In honor of Gregg Allman’s passing I present you with a story about the song “Ramblin’ Man”. When I was in 7th grade my family moved from Georgia to Massachusetts. During that summer between my 7th and 8th grade years my sister and I took tennis lessons at a local tennis club along with our neighbor, a boy a few years younger than us who had also just moved there but from England.
Our tennis instructor was a college kid who to my young 12 year old self seemed infinitely older. To reconcile my memory of this guy with the college guys I interact with on a daily basis takes some work because he will forever seem so much older in my mind. At any rate for some reason he made it his goal to teach us all the lyrics to the song “Ramblin’ Man”. I don’t know why he decided that should happen. I suppose some high minded idea that this music he himself was probably just coming to learn of in college was far superior to whatever pop music we were wont to go on about at the time. I still have vivid memories of singing the lyrics to that song while playing tennis long before I could have reliably told you I had ever even heard the actual song.
Every time I have heard that song in my life since then though I have thought back to that summer and that tennis instructor who in his own mind was deciding to elevate my musical tastes. I don’t remember your name, but thanks for the memories. And thanks to The Allman Brothers who did indeed create some wonderful music that this guys was not wrong about the fact that I should know it.
Last night I went with my friends Lindsey and Andrew to see Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I missed Bon Iver the last time he was through these parts a number of years ago, so I was excited to finally get to see him live. I got even more excited when they finally announced that his opener was going to be Hiss Golden Messenger, who I also love.
Even though I love both them and was very happy to be able to see them both, in my mind I found them to be somewhat of an odd musical pairing. Hiss Golden Messenger is kind of Southern jammy guitar rock while Bon Iver is whatever Bon Iver is. Wikipedia offered up the genre of folktronica, which I’m going to go with. I expressed my thoughts about how I felt they were an odd concert fit on Twitter and Hiss Golden Messenger actually responded saying they’re all friends. And ultimately after the concert I decided there’s a lot more common DNA there than I really thought. The auto-tuney, more experimental music especially of more recent Bon Iver kind of overshadowed the guitar of it all, but seeing it all live on stage last night made the guitar stand out more to me.
Hiss Golden Messenger was great. I really enjoyed their set. It felt like the music I needed for where I’ve been lately. Their jammy folk rock is well, my jam. I feel like I’m carrying around 800 lbs of anxiety at all times, and I find Hiss Golden Messenger’s music so soothing to my soul. Just sitting there and listening to them jam out was a kind of bliss. My friend Lindsey said their music is perfect for a super hot, sticky summer day and she’s exactly right. Their song “Saturday Song” was one of the inspirations for the Spotify playlist I have called Chill Summer Songs for exactly that kind of it’s too hot to move summer weather. Having that weather instead of the gray, damp, cool weather we did have was the only thing that would have made it more perfect. They played a good mix of stuff from their new album and older albums. Their attempt to create a sing-along to “Heart Like a Levee” fell very flat. Sorry guys, you’re just really not a sing-along kind of band, but I still love the song even if their sing-along idea didn’t work out for them. As we hopefully finally head into warm summer weather I highly recommend giving them a listen.
Normally when I got to Merriweather I get lawn seats, but for this concert I decided to spring for pavilion seats. My reasoning was two-fold. One I slightly overestimated how popular Bon Iver was. I don’t think the show sold out, although it was decently full. When Merriweather really sells out, I feel like they way oversell the lawn for the amount of space there is and I hate dealing with that especially if the weather turns out lousy like that one Mumford and Sons concert I was at. So thinking Bon Iver might be a sell out situation, I decided I wanted a seat that was actually mine. The other reason I wanted to be inside the pavilion was because I knew his show would be heavily reliant on lights and you can’t really see that very well from the lawn. I was completely correct on that, so I’m glad I made the choice to sit inside the pavilion.
Bon Iver’s set was very heavy on songs from the new album, 22, A Million. In fact he/they played it pretty much straight through from beginning to end before throwing in a handful of songs from other albums at the end. We still got “Holocene”, “Calgary”, and “Skinny Love” which I was happy about. My favorite was “Skinny Love” in which Justin Vernon stayed out on stage solo with a guitar lit in a single spotlight and played. The crowd, which had stayed seated for the entire concert rose to sing along. It was beautiful, and one of those perfect concert moments I love.
This past week we took what has now become our annual trip to Isle of Palms, SC. This is the third year we’ve gone down there in May. I always have vacation time to use up this time of year, and it’s a good time to take a beach vacation before all the schools let out and the beaches get really busy. Isle of Palms is far enough south that it’s generally been warm enough to go to the beach there even in early May.
We rent a condo at one of the places inside of the Wild Dunes resort. There are a couple of places that have one bedroom condos. There are two sets of condos that I really like because they have screened in porches and if you rent one of the ones on the first level than you can walk right out to the beach from your screened in porch, so I try to find one of those that’s available.
Unlike previous years the weather was pretty much perfect this year. The first year we went there was a freak early tropical storm that brewed up and rained out half our vacation. Last year we had some thunderstorms. This year was great. The first few days were in the high 70s, which was a little chilly for sitting out on the beach, especially since Isle of Palms gets some really strong winds out on the beach. But later in the week it was in the 80s and 90s and it was perfect beach weather.
Everyone keeps asking me what we did on our trip and my answer is I went to the beach. Unless you want to count going out to dinner or the one night we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy as doing something. Other than that spent all my time at the beach. I got up and walked the beach every morning, then sat out there and read or just stared at the water until it was time for lunch. After lunch I went back out for a few more hours until I came back in to get ready to go to dinner.
The water was really calm while we were there this year, which I think made a big difference in the wildlife I saw. In past years I’ve found lots of sand dollars and other big shells. I found two sand dollars the first day, but nothing after that. There were a lot more people at the beach than there were in the other two years we were there for some reason so it might also be that other people were snatching them up before I found them. It also meant I saw a lot more of various types of sea birds diving for fish because they could easily spot them in the calm waters. I also saw some dolphins one day too.
As I mentioned, as a barrier island, it gets really windy on Isle of Palms. After trying to use a cheap beach umbrella I bought at the grocery store for the past two years and giving up pretty much every day because it was too windy for the umbrella to handle I decided I was going to go properly prepared this year. There’s a rental company on Isle of Palms that rents beach chairs and umbrellas. I noticed that the umbrellas they rented had no problems standing up to the wind, so I wanted to find a professional grade beach umbrella for myself. I found it slightly painful to shell out $200 for a beach umbrella I’ll only use once a year, but I figured if I was renting one I would spending that much in two years anyway. I’m very happy I spent the money because it worked out perfectly. No more umbrella blowing away or breaking on me in the wind this year. After looking I’m pretty sure that the umbrella I bought is actually the same as the umbrellas they rent aside from the color and branding.
As usual we had some delicious food while we were there. We went back to our two favorite places: Acme Low Country Kitchen, which is the only place on Isle of Palms itself that we’ve found worth eating at, and Crave which is just over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant. We also tried a new to us place called Graze that I really liked though it’s on the far side of Mt. Pleasant so a bit of a trek to get to. We also went into Charleston for a fancy dinner at the Charleston Grille one night. The final night we tried another new to us place called Opal, which I was not a big fan of.
As usual it was a wonderful, relaxing week at the beach. I wish I could go more often. Both the place we stayed in last year and the place we stayed in this year appear to be on the market, so if anyone has an extra $400,000 lying around they want to give me I’ll take it. Since I don’t think that’s going to happen I’ll just look forward to going back and renting a place again next year.
Sometimes there’s nothing like a good sheet cake. You know the ones that come covered in the sickeningly sweet buttercream icing. The key is to have a really good sheet cake though. There are plenty of garbage sheet cakes out in the world getting your hopes up and then dashing them when you take a bite and realize they’re covered in that oil slick of whipped icing instead of buttercream (that stuff should be outlawed) or the cake is super dry.
There’s a local grocery store in Baltimore called Eddie’s and they make a fantastic sheet cake. We always get one at work for our student worker appreciation lunch. This year’s lunch was this afternoon and I enjoyed the heck out of my piece of cake. I even managed to snag a corner piece, which means more icing for me. I know some people hate it, but I love it.
I know theoretically there are better desserts out there made from less industrial ingredients, but sometimes all I want is a piece of good old buttercream sheet cake. My wedding cake came from a Publix grocery store and was essentially a glorified sheet cake, and I loved it. I’ve been to plenty of weddings with fancy cakes from bakeries that I have found to be far less tasty than my grocery store cake.
I don’t have cause to have good sheet cakes in my life very often, but I always look forward to this at least one day per year when I get to indulge in this horribly delicious treat.
Reader, you may remember back when I wrote about my concert venue bucket list. If you don’t, no matter because my husband remembered it and bought me tickets to see Dawes at the Ryman Auditorium for Christmas. That of course necessitated a trip to Nashville. For some silly reason Paul had in his head that we would just take a quick overnight trip to see the show and then come home. I on the other hand was like why would we go all the way to Nashville and only stay for one night? Not only are there multiple other concert venues on my bucket list in Nashville, but I’d never really been to the city before. I was there once for a night when I was high school and went to look at Vanderbilt on a college tour. I didn’t really do anything in the city itself, so I was also interested in having time to check out what the city had to offer.
Adding to the fun of the trip, in looking for places to stay on Airbnb, I discovered that the person who owns the house they used as Deacon’s house on the tv show Nashville rents out an apartment built into the attic of it. I couldn’t resist getting to stay in Deacon’s house, so that’s what we did. The house they used in the first season where Scarlett, Avery, Gunner, and Luke all lived in various configurations was right next door. We also happened by where they shoot the Highway 65 offices when we were walking around downtown, so we had a whole little unintended Nashville location tour.
Aside from it being really fun to say that I stayed at Deacon’s house, it was a really great location too. It was in East Nashville just over the Cumberland River from downtown and a few blocks from the Titans stadium. It was just a little over a mile to walk from the house into downtown, which we did during the day. The neighborhood has definitely been gentrifying over the past decade or so. We felt plenty safe walking around in the light, but between the footbridge over the river and our house was the dark area by the stadium and a not well lit public housing unit so we were a little wary walking to downtown after dark. We had a rental car so we just drove over instead. It probably would have been fine, but without really knowing the area we didn’t want to do anything stupid. There were several decent little restaurants within walking distance. We pretty much stuck in East Nashville for our meals. It was a perfect place for me to stay. Convenient to everything we were doing, but out of the crazy fray of downtown. I don’t even want to think about all the drunken bachelor and bachelorette partiers we would have been contending with in a hotel downtown.
We flew in Thursday afternoon. I had been hoping to go the Bluebird Cafe on Thursday night, but it was not meant to be. Usually there are two shows a night, but they were closed for a private event earlier in the evening and thus there was only a late show even further limiting our chances of getting tickets. It will be a good excuse to go back to Nashville again some day, but the fact that the tickets don’t go on sale until the week prior makes it difficult to actually plan and not pay last minute for everything.
I’m really happy with what we wound up doing Thursday night instead. We wound up at City Winery seeing Uncle Earl and I Draw Slow. Uncle Earl is an old-time bluegrass sort of band made up of KC Groves, Kristin Andreassen, Abigail Washburn, Rayna Gellert. I already knew I liked Abigail Washburn, so was curious to see what this band was. They formed in the early-2000s, but aren’t really an active band at the moment. They joked up their one night world tour. They were a super lot of fun. The music was great, and I happen to appreciate that they were very much sort of stumbling through the set not knowing song orders or who was supposed to be standing where because they were just back together for the night. They had great rapport with the audience and the whole thing was just a lot of fun.
I Draw Slow is an Irish band who plays Irish folk and Bluegrass music. They were also really wonderful. I had not ever heard of them prior to this concert, but I really love their music and will definitely be listening to them more. They just released their third album, and this was their album release show in Nashville. I really liked how they explained the story of each song and what influenced them to write it before playing. I always like that kind of insight into the music I’m hearing. I definitely recommend checking them out.
Friday morning we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I very much enjoyed it. It reminded me about all the things I love about country music even though I could pretty much do without most mainstream country music at the moment. The special Brad Paisley exhibit made me realize that I hate every Brad Paisley song I know except for his duet with Alison Krauss. There was also a special exhibit that’s there until the end of the year on Bob Dylan and how his work in Nashville on the Blonde on Blonde album (obviously the 50th anniversary of it being the reason for this exhibit) influenced other non-country artists to record in Nashville. It was interesting, but it was really large in comparison to the rest of the museum and by the end I was a little mad that I spent so much time reading about Bob Dylan in a museum about country music. I thought the exhibit on session musicians was really well done though. They had a little areas for each one where you could step in, read about who the musician was, what he played, and then listen to a sampling of songs that musician played on. I can’t say how much interest the museum would hold for anyone who is not a fan of country music, but I loved it.
Friday afternoon we did a tour of the Ryman Auditorium. I’m not sure I think it was worth the $20, but I certainly learned a lot about the space and it did give me a new appreciation for it going into the concert we saw there on Saturday. We also walked around downtown a little. I got off of Broadway as quickly as possible and tried to avoid it for the rest of our trip. It like Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Sixth Street in Austin is full of crowded bars, loud music, and horrible crowds of drunk people. It may be what a lot of people go to Nashville for, but it is 100% my nightmare. We didn’t step one foot into any of those bars, and I was happy to get far away from the packs of bachelor and bachelorette parties roaming everywhere.
Friday night we had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. Oddly enough some of my friends from Baltimore were also in Nashville this past weekend to run the Rock N Roll Marathon and were also at the Opry on Friday night. I loved the Opry. I love when music has a sense of history and everyone is aware of it and it informs what they are doing on stage. The Opry with its nightly mix of new and old country and bluegrass artists is nothing about that. Plus with every artist getting only two songs it’s really about the show as a whole rather than any single artist playing. Old Crow Medicine Show was the “headliner” so they got three songs. I very much appreciate them saying that someone (I forget who) told them if you’re given the honor to play the Opry you should play the song that got you there, so they of course ended on “Wagon Wheel”, which is always some sing-a-long fun. Josh Turner, who has an amazingly deep voice, was probably the other biggest current name on the bill. I however was especially excited to see Pam Tillis. I adored her back in the 90s when they actually allowed female artists to be played on mainstream country radio stations. Getting to see her made my 90s country loving heart very happy. I also very much loved one of the old-time bluegrass bands I hadn’t heard of before playing “Rocky Top”, which is a bluegrass standard and something I have wonderful memories of from my childhood. It was an excellent evening and definitely lived up to and exceeded my expectations.
Old Crow Medicine Show at the Grand Ole Opry
Pam Tillis at the Grand Ole Opry
Ricky Skaggs at the Grand Ole Opry
Josh Turner at the Grand Ole Opry
It turns out that the marathon I mentioned earlier ran within a block of the house were staying at and right by the restaurant we ate breakfast at on Saturday morning. We didn’t intend to watch any of the race, but right as we were leaving the restaurant it became apparent that the male leader was about to round the bend to where we were at about mile 20. We decided to stay and cheer him on and then wound up sticking around for about an hour to cheer on some of the other racers until I decided it was getting too hot and sunny for me to be standing about with no sunscreen on. It was a terrible day for a marathon. They even moved the start time up 2 hours because of the predicted heat and humidity.
Our actual agenda for the day was to go the Hermitage. It was a little bit more difficult to do then it should have been because of the marathon. It’s really hard to navigate around a city you don’t know when there’s a marathon going on. Knowing streets are blocked off is only so useful if you don’t know the way to get around them and Google only wants to tell you to go the ways that are closed. We made it there eventually though.
The Hermitage, in case you don’t know, was Andrew Jackson’s estate. Apparently not everyone even knows who that is. I stupidly read the post-it comment wall they had at the end of the exhibit for people to say what they learned about Andrew Jackson or thought about him. Someone posted that they learned he was the president. Anyway, there is a museum exhibit that walks you through a lot of information leading up to Jackson’s presidency and information about his personal life with actually very little about his presidency itself. If you were wondering what they would say about the Trail of Tears, the answer is not really anything. There was enough there that seems way to relevant to today, but this isn’t a political blog post so we’re just moving on. You also get a guided tour of the house itself and an audio tour that goes with various markers at other places around the grounds. It’s worth visiting if you’re in the area.
On our way back from the Hermitage we stopped at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. I had heard many people talking about this ice cream, so figured while we were in the area we should try it. It was good, but I’m not sure that it lived up to the hype for me. Probably because I have The Charmery right down the street from me.
Saturday night was the Dawes concert at the Ryman Auditorium. They were excellent as always. They played all my favorite songs, which they don’t always do. Of course this set was literally three hours long, so it was going to be pretty hard for them not to play all my favorite songs. They ended the evening playing “All Your Favorite Bands”, which was the absolute perfect song to end the night. They stopped playing for the final chorus, put their instruments down, and stood and watched the crowd as we sang it to them. I’ve seen them do this with various songs at any number of concerts now, and I will never stop loving the look of awe and wonderment Taylor Goldsmith gets on his face every time. The fact that the still gets so much joy and to some degree still seems surprised that the crowd knows his songs makes me so happy.
The Ryman was an excellent place to see a concert. I could have done without the obnoxious Baby Boomer guy in front of me. I routinely find Baby Boomers to be the worst concert goers. This guy insisted to me multiple times before the concert started that as soon as the lights went down I was required to stand up for the entire concert. Yeah, no man. My back can’t take standing for 3 hours right now, and I don’t need to tell you that for you to leave me alone and not turn around and gesture for me to stand up whenever I was sitting down. It would have been one thing if I insisted he sit down because he was blocking my view, but that was not the case. Aside from him and his equally obnoxious friend who was sitting behind me who kept yelling loudly things like “Testify” at the stage, it was an excellent show and I enjoyed it very much.
It was a wonderful weekend, and I’m so happy to have gotten to check a few places off of my concert venue bucket list with three excellent nights of live music.