Friday, October 06, 2006

Closer to Fine

I've just arrived home from my little tour of southern cities. It's a balmy October afternoon. The perfect day for a drive. I was welcomed by the slightly psychotic meowings of Tigger from up above on the ledge of my balcony has I dragged my suitcase across the sidewalk and lugged it up the steps. It's good to be home.

Christa and I met as planned at a hotel in downtown Nashville on Tuesday night excited to be away and together and at the prospect of seeing the group whose songs we have sung together perhaps more than any: the (warning: noise on the next two links) Indigo Girls. Adding almost more excitement than we could to bear to this prospect was the fact that our lastest musical obsession, a group called The Weepies, was to be the opening act at the historic Ryman auditorium, original home of the Grand Ol' Opry.

I snapped the picture above in our room at the hotel just before we boarded the shuttle that took us to our desired destination: a bar really close to the Ryman. As you can see from the picture, Christa wore The Cutest Shirt Ever to the show. It's a wonder one or both of the Indigo Girls didn't run clear off with her.

Once at the requested bar, as we sipped our TWO DOLLAR (I ask you, how lucky can two girls get?) margaritas as we discussed our usual topics i.e., Botox: should we? and the perfect haircut: possibility or urban legend?, etc. I told Christa I had come very close to buying a set of tickets to the concert that were second row balconey for a fairly insanely expensive price off e-bay, but had decided against it. She told me what everybody had been telling me--that there really aren't any bad seats at the Ryman. I statement which, frankly, I had decided weeks ago was likely horse hockey as I obsessively studied the seating chart on the Ryman website and silently bemoaned our seats in row Q, floor, center.

Guess what? There really aren't any bad seats at the Ryman.

It's a wonderful intimate venue, sort of like being in somebody's really big living room. The seats aren't seats at all but rather curved church pews and, as we made our way to Row Q, seats four and five, I could hardly believe how close we were to the stage and what a wonderful view we were to have of the concert. The building is a national landmark, and while new entrances and lobbies have been constructed around it, the original hall has remained the same small untouched space as when the opry was first broadcast there.

Our concert tickets clearly stated that no photographic equipment would be allowed at the show and so I had left my camera back at the hotel. And it is my sad, sad duty to report that, when the announcer introduced The Weepies, he also announced that photographs WERE to be allowed from one's concert seat only.

People, I had to choke back a sob on that one. From where I was sitting with my 12x zoom I could have catured zillions of wonderful images from the show to post for your enjoyment. I'm still sniffeling about it even now.

Anyway. Bygones.

As expected, The Weepies were wonderful. Fun, sweet, smart and talented, they came onto the stage with little fanfare and a guitar a piece, which they traded with lots of informal giggling and fiddling, back and forth between them depending on the song. They didn't do a whole lot, maybe--eight songs? Many were from their newest, "Say I am You": "World Spins Madly On", "Gotta Have You", "Nobody Knows Me at All".

Christa and I later agreed that Deb Talen sounded spot-on and fantastic on every note, but that Steve sometimes struggled through the notes. We also both also later discussed that I had thought, before the show, that Deb and Steve were simply musical collaborators, Christa had thought them brother and sister, but we both came away with the impression that they are a couple. For no particular reason we could say.

Both Deb and Steve were charming and talked seemingly, anyway, off-the-cuff about Deb's case of raging "band envy" for the Indigo Girls back-up band and Steve about his time in NYC living with a roommate in an apartment so small that he sometimes had to write as he put it "angry little songs" in a bathroom the size of a broom closet at night. They each did a song from their solo days. They both seemed thrilled to be at the Ryman and still surprised by their success. And just...NICE. So genuine.

And, before we knew it, the Indigo Girls were introduced.

Now, I don't know why, but I for some reason just had this idea that the IG's would be a couple of girls perched on simple wooden stools on a darkened stage strumming away earnestly on their guitars .

Not so much.

As Deb had alluded, they have a great back-up band--all girls except for a male drummer. And Amy and Emily rocked. Hard. For two hours.

As I watched, it made me realize just how infrequent it is that you see two strong women fronting a band. Not often enough, I think. Both girls played an instrument the entire concert, but they almost never used the same instrument twice. After each song a new banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin or electric guitar would be carried out to each of them by the crew. They sounded, seriously, better than the CD's we've been listening to all these years. And they both looked great. We couldn't have asked for more.

About midway through the show, Emily introduced Mindy Smith, who came on stage and played and sang a song--what a great break for her. Of course, she really did sound (just call me a broken record here) great.

Perhaps the high point of the concert came when the girls did "Closer to Fine". They broght The Weepies back to the stage to help them sing. Every single person in the place stood and sang the song with them. No kidding. I saw no one NOT singing. Pretty amazing considering how little airplay the IG's get and just how old the song is now.

As we walked back to the hotel, a group of guys were behind us discussing how disappointed they were that the girls didn't sing a song called "Kid Fears". I mean seriously. Kid Fears. We were in the company of some seriously die-hard fans.

We are both a little closer to fine for the experience.

(coming soon: Part Two: On to Louisville)

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