Hello loyal followers! And a special hello to any newbies! Tonight’s post is brought to you by the Grand Ole Opry, because that is where I have been! KG wrote about the rest of our day over on her blog with “Better than that time we walked through Tenderloin” while I am going to give you a run down of our evening. No trip to Nashville is complete without a trip to the longest running radio show in existence and we were lucky enough to see a really stellar show.
Because it is winter we caught the live broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium, also known as the first church of country music. This iconic building used to house the Opry full time however now it only plays host to the show from December to January. It was amazing to see such talented acts play in such an important place. Plus the acoustics were superb (apparently it is ranked as the second best sounding auditorium in the USA).
But the rare venue wasn’t the only reason we were lucky…we were lucky to even get tickets to this show. The story goes like this: KG had just confirmed with me that she was going to her event conference and I had confirmed I would be tagging along. We hadn’t book anything else yet, not the hotel/hostel, not plane tickets, but I thought I’d check out if there were Opry shows while we were going to be there. I mean what else was I going to be doing at work? Work? Turned out that there are shows on Friday & Saturday nights. The Friday we planned on being in town had no headlining act listed yet but the Saturday performance featured Eric Church. Eric Chruch! I couldn’t believe our luck! He’s possibly my favorite artist in country music right now! I texted KG to confirm buying Saturday night tickets would work for her and she agreed. So I bought some. Second row of the balcony. Amazingly good view from what I read online. Perfect! But wait! That’s not even the luckiest part yet! It turns out that tickets to the Eric Church Opry show sold out within like 2 hours of going on sale. Apparently I happened to randomly check within those few hours without any prior knowledge. I was like the luckiest person ever! Everyone we’ve talked to in Nashville keeps saying we’re so lucky and they couldn’t get tickets! I guess we know now why I was stranded in Denver: I used all my luck up on Eric Church tickets.
The Ryman Auditorum is beautiful. Colored stained glass windows cover the back wall, seating is just simple wood benches (that are actually surprisingly comfortable) and the stage is right there in front of you. The venue is airy yet intimate and made all the more significant by its history. I’ll talk more about the Ryman when we tour it tomorrow though, so right now let’s get to the show…
If you’d like to listen along just go here and pick the 01/11/14 show.
We were in attendance for the 4593rd consecutive broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry. And it is primarily a radio broadcast. That’s where the Opry’s roots lie and it continues to play on local stations & satellite radio today. As an audience member you are just watching them put that broadcast on…but the artists need someone to perform to. Our rowdy co-audience members were happy to oblige. The Opry is a show in 4 acts, each a half hour long and featuring 2 to four performers. Each performer does one or two songs, unless you’re the headliner then you get to do four. Shall I walk you through who we got to see?
The show kicked off with John Conlee. He was our first host of the evening. Each Act has its own host who introduces the other performers, provides some fun commentary and, as they are all Opry members, sings the first & last song of the Act. Conlee had seven number one hits between 1978 & 2004, two of which he performed for us. I always feel like I don’t know classic country music but I not only recognized but could sing along to both Common Man and Rose Colored Glasses.
Conlee struggled a bit with introducing the next ‘gentleman’ to perform: Morgan Frazier. Morgan turned out to be a super cute, blonde girl. The first of her 2 songs, Yellow Brick Road, turned the Wizard of Oz into a quest for love, meeting a not-so-bright farm boy (the scarecrow), a heartless jerk (the tin man) and a guy who was afraid of commitment (the cowardly lion). It was fun & catchy and I could see her having great appeal to young girls. Her second song chronicled her experience being bullied. Hey Bully had a great message that Morgan is spreading to schools with the Stand for the Silent organization.
“Hey bully, you’re a lot like me.”
Act One was rounded out by Jimmy C Newman. Newman is an 86 year old Cajun country singer who serenaded us with Alligator Man, a song he was appropriately dressed for. I am endlessly entertained by the classic country rhinestone-spangled get-ups! So fun! The most impressive thing about Jimmy though, even more impressive than the alligator jacket, is that he’s been an Opry Member for over 50 years!
Act Two was hosted by the Riders in the Sky. This quartet of cowboys is my new favorite. They began by introducing themselves: Ranger Doug (the sensible guitar playing leader), Woody Paul (the adorably awkward fiddler), Too Slim (the ridiculous bassist) and Joey the Cowpolka King (the funny accordion player). Do you like how I gave them all boy band worthy personality types? Based on those descriptions can you guess my favorite? Too Slim of course! I always love the ridiculous one J Too Slim kept trying to distract the radio announcer during commercials by dancing, pulling faces and staging puppet theater. For their performances they sang their namesake hit Ghost Riders in the Sky (whistle…Yah!) and The Yellow Rose of Texas (yodeling!). Unfortunately they did not sing anything off their two Grammy winning albums: Woody’s Roundup: A Rootin’ Tootin’ Collection and Monsters, Inc.: Scream Factory Favorites.
Connie Smith is considered one of the best female country vocalist ever. She’s received 11 Grammy nominations and had over 50 charted singles in the last 5 decades. Yes, you read that right: 5 decades. Connie was made an Opry Member back in 1965, which means it’s been almost 50 years since she was considered to already be a country superstar. There are only 66 current Opry members which means it’s quite an elite group. Stars such as Taylor Swift & Luke Bryan are only invited to perform as guests and people like Keith Urban & Brad Paisley have only join the member ranks in the last 2 or 3 years.
When we’d look at the Opry program I had stated “I haven’t heard of any of these people” (other than Eric Chruch of course) and KG had agreed. It turns out we were just being stupid. We had heard of multiple people. One being Will Hoge. A while back we had heard his song Strong on a tv commercial. I had decided it was basically the best and that I must own in. After a little internet research we discovered it was by Will Hoge. I then preceded to download his album. Basically I totally know Will Hoge, just apparently not by name. His performance was very enjoyable, especially Strong. I just love that song…this blog post does a great job of explaining it.
“Everyone knows he ain’t just tough…he’s strong.”
Jim Ed Brown hosted Act Three. Being a radio host he was well qualified for the position. When he sang Lying In Love With You & The Old Lamplighter for us he was backed up by a very good but, as far as I can remember, unintroduced female companion. Many of Jim Ed’s songs featured strong women; he was originally signed as a group with his sisters and after they disbanded most of his hits were duets with Helen Cornelius.
Jean Shepard tottered onto the stage looking quite good for 80 years old. How she looked was nothing compared to how she sounded! She belted out the first line of Tennessee Waltz and the crowd went wild. We never should have underestimated her. Jean is considered a pioneer for women in country music, has been an Opry Member for 58 years and is the longest living female member of the Opry to date. Basically she’s a timeless superstar.
When Parmalee took center stage I looked at KG and said, “I have never heard of Parmalee but I like the look of these guys. I’m excited to become a fan.” They opened with Dance which had a fun hook and got me bopping away in my seat. Yup, definitely becoming a fan. Little did I know that I already was. In between songs the band expressed their excitement at playing the Ryman for the first time and in just recently getting their first Number One. They have a number one song? What could it be?
“She feels like Carolina. Looks like California. Shining like those New York lights on Broadway.”
Carolina reached number one on Dec 21 and from the first few chords I was feeling incredibly perplex by my lack of knowledge. I love this song…and knew all the words…apparently my inability to remember names has now spread out of real life situations and into band names… Now that I know the name Parmalee though I will be downloading all of their music!
Fun Parmalee Fact: The band is made up of two brothers (lead singer/guitar and drums), their cousin (bass) and their best friend since childhood (guitar). How cute!
At this point we were entertained by the Opry Square Dancers. I think they were doing difficult square dancing steps and performing them well…I think…I don’t know much about square dancing. I do know that every single one of those dancers absolutely LOVES to square dance! It was written all over their faces as their feet flew across the stage.
Bill Anderson was the host & opener for this Act. Instead of starting & finishing though he played both of his songs right off the top. The Opry has figured out that in order to finish strong they should let the headliner close the show. He was very charismatic, as all of these men seem to be, and I enjoyed his performance. But to be honest I was really just bobbing in my seat waiting for him to introduce the main attraction.
Poor Bill could barely make his introduction heard over the whoops & hollers that echoed through the Ryman. Eric Chruch walked on stage to thunderous applause. He wore the modern cowboy’s standard outfit: boots, jeans, solid colored t-shirt and leather jacket. This was the same style that Will Hoge and Parmalee had sported. “I was gonna play this really introspective songwriter stuff, but then you guys are just rowdy like you always are. So I tell you what: I’ll give you a little bit of both.” Ummm ok…that’s quite alright with me!
He started with Give Me Back My Hometown, which is his new single. When I think of Eric Church my mind jumps to rowdy outlaw country and a party crowd. So it gave me goosebumps to see him on stage alone, just him & his guitar, crooning out heartfelt acoustic versions of his songs. I think it’s a sign of a great artist when they can make you want to stand up, grab a drink & guzzle it down and hit you so emotionally.
Holding true to a promise he’d made at the top of his set, Eric followed with A Man Who’s Going To Die Young, a song he was performing live for the very first time! It was about how he’d lived a crazy life and had frankly never expected to live to 36 years old with a wife & kid. It was also an incredibly beautiful love song.
“I put the rage in the river, the roll in the thunder. But you kept me from going under when that current got too heavy. I always thought I’d be a heap of metal in a cloud of smoke, foot stuck to the petal. Sold for parts like a junkyard, rusted as shit. Fear, I’ve had none. What made you want to love a man who was gonna die young?”
The only song from his super popular Chief album that Eric performed was his major hit Drink In My Hand. This song was soooooo cool. I imagine this is not a song he would usually perform so stripped down, I mean it’s his biggest party anthem. So I think this was a very rare opportunity to see a very unique version of this song. The moment was only enhanced by the enthusiasm of the crowd. It felt like every person in the place knew every word and with the lack of a band the voluntary back-up singers seemed almost too loud for such a small venue. Everyone belted each lyric out at the top of their lungs while clapping out the important drum beats. We were of course part of the screaming masses when he let the crowd take over the fun “ring-ring-ring” part.
To wrap his set we got another song off The Outsiders album. Being that it doesn’t come out until February it meant that Dark Side was another track no one had ever heard before. I love getting early sneak peeks! For any other Eric Church fans out there, in Eric Church’s own worlds, “The Outsiders record, it is the shit” and from what I’ve heard I think this album will be even more epic than his first. Dark Side was written for his son, who was at his very first Opry show.
“If you touch my little boy you begging for this bullet will be the last thing that you say, before I let my dark side come out to play.”
Post Opry we hopped, skipped and possibly floated to Broadway. We were on my giddy high. Every two seconds one of us would turn to the other, “Remember that time we saw Eric Church?” Or “Oh my god that was amazing.” “That was the best thing ever.” “I can’t believe we just saw that!” Being that it was late on a Saturday night there were lines outside of any bar worth going to,but we didn’t care. We just wanted to flit around reminiscing and gushing over the Opry & Eric Church.
Wait. Wasn’t that just…? “KG stop! It’s them!”
No it wasn’t Eric Church; I’m not that lucky. But it was the brother-duo lead singer and drummer (Matt & Scott Thomas) of Parmalee. And that is how we happened to meet a famous person!
Obviously we got pictures. And obviously we tweeted about it. The much to my excitement someone with a number one song tweeted back at me! More specifically the cute lead singer 😉 Best day ever! So I guess my luck is picking up…first no line at the Pancake Pantry then meeting Parmalee!
Love & Luck,