The Velvet Rope Has Come to Nashville. Sort of. On the Rocks, a bar on Demonbreun, has instituted a new dress code banning those who are wearing certain brands of clothing. The brands, which represent what fashionistas would call “urban wear,” are some of the biggest names in hip-hop fashion: Southpole, Ecko, Enyce, Phat Farm, Fubu, etc. These threads tend to be worn extremely baggy and saggy and are also the uniform of urban and suburban rap-gangsta wannabes and, in some cases, real-life gang bangers. The managers of the place say that the new dress code is meant to keep the “thug and gang” element out of their bar so that they can keep fights and stabbings to a minimum. “We don’t want bandanas, guns or knives,” says Jeff Ponchilla, one of the managers at On the Rocks. “We want a safe, party atmosphere.” But at least one group of Nashvillians has taken umbrage with the new rules. When a crew of Vanderbilt Law School students went to the bar last weekend, a number of black students in the group refused to enter on the grounds that the sign was racist. It’s true that these clothing labels are heavily marketed toward black consumers. Fubu, one of the banned labels, is actually an acronym that stands for For Us By Us. We’re pretty sure that by “Us” they don’t mean country music fans. The law students complained to the management, who refused to take down the sign. Ponchilla insists that since the new rules have been in effect, it’s mostly “white thugs” who have been refused entry. “We’ve kept way more white guys out than black,” he says. “By far.” Ponchilla also says that the rules aren’t set in stone. “If someone comes in wearing a nice Sean John shirt that’s buttoned up, that’s not a problem.”
Although dress codes aren’t all that common in Nashville’s laid-back scene, East Coast clubs from Miami to New York often have dress restrictions that are nearly identical to the ones posted at On the Rocks. Besides, says Ponchilla, “our head bartender is black, and she helped us write the rules.”
More Velvet Rope News. The paparazzi’s flashbulbs glistened as Nashville’s glitterati arrived in high style, riding in the back of humongous stretch limos—you almost felt sorry for the poor chumps who could only afford the family Jaguar—and looking like the stars of March of the Penguins as they waddled up the red carpet in white tie and tails. Saturday’s gala opening of the new $123.5 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center was a spectacle of glitz and conspicuous consumption—tickets for the high and mighty went for $2,500 a piece. Yet the event was a bona fide musical triumph. And now Nashville and its hometown orchestra have a symphony space of the first rank. No doubt, the hall will increase the orchestra’s national profile, while at home improving its ticket sales and fund-raising efforts. With any luck, Schermerhorn may also help the NSO reach a new artistic plateau. Schermerhorn’s acoustics, which have been fine-tuned like a priceless Stradivarius by acoustician Paul Scarbrough and his firm Akustiks LLC, proved to be teardrop clear and excitingly alive. Over time, the clarity of the hall will surely help the orchestra play with greater precision and ensemble, since the musicians can hear themselves better. But such acoustics can also be something of a sonic fishbowl, revealing a multitude of musical sins. So it came as perhaps no surprise last Saturday that we heard an orchestra that is not yet as good as its venue. The NSO’s rendition of Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture,” for instance, suffered from a lack of precise ensemble. At times, the winds and brass had trouble keeping up with the violins. The result was a performance that often showed its seams, a ragtag quality that we might have missed in a lesser hall. And yet.... At its level best the NSO can be quite good, especially in music for which it has an affinity, such as Samuel Barber’s “Second Essay.” Despite its sterile and academic sounding title, this is a piece of real Brahmsian warmth, and the NSO, under the expert direction of music advisor Leonard Slatkin, did it justice. One big disappointment: the gala’s only piece of new music, a Triple Concerto by banjo player Bela Fleck, bass player Edgar Meyer and tabla (Indian drum) virtuoso Zakir Hussain, was reminiscent of a heinous science experiment, like grafting a human head on the body of a dog. The trio of soloists played a kind of stylized world music (bluegrass filtered through the sensibilities of the Asian subcontinent) that was engaging and often exhilarating. But it was forcibly mated with a symphonic accompaniment that amounted to little more than a movie soundtrack, that did little more than repeat the motifs of the soloists.Two movements from Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”), which closed the program, provided perhaps a hopeful hint of things to come. The performance was full of power, drama and starburst luminosity. This was a deeply felt and nuanced rendition that could rattle the rafters with its triple fortes and soothe the soul with its dulcet pianissimos. It was so intensely in the moment that it seemingly made time stand still. And that, in turn, is the mark of a fine orchestra.
The Metro school board’s final decision on a new school uniform policy is still at least a week away, but students may soon be wishing they had already joined the khaki-clad army of polo-shirted clones.