Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nashville is Always Darkest Before the Dawn...

Sunday, April 23, 2006
I'm sitting in a humid Motel 6 in Goodlettesville, TN trying to dust off the cobwebs that generally accompany only a few hours of sleep. You see, we played last night at the stalwart mecca of Nashville bluegrass, The Station Inn. It was our sophomore appearance at this amazing little road house where everybody who was, or is anybody in this music has played. And you know what folks? We did pretty dang good. There was no opening band, but people started to hoot and holler as soon as we came onstage. Even though we've been on a break for the last month, from the get-go, everything still seemed to be in fine working order. Ike started the crowd out with some old favorites, followed by some obscure relics from his country archive. Betse fiddled her fingers off for the audience, breaking bow hairs and dancing a hole in the carpet. And throughout the set, Ike snuck in a few of our original tunes while the crowd responded with swells of appreciation.

We were happy to see a few familiar hometown faces in the crowd which helped immensely. Standing in the back, like a Nicaraguan death squad, was Outlaw Jim, and his band, The Whiskey Benders. Jim Eaton, the leader of the bunch, is a tall drink of water, and with his black cowboy hat on, he cut a menacing silhouette in the dim light at the back of the bar. Although you wouldn't want to mess with him, the truth is that Jim is one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet, and it was great seeing him back there. Besides, I knew he would be on our side if any trouble broke out.

Jim is originally from Kansas City, but a few years back, he made the move to Music City to try his hand at breaking into the country music business. Check him out at http://www.myspace.com/outlawjimandthewhiskeybenders.

Sitting a few tables closer to us was Nate's old band mate, Matt Brahl and his lovely wife Amy. The Wilders played for Matt and Amy's wedding reception about 6 summers ago. Coincidentally, they were in Nashville for another wedding and saw us listed in the local paper. It was great to see them sitting out there grinning at us the way only old friends can.

All in all, it was a fine evening. We made a little money, sold a few cd's and, I think, we sent some new Wilders fans out into the Nashville night.

After the gig, we parked the van down down near lower Broadway where country music history still hangs in the air like smoke from a hundred thousand cigarettes. Outlaw Jim and The Whiskey Benders were playing at the Layla's Bluegrass Inn- a stinky, smoky, honky tonk played on multiple occasions by The Wilders ourselves in past trips to Nashville. It was after midnight, and the on-street crowd was thick with scenesters, hipsters, drunks and tourists. Rather than try to elbow our way in the front door, we decided to go around back and use the secret entrance where all the old country stars playing the Opry on Saturday night would sneak across the ally from the Ryman Auditorium for a quick drink between sets.

Jim and company were onstage tearing it up. Although the crowd had thinned a bit due to the lateness of the evening, Jim had the dancers in the front of the stage wound up like yo-yo's taking requests and grinning like the cat who swallowed the canary. Matt and Amy were sitting in the back too, and we had a great time catching up and hooting, hollering, and goading Jim into playing our favorites. Nearing the end of the night, Jim and the Benders cut into "Amos Moses" by Jerry Reed, and Ike and I fell out of our chairs.

I guess we were just wound up, because when 2am came and closed down the Bluegrass Inn, we all jumped in the van and headed up the highway for an after party at Jim's house in northern Nashville. Jim's got a music room filled with instruments and soon Nate had strapped on a Fender electric bass and was playing some serious funk grooves. Betse followed suit, grabbing up a telecaster and plugged in. Soon there was a full scale acoustic/electric late night garbage jam in the works. It was a rattle-trap affair, but it felt good to let loose. Before long, I looked at the clock and realized it was after 5am. Ike had already ditched the set to sleep in the van, so I went back inside to scrape everybody else up and out and back in the van to head back to the motel. As I was driving, the sky was lit ever so slightly by the soon-to-arrive sun. I figured if we hurried, we would get to sleep before it peaked its head over the eastern horizon.