Concert tickets were my go-to gift last Christmas – mostly because they were an easy thing to buy without leaving my house. I was stressed enough – in the middle of a divorce – and didn’t want the extra hassle of traffic, stores, cold, searching, wrapping, strangers.
Tickets turned out to be a hit, and soon I began to buy them to fill my new free time as a single woman. Later, I bought them with a kind of earnest hope – in twos – anticipating new people in my life. Then I began buying them with specific people in mind, especially my 10-year-old daughter. Ultimately, I bought them for myself.
I fell in love this year. Not with any one particular person or band or venue, but with my city … my Nashville … and my life in it. It has been a year worth remembering in song, starting with Rob Zombie.
Rob Zombie? I really don’t even know what Rob Zombie sings. He does something with live chickens, right? Lots of makeup? I know some people love this sort of thing – all of them are men, two of them happen to be my ex-husband and his brother. I bought them tickets for Christmas. I don’t think they made it to the show, but that’s alright. Those days were a blur for Andy and me. We crafted a pretty solid friendship from the best pieces of our marriage. No animals were sacrificed in the process.
Amos Lee, April 8 at the Ryman: I love Amos Lee. Love him, love him, love him. I bought tickets in December for my friend Catherine, hoping she’d take me. She took me. Earlier in the spring, I’d made a slideshow of all the women in my family, with Southern Girl playing in the background. By that time, my divorce was final and many of the family members in my slideshow were no longer related to me. But also by that time, I’d begun to redefine “family”. Catherine, for one, is technically my former sister-in-law. In a more cosmic sense, she was and always will be simply my “sister”. This was a great show, by the way. I felt sentimental, sure. But we also ended the night on Church Street at the Hustler store, so there’s that. 🙂
Grand Ole Opry, April 30 at the Ryman: Can you believe I grew up in Nashville and never went to the Opry until this year? My high school graduation was at the Opry House. My proms at the Opryland Hotel. My first job at Opryland – the THEME PARK, not the mall. Last spring, I took my parents to the Opry because it is never too late to appreciate what you’ve got.
Neko Case, May 17 at the Cannery: Three days after I turned 34, the lyrics running most often through my head were from her song, Middle Cyclone: “Can’t give up actin’ tough / It’s all that I’m made of / Can’t scrape together quite enough / to ride the bus to the outskirts / of the fact that I need love.” I bought just a single ticket to that show, but I ended up going with a guy who’d also bought a single. He was the first person I kissed in my new single life.
Jonny Lang, June 4 at the Ryman: When I bought these tickets, I had notions I’d bring along some hot guitar player who’d appreciate what a prodigy Jonny Lang is. By June, I indeed knew a few guitar players. (And drummers – who I think are extra crazy. Who I’d really like to know, FYI, is a piano player!) But I brought Catherine again and we pretended to have Jonny Lang to ourselves.
Steely Dan, Aug. 19 at Fontanel: Several people made fun of me for buying these tickets, and I have no idea why. Sometimes-member Michael McDonald lives in Leipers Fork, so there’s a local-ish tie. And the show was at Fontanel, which is Barbara Mandrell’s house, which is cool and reminiscent of the old Starwood amphitheater. I brought my awesome friend Courtney, who is the only other female Steely Dan aficionado (the band, not the band’s namesake) I know. We sat among a group of random, drunk, redneck swingers (we think they were swingers, we don’t know) and drank whisky out of plastic cups. The set list did not include our mutually favorite song, Bad Sneakers.
Leagues, Aug. 26 at Mercy Lounge: This was another ticket I gave away, this time because a group of friends talked me into karaoke in Printers Alley instead. I remember a lot of tequila, and flirting with the guy who co-owns Lonnie’s (not Lonnie).
The Weepies at the Belcourt / K.S. Rhoads at Live On The Green, Sept. 8: I didn’t know anyone else who even knew who The Weepies were, so I bought a single ticket and figured what the heck. It’s the Belcourt; it’s small, easy, chill. I’ll go alone. That night, though, I did not feel like being anywhere alone or indoors. It was a beautiful night, one of those end-of-summer / start-of-fall evenings that feel so great in Nashville. I gave my Weepies ticket away and took my daughter to Live On The Green, the free outdoor concert series outside the Metro Courthouse. We bumped into countless friends and a guy I had a crush on, ate randomly from food trucks and started a routine that continued through the fall. K.S. Rhoads covered Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream with the Nashville Symphony backing him up. It was a magic Nashville moment.
Grace Potter, Sept. 11 at the Ryman: I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I had Monday night tickets and an early morning presentation to give Tuesday. It turned out to be best show I’ve seen all year, though, and perfect timing actually. This hot, screaming blonde juiced me completely full of whatever it is women like me need to completely dominate a corporate Powerpoint. I walked back to the office after the show, finished my presentation, drove home, slept like two hours, and nailed the freakin thing. Grace Potter is now my go-to when I need a little, you know, sizzle.
Taylor Swift, Sept. 18 at Bridgestone Arena: My little pea loves Taylor Swift – don’t all 10-year-old girls? Her father scored tickets for her birthday and the three of us went together. I like to think of this big arena concert as Lily’s second Taylor Swift show, the first being in my living room in July when my Steely Dan friend Courtney performed “Haunted” for Lily’s birthday party. How freaking lucky am I to have friends who will do things like this for us? All I can say is I am … enchanted.
Music City Roots, Sept. 21 at the Loveless Barn: Roots is my secret show. Tucked away out on Highway 100 behind the famed Loveless Cafe, it’s a modern, weekly, Opry-like radio show of Americana, roots, bluegrass, folk, difficult-to-label, award-winning acts who discuss their inspirations with a music geek host and mingle with the audience between sets. Lily likes to point out hipsters when I take her, and I take her often. (I kinda dig hipsters, I’ll be honest.) We eat dinner at the Loveless (always french toast and sausage for her, and roast turkey and collard greens for me), then head back to the barn around 7:30. She brings her to-go cup of sweet tea and I order a Jack and Diet. We always see someone we know. I’ve been to as many of these Wednesday shows as I can; standouts include Elephant Revival, Sara Hickman and K.S. Rhoads.
Like Roots, I went to as many Live On The Green shows as I could. Lily and I loved them. On Sept. 29, pretty much every member of Ten out of Tenn played, and I remember how awesome they were mostly because I was so full of myself at the moment. Another work-related thing had gone well, and that night a bunch of us ended up drinking around some friends’ fire pit in East Nashville. Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors played Oct. 6 and that time it was just Lily and me. “Live Forever” has become our song. “Some people say faith is a childish game / Play on, children, like it’s Christmas day / Sing me a song, sing me a melody / You can sing out loud, cause you’re a symphony.”
Kansas Bible Company, throughout the fall, at various East Nashville establishments including my friends’ fire pit: There are 11 members in this all-boy band and they are all talented and totally adorable. They are “liberal Mennonites”, whatever that means, and share a house next door to my friends. We can hear them rehearse from my friends’ yard. They are quite good – definitely unique – and something about them seemed to hit us all in just the right way this fall. We watched Kansas Bible Co. from the patio at Drifters more than once, and I think one of my friends saw them at 5 Spot. One recent Friday we caught them at the dive bar Sweetwater (next to Centennial Park), which is … something … truly … interesting.
Michael Kaeshammer, Oct. 8 at The Franklin Theatre: He’s a Canadian jazz pianist who performed at a martini-sampling event at the Franklin Theatre. A group of girlfriends got super dressed up, took a lot of photos, and listened to this lovely musician for a few minutes before we decided we needed more martinis. Some of us stayed for more music. Two of us ended up in a conga line on the stage; I won’t say which two.
Grouplove, Oct. 11 at Mercy Lounge: A fun first date that began with psychedelic, live musical artwork at Mercy and ended with dancing to a Rolling Stones cover at Roberts on Lower Broad. He’s more the former and I’m more the latter.
The Nobility, Nov. 4 at The Rutledge: The music was fantastic and I’m all about their Christmas album at the moment.
Mike Farris, Nov. 23 at Roots at The Loveless Barn: I mention him separately from the other Roots shows because he was that stunning. And because it was the night before Thanksgiving. And I was alone. The barn was packed with families and people’s out-of-town relatives. But I did not want to be anything but by myself – not lonely – but alone. Independent. Solo. Free. I drove home after watching Farris jump all over that stage, possessed by God and an incredible talent, and I slept like I don’t think I’ve slept all year. I woke at dawn and baked a cake with my ex-husband’s grandmother’s church lady recipe and drove it to his parents’ house an hour away. We ate Thanksgiving turkey together. We played an endless game of Monopoly. I felt – as I have many times in the past year – lucky, lucky, lucky.
Last night I took Lily back to Roots. We left before the third act – early for us – so we could get home and wrap presents.
Will I buy more concert tickets this Christmas? Count on it.