Perfect Duluth Day in Nashville

I really enjoy rhetoric guy’s posts with details about a typical day in Duluth from his perspective. After spending a day in Nashville leading up to an evening of Duluth musicians performing on an iconic American stage, I couldn’t help thinking about sharing this profound experience in a similar way.

We had never visited Nashville before. Although we heard all the great things about this Music City, we didn’t expect to be listening to live music in honky tonks (Tootsie’s for us) before 10 a.m. By 11 a.m., a person could walk up and down south Broadway and take in different acts at almost every stop in addition to street performers in T-shirt weather, which we assumed was unusual for Tennessee in January. And we’re talking about extraordinary musicians here, everywhere you go, with no cover and great food. Check out this kid, Daniel Donato, that we caught at Robert’s Western World playing in the Don Kelley Band (and don’t skip the bass player at 1:56):

It was at this little honky tonk that we ran into Twin Ports musicians, Lee “Big Country” Martin and Sonja Bjordal along with their Feeding Leroy band mates, Lee’s bro Luke and Adam Staupe. We also ran into $4 cheeseburgers and $2.50 beers. As big Anchor’s Bar ambassadors, this made us feel right at home. Then our old friend Eric Pollard, aka Actual Wolf, came walking in. It all started to feel very Homegrown Festivalish at that point, like we were visiting a bit more “Grand” version of Duluth, Opry pun intended.

The rest of the afternoon was an eye-opening exploration of the Nashville music scene that included a group of young folks performing the entire Abbey Road album at Acme Feed & Seed, bringing to mind Duluth’s own Music Resource Center. We listened to street musicians, who are full of information in addition to their music in Nashville. Oh, and the craft beers are flowing here too, although sampling a few leads one to believe that we are spoiled in this category in the Twin Ports. We were reminded of this in the airport too, at Rock Bottom Brewery. I remember their beer as a nice treat back in the day. Today it’s a different review for me, as it just doesn’t come close to the offerings in our region.

The streets got busier, the vibe got “Duluthier” and the talent in these bars just got thicker. All great musicians, all who would surely sacrifice minor body parts to play on the legendary stage that we were going to see Trampled By Turtles play that night at the Ryman Auditorium, the reason for this visit.


Spending this day in Nashville really put the accomplishments of these guys into perspective, not that we didn’t think they were doing big things. We’ve watched them on the late shows and knew they sold out Red Rocks last year, but this was a different kind of benchmark. This is the Ryman Auditorium.



The Lowest Pair (a banjoin’ duo you can see at Sacred Heart on April 3rd) kicked off the show. By the time Charlie Parr hit the stage, the references to Minnesota were definitely not few. We were seated next to Tom Saxhaug. We felt right at home. The line for merchandise was intimidating. And the atmosphere was festive in a way that was oddly subdued, like a careful party being respectful of the history at this venue.



When Trampled By Turtles hit the stage, we were teary-eyed with pride. After spending a day in one of the greatest music centers of our country and quite conscious of those that came before them on this stage, this was an emotional TBT performance. They put on a great show with a 3-song encore that included “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and ended with “Wait So Long.” Perfect.


After the show, it was back to Robert’s Western World to see if the Don Kelley Band was still playing. They weren’t, but there was another band set to play well into the morning. The steel guitar player just returned from touring with Wynonna Judd. And I  happened to end up standing next to Roger Springer (songwriter for Mark Chestnut, Love & Theft, Sammy Kershaw), who was also just there to see some local music like us. We didn’t last, but headed back to our hotel (via a free ride from Uber – pretty slick app right there) with an even more amplified pride for the community we come from, even more gratitude for those who make the Twin Ports what it is today, and even greater excitement for the upcoming Homegrown Music Festival.



about 9 years ago

Nashville IS a great town. The music scene is a lot more than banjos and foot-stomping, too. The Circuit-Bender's Ball started there! The underground scene is very active (they even let a schloob like me play once in a while). And eating out is a little cheaper than Duluth. I have always been treated warmly in "Music City, USA" despite being a Northern weirdo....


about 9 years ago

The Night They Drove 'ol Dixie Down is a great song the first 150 or so times you hear it. If you really want to bring on the goosebumps in your 20-something audience, you'll use it in your encore for extra effect. So good work boys.

I know the Band got all misty-eyed too when they'd hear it, after Robbie Robertson decided to stop sharing the royalties with them. Money conquers all.

I don't know how I got so damned burned out on old-timey music, save for the fact it's been shoved down my throat for the past 20 years by too many white kids with banjos, and yet I can listen to Waylon Jennings all day long. Go figure?

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about 9 years ago

This was fun to read -- and given that I am largely indifferent to anything south of Chicago, that is no small feat.


about 9 years ago

We were sitting no more than a couple rows behind you! We had such a great time as well! Except for....the jerk that freaked out on us for standing up. You're at a TBT show! Stand up and have fun!!!

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