once again proved that he belongs on the stage with the “big boys”.  Johnny Van Zandt provided strong vocals while periodically proclaiming “Skynyrd’s in the house!”

The band closed the set with Sweet Home Alabama.  During this song, I wondered if the younger members of the audience really knew what Watergate was or did they care.   Leave it to this Tennessee fan to be seated behind an Alabama fan who for some reason would turn and yell “roll tide roll” every time “Sweet Home Alabama” was sung.   Of course, even the Alabama fan could figure out that the Southern rock anthem Free Bird would be the finale and the band didn’t disappoint.  The song came large and loud from a golden eagle statue on the piano to a disco ball the size of Haiti.  When the song finished, I don’t think there was an ounce of energy left in either the band or the audience.  Here is the complete set list:

  • Last of a Dyin’ Breed
  • Call Me the Breeze
  • What’s Your Name
  • Gimme Back My Bullets
  • Down South Jukin’
  • That Smell
  • You Got That Right
  • Saturday Night Special
  • Simple Man
  • Mississippi Kid
  • Tuesday’s Gone
  • Gimme Three Steps
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • Free Bird

For me, the highlights were Tuesday’s Gone (favorite Skynyrd song) and the names of deceased band members scrolling during Free Bird.  Even if the band has only one original member, it seems as if the spirit of the original band lives on 40 years later whenever Skynyrd’s in the house. Finest Craft Beers from America’s Best Micro Breweries- 728x90 banner