I've heard a lot of people say lately that they're bored with Nashville nightlife and are sick of doing "the same old thing." For the past month, the prevailing feeling has been, "Let's do something different this weekend." This Friday, I did. Having a Titans game on Friday night was a treat in and of itself. Yes, it was preseason, but the fact that it was early Friday eve and not late Sunday afternoon allowed us to cheer until hoarse, drink until our scorched throats were soothed, repeat as necessary and still have the whole weekend ahead of us. My friends and I left the game right around 10 p.m. and tried to make our way across the Gateway Bridge. Alas, traffic snags forced us to take the interstate, turning what should have been a five-minute drive into a 25-minute loop around town. Finally, we made it to the Gateway Entertainment Complex, where we caught the local improvisational theater troupe Ideaprov.
The Gateway Entertainment Complex is an ambitious and heavily neon-clad mega-club that replaced the much maligned and scandal-ridden Nashville Castle. Though the building received a major facelift and interior overhaul, a lone turret is still visible from the outside. Ideaprov performs in Icons comedy/karaoke club, one of several establishments inside the five-story, 47,000-square-foot complex, which also includes Creole restaurant The Big Easy, a bi-level Top 40 nightclub called Evolution and a rooftop bar called The Vue.
Ideaprov's approach to improv will be familiar to anyone who's ever seen Whose Line Is It Anyway? There's a lot of give-and-take between the audience and the players, who solicit people in the crowd for made-up titles, plot motivations and the like, out of which the troupe then creates an impromptu performance. At one point during our show, the players asked the audience for a faux title. Someone excitedly called out, "Jewish People," which was followed by gasps and raised eyebrows. Someone else countered with, "The Chinese Man of Hurricanes." My Jewish cohort was disappointed when the Ideaprov players chose the latter, and when one of them took on an embellished Chinese accent, she shook her head in astonishment. "They're afraid to do a Jewish skit, but it's A-OK to make fun of Chinese people? I'm embarrassed for them." Sure, it was a bad idea, but improv isn't easy, and being perfectly PC must be darn near impossible.
After the Ideaprov show, Icons morphs into a high-tech karaoke club. As people stepped up to the mic, we opted to explore the rest of the Gateway Complex. My group commented on the many lives of the white elephant that sits at 300 Second Ave. S., from the old Music City Mix Factory to Trafalgar Square to The Castle, and now this. As they reminisced about the Mix Factory days, I noticed little details that must have taken considerable planning, like the elaborate faux finishing that covers the walls, the unique male/female caricatures that identify the various bathroom doors and the pulsing light displays. We made our way into Evolution, the 18,000-square-foot dance club intended to serve as Gateway's flagship. At 11:30 p.m., it was bereft of dancers, except for us and four other people. "This building just has bad mojo," remarked one native Nashvillian friend. "They should make it into a movie theater."
We avoided the gazes of the hopeful bartenders who stood in wait at Evolutions and went up two more flights of stairs to the roof. Even if the dance club was all but barrenas was the case at Gateway's grand opening in JulyThe Vue had its own little scene. The Vue is a no-frills, open-air rock 'n' roll bar with a small stage, decent seating and cheap beer that's already attracting some local rock bands. Beyond the covered bar, there are three sizable patios offering unparalleled views of the city and beyond. In addition to the resident young rockers and music industry types, there was a dustier crew engaged in a heated arm-wrestling competition. We felt completely removed from the rest of the Gateway Complex, and after the weird vibes of Evolutions, we felt like we'd found the perfect little getaway. Next time I visit the Gateway Complex, I'm bypassing Evolutions and taking the elevator straight to the top.