From the time I was a little girl, I was listening to some sort of music somewhere. My dad shared his love of rock, country and bluegrass with us kids by taking us to bluegrass festivals and shows in Lancaster and other local places; we were raised to love music and to appreciate the chance to see it live. (With the number of Spotify playlists my siblings and I share on a regular basis, you can say that love is alive and well!) Dad even rocked me as a baby in a rocking chair while he converted all his records to cassette tapes. Don’t judge – I know that makes me old!
Saturday nights in our house consisted of evening baths, my mom setting me and my sister’s hair in foam rollers for church the next day, and the Grand Ole Opry on TV. We watched Little Jimmie Dickens tell jokes with a big smile on his face, Patty Loveless belt out Kentucky ballads and scores of others sing from Nashville every Saturday night.
We were taught the history of country music and how the Ryman Auditorium, “The Mother Church”, was one of the most respected and revered musical venues in the country. Dad loved to play shows from the Ryman and even though the Opry wasn’t played there anymore, we watched many events recorded from that stage. So, you can understand the Ryman was a big deal to us.
Fast forward thirtyish years….
Moving to a new state and town is exciting, scary and kinda weird. You start a new job and your new coworkers are basically the only people you know. Literally. So, you make start to get to know people and make friends and go home to….well, yourself. Then you gather up your courage to try something new and start meeting people in the area. Showing up to things and making acquaintances…hoping that some of them will turn into friends. And – get this – some do! And it’s really awesome. But – you’re still in newish friend zone, so you don’t feel comfortable with asking them to go just anywhere yet.
I’m supremely lucky in that I had a friend in CO (here’s to you April!) who made me feel not all alone there and one I hadn’t met in person but had known for years here in Tennessee. I’m pretty sure Nicole was sent to make sure I didn’t have a mental breakdown those first few weeks and has quickly become one of the best people I have ever known. She is hilarious, kind to everyone and this woman has taken care of me from almost the day I hit Nashville. She’s also a classic dork like me who loves memes and never judges when I feel like I might get emotional. Oh, and she’s also a hockey fan – so, legit awesome all around.
Anywho…..Nicole took me to a few Preds games and I was surprised to find that the Bridgestone Arena is literally across the street from the Ryman and that both of them are gateways to the craziness of the honky tonks of lower Broadway. That corner is crowded, loud, crazy at all different times and just utterly fascinating. She showed me places to park, eat and people watch – and promised we’d get to the Ryman one day.
If you guys were friends with me during the “Concert Kim” phase, you know I love going to see live music and am usually checking to see who’s gonna be where and when, and if I can go see them. So naturally, I signed up for a bunch of email lists in Nashville and am starting to see artists here in town. And I know it’s not a big surprise, but there’s a lot of good music here. All over.
One day I got an email about upcoming shows at the Ryman and I saw The SteelDrivers were going to be in town on a random Thursday night. They’re a bluegrass band that have been around for a long time and used to have the Chris Stapleton as their front man. Yep. Stapleton. The guys at work in Denver introduced them to me and I’ve been a fan since I heard them belting out “Blue Side Of The Mountain” in the shop. I listened to them in repeat for weeks and “Where Rainbows Never Die” was my number one listened song on Spotify in 2020. By a landslide. It’s a freaking awesome song with a beautiful intro. Listen to it sometime.
I did something crazy and bought myself a ticket. So I went. All by myself. Parked in the garage Nicole showed me and headed to the Assembly Food Hall for dinner (which she also introduced me to) and got to watch some live music there as well. All the while thinking that, in just an hour or so, I was going to walk into the Ryman for the first time. It was weird – like I had some kind of uncanny awareness that something I had looked forward to for a long time was gonna happen. It was almost like I was scared to mess it up. As I said, weird.
An hour before show time, I walked across the street and didn’t even know how to get in. It was kinda funny – the doors face Broadway but you don’t actually go in there. There’s a path around the back of the building that winds through some statues of famous stars – including Bill Monroe – before entering into a courtyard that filters you into the building.
You guys – the AMOUNT of old people milling around that courtyard carrying stadium seats, lawn chair cushions and blankets to sit on cracked me the hell up! I knew the Ryman had literal church pews to sit on, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting this. I even saw one elderly lady push people out of her way with her cane. I’m sitting there cracking up with a crazy grin on my face. I seriously hope I’m that awesome when I’m that old.
Then I walked in. And felt a certain kind of way. Like I could feel this was a big deal. I was finally in there! There are stained glass windows, pews and a really cool staircase. I walked up those steps looking at the windows and just breathed “I’m here”. It was so surreal. It was just a building but it was like you could feel, smell and taste the history there. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.
I walked down and sat in my pew (so cool!) and got ready for the show to start. Bill Cody, the guy that MC’s the Opry came out and welcomed us all there. The sound of his voice practically made me tear up – it was just like it was all those times we watched him on TV as kids. So freaking cool!
Troubadour Blue came out as the openers and those kids brought the house down. Their energy, crazy harmonies and musical genius wowed the whole crowd. These guys are GOOD. Really good. And their songs are lyrically entertaining. At one point during their set, the lead singer says to us “I know we’re probably not the ones you came to see and some of you may have been here before, but this will forever be the first time we play the Ryman”. And he choked up. We gave them a standing ovation. And my eyes were leaking a little bit. They were incredible. I follow their Instagram and they are still riding high on that emotion and it’s been weeks at this point. I wanted to find that guy and tell him I had no idea I was going to see them play, but the opening notes to their song was the first ones I would ever hear live at the Ryman. I’m still getting goosebumps.
Then, The SteelDrivers walked onstage and proceeded to blow us away for the next couple hours. They were so good – they have great harmonies, they’re all good musicians and I pretty much fell in love with them all over again. And their latest lead singer is simply a gorgeous man – just throwing that out there. They played twenty songs and I sang along with almost every single one. I was in my happy place watching this band play songs that had come to mean so much to me – and it was in the Ryman! It was incredible.
Oh Mr. Hot Stuff also told us at one point that it was his first time at the Ryman and we gave him a standing ovation as well. He got so emotional he picked up a towel to dry his face. It was cool. Then Tammy Rogers (one of the original members) thanked us for making it special for him and asked if any of us were there for the first time. A few of us raised our hands and everyone applauded. It was pretty cool. I also felt a certain kinda way about that moment.
They played my three favorite songs at the end of the night (of course they were last- they were the best!) and did “Where Rainbow Never Die” as the encore. The second those familiar notes of the intro were played, I couldn’t help it anymore. I gave up. The emotion of the night finally got to me and tears ran down my face as I tried to video it and bask in the making of that memory all at the same time. I will never forget that moment. It was emotional and sweet and all mine and it was glorious.
After they finished the song, they took a bow, we applauded them and the house lights came up. I followed the crowd down the stairwell and came out in the street to the neon lights of Broadway in the hot and muggy summer night. And walking back to the car, I had the biggest grin on my face. I looked up to the sky and just said “thank you”. I was supremely glad I went and so very glad I went by myself. I didn’t have to worry about someone else not liking them, or wanting to leave early or thinking that me fangirling over a freaking wonderful building was weird. It went better than I could have imagined and it was an experience I will treasure for a lifetime.
I called my dad when I got home just to tell him all about it. I wanted to share my exuberance with him as he was the one who started it all in the first place. And bless him – it was late as hell on the east coast and he still listened to me babble on and was thrilled for me. I love how life brings you back around sometimes.
A few days later I told my new friends about it and they said they would’ve gone with me (guess I should’ve been comfortable asking them after all), so they’re totally going to see Aaron Lewis with me in December! But I think Nicole said it best – that this experience would not have been the same and it would not have been so personal to me if I had gone with someone else. That this was something that was mine to do and to have – and that it was a night I would remember forever. And she’s so right – it really was.
So I hope you remember this story when you have the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do. It may be scary or weird and you may have to go by yourself, but here’s to making new memories with your own fine self. And walking out afterwards with a big ass grin on your face because you had the time of your life and you wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Picture credits are by yours truly. Credit for the name of this post goes to Nicole 🙂