On Saturday night, my friend Buddy and I went to hear a guy Buddy has become pretty good friends with at a local listening room/restaurant. We’d been there several times before and even heard this particular friend play there before . . . but this time was different.
We arrived a few minutes after 8 p.m. for a show that was supposed to start at 8. Since basically nothing ever starts on time in Nashville, it wasn’t too big of a surprise that the people in the round hadn’t taken their places on the small stage set up at one end of the restaurant, which obviously used to be a house. Buddy and I found a table way in the back near the sound booth (which was really just a small sound board stuck in a corner) and enjoyed a few minutes conversation with our friend and his girlfriend.
Finally, it was time for the round to start and the guys went to check sound levels and tune up their guitars. The round started, but you wouldn’t now because virtually no one in the restaurant seemed to be paying attention. At a table to our left sat two middle-aged couples. One appeared to live here; the others were, I believe from what I couldn’t help but overhear, from Memphis. She was a teacher. His role in conversation seemed to be to agree a lot and request more wine when necessary. Through the first several songs (and there were LONG breaks in between) the out-of-towner lady talked at the top of her lungs about the school she worked at. I’m fairly sure her friends wanted to bring her out for an authentic Nashville writers round experience, but forgot to tell her that traditionally, that means you listen to the music and DON’T shout over it.
But apparently, someone forgot to tell most of the crowd. Everyone was chatting and talking between, during, and over songs. And that included some of the people in the round. One member of the round arrived late (after everyone else had already sung a couple of songs) and entered wearing her guitar. She burst in the front door and gave the entire place the rock-n-roll hand sign.
“She came in like she was the Queen of the Nile,” my friend Buddy said. I think we were all supposed to cheer or something, but since we didn’t know who she was, we just stared.
And people, of course, talked. Then, she went to the bathroom—yes, wearing her guitar—and the guys in the round kept waiting on her, chatting aimlessly, making inane jokes about her being in the bathroom. Finally, she emerged and the round restarted.
It was around this time that the leader of the round invited a guy up to sing a song. Mrs. Talky Talkerson from Memphis at the table next to us finally got interested, mostly because she thought he might be Eric Church. Of course, the only resemblance was dark hair, facial hair, and a baseball cap, but apparently that’s all it takes to be confused for Eric Church. At least it got her listening, though.
Then came the next piece of awkward: one of the guys in the round appeared to already be drunk. Actually every round I’ve ever seen him in this has appeared to be the case. At one point, during someone else’s song, he decided he had to take a bathroom break. Which meant walking past our table. Apparently, my face is familiar or something, because he stopped next to our table and asked it he could set his beer there while he went to the bathroom—which he asked while patting me on the shoulder and back. Finally, he came back, took his drink and patted my back some more.
By this time, the place had finally quieted down a little, but the vibe just felt weird, like no one was really there to hear the music and would rather talk and laugh than listen. The woman who had joined the round late started yelling in her mic about needing more guitar and more out of the amp when it was fairly obvious there wasn’t really much more the sound guy could do. This isn’t the Ryman, folks. Then, the drunken songwriter decided to go check out the soundboard and “fix” it, passing our friend’s girlfriend on the way there. He stopped to chat with her, and his penchant for touching girl’s backs was in full force. We were uncomfortable for her!
Finally, after a few disorganized rounds that took forever because of all the talking and sound issues, my friend and I left to go hear another friend across town.
I wanted to stop and tell Mrs. Talky Talkerson from Memphis that she had happened in to a very non-Nashville round and the next time she’s in town, I hope she takes in one at the Bluebird or the Listening Room next time, where the crowd is sure to appreciate the songwriters.