Believe me, even I’m surprised by my reaction to this past weekend’s record rainfall and subsequent flooding. While it was raining, I just kept laughing about it. Libby and I ran around the Farmer’s Market and drove across the Korean Vets Bridge and barely gave the rain a second thought. I had rain boots and a rain coat, it was just water, what was the big deal?
The big deal was that in the span of 48 hours, some parts of metro Nashville received over 16 inches of rain. Averages across the city were 13 inches. Seem inconsequential?
Even using the most conservative conversion rate of 3 inches of heavy, wet snow to 1 inch of rain, that would be equal to more than THREE FEET of snow.
The big deal was that three hours after we left the Farmer’s Market, it was under six feet of water. Five hours after driving across the Korean Vets Bridge, it was blocked off to cars, having been turned into just another rapid in the Cumberland River’s ever-expanding flow.
If you’ve been following me on Twitter at all this week, you’ll know that this flood is pretty much all I can think about.
This city drowned in two days and stayed underwater for most of this week. Downtown is finally resurfacing. Opryland has been mostly pumped dry. Under the scorching rays of the sun (the sun, which promptly came out on Monday morning, almost mocking the previous two days’ oppressive clouds and rain) and the heat, Bellevue has finally dried out.
We’ve been under a mandatory water conservation order all week. I haven’t showered in two days. I’ve only flushed my toilet three times this week. I’m an habitual Nalgene drinker, refilling my 32 ounce water bottle at least three times a day at work, but this week, I bought a case of bottled water for the first time in my memory. I have hairy armpits and hairy legs, my hair is an absolute disaster mostly composed of excessive amounts of hairspray, I have very few clean clothes.
I’m not complaining.
Because I am just one of many Nashvillians who were unaffected by the flood but who are doing what we can for our neighbors.
I wish I had more money to give, because I would. I wish I were going to be here this weekend, because I’d volunteer.
I wish there was some way I could convey the absolute, gut-wrenching, gnawing, heart-aching response I’ve had to this situation this week. It’s consumed me.
And if you’re confused by that (coming from me), I can only say that I initially was, too.
But everything you’re hearing (or perhaps, not hearing) about Nashville and our response is true.
Yes, I’ve scoffed at this city, frequently, in fact, since moving here. I’ve even gone so far as to say I hate it here. I’ve complained about the South and Tennessee and the horrible Southern accents I hear everyday. I’ve even pitched hissy fits in downtown parking garages about how horrible Lower Broadway and those damn tourists are.
But in spite of all that, Nashville is where I live. Like it or not (and lately, I’ve been leaning a lot more towards like), I drive these streets everyday and I talk to these people everyday and when I drive back from Cincinnati and see that tacky, neon, self-conscious skyline, I sigh and think of how nice it is to be home.
Nashville is my home now. And as a Nashvillian, my heart and head are hurting for my city.
But even more than that, I’m swelling with pride at how well this city has conducted itself this week. When the sun came out on Monday, so did the volunteers and the calls to organize and rebuild and clean up. So did the donations and the charity events. Wednesday night, I went to Rebuild This City on Rock and Roll. Five local bands played (for free), cover charge was a donation of any amount you could give — some gave pennies and quarters, some gave $10, some gave $50, t-shirts and posters were available for a suggested $10 donation, tap water — normally free — was off limits. All told, in four hours, the broke hipsters and the hillbilly punk rockers and the scenesters raised over $11,000. And that’s just one event.
The telethon last night raised $1.7 million dollars, including a $500,000 contribution from our own Taylor Swift. CrossPointe church raised $10,000 in one day and got a matching contribution from a donor. Cool People Care raised $1200 in 45 minutes when their We Are Nashville shirts went online yesterday.
Maybe it’s a Southern thing, maybe it’s the fact that we live in the Volunteer State and it’s in our heritage to get out and help, but I haven’t encountered one person with a negative attitude or an unwillingness to help this week. Financially, physically, emotionally, we’re all trying to help each other out.
Mayor Dean expects damages to exceed $1.5 billion. The tourism industry (that I will no longer be able to scorn without feel guilty) on which this city’s economy is based is crushed. The 2000 room Opryland Hotel and Convention Center isn’t expected to reopen for 6 months. Yes, we’ll rebuild, and yes, we’ll be back on our feet, but at what cost?
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look badly on this city again. I’ve ordered two We Are Nashville bumper stickers, one for my truck, one for the new car I’ll eventually get. I bought a Music City shirt at Rebuild This City. I ordered a We Are Nashville shirt this afternoon. All of that money I spent, because people in this city are just that amazing, is going directly to help with disaster relief.
I know this may not seem like a big deal to the rest of the country or to the rest of the world. And admittedly, there are bigger and more worrisome things going on in this world than a flood. But it’s happening in my front yard and I normally would never ask this of anyone, but if you’re feeling generous, please visit Hands on Nashville or the Community Fund of Middle Tennessee to learn more about how you can help us recover. We’re also collecting unused gift cards in place of cash, so if you have any gift cards you don’t think you’ll ever use, please send them to me and I’ll let you know exactly how they’re being used.
As East Nashville’s own Will Hoge says, “Down here, we’re washed by the water / the water can’t wash us away.”
We are Nashville.
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Tags: home, hope, love, Nashville, Nashville Flood, water conservation, We are Nashville, weather
The rules? List 10 things that make you happy, try to do at least one of them today, and link back to the person that tagged you. Then tag 10 other bloggers that brighten your day.
I’m not going to bother tagging anyone, since I think maybe, at most, two active bloggers read my blog. But here goes:
The West Wing
I’ve seen every episode of the series, and I got the full set for Christmas. I’ve been rewatching it for the past couple weeks and I love it just as much this time around. Trying to decide who I have a bigger fictional crush on–Josh, Toby, or Danny–is maddening, but part of the reason the show makes me so happy. The writing is beautiful, the politics are mine, and the passion makes me miss DC and legislative research very badly. I’m sure I’ll get a pleasant email from my dad about this, but quotes like the following are the reason I love Aaron Sorkin:
“Because I am tired of working for candidates who make me think I should be embarrassed to believe what I believe, Sam. I’m tired of getting them elected. You all need some therapy, because somebody came along and said liberal means soft on crime, soft on drugs, soft on communism, soft on defense, and we’re going to tax ya back to the stone age, because people shouldn’t have to go to work if they don’t want to. And instead of saying ‘Well, excuse me, you right-wing, reactionary, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-education, anti-choice, pro-gun, leave it to beaver trip back to the fifties,’ we cowered in the corner. And said ‘Please Don’t Hurt Me’. No more.”
Late Night Texts
Most people get annoyed when their phone beeps in the middle of the night. I can’t help smiling. My phone is loud and my text alert is obnoxious, so no matter what time it is, I’ll always wake up. And only about four people text me on any regular basis, and they’re four of my favorite people in the world. So getting texts from them, even at 6:00 in the morning as I did a couple weeks ago, makes me happy.
Today, I cleaned my apartment, did laundry, and finally got the mildew out of my shower. I love the feeling of getting those pesky domestic chores finished because it means I don’t have to do them again for a while.
I know that’s an awfully broad category, but everything about music makes me happy. Today while I cleaned, I listened to Marah for the first time in a very long time and I remembered exactly why I love them. Passion Pit makes me want to dance. The Indie Underground Hour on Lightening 100 tonight made me really enjoy Swedish music, oddly enough. And even though they didn’t have Bonny Billy’s new album in stock, just the fact that Grimey’s is open on a cold night makes me very, very happy.
My favorite neighborhood in Nashville, Hillsboro Village has everything. Jackson’s, Fido, Provence, the Belcourt, Fire Finch, and, most importantly, Bookman/Bookwoman. I could spend everyday walking around 21st Avenue South and not get bored.
I’ve been pretty sick this past week, and it’s been extremely cold, so I’ve been drinking peppermint tea by the gallon. It’s hot and minty and delicious and it clears my sinuses.
I’ve been doing a lot of complaining about my 365 day photo project lately. I’ve already done it once before, so this second time around has been really irritating me. Most days, my photos are terrible and boring. But on the days when my camera cooperates, or my hair cooperates, I remember why I wanted to do this project again.
Actually, any kind of egg. I love breakfast and I really love eggs. Omelets, scrambled eggs, egg sandwiches. If Publix hadn’t been out of eggs during the Great Snowstorm Rush of 2010, I would have been able to eat them for breakfast this morning.
I am a swimmer. I have been a swimmer all my life. I started competitively swimming when I was about 5 or 6, and swam all through high school. I try to swim at least 5 or 6 days a week, but since I’ve been sick this week, I haven’t been in the pool for a while. Swimming long course outside in the summer is one of my favorite things to do, but I’ll settle for swimming a mile of short course inside in the winter.
I had the privilege of getting to go on an exciting vacation every year as a kid. That’s something that I’ve carried over into adulthood. I love seeing new places, seeing as many places as possible, and going places that maybe not many people go. The aforementioned Lis is getting married this summer, and I can’t wait to go back to Glasgow (yes, Scotland) for the ceremony. I have a three-day weekend next weekend and another one over Presidents’ Day in February, and I’d love to take a quick trip somewhere.
So there you go. Ten things that make me happy. And I did more than one of them today.
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Tags: happy, lists, memes
At any rate, and without further ado, let’s see how 2009 stacked up.
You Can’t Even Begin to Know How Many Times I’ve Told Myself, “I Told You So”: 2009 In Review
Top Ten Albums of 2009, Chronologically
1. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (February 17)
Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell’s second solo release was one hell of a notch above 2007’s Sirens of the Ditch. The perfect combination of Southern storytelling, whiskey-soaked blues, and brokenheartedness, this album rambles and unwinds with the laziest of Sunday afternoons.
Standout track: “Streetlights”
2. Bell x1, Blue Lights on the Runway (March 3)
“The Great Defector” hooked me the first time I heard it on the radio. It was part Talking Heads, part The Cars, and totally amazing. This album has techno-dance tracks, revisionist histories, and gorgeous romances. It’s a bit different from Bell x1’s older albums, but no less enjoyable.
Standout track: “Light Catches Your Face”
3. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Beware (March 17)
Will Oldham is rather a new addition to my musical library, and with his ever-changing monikers and his vast backlist, I didn’t really get into this album until a month or two ago. Will’s voice is scratchy and unpolished, like sandpaper on hardwood, but his melodies are lush and folky. Though he’s from Louisville, BPB sounds like the Nashville I know and adore.
Standout track: “I Don’t Belong to Anyone”
4. The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love (March 24)
When this album was released, I claimed it was going to be my album of the year. It damn near killed me the first time I heard it, and seeing it played live from start to finish pretty much finished me off. Yet, much as I still love it (and the band that recorded it), the rock opera schtick wore me out after the first dozen listens.
Standout track: “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”
5. Great Lake Swimmers, Lost Channels (March 31)
When Libby showed up at my apartment in May with a copy of this album, I remembered exactly why I used to listen to “Moving Pictures, Silent Films” over and over in high school. This album is by turns poppy and ethereal, but always beautiful. Tony Dekker’s voice is a ghost in a Canadian fog and his lyrics are the lighthouses on the shores of the Great Lakes–bright, eerie, and steady.
Standout track: “Unison Falling Into Harmony”
6. Passion Pit, Manners (May 17)
The first time I heard “Sleepyhead”, I told Libby that Passion Pit sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks ate MGMT. “I’m supposed to like this?” I asked. It took a few minutes, but when I finally got used to the bubble gum and the acid and the ridiculousness, I had to admit that I was inadvertently taken in by them. They might be the most incongruous band in my library, but they just make me so damn happy.
Standout track: “To Kingdom Come”
7. Pete Yorn, Back & Fourth (June 23)
Ah, Pete. His fourth studio album and he’s still the same sad, sweet songwriter he was on MusicForTheMorningAfter. So some of his lyrics might be contrived and so his chords are kind of generic, but something about Pete Yorn still tugs my heart. Back & Fourth was, if nothing else, a significant improvement over Nightcrawler.
Standout track: “Social Development Dance”
8. The Avett Brothers, I & Love & You (September 29)
Banjos! Brothers! Allusions to The Wizard of Oz! This North Carolina band does it all. And they do it with a perfect combination of country and punk, of folk and pop. Some tracks made me laugh, but a few of them made me cry. And my heart almost broke when their Halloween show in Nashville sold out.
Standout track: “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”
9.The Mountain Goats, The Life of the World to Come (October 6)
Jesus. (And I do mean that literally.) For an album based on 12 different verses of the Bible, TLOTWTC is surprisingly accessible. And frankly, it’s one of the most amazing records I’ve ever heard, not just in 2009. John Darnielle is a master of interpretation, bringing love, grief, self-destruction, and redemption to these verses without ever preaching. This album is both a struggle with and a hope in God, and Darnielle tackles both sides with grace and delicacy.
Standout track: “1 John 4:16”
10. The Swell Season, Strict Joy (October 27)
I doubt anything could come as a more perfect follow up to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s Once soundtrack than this album. Strict Joy follows a couple through a rocky relationship and out of a breakup. Glen and Markéta’s voices both compliment and distract from each other’s, but theirs is a unique and undeniably beautiful sound. I’ve said it before, and I’m not ashamed to admit it now, but I’d make out with the sound of Glen Hansard’s voice if it were possible. I love this album in its entirety.
Standout track: “High Horses”
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Tags: 2009, albums, Cincinnati, gigs, lists, music, Nashville, year in review
For how quintessentially Nashville today has been, the soundtrack to my afternoon is a little incongruous. Rather than doing my Christmas shopping to the tune of someone like Nashville native, Will Hoge, I did my shopping to the snap, crackle, and pop sound of The Minor Leagues.
The Minor Leagues, or TML as they’re known by their fans and friends, not only come from my hometown, but their founding members also happen to be one of my best friends and one of my former colleagues. My journalistic integrity is shot to hell by that sentence alone, but suffice it to say that The Minor Leagues know how to take pop-punk and turn it into something that is not only tolerable, but is in fact immensely enjoyable.
Patrick and Ben first put TML together in 2001 and, after a revolving door of 56 other band members, have just put out their fifth album, This Story Is Old, I Know, But It Goes On. If putting out five albums in eight years doesn’t give The Minor Leagues enough credibility in your book, how about a slot at last summer’s MidPoint Music Festival, a feature and photo shoot for Cincinnati’s CityBeat magazine, and more airplay on WOXY than Thom Yorke?
This Story Is Old… is a nearly perfect soundtrack to the messiness of being a twenty-something. Whether that’s because it was written by twenty-somethings or because it was written by twenty-somethings who also record their music in the bedroom of my best friend’s house, I don’t know. This record is so…normal. And it’s one-hundred percent relatable because of that.
Ben Walpole’s voice is like bubble gum gone hard, and flavored more like PBR than candy. His song writing is pretty epic, too, which is hilarious to me because it seems nearly impossible to reconcile the Ben Walpole I know with the Ben Walpole who comes through in these eleven songs. There are some absolute gems on this album. “Good Boys” is a fun bop that will always remind me of the last time I saw The Minor Leagues play at Southgate House. “Projections of a Person” is an incredibly practical, and therefore all the more sweet, love story. But “A Chance Encounter (In Cincinnati Tonight)” might be the album’s standout track. Possibly because staying “up late in Cincinnati” is one of my favorite pasttimes.
This Story Is Old… incorporates all kinds of nontraditional sounds. The liner notes not only list the five main members of the band, there’s also a “Featuring” list highlighting trumpets and violas, in addition to a “With” list of various handclappers (including Amber and Katrina), laughers, whistlers, and even a cameo vocal performance by Katrina and Patrick’s cat, Evgeny Meowlkins.
All told, This Story Is Old, I Know, But It Goes On is a happy-go-lucky, pop record that is infinitely listenable. It not only makes me proud to call Cincinnati my hometown, it also makes me proud of my extremely talented friends. I might be biased, but The Minor Leagues ought to be playing in the major leagues.
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Tags: BookMan/BookWoman, Cincinnati, friends, Grimey's, music, Nashville, The Minor Leagues, This Story Is Old I Know But It Goes On
It’s days like this that make Nashville start to feel like home for me. I drove up to Hillsboro Village to browse the shelves at Bookman Bookwoman, and driving down 21st Avenue South, I was struck by just how pretty Nashville is. The yellow leaves of the trees clash so vibrantly with the painted reds and blues of the brick storefronts, you’d think the trees were changing colors on purpose, just to enhance the kitschiness. The sun coming over the rooftops was reflected off BMW windshields and cyclists’ sunglasses. And the Sunday brunch crowd at Pancake Pantry wound all the way around the block to Wedgewood.
Days like this bring out the best of Nashville. The students taking a break from studying to enjoy what will most likely be the last sunny days of the year, before the winter rains start falling. The small crowd of Bengals fans sitting on the patio at Sam’s, yelling “Who Dey!” to each other and putting a tiny grin on my face, thinking about my mom tailgating at home. The hipsters and artists sitting on the corner, rolling cigarettes and selling paintings and screen prints. The families holding their kids’ hands as they cross the street, ignoring, like everyone else, the crosswalks and street signs. The tourists, poking their heads in shops and marvelling at the fact that no, Nashville isn’t just about country music. The cyclists and the runners and the dog-walkers. It seemed like everyone wanted to be out today.
It’s days like today that make me adore Nashville, make me want to adopt it as my permanent second home. The sun and the books spilling off the shelves at Bookman and the Egg McFido I had to wait twenty minutes in line for and the guy riding his bike up 21st Avenue holding, not the handlebars, but a tiny black puppy instead. This is what Sundays are made for. They’re for forgetting the nausea I feel when I think about going back to work on Monday; they’re about burying the sinking feeling I get when I think about where I want my life to go and what I want to do with myself; they’re for imagining life as it could be.
The amazing thing about days like today is that they give me the impression that things just might work out. When I walked into Bookman and found, almost right away, a beautiful hardcover edition of a book I’ve just promised a friend I’d read in exchange for his reading A Tale of Two Cities. Its binding is coming loose and it smells like an attic, but it was only $8.95 and it’s so old it doesn’t even have a copyright page. But it’s that kind of serendipity that makes me feel like I don’t have to know exactly what I’m doing right now. It makes me feel like I can just take the days as they come and work on getting where I want to be in the meantime.
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Tags: a little personal, adventure, Nashville
She recommended Bazan, but in the end, when I got to Grimey’s and did a test-listen of each album, the Avett Brothers, in addition to catching my ear, really captured my heart.
The album comes, not with liner notes, but with a 500-word “mission statement” from Seth Avett, which, if you can squint enough to read the tiny type, is well worth the effort. It’s a sweet precursor to the love songs contained inside. And if I’m honest, it made me a little weepy when I’d finished reading it. (A good indication of the album’s quality, in my opinion. And I wasn’t let-down.)
The title track, and ablum opener, “I and Love and You” is slow and steady, with an almost Beatles-esque piano/percussion combination, and vocal harmonies as discordant and lovely as the sounds of the city to which the refrain refers: “Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.”
With a title like I and Love and You, it’s obvious that the theme of the album would be love, and while songs like “January Wedding” and “Kick Drum Heart” are endearing for their plodding banjos and heavy percussion respectively, for me, the most beautiful and truly stand-out tracks are the ones that don’t deal with love, but instead refer to the insecurities and uncertainties of life.
“Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” is easily the best track on the album. It’s got everything: pianos, strings, full, throaty vocals, and stellar lyrics. Another standout, “The Perfect Space”, is a quirky punk rock anthem sandwiched between two slices of a lonely and uncertain melody. The combination is better than a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, and the punk rock filling lends a little lightness to an album that borders almost on depressive.
“Ill With Want”, “Tin Man”, and “Incomplete and Insecure” round out the album nicely, splicing the second half’s love songs with little doses of confusion, introspection, and obviously, insecurity.
The album’s shifts are unsubtle, but I don’t know if that’s a problem. Most of the songs transition illogically or abruptly into the next song, with little room for digestion in between. It’s less an album to be played front-to-back than it is to be shuffled and skipped. I don’t ever like to say a song is annoying if I really love the band or love the album, but a couple of I and Love and You‘s tracks really take away from the magic of the rest.
All-in-all, it’s a solid album from a band I’d been unfamiliar with until about a month ago. After my first few listens, I liked their sound enough to seek out the rest of their discography, and I’m slowly getting to know their decade’s worth of tunes. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover the Avett Brothers early enough to secure tickets to their Halloween night gig at the Ryman. It’s been sold out for weeks, Craigslist posters won’t respond to my emails, and I’ve been out-bid on eBay a few times.
You can listen to the title track here and I highly recommend it.
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Tags: I and Love and You, The Avett Brothers
I was familiar with the Irish band, in the sense that I’d heard a few of their songs in the past, and thanks to Lightning 100, I could sing along to their catchy single, “The Great Defector”. But the music that came out of those five guys from that tiny stage was nothing like I was prepared to hear. Based on the poppy beat and quirky lyrics of “The Great Defector”, I was expecting something like the Talking Heads to surround me with snyth and funk. What I got sounded more like the Great Lake Swimmers, with an ethereal, intangible sound. Tony Dekker’s voice might be a heavy Canadian fog slowly covering the ground, but Paul Noonan’s quiet Irish lilt was like scythed hay in late summer, dripping in golds and oranges and reds.
Their performance was a perfect harmonization of four different voices and instruments as varied as a child’s Casio keyboard, cowbells, a space-ship-rock-‘n’-roll type guitar, a kazoo, a harmonica, a tiny tambourine, and as many as four kinds of guitars occasionally playing all at once. And though their studio albums include that harbinger of musical joy, the banjo, they never did bring it out last night. Bell x1 is kind of a musical hybrid: something along the lines of Radiohead meets Great Lake Swimmers meets Glen Hansard. They’re uptempo and raucous, while still emanating something subdued and melancholy. Paul Noonan’s occasional falsetto shook me to bones. At other times, his whisky-warm voice drowned the tiny bar in sultriness.
Aside from their undeniably cool sound, Bell x1 put on a really fun and engaging performance. I’m fairly certain Paul Noonan was reasonably drunk when they took the stage, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that five Irish gentlemen would down shots of whisky at an alarming rate and still manage to remain standing. And playing their instruments coherently. They closed out one of their songs with a brief cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”, but made it all their own, so much so that for a minute, I couldn’t assign the lyrics to any song I’d ever heard, even though I was clearly singing along. They told kitschy little anecdotes about enjoying Nashville’s Pancake Pantry and being stunned by the disclaimers on Lays Light Potato Chips, warning of possible anal leakage. Of Bell x1’s four albums, only two are available in the US, but Paul Noonan announced that we should “feel free to steal our records from the internet. It’s all about spreading and sharing the music.”
The highlight of the set came with “Eve the Apple of My Eye”, a slow, tender song oozing with sensuality and some Hold Steady-esque religious grappling. Later, Noonan introduced the song “Amelia” by pointing out that he and Earhart’s co-pilot, Fred Noonan, share the same surname. “I once did a geneology and it turns out that maybe, it’s unlikely, but maybe Fred’s my great-great-grandad or something,” he said with a grin. The song itself was a tinkling little story about what might have happened in the Electra when Noonan and Earhart realized they were going down. I wonder did they kick back when they knew the game was up? Or maybe they went on to grow oranges and pears/on their own island, Amelia and Fred.
At the end of the set, Noonan asked if we wanted them to leave the stage before returning for an encore, but told us it was his preference not to go. “It seems like a long walk to the back of the room just to come back up here a minute later.” On the suggestion of some tipsy ned in the front, they ended the night with “One Stringed Harp”, which in turn faded into a cover of The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize?” and with that, I ducked out into the breezy Nashville night, happy and pleasantly surprised by the music I’d found inside.
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Tags: 3rd & Lindsley, Bell x1, gigs, Nashville