The mistake was that a band we like a lot out of Canada, Blue Rodeo, recently announced on Facebook that they would be playing in Atlanta on Friday night, April 23rd. Note to selves: don't trust Facebook announcements until you actually see the tickets go on sale...turns out its June 23rd. By the time this correction was made however, we had already used the great new Travelocity feature: Top Secret Hotels to secure a room in the downtown 4-Star Holiday Inn for a mere $42. The one catch to Top Secret Hotels is that once the rooms are bought, you can't change the date or get a refund. At first we thought of just having to eat the $42 and chalk it up to a lesson learned, but after a little more thought and a call to our friends, Terry and Rex, who live in Atlanta, we decided that a quick trip might be worth it to visit some friends, plus Rex said a good band we had never heard of - The Bridge - was playing at Smith's Olde Bar (this is where Blue Rodeo will be playing) that Friday night and he had read glowing reviews of their shows. In addition, we thought it would be a good opportunity on Saturday to tour one of our favorite regional breweries, Sweetwater, which is also located in Atlanta. So off we went.
"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833
"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845
"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977
"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009
All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.
All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.
Monday, April 26, 2010
We took an impromptu trip to Atlanta this past weekend. What started out as a mistake, turned into a nice little trip and the discovery of yet another great band out there that no one's ever really heard of.
We left after work Friday afternoon for the easy 3.5-hour drive to Atlanta. Rex picked us up at the downtown Holiday Inn after we checked in. This was our first experience using Travelocity's Top Secret Hotels and we could not be more pleased. We got a nice non-smoking room on the 8th floor with a queen bed. The location is perfectly situated downtown within walking distance of Phillips Arena, the Georgia Dome, the Tabernacle (another great music venue) and Centennial Olympic Park. We are using this service again for upcoming trips to Las Vegas and Louisville and are really saving money. Probably even more so than our Hilton loyalty program.
The drive over to Smith's Olde Bar was quick and we found good parking nearby. We have been wanting to check this place out for a while and almost came down for another show a month or so ago, but got lazy in the end. Now we wish we had made that trip because this place is an excellent music venue with great acoustics and good sight lines. The three-level bar is non-smoking upstairs where the concerts are held and that's very important to us. It's a general admission venue with mostly standing room only, but we were able to secure one of the few tables available as we walked in while the opening act, Danger Muffin (great name), was well into their set. "The Muffin" was good with their laid-back beach bum inspired original tunes plus a solid cover of Seal's "Crazy,"
The Bridge came next and this quintet from Baltimore was extremely impressive. Granted, these fellas are not the best looking dudes in rock-n-roll by far, but they are gifted with a lot of soul and a lot of talent on a wide variety of instruments from the dobro to the mandolin. Their original music is strong and melodic and their closing cover of The Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post" was dead solid perfect. It's a shame there wasn't more of a crowd for them as the turnout was a bit sparse, but they mentioned the first time they played Smith's Olde Bar seven years ago only 3 people showed up, so this was a great improvement. We got to meet a few members of the band after the show as they handed out posters and signed them for us. We found out when talking to them that they just recently added a late show at Bonnaroo as well. We told them we would definitely see them there! After the show we did a bit of bar-hopping downtown and wound up at Rex's very cool loft near our hotel for a nightcap. His loft home is in a converted gasket factory building with exposed original brick, huge windows, high ceilings and a private roof-top patio with amazing views of downtown. Thanks for a great evening, Rex!
We slept in the next morning and soaked up our $42 room for all it was worth. We met Rex again and our old friend, Terry, for lunch at a pasta/pizza place that was very good. We sat and chatted for a long time as thunderstorms and rain showers passed through clearing just in time for us to head over to Sweetwater Brewing Company for a mid-afternoon tour and some tastings. The brewery is on a dead-end road in an industrial park next to I-85 and you have to be looking for it to find it, but we were definitely not the only ones seeking it out this rainy afternoon because the place was packed when we arrived. We got a souvenir glass and 5 tasting tickets each and while it was crowded in their tasting room, their expansive bar and numerous tap stations made it easy to grab some brew. See Rob's beer blog for more info on the beer we had. We jumped in the 3 PM tour line and got a quick run through of their fairly large (but regional) facility. Our tour guide was more of a glorified bartender and seemed limited on his knowledge of the brewery and it's processes, but it was still an enjoyable look-see behind the making of one our favorites regional brewers (Ashlee loves the Sweetwater Blue - a malted wheat beer with a hint of blueberries and Rob loves their Sweetwater IPA claiming it to be the best bottled IPA he's ever had...and he's had a lot of IPAs...again see the beer blog for more on that).
We headed back to Chattanooga after the tour to visit family and spend the night before heading back home on Sunday. Just outside Atlanta on the way back north we stopped at Pappasito's Cantina in Marietta, Georgia. Our friend, Brenda, had suggested this place for dinner and she was right on the money. Excellent fresh, high-end (without a high cost) Mexican food. The place was jam packed for a Saturday evening and we got lucky and were able to get in quick and grab a table next to the bar for dinner. Delicious fajitas and grilled fish tacos were the choices and both were fantastic.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
For the third straight year we participated in the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) held this week at the Green Hills Mall Theatres. This has always been a great event to attend especially on opening and closing nights of the festival when a few stars seem to show up to walk the red carpet. In the past we have seen William H. Macy (also met him), Sheryl Crow, Ben Folds, Hal Holbrook and William Shatner (see previous blogs).
We started off on Wednesday, April 14 by attending the Patron Party with our friend, Carolyn, (photo below) a day before the festival actually began. It was a very nice tent party held outside the ground floor of the theatre building. It was all you could eat and drink with some tasty finger foods and good selections of beer and wine. There were literally no "big" stars in attendance that we saw, but their was one "minor" local celebrity we got to meet. And when we say "minor" we mean that literally as well since he is known as "Two Foot Fred." TFF is actually Fred Gill, a comedian and businessman in the Nashville area known for yes, his small stature. He is a member of the country "Music Mafia" started by the duo, Big and Rich. He has appeared in a few of their videos, on stage with them during concerts, etc. We actually saw him a couple of times as part of the cast of comedian, Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas specials that are taped in Nashville and we have been a part of the audience (see previous blog). TFF is a very nice guy who was all smiles when we asked for a picture (see below). The following evening we met Carolyn again for the Opening Night screening of "Nowhere Boy" - a biopic focusing on the early life of John Lennon before Beatlemania swept him into super stardom. The film stars young Aaron Johnson as the teenage Lennon and Kirsten Scott Thomas as his straight-laced Aunt Mimi who raised him for the most part. Both Johnson and Thomas were spectacular in their roles as was Ann-Marie Duff as Lennon's estranged mother, Julia Lennon. Unlike the fairly well known Thomas, British natives Johnson and Duff are relative newcomers to American cinema, but look to have bright futures. Johnson may be on the fast-track to American recognition as he has the lead role in the comic-book-to-big-screen movie, "Kick-Ass", which opens nationwide the following day of this NaFF screening. Perhaps that's why he was a no-show as far as we know for the screening as we promised by the festival literature. Or perhaps it was the rather strange fact that he (2o years old) recently knocked up the 42-year-old director of "Nowhere Boy", Sam Taylor Wood who was also listed to appear but did not that we know of, and is engaged to be married to her. Too much controversy for the meager NaFF? Could be, but more than likely the Hollywood glitz of "Kick-Ass" coming out the following day was more of an obligation to them than a film festival in "Music City." Despite the disappointment of not seeing or hearing from the film's star and director like we did last year with "William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet" the film was well-done and enjoyable. We also hated the fact that Carolyn was called away on a medical emergency (she's a doctor) just before the film started. Sorry, Caro, but the film will be released in the fall of this year in wider distribution throughout the U.S. We waited a week before returning to the NaFF and selected the Closing Night documentary, "Teenage Paparazzo", directed by Adrian Grenier, most well known for his role as Vincent Chase on HBO's hit show (and one of our favs) "Entourage." Carolyn joined us again as well as our friend, Paige. We were all hoping to spot Grenier on the red carpet before the screening as was again indicated by festival literature, but were again disappointed to find out he had to back out last minute. At least we were told this time because we still had no idea what happened on opening night to the scheduled attendees. Grenier even taped a brief apology to the festival goers that was broadcast before his film. We did get to see Brad and Kim Paisley of country music and TV/movie fame (photo below) being interviewed on the red carpet before the show. Brad had a short film preceded the main feature. It was called "When Mom's Away" and it was hilarious. "Teenage Paparazzo" tells the story of a 13-year-old living in California who has joined the packs of roving photographers that stalk celebrities in hopes of obtaining pictures to sell to tabloids and magazines for big bucks. Grenier was a target of this young photographer and was intrigued by his young age and passion for getting the shot. He decided to turn the camera around on the young man and follow this mere child into this bizarre world of late night stalking, car chasing and pushing/shoving for the shot. It's a very well-done and engrossing film, and very revealing about our society and culture these days in terms of celebrity (hey did we mention we got to see Brad and Kim Paisley!!!!).
We enjoyed our time at the NaFF this year and while our brushes with stardom were not as prevalent as in previous years, the films we saw were top notch. We may expand or experience next year and go for festival laminates that give us more access and privileges as well as try and take in more films during the week-long celebration of the arts.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Several months ago we were lucky enough to win tickets to see the popular singer/songwriter, David Gray, perform at the historic and beautiful Ryman Auditorium (photo above) just a day before the tickets were to actually go on sale and we were planning on buying them anyway. It was a trivia question on Nashville's independent radio station, Lightning 100, about the worth of a U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro. After taking a bath in terms of exhange rate on our trip to Ireland last fall (previous blogs), the answer was quite easy.
The show sold out fairly quickly and we were excited to see the dapper English gent and his solid band perform on the famous Ryman stage. The tickets we won were excellent. About 20 rows back from the stage with only one balcony-support pole to the right of our field of vision of the entire stage (photo below). Gray's voice was strong and clear and his hour and a half show included all his well-known contemporary hits such "Sail Away" - "You're the World to Me" - "Babylon" and "The One I Love" as well as some songs from his new album, Draw the Line, which include the new singles, "Fugitive" and "Stella the Artist."
Thanks so much Lightning 100 for the free tickets as well as for bringing great music from the past and present to the airwaves of Nashville which are thick with twangy country and "classic" rock...is there really anything "classic" about .38 Special and Loverboy tunes?
Friday, April 2, 2010
We were geared up tonight for our tenth time seeing our favorite band, Train, at The Ryman in downtown Nashville (this would be the third time seeing them at this beautiful venue). We were even more excited about this particular performance because after the show we were going to get to meet the band! We had opted for VIP Meet-N-Greet tickets which not only gave us great seating right up front, but a chance to say hello after the show and get some autographs.
We began the evening with dinner at Watermark Restaurant and thanks to the mild early spring weather, we enjoyed outdoor seating for the first time this year with a beautiful view of downtown Nashville. Dinner was excellent and we opted for a seafood-themed evening with BBQ shrimp as an appetizer and Cajun-style mahi-mahi and a pesto-inhanced halibut dish for our entrees. We usually sample each other's dishes but tonight we did a complete swap a few bites in as we realized we liked each other's dish more (photos right and above). We also found a nice $25 bottle of sparkling wine on the menu from Spain and finished up splitting a trio of seasonal ice cream scoops with the pistachio being our favorite. We arrived at the beautiful Ryman (photo below) and found our seats just a few feet from the stage just in time to see the opening act, Butch Walker and the Black Widows, take the stage. These guys were awesome and Walker's front-man energy and voice were very impressive. Walker (photo below) is known more for his music producing than his music itself, but it's clearly evident his passion for performance is something that needs to be shared. The band's original songs are catchy and well put-together and hopefully their success and notoriety will grow. And the band's theme of "Little Guitar = Party" shows their wide-ranging musical talent. I mean who else gets that excited when they pull out a mandolin for their next number? They closed their set with a rocking cover of Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl" and Train lead singer, Pat Monahan, even took to the stage with them, complete with a cheesy fake John Oates mustache.
The Train train pulled onto the historic Ryman stage next and the sold-out theater went nuts. It is great to see these guys get the applause and respect from Music City that they deserve for cranking out great music for well over a decade. In these days of TV-show-produced "idols" and flash-in-the-pan gimmick acts, it's great to see a real American rock-n-roll band stick it out this long with their original members and continue to put out real quality work. The hour-and-a-half set seemed to fly by and before we knew it, the show was over. Or was it? We slipped on our VIP laminates and awaited instructions on how we were going to be able to meet our favorite band of all time.
This wasn't our first "brush with greatness" since we have had to the priviledge of meeting the members of another of our favorite bands, Sister Hazel, as well as one of our favorite actors, William H. Macy (see previous blogs), but this was the first time we were offered the opportunity at The Ryman. We were given a tour poster for the guys to sign, but we had already bought a beautiful original Hatch Print for the show that we intend to have framed. We have started a collection of these show posters by getting them framed and hung in our house as we can afford them (man, quality framing is expensive!). While it wasn't as casual an experience as the "mingle and meet" situations with Sister Hazel and Mr. Macy, it was organized and fairly personable. We stood in line and waited as each person or couple or small group met Scott (the drummer) Underwood (photo below far left), Jimmy (lead guitar) Stafford (photo below far right) and Pat (lead singer) Monahan (photo below center). All three guys were all smiles and very warm with hand shakes and arms around each other for our picture together. They gladly signed the Hatch Print (photo above) with no qualms and even personalized it with a "We love Ashlee!" They were impressed that we had seen them ten times and thanked us for the continued support. Kind of hard not to love these guys even more now than we have before. It's time to start looking for another chance to see them...in Chicago in August maybe??? We shall see!