Photo by Tanya Wright.
For more photos, check out the slideshow at nashvillescene.com.
Downtown. On Halloween. A Friday night. A perfect storm to hinder us from arriving to the Ryman in anything resembling a timely fashion. With smaller pay lots already filled and the availability of street parking laughable, we settled for the path of least resistance and parked in a lot for the Sommet Center, which on this unholy night was playing host to goth-industrial rabble-rousers Nine Inch Nails. At first we thought this might be a perfect place to get in the holiday spirit, but when we found ourselves in the middle of the goth gaggle, we realized that the crowd looks like this at any given NIN show—hot topified.
We next descended upon the cultural train wreck that is Lower Broad, where scores of people had coincidentally decided to dress up as douchebags for Halloween. All this meant we didn't make it inside the Ryman until 8:45, missing Bobby Bare Jr. The scene inside the building was only slightly better than that outside. We know the Ryman is legendary and has that special stained glass, pews and churchy flair but it can also be a pain the ass. There is only one bathroom in the lobby, the smoking area is the size of a horse coral, and the bar lines are egregiously long and slow. Next time we come here we're gonna be sure to insert catheters, stock up on nicotine patches, and pre-game it over at Rippy's.
Luckily we were able to make it inside for The Hold Steady, who were decked out in forefathers garb, with white wigs, triangular pirate hats, and pantaloons. Proclaiming this to be their first time in Nashville, they played their literate bar rock with a special determination to win over the crowd, half of which were Drive-By Truckers fans passively sitting down while the Hold Steady fans rocked the fuck out in scattered factions around the auditorium. It was an odd dynamic that made us only wish we could have a seen the band at a standing room venue with "people touching people they don't even know."
The end of The Hold Steady's set saw a mass female exodus. (There weren't many women to begin with.) What's the deal? The Drive-By Truckers must just have that thing that appeals to the 35-year-old lonely male types, because during their set we found ourselves standing in the middle of a crowd —over 90% dudes— who are all totally gay for this band. They sing along to every word and appear to be on the edge of tears and/or fainting like teenage girls at a Back Street Boys concert circa 1998 or Eastern Europeans at a Michael Jackson concert circa 1988. And over a band that sounds like The Wallflowers, but with credibility and a pedal steel player. They played a song that sounds like Garth Brooks' "Thunder Rolls." (You know, the foreboding, domestic violence-themed opener to No Fences.) And vocally, Patterson Hood is a dead ringer for John Mellencamp. Yawn.