We traveled up to East Tennessee to visit my family for a couple of days over our spring break, and then went to Knoxville and Nashville for one night each to see Bob Weir and Ratdog perform.
If you know my husband, you know his deep love for all things Grateful Dead — we’ve seen Furthur together (Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and others) and last summer, when we went to see Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket, we were treated to a surprise guest appearance by Bob Weir. I guess Bob Weir is becoming something of a spring/summer music thing for us.
I’m not as big a fan of the Dead as CW is, but I enjoy the music and the scene and am happy to join in something he really loves. Two nights in a row might admittedly be more than I’d typically sign on for, but it turned out to be a really fun time.
We headed up to see my family first, and stayed a couple of nights with my brother, P. He has two fat, fluffy dogs who are both very sweet, but who will NOT stop following people around and panting frantically.
As much as I love dogs, I was ready to scream about all the hair and spit and the unceasing motherloving panting. The weather was cold, so we didn’t get out for our planned hiking excursion, but we made do. Plenty of food and beer will soothe the antsy soul, that’s for sure. We went out for a great lunch, and then P. also orchestrated a huge feast for dinner that included not only burgers (and veggie burgers) and kebabs on the grill, but also pulled pork BBQ, roasted potatoes, baked beans, and some other items I might be forgetting. Dude knows how to eat.
My dad and his wife joined us, but did not want to be photographed. You will have to imagine them in the background of these pictures.
On Friday night we headed down the road to Knoxville — not far from my hometown — and made our way to the historic Tennessee Theatre. In the neighborhood, we found a bar with a Grateful Dead art show going on: plenty of good beers, posters, and photos to peruse.
Unfortunately, I did not wind up bringing my real camera into the theater for the concert (I was worried I wouldn’t want to deal with an extra item), so all my photos inside are Instagrams. Please let me tell you, though: the inside of the Tennessee Theatre is really something. It’s ridiculously opulent, especially when I think of its origins as a movie theater.
We had a lot of fun exploring and looking around before the show started. The band was good Friday night (though I preferred Saturday’s show), but I wasn’t feeling very well for most of the first set. Something about the beers or dinner didn’t agree with me, so I basically had to sit down and sip a soda and keep it together until I felt better. Womp, womp.
Favorite songs of the night: “Tennessee Jed,” “Birdsong,” “Dear Prudence,” “Goin’ Down the Road.”
Saturday took us farther down I-40 to Nashville. We did the same thing there: found the Ryman Auditorium and then just explored the area on foot for a while before the concert. Downtown Nashville is full of a bunch of tacky tourist traps (cheap watering holes with flashy signs selling bottled domestic beer for $6 each) and the fact that it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend only made it seem worse. I’m sure there are cooler places to be in Nashville, but we didn’t want to drive anywhere, so we were stuck in this one main area. We weren’t into the tourist/St. Paddy’s bar scene, so we just walked around a bit. I got to take tons of photos, and then we had dinner before the show.
Saturday’s show was my favorite of the two. The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville is another great historical venue — it used to be a church (and still has its original pews), then it was the home of the Grand Ole Opry, now it hosts bands like Ratdog (and Widespread Panic, who had performed the night before and who I used to see frequently in the 90s). We wound up sitting behind a cute engaged couple, one of whom was an Auburn alumna and the other a current Alabama student — the very model of “a house divided.” We chatted a bit about Auburn- and Alabama-related things. It’s funny how you can establish rapport with strangers right away just based on these topics.
At any rate, the show Saturday was such fun. I had my real camera with me this time, and people were kind enough to let me up to the stage for a couple of minutes to take photos. Whenever I have that opportunity at a concert, I try not to be in people’s way for any longer than absolutely necessary, so I just squeezed in at the front of the stage and snapped five or six quick ones and then went back to my pew.
Favorite songs of the night: “Uncle John’s Band” and then basically the whole second set — “Deep Elem Blues,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Dark Star,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “I Know You Rider.”
We were so worn out after the second show night in a row that we basically passed out as soon as we hit the hotel bed. Sunday morning we got up early to the sounds of pouring rain, not so happy to be facing a 5+hour drive back home. CW (chivalrous and kind man that he is) did most of the driving, even though it was supposed to be my turn, because he knows how stressed I get when driving in a rain storm. I took over later on, when the skies cleared, and we made it home just in time to do all our school prep, laundry, and shopping for the week.
Oh yeah, that’s right: back to work. Heading in on Monday morning, in another rainstorm, before sunrise, with no coffee (I forgot the almond milk at the store and I refuse to drink black coffee) — well. It was not my ideal re-entry to work life. But you know what old Bob [Dylan] says:
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.