"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

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Happenings - December 2010

It's been a busy and fun month of December already and Christmas isn't even here yet!

Dec. 4 - We finally got to feed a guilty pleasure and checked out A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas at the Hollywood 27 Theatres in Nashville (about the only place it was still showing)..  Those bad boys were as funny as usual and they must have rubbed off on us because we snuck in to see The Muppets Movie right afterwards.  Shame on us.
 Dec. 9 - What was supposed to be a "small holiday cocktail party" at our house turned into over 30 people packing the place for a fun night of Christmas merriment.  No photos available to protect the innocent...ummm....make that the guilty.  OK, just one:

Our friend, Wayne, shows his enthusiasm at our Christmas party.

Dec. 10 - We headed over to Franklin to check out Dickens of a Christmas, an outdoor festival held in their historic downtown and square.  The temps were cold and the place was packed.  Thanks to our friends,  Tim and Lavonda, (a couple of Christmas party survivors who were visiting from Chattanooga and spent the night with us) for tagging along.

Dec.10 - We attended the annual Christmas party held by our friend, Caroline, over in Nashville.  Always a fun evening of good times and great food.

Dec. 11 - In repayment for them driving up to Lebanon to attend our Christmas party, we drove down to Chattanooga for the day and attended the Dirty Santa Party held by our friends, Michelle & Patrick.  Hilarity did ensue.

Dec. 16 - We did some much-needed holiday shopping at Green Hills Mall in Nashville and then had an early dinner at PF Chang's with our friends, Danny and Brenda. Afterwards our foursome was off to The Big Bang Piano Bar for some sing-a-longs (ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" was excellent!).  We concluded the evening by closing down Frugal McDoogal's Liquor Warehouse doing some more late-night Christmas shopping

Dec. 17 - We attended "A Neighborly Christmas" with Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors (and friends) at 3rd & Lindsley.  We had sworn off this place as a music venue, but gave it one more try since they claimed to have remodeled and were much improved.  We were skeptical, but were greatly surprised and pleased with the results.  The stage is bigger and elevated now, more spead-out seating, they added another balcony, and a good amount of standing room is now available in front of the stage.  Well done, folks, you are now back in our good graces.

 The show was great as well with DH&N sprinkling in their great original music with several Christmas classics.  Ever since seeing these guys at Live on the Green earlier this year, they are becoming one of our favorite local bands.  We slipped out of the show a little early to meet up with our friends, Mike and Elizabeth, who were up visiting from Chattanooga.  We met at the quaint little bar, Past Perfect,  just down the street for a few drinks.  The stories and laughs proceeded late into the night.  So late in fact that we all decided to skip the brunch we had planned on having on Sunday morning since it was already well into Sunday morning by the time we said goodbye. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Night in NOLA

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ashlee and I were invited by her old boss and friend, Stacey, and her husband, Gary, and her old co-worker and friend, Chris, and his significant other, Shane, to join them for a long weekend in New Orleans.  I was already committed to a weekend guys-trip to Atlanta to see the Titans take on the Falcons, but thanks to some low airfare down to New Orleans (and then back to Atlanta for me), I was able to join Ashlee and the gang for at least one night in The Big Easy.

This is a view of the heated saltwater pool (which I tried out - it was excellent) and some of the beautiful surrounding courtyard from our room's balcony at the lovely Hotel le Marais just a block off Bourbon Street in The French Quarter.  This elegant small hotel was a great find and highly recommended for convenience, but also solitude once you are done with N'awlins and just need some sleep.

We spent a large part of the day and night on the one and only Bourbon Street doing our best Big Easy Crawl.

There are always some "interesting" characters on Bourbon Street.  In the photo above one of those characters poses with (L to R) Chris, Gary and Ashlee.

We had a late dinner in the quirky Clover Grill where their famous hamburgers are cooked under hubcaps (okay?).  This little hole-in-the-wall was featured in the Brad Pitt movie, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

One of our guilty pleasures are piano bars, especially dueling piano bars, and Howl at the Moon on Bourbon Street is one of the best.  I mean where else do they set the pianos on fire during during JLL's "Great Balls of Fire."

This was our first time back in New Orleans together since before Hurricane Katrina.  It was good to get back and see this unique and amazing city bouncing back from such devastation, even if only for one crazy night.  We are already vowing to come back together and spend more time in The Big Easy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nat in Nash

Sunday, November 13, 2011

We got our first experience inside the beautiful, new Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville tonight as we had second-row orchestra-level tickets to see singer/songwriter, Natalie Merchant,  joined by The Nashville Symphony.  Since no photograpy is allowed inside, the photo above is a balcony view of the symphony center  from their website.  Probably the most amazing thing about the experience is the fact that this exquisite building was practically decimated by the 1000-year flood back in May 2010 when 24 feet of water filled the basement and bottom floors.  Nice recovery!

We hadn't seen Natalie Merchant since her "Motherland" tour way back in 2001 at a show at The Ryman.  As she nears 50 years in age now, gone is her girlish figure, and her mane of dark, full hair is graying fast, but her powerful, signature voice remains, and it sounded pitch perfect in the symphony hall.  Her music has drifted away somewhat from the alternative light rock that drew us to her and her masterful 1995 album, Tigerlily.  Her newest endeavor is Leave Your Sleep (album cover photo above), a compilation of 19th- and 20th-century poem intepretations and lullabies inspired by her childhood and from conversations with her own daughter as she was growing up.  While we had hoped for a few more of our favorites to be played by Merchant, the true stars of  the night were The Nashville Symphony and the Schermerhorn itself which made all the songs soar to their full potential.

We appreciate our friend, Wayne, meeting us for dinner at the always-yummy, Urban Flats, in The Gulch before the show.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Play it again, Mat....and Bear and Bo et. al....and Casey et. al

Inside a recent 3-week period, we saw three shows from artists we have seen before and love:

Thursday, October 20, 2011 - The Cannery - Nashville

SOLD OUT SHOW!  Nashville resident, Mat Kearney, returned home to The Cannery and  performed all his fan favorites, plus lots of songs off his new album, Young Love, the cover of which is pictured above.  He also did a surprisingly good cover version of a fairly new song "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People.
Friday, October 28, 2011 - Track 29 - Chattanooga

We attended the more than SOLD OUT SHOW for NEEDTOBREATHE at Track 29 in Chattanooga tonight.   There were 1.700 people in attendance once they had pushed back the stage and added 200 more tickets to the sold out show.  This was our first time at this fairly new live music venue located in the back of the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo property, and we were very impressed.   It is large in size with good sight lines and great acoustics.  Nashville singer/songwriter,  Ben Rector, opened with a good set that included a band member breaking out the always-funky "keytar" on their last song of the night.  We haven't seen that since Stevie Wonder played at Bonnaroo.  NTB were excellent as the headliner.  Led by lead singer and big brother, Bear Rinehart, and little brother, Bo, on lead guitar,  they played a lot of stuff off their new album The Reckoning  plus many of their older tunes including some of our favs off their previous album, The Outsiders, whose cover is shown above.  This is our third time seeing them and I swear they get better as a band every time we do.  Keep up the good work, guys!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - Exit/In - Nashville

.We were back at the Exit/In in Nashville tonight to catch a show by one of our favorite new-to-us live artists, Alpha Rev, out of Austin, Texas.  We first saw them on the VH1 Best Cruise Ever earlier this year and they completely blew us away.  This was supposed to be a co-headline show with the band, Carbon Leaf, but they pulled out of this date for some reason.  Filling in were openers, Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes from here in Nashville  followed by Atlanta, GA, artist, Nic Cowan.  Both of these acts were great and we really enjoyed their sets.  Alpha Rev took the stage a bit stripped down from the usual line-up.  Their cello player did not make the trip and they were minus their great fiddle player, Brian Batch, who has temporarily - we hope - left the band. Despite the two missing members and instruments, the remaining quintet blazed through an hour and half set that was still fantastic.   They played several new songs and some select cuts from their masterful 2010 album,  New Morning, the cover of which is shown above.   The crowd was much smaller than the previous two shows we attended, but this didn't deter the band from putting on a great performance.  And, we were able to see it all from the front row! 

After the show we picked up the band's latest EP, City Farm: Roots, which was produced entirely from fan donations since they currently don't have a record label. We were able to chat with bassist, Alex Dunlap,  for a few minutes.  He informed us that the reason Carbon Leaf couldn't make this leg of the tour was because their lead singer had won a role in a new Daniel Day-Lewis movie about Abraham Lincoln.  Pretty cool.  We also got to say hello to lead singer/songwriter and founder of Alpha Rev, Casey McPherson, who was kind enough to have his picture taken with Ashlee (above).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hail to the Walkers (5K and Butch)

October 8, 2011:  We had a fun, busy and long fall Saturday today in Nashville beginning with the 8 AM start of a 5K run/walk until well after 1 AM on Sunday morning with the conclusion of a concert.

With well over a thousand participants in the 12th Annual Germantown Bier 5K Run/Walk near downtown Nashville, it took us a while to even get over the starting line.  This was our first year participating in this event and we could not have asked for better weather.  The route through beautiful and historic Germantown was a lot fun and even included a path through the Nashville Farmers Market.  There is a all-day street festival afterwards with an Octoberfest theme.


We finished the 5K with smiles and despite Ashlee nursing a head cold, she finished in good time at under 40 minutes.  Since most of my 5K was walked, I got in under 48 minutes and was satisfied with my efforts.  With our entry fee we got the satisfaction of accomplishment, a cool T-shirt and a free beer at the end.  We happened upon our friends Chris and Tarryn (who are both pretty serious runners) at the finish line and they had already finished their beers by the time we got across the finish line and collected our brews.  We visited for a while, bought a couple more beers and talked a lot about our upcoming trip with them and another couple to Aruba in February.

Ashlee's new found love of corn dogs (she had never had one until a year ago - how weird?) was satisfied as we waited around after the race for our friends, Gary and Cary, who had texted us that they were coming down to have look around the farmers market and check out the Germantown festival.  We had a couple more beers and I grabbed a thick-sliced grilled bologna sandwich (yum!) for lunch.  There was some decent live music going on nearby as well to entertain us.

After resting up a bit back at home, we doubled-back to Nashville and met up with our friend, Ryan, and his date, Dawn, for dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant, The Bombay Palace, on West End Avenue.  We chose our dinner locale because of its close proximity to the legendary Exit/In on Elliston Place where we had tickets to see one of our favorite live bands, Butch Walker & the Black Widows.  We saw Butch at this same location last year (see previous blog) and he put on such an amazing show that we knew we had to catch him again if at all possible.

All hail, King Butch!!  Walker concluded his SOLD OUT high-energy 2+ hour show by climbing up on the Exit/In bar and toasting his band and his fans with a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  Salute!  Behind him are dozens of names of some of the famous artists who have graced the stage of the legendary rock bar since the early 70's.  Thanks to Ryan and Dawn for attending the general admission concert with us despite neither of them hearing of Butch and the Black Widows before today.  They stayed for the entire show and became instant fans.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rombello Cruise

Well. we just couldn't pass it up.  Despite just getting back from a quick trip up to New England, working one day and then  flying back out that night, we headed south to board our second music cruise of the year.  The company, Sixthman, who organized the Best Cruise Ever musical voyage that we took back in late April/early May (see previous blog post: ) offered us a deal as previous cruisers that we couldn't afford to not accept ($298 ea. including tax!) for another one of their four-day music cruises out of Tampa, FL, to Cozumel, Mexico, and back. packed full of bands performing throughout the trip. 
Welcome to Rombello!

Thursday, September 29, 2012:  The lovely city of Tampa wished us a "bon voyage" again as we headed out of the same port on the same ship, the Carnival Inspiration, that we had taken on the last music cruise.  Bonus points if you can find the large "T" (for Tampa, I suppose) among the downtown buildings.  Wonder if that was done intentionally?

 Michael Franti & Spearhead, who happens to be one of our favorite live acts, kicked off the trip with a sail-away concert out on the Lido Deck.  Their recent hit "The Sound of Sunshine" never sounded better or felt more appropriate as we got underway under blue sunny skies with warm temps and with the beach balls a-flyin'.

 Our favorite "new-to-us" band we discovered on the Rombello Cruise was Gaelic Storm, an energetic and musically-adept Irish band.  Appropriately, here they are above ending their first set in the bar on the Lido Deck.  That's showmanship and drunkenness all at the same time, folks!

How do you like our new family Christmas card?  He's our boy and we are so proud of him!  One of our favorite performers, Brett Dennen, hosted a wine tasting and although we did this same type of tasting on the last music cruise with Jimmy Stafford, lead guitarist of the band, Train, and the wine offered by Carnival pretty much sucked (as it did again here), it was still a great chance to meet Brett and talk with him one-on-one about wine (even the crappy kind), his music and his upcoming show in Nashville that we were looking forward to seeing after the cruise.  Brett was funny and charming as the guest host and he and the ship's dining room maitre'd and wine representative, Omar, made quite the comedy duo.

Hmmm, is The Old 97's song, "Big Brown Eyes"  written by lead singer, Rhett Miller, pictured above with my brown-eyed girl about someone in particular??  It sure looks like it from these beaming smiles.  We got to meet Rhett briefly before his first show on the boat in the small nightclub venue, the Candlelight Lounge.  He was winging it solo on this trip without the rest of the 97's and his one-man-and-a-guitar performances (we saw all three) were impressive, not to mention he had the help of his great voice in accompaniment.

After the wine tasting, Brett Dennen took to the Lido Deck stage for an early evening performance.  We believe Brett may have had a lot of complimentary wine during and after the tasting we attended with him because it wasn't one of his best shows in terms of performance....i.e. we think he was sloshed!

Saturday, October 1, 2011:  We didn't have any luck securing an excursion for our stop in Cozumel before the cruise, so we stood in the excursion trip line on the boat (with Brett Dennen again!) and chose what looked to be an interesting cave tour and swim at Rio Secreto over on the mainland near Playa del Carmen.  It turned out to be one of the best excursions we have ever done.  It's a privately-owned cave system discovered only recently back in 2008.   The half-mile hike, wade and swim through this underground wonder was simply amazing.  The tour was very organized and went smoothly.  Hats off to Carnival Cruise Lines for providing such a great tour since our past history with some ship-sponsored excursions have not been that great.  Since personal cameras weren't allowed in the cave, I can't take credit for this incredible (and accurate) shot above.  I borrowed it from the website blog of Legacy Travel.

After the tour of Rio Secreto we strolled around in Playa del Carmen a bit and wondered into Tequila Town for a drink.  Who knew there were so many kinds of tequila!

As we boarded the ferry back to Cozumel from Playa del Carmen, this beautiful Caribbean storm popped up on the horizon.  It never affected us which added to our record of perfect weather during this trip.

Rhett Miller once again took the small stage on the back of the cruise ship on the Serenity Deck as we awaited to depart from the Cozumel port.  He gave another energetic performance even as the Carnival Elation headed out to sea behind him.

As the sun was setting and we got underway from Cozumel, Rhett Miller finished his set with flair and style.

Despite the fact that our favorite band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, were performing the headlining  7 PM show in the ship's huge Paris Lounge, we opted for a more up-close-and-personal experience with Gaelic Storm in the Candlelight Lounge.  We think we made the right choice as the band put on one hell of a show while all along taking good-natured jabs at "Franteeeee" for playing at the same time upstairs and stealing their crowd (which you couldn't tell since the place was packed).  After the performance which again ended in the lounge bar,  of course, we got a chance to meet lead guitarist, (and possible Keebler Elf?) Steve Twigger.

Well, here he goes again.  After telling us in the excursion line the day before that all he wanted to do in Cozumel was "snorkel a little, get drunk and eat a bunch of guacamole" - we think Brett Dennen did just that.  Donning his bathrobe from his cabin and a Captain & Tennille-style hat, Brett gave another less than stellar late-evening performance after we departed from Cozumel/  There were a lot of slurred lyrics and awkward fumbling pauses between songs.  He was hammered, folks.  Some people just can't handle Mexico I guess  (been there, done that, I confess)

We caught an energetic late-night show by JJ Grey & Mofro in the Paris Lounge to end the evening's musical journey.  Grey's booming voice and dynamite backing band were a treat to see and hear.  We had heard good reports of these guys and their live show, but had never seen them before..  Now we know what all the buzz is about.

Well after midnight and with his show in the main lounge over for hours, Michael Franti was still out and about in the open public areas of the ship posing for pictures, signing autographs and just being one of the nicest people you will ever meet.  Here he stops and poses for a picture with me and John and Jessica, a couple from Charlotte, North Carolina, that we befriended on the cave tour and hung around with the rest of the cruise.

Sunday, October 2, 2011:  Our last day at sea consisted of an afternoon and early evening of acoustic-style performances out on the Lido Deck with almost every band taking the stage for short sets as we lazed around the pool and cruised back toward Tampa.  The now-infamous Brett Dennen gave an intimate set back on the Serenity Deck and seemed to be more himself albeit probably hung over, but he was still all smiles and happy to pose for pictures as the sun was setting on the day and  another great music cruise.
ADDENDUM: Thursday, October 6, 2011 - We saw our boy, Brett Dennen, again (sober this time, thank goodness, we were starting to worry about the kid!) put on a great show as the headliner at the fifth week of Live on the Green in downtown Nashville.  Link below is part of his great performance.  We had VIP tix that gave us unlimited drinks and great food from B & C BBQ (their buffalo chicken grits were outstanding!) as well as up close viewing of the stage.  Before Brett's set we also saw some good performances by Rayland Baxter (performing with his legendary father, Bucky Baxter) and Nashville's own, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors.  Thanks to our newly-married  friends, Nate and Ginny, for attending with us.  Congrats, guys!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Hampshire in Early Fall

We took a quick, long-weekend trip up to New Hampshire to visit our friends, Amy and Jeremy, thanks to a wonderfully cheap airfare I found ($130 RT each!) into Manchester.  This was a late birthday present for Ashlee who is close friends with Amy.  We hadn't seen these guys in over a year since we took a great Caribbean cruise together back in February 2010. 
See the blog entries: http://collagebarrage.blogspot.com/2010_02_01_archive.html

The thought of checking out early fall in New England was also a bonus since Amy and Jeremy live in the lovely coastal town of Portsmouth about 45 minutes east of  Manchester.
Saturday,  September 24, 2011:  Fresh off the plane, our first stop once we got into the Portsmouth area was the east coast branch of Red Hook Brewing, a great craft beer pioneer which originated in Washington state.  We grabbed a late light lunch in their cool brewpub and took the 3 PM brewery tour which cost $2 and was chock full of samples!  Salute!

After resting up a bit and settling into Amy and Jeremy's spare bedroom of their apartment in downtown Portsmouth, we strolled a few blocks toward the waterfront and had dinner at on of their favorite places, Spring Hill Tavern.  This bar in the basement of The Dolphin Striker Restaurant serves up great seafood from upstairs.  Our choices were the Chilean sea bass cooked Asian-style for Ashlee, and the lobster omelet for me.  Delicious!
Sunday, September 25, 2011:  We all slept in this morning and by the time we had collected ourselves, our stomachs were grumbling for some lunch and we decided on a place we couldn't get into the night before due to it being so crowded, The Portsmouth Brewery.  I appreciate Amy and Jeremy accommodating my always-fervent interest in craft beer, but even they admitted that as usual in good brewpubs,  the food is darn good as well.  More on the brews themselves will be in my beer blog soon.

After lunch we strolled down to the beautiful, busy and historic Portsmouth Harbour.  We bought in for the 3 PM harbour cruise on the MV Heritage.  As we waited to board our hour-and-a-half-long cruise, we checked out the waterfront which offered dramatic views of the swift-moving Piscataqua River as it surged out to sea and the charming views such as the chubby Moran Tugboats (above) tied up at dock taking a well-deserved Sunday off.

  The weather, which had been rainy the day before we arrived and overcast on Saturday with some sprinkles of rain, cooperated beautifully for our harbour cruise.  The sun emerged from the breaking clouds giving up warm temps and beautiful views north to southern Maine, Whaleback Lighthouse (above in the distance), the Portsmouth Harbour Light,  Newcastle Island and the distant Isles of Shoals to the east and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.  We finished the evening with cocktails at the very cool bar, The Library, and grilling out back at Amy and Jeremy's on a wonderful early fall evening in New England.

Monday, September 26, 2011 - While Jeremy had to unfortunately head to work for the day, Amy had the day off and we decided to head north into the White Mountains for the day.  The weather was perfect and the leaves were already starting to change as we gained altitude.
Our main destination in the vast White Mountain  National Forest was Mt. Washington, the highest point in the Northeastern United States.  We took the self-guided Auto Road all the way to the top.

At the summit of Mt. Washington was a very cool visitors center and several historical buildings including the small observatory used back in 1934 when the highest surface wind speed ever recorded by man was clocked at 231 MPH, hence the chains on the building preventing it from blowing away.

Not bad for a Monday....

 The Mt. Washington summit is frequently shrouded by cloud cover, but we were fortunate to pick a very clear day to visit.  Despite a bit of haze, the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, to the south was stunning.  Here above the tree line, the landscape took on a very different look and reminded us a lot of Iceland.

 The Auto Road coming up and down Mt. Washington reveals some amazing views.  The above shot was taken as we descended back down the winding, tiny road which is glaringly absent of guardrails!

We concluded our trip with a pretty cool Haunted Pub Walk in downtown Portsmouth that evening.  After saying our goodbyes to Amy and Jeremy the next morning, we headed back to the airport.  What was supposed to be a short trip back to get us home by the late afternoon turned into a fairly long and grueling day of flight delays in Manchester and our connector city, Philadelphia.  Heavy fog that morning in Philly had disrupted the whole day of flights, but we finally made it home late that evening exhausted but content with our brief visit to see our friends and the lovely area in which they live.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Just hanging out in Nash-Vegas...

Sunday, September 18, 2011: We attended the 2011 season home-opener for the Tennessee Titans vs. the Baltimore Ravens with our friends, Gary and Cary.  Much thanks to our good friend, Wayne, for letting us use his season tickets since he was out of town. The Titans won in an exciting upset, 26-13.  Half-time included a stirring tribute in memory of 9/11 (photo above).  Before the game we had a delicious brunch at Mad Donna's over in East Nashville.  We all rode over to the game from E. Nashville in Cary's sweet, new Mini convertible.  After the game we walked across the Cumberland River to downtown and had an early dinner at Big River Brewing while we waited on traffic to clear out after the game.

Thursday, September 22, 2011:  We attended our second 2011 Live on the Green concert tonight downtown  with Nashville natives,  Moon Taxi, opening the show.  We now see why they won a Battle of the Bands competition here in Nashville a couple of years ago.  They were very impressive.  Next up was one of our regional favorites, The Dirty Guv'nahs, from Knoxville, who we have seen several times.  They put in a powerful hour-long set and although we did not opt for the VIP area this time, we were very close to the stage with a great view.  The mild evening temps were perfect.  See the video below for a half-minute of the outdoor rock-n-roll bliss or the much better done You Tube link below for the whole song.  We ate dinner off a couple of the popular food trucks parked nearby  that serve the Nashville area.  Ashlee chose a great sandwich and tots from The Grilled Cheeserie (photo above, left) while I had a yummy cheeseburger and sweet potato fries from Hoss Loaded Burgers.  On our way home, we got a cool view of the Titans Stadium at LP Field all lit up for Code Blue Week.  Go Titans, beat Denver!  (Editor's Note:  Which they did, 17-14!)