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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Show Review: Americana Music Festival & Conference 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee

The Octagon, a civil war type memorial

Show Review: Americana Music Festival & Conference 2016
 in Nashville, Tennessee

   It was back in 2014 when I began to fuck with country music, and by extension, Nashville.  Among my formative experiences in that area was a May, 2014 trip to Nashville as a tourist.  I stayed in east Nashville, ate at some quality restaurants, went to Robert's Western World, visited the Country Music Hall of Fame.  I was impressed by the combination of surface and depth in the music industry there.  You didn't just have the hipsters of East Nashville, you had the publishers on publisher's row.   You didn't just have the touristy bars of the Broadway strip, you had the measured tones of quality museum speak in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The Ryman Auditorium, historic home of the Grand Ole Opry, is a perfect example of the strengths of Nashville.  Although it no longer hosts the Grand Ole Opry, it has remained as a tour-able site during the day and a classic venue, host to all types of bands and genres, in the evening.
exhibit from Octagon Hall in Kentucky

  In 2014, I went on the tour.  Last week, I returned to the Ryman Auditorium to watch the Americana Honors and Awards Show.  The Americana Honors and Awards Show is the highlight of the larger Americana Music Festival & Conference, which started in 2000.  The Americana Music Festival & Conference is impressive, and although I've never actually attended SXSW, I nodded sagely in agreement when others called it a "low energy south by southwest."   Sounded apt to me.  I was there last week because of Margo Price.   I'm not professionally involved, but my girlfriend manages her (she is an employee of Monotone Music, owned by Ian Montone.)  The rumor was that Price was in line to win the 2016 Americana Honors and Awards Show award for Breakthrough Artist.

Margo Price playing Joey by Concrete Blonde with Shovel and Rope

  I don't fetishize awards, heaven knows, but the rise of Margo Price is an incredible story for anyone with an interest in independent music, irrespective of genre.   Margo Price labored for years in a way familiar to musicians in fifty local music scenes across the country,  She worked odd jobs, went through a succession of "managers," did shitty van tours where she played for bar staff.  She also got married and had a kid, which is well beyond the experience of any local musician types I've met.  The ones I know just give up when they have a kid.

Bonnie Raitt at the Ryman Auditorium during the 2016 Americana Honors and Awards

  Margo Price did win the 2016 award for Breakthrough Artist at the Americana Honors and Awards Show, so that was an obvious highlight.  It was a parade of highlights, truth be told.  Performers included up and comers like Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, the Milk Carton Kids and John Moreland and  lifetime honorees like Billie Bragg, Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris.  Jason Isbell showed up to play a song and collect two awards.  Chris Stapleton walked in at the last minute to pick up his award for artist of the year.   George Strait and Bob Weir showed up because they wanted to and had a project to promote.
Behind the scenes at Third Man Records

  The rest of the week was a blur of free drinks and corporate events.  The major focus was a collaboration between Third Man Records and the Luck Reunion folks from Texas.  They rented out a house, complete with bar b que and cocktails, and had Margo Price and Shovel & Rope (and other artists on different days) compose a song together and then play it for the people who were hanging out at the house.   Then, on Saturday Night, they took over the concert hall at the Nashville Palace where both acts played live and did their collaborations.  Ironically, the most memorable song I heard this week was the Concrete Blonde cover of Joey  cooked up as the b-side to the song they performed together.

   The temparature all week was in excess of 90 degrees.  It severely limited by day time activity, and forced me to abandon an earlier plan of aggressively walking the city.  I was again impressed by Nashville. I highly recommend a visit.

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