Because I live in the “It City,” my phone rings and my Instant Messenger buzzes with the regularity of the jackhammers and cement mixers of life in throughout our city. I hear from friends from all over, who get in touch to find out where to go when they visit Nashville. Many ask for help on making sure they don’t miss any of the “must-see” places on what may be a one-shot trip. Others are hoping to find the best “locals only” places, or the places that don’t necessarily make the standard tourist guides and brochures.
Last Wednesday, I received a call from a girlfriend in my “other” hometown (Greenville, S.C.) asking for recommendations—a forgivable interruption to my 46th-anniversary retrospective listen to the Band’s Brown album.
“I’m going to be in Nashville next Friday night (October 9) to see Florence and the Machine. My husband and I will be spending only one night, so I wanted to know if you could recommend places to visit Saturday. I am looking for rock-and-roll stuff (not country). I’ve thought about Jack White’s studio and Dan Auerbach’s, but didn’t know if you had any other recommendations. I’ve never been to Nashville and am excited!”
I was more than happy to help my fellow Woodstock wannabe navigate the streets of Nashville—it was a privilege to serve as a guide for the only other girl in the upstate who’d join me in belting out Janis Joplin hits at pajama parties when everyone else was singing Olivia Newton-John and Tanya Tucker tunes.
After reminding my friend that Auerbach’s Easy Eye Studio on 8th Avenue South is for photo ops rather than tours, I told her that pausing for a quick selfie outside the doors would be a convenient stop before or after a visit to White’s Third Man Records, a place visitors are more than welcome to come in and explore.
After that—considering that my friend had a little more time to see Nashville than Gilligan and company did for a three-hour tour—my reply went a little something like this:
“While you’re in the 7th/8th Avenue area, drive your 2010 VW bug a little further away from town to Grimey’s New and Pre-loved Records. (After all, Mike Grimey’s done quite the share of promoting all genres of music in Nashville). In Grimey’s adjacent spaces, you’ll find Grimey’s Too, Howlin’ Books (Nashville’s newest indie bookstore) and the Frothy Monkey, where it is said that ‘tangible media’ meets ‘coffeehouse vibes.’ If you talk yourself into staying more than one night in town, the Basement in back of Grimey’s offers a ‘can’t-go-wrong’ lineup.
“You asked about Two Old Hippies. Absolutely go if you can; your Bug’s granny (i.e., a colorfully painted VW “bus, Magic Bus”) sits in the middle of the store, which is located in the Gulch. I think I told you I was there the week the store opened in September 2011, when Nancy Lee Andrews and May Pang were talking about their books of photography featuring Ringo Starr and John Lennon, respectively.
Two Old Hippies features books, clothing, home décor, rock-and-roll memorabilia, and live music five days a week. If your hubby wants to play a Bedell guitar, he can test drive one in ‘the Vault,’ a private space on the property.
“You’re three weeks too early for the next Vinyl Radio show (the one where Supe from the Ozark Mountain Daredevils sits in sometimes), but “if you wanna get to heaven,” you’ve got to drive by Quad Studios in the Music Row area (18th and Grand). Quad’s the studio where Neil Young, Linda Rondstadt, Joan Baez recorded back in the day.
Neil Young used to be spotted at Brown’s Diner (located just past Hillsboro Village) now and again, so if you’re hungry and want to go where your favorite Canadian has dined before you, the hamburgers are decent and the live music’s always good. If you want to take a beverage break on Music Row, the place to go for that is Bobby’s Idle Hour; it’s the only live music venue on the Row.
“If you’re interested in ‘going down to the crossroads,’ East Nashville offers a few appealing possibilities at some popular intersections: Fanny’s House of Music in Five Points and Fond Object Records—whose founders include garage rock revivalists/indie rockers Lindsay (Coco) Hames, Maria (Poni) Silver and Jeremy (Jem) Cohen—in Inglewood’s Riverside Village.
Besides a well stocked collection of vinyl/music/print in store, Fond Object houses a collection of vintage clothing and furniture, a boutique of Silver’s original clothing (the Black by Maria line), and a backyard movie theater/concert venue and rescue petting zoo. At Fanny’s, you’ll find a brief history of women in music on the walls (and instruments from the likes of Bonnie Raitt throughout), and a great selection of vintage clothing sure to make sure that a ‘diamond girl sure [does] shine.’
After ‘taking a load off [at] Fanny’s,’ dash a few feet over to another favorite stationery VW bus—the home of I Dream of Weenie—and grab a hotdog. Additionally, with three hearty spins of a festival dance, you can arrive at the Basement East on Woodland.
“See the Bob Dylan exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame if you can. There’s a Sam Cook exhibit there, too. They’re a little bit rock-and-roll over there, too.