Posts Tagged music

Nashville: First impressions

IMG_2455One of the perks of writing about cars is getting invited to different places by car companies to go and drive them. That’s what got me down to Nashville last week.

Nissan held an event in one of the Music City’s nicer suburban neighborhoods, but I also had enough down time to explore some of the city itself.

Visitors often harp on the contrasting elements of cities, and Nashville is anything but homogenous. However, that doesn’t really add much to its charm.

Home base for my two-day stay was the Omni, a brand new hotel abutting a brand new convention center, a new-ish sports arena, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. You’ll never see sidewalks as free of gum and urine stains as the ones that surround this block.

This seems to be the image Nashville is trying to project. Almost everywhere I went, I saw new construction or vacant lots ripe for development. It’s a landscape of avant grade restaurants improbably wedged into industrial ruinscapes.

Yet just a block from the Omni and its pristine sidewalks is Broadway, the heart of Nashville’s tourist district. This is where you’ll find all of the honky tonks, novelty Elvis statues, and cowboy boots you’d expect of the home of country music.

This area is definitely not pristine. Everything’s chintzy, worn in, and a bit dirty, as a stereotypical tourists district should be. It’s also hermetically sealed off from the rest of Nashville.

Tennessee State CapitolHeading further downtown, there wasn’t much else to see. It’s full of buildings, all in good repair, but there’s nothing really there. Maybe I missed something during this admittedly brief visit, but I couldn’t find a reason to stop until I reached the Tennesse State Capitol.

This may have actually been my favorite part of Nashville. The building sits high on the hill with great views, and there’s an epic statue of Andrew Jackson standing over a small memorial containing the remains of James K. Polk, his presidential protege. The symbolism was fantastic.

So while there were many postcard views, Nashville just didn’t seem like a real city. It was decidedly urban, but it’s hard to imagine what people actually do there when the tourists go away.

Or do the tourists just never go away?

Elvis statue in Nashville

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Instant Isolation

Pandora logoI really hate “Moves Like Jagger.” It’s a mediocre pop song with a stupid premise. Is Maroon 5 so lame that they have to invoke Mick Jagger? Are they too uncool to sing about themselves? But I digress.

That song came on the radio this morning, so I had to start flipping through channels to get away from it. If I had satellite radio, an iPod dock, or some form of internet radio, I could be reasonably assured that I would never have to hear about Jagger’s moves ever again. However, that’s not a world I would want to live in.

The Digital Age gives people the opportunity to focus on what they like, to the exclusion of everything else. No matter how esoteric your taste in music is, you can build a playlist  around it. Like Indy-emo-punk rock played on the hubcaps of a 1977 Chevy Caprice? Just do an iTunes Power Search, or punch some keywords into Pandora.

That is definitely a good thing, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are other things out there. Most people listen to the radio while driving, but thanks to digital music, they never have to listen to the same music as everyone else. Many cars come with internet or satellite radios, and internal hard drives that can store a person’s entire music library. The iPod has become a shape-shifter.

Hearing your favorite song on the radio used to be a moment of joy, because you had to wade through all the dreck of bad songs, commercials, and annoying DJs to get to it. Today, we live in an age of instant gratification. Again, everyone deserves to hear what they want, when they want (power to the listeners!) but we have to consider the adverse effects of this technology.

Is it possible that we’re getting too compartmentalized? We have a good idea of what we like, but do we know what other people like? It helps to at least be aware of what other people are reading, watching, or hearing. At the very least, it helps us figure out what we don’t like and, consequently, who we are. It can also help us relate to each other more easily, instead of walling ourselves off from the rest of the world in little boxes of taste.

Derivative pop songs can be very annoying, if you’re not into bad music, but not everyone has the same taste. Along with opposable thumbs, difference is the most essential part of being human. With that in mind, remembering that there are other people out there besides ourselves can’t be a bad thing. It might even create a little empathy (gasp!). Alright, maybe this is taking things a little too far. However, one thing is for sure: traditional radio helps you appreciate the little things, like every blessed moment “Moves Like Jagger” is off the air.

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Car shows are stuck in the ’50s

A trip to a large car show last weekend reminded me of one of the most puzzling aspects of the show scene: the music. There is music wafting from the loudspeakers at every car show, to create atmosphere, I guess, and it is always from the 1950s. To the show n’ shine crowd, Elvis is still king.

To clarify, this was a vintage car show, as are most of the popular public events held throughout the summer in the U.S. I wasn’t expecting the DJ to blast Lady Gaga, but the organizers should have been more conscious of the variety of eras the assembled cars represented.

Yes, there were many 1955-57 Thunderbirds, Buick Roadmasters, and Cadillacs with pedestrian-impaling tail fins. But the cutoff date was 1971, so there were many cars from the 1960s, from Buick Rivieras to Camaros and Chargers. There was even an E-Type Jaguar.

At car shows, music is supposed to create a nostalgic ambiance, but don’t the people reminiscing about their youth in the Kennedy/Johnson years want some era-appropriate songs?

It’s not like there is a lack of choice. In 1967, Chevy brought out the Camaro, and the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If you bought a Hemi Charger in 1968, Jimi Hendrix’s cover of All Along the Watchtower would be one of the newest songs on the radio.

If going to a vintage car show is all about reliving the “glory days,” people should not be subjected to music that was out of style when the now-45-year-old muscle cars were new.

In fact, music choice should work the other way, too: if a Model T shows up, play some ragtime, or crank some big band tunes for the military enthusiasts in their WWII Jeeps.

Cars are a major part of American popular culture, and that connection is not confined to the 1950s. You can only listen to the “Golden Oldies” so many times.

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