In years past, Nashville’s landed classes have always had a look of distress about them whenever Fan Fair began each summer. As the RVs poured into town and the country fans began clogging the Shoney’s restaurants, you could almost see the smirks on locals’ faces. You’d have thought a cloud of locusts had settled on their lawns.
Notwithstanding such disagreeableness, this week-long orgy of country music concerts and plenty of up-close-and-personals with the stars has been a boon to the cityand more of a jewel than many of us realize. When it began in 1972, the event was an instant hit. With tour bus operators aggressively selling Fan Fair packages here, and artists willingly participating in the often grubby enterprise of greeting fans for hours on end, Fan Fair took on a heady shine.
It was proletarian, to be certain. Those who trekked here were working-class fans, men and women in cowboy hats and T-shirts who decided that Fan Fair was to be their vacation destination of the year. After all, their pocket books could afford little more.
Now, however, the long knives appear to be drawn on Fan Fair. Tour bus operators complain the event has grown tired; others say ticket sales are going poorly. Meanwhile, one wonders whether the record labels really have the stomach to encourage their increasingly pop-leaning artists to participate in the event any longer. A look at the fans who used to come here for Fan Fair, and a quick listen to the music being produced on Music Row, reveals a schism both wide and deep.
These days, commercial country music is frequently little more than a slick Top 40 tune with a mandolin or pedal steel mixed down low, if at all. The audience is suburban, comfortable, at least one generation removed from the farm. The Fan Fair audience may not be down on the farm anymore, but it likes country music the way it used to be (and occasionally still is): honest, down-to-earth, with a definite, unabashed twang. Sure, the economy may be treating these people better, but that doesn’t mean they want to hear N’Sync mixed in with their Alabama, much less their Alan Jackson.
Fan Fair may need a few tweaks here and there. It cannot stay the same for ever. But rather than get rid of it, as some have suggested, we hope that it can remain in place for years to comeperhaps reenergized with traditional sounds, new ideas, and fresh talent. Surely there’s a way to make the event appeal to country’s new and old breed alike. The rich heritage of bringing fan and artist together is like no other artistic event that comes to mind. The truth is that Fan Fair exists alongside the Parthenon, the Ryman Auditorium, the Titans, and the other local institutions, places, and events that define our city. Keep Fan Fair. Make it work.
You can do it Pete. Feeding the trolls is pointless.
No pics of the thong wedgie? Damn!
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Puss in Boots.........that fits him to a T!