I woke up this morning and realized my wife is on a Need to Breathe kick. A phase? Maybe. Phases are bliss. I call this the great music stage of my life. This year, I traveled the world, read thirty-one books, made a career tweak or two, edited a book (an ongoing process) and friended cool folks. I often look back and write a year in review post. Here, I took the theme approach. I do live in Music City.
My favorites (in no particular ranking or order):
Drew Holcolmb and the Neighbors, Awesome Jacket Edition.
Each December, Drew and Ellie Holcomb, dress to impress, pull together the band, and put on a Christmas show. A few of their hits. The Christmas favorites. And a little new music-Drew and the band have an upcoming album slated for 2019. I loved the theme of their new song, Slaying Dragons (I won’t spoil the lyrics), and reinforced the message with my kid. And the show’s venue, The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, is the most overlooked in Nashville. The Ryman may be the mother church, but nothing wrong with Roman-esque statues and an enormous pipe organ.
My only disappointment? Shine Like Lightning didn’t make the final set list. This is my go to run song in the mornings. Personally, the live performance on his Ryman album is my favorite. He worked a Springsteen masterpiece after the second verse.
Beware, I’m not a Swifty. No hate mail please. When you’re at Nissan Stadium with fifty thousand plus of your closest friends, the fireworks fly, background dancers move in perfect harmony, and lights flicker in unison. She is the queen of the spectacle. Top hats. Giant snake. Fairy-tale imagery. Yet, the special moments happen when you strip the noise away. That’s why I prefer early Taylor music. Teardrops on My Guitar. Love Story. Fifteen. Synthesizers weren’t in vogue.
Half-way through the show, the lights dimmed. Taylor ran her fingers over the grand piano keys, introduced “a song I haven’t played in a long while,” and started Tim McGraw. Her first major hit. And using her special guest super powers, Tim McGraw (and Faith Hill) joined along for the final verse.
At the end, she looked on the crowd and smiled. It was the look what I accomplished grin, almost like she remembered the long hours of practice to get to this single moment in time. My favorite ten minutes at a concert this year. She captured the moment.
After the great Pilgrimage rain out of 2018, I wrote how she saved the day. She’s the queen of music. May many Grammy statues sit on her mantle this winter.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.
Lyrically, nobody is better. This is the follow-up concert series to his Live at the Ryman album, my go to Listen for international flights. Nothing beats a year of practice. On the night I attended, Molly Tuttle opened, who stole the show. She plays the guitar like a Greek goddess holding a magical Lyra.
The Young Fables.
I changed an international flight to catch a Young Fable’s concert. Early Uber rush to the airport. Eight long hours in the air. Nervous wait through customs as the minutes ticked away. Mad dash across the terminal to catch a connection. This is a shout out to the artist’s who play the true Nashville circuit. The airport. The Row. Choose your Puckett’s Grocery. The Listening Room Cafe. Blue Bird.
Work hard, day in and day out.
This spirit is the heart of Nashville. Special thanks to Nathan Pickard, Kites, Olivia Faye, Joseph Shackleford, and anyone else I missed. I have dozens of autographed albums and EPs. Keep chasing your dreams, we are better off with your creativity in the world.
Without a doubt, Dan Reynolds is the most ripped lead singer I’ve seen on stage. He’s a protein shake destroying machine. And the band is prolific. iTunes singles magically appear throughout the year. This set delivered with laser lights, an acoustic break intermission, and a heavy dose of confetti. Bridgestone is a grand place to see a show.
Magic at Leiper’s Fork.
And one Puckett’s to rule them all. On Thursday night, any artist can put their name on the list and play two songs. The most democratic show in the Nashville scene. Artists step out from the cornfield with a fiddle in hand to perform their own version of Field of Dreams. This is Iowa. But better. You never know who will step up to the microphone.
The Ebtravels11 Live Stream Experience.
My kid plays a mean ukulele. Traditional Hawaiian. Christmas tunes. The originals. I’m partial but am thankful local artists push him to create, play, and enjoy music. EbTravels, you still owe me that original song. Perhaps, spin a tale about Not Workin’ for the Man No More. Yes, his nightmare is working in a cubicle. Thoughts of double entry accounting give him cold sweats and a high temperature.
More Great Acts.
There were more than a few honorable mentions. Margo pounding away at the drums. Ed Shereen, the tale of how one man conquered Nissan Stadium (amazing what one person can do with a loop pedal). The ultimate jam band, Of A Revolution. Counting Crows 25th Anniversary Tour, the Pilgrimage that never happened. The Grand Ole’ Opry. Little Big Town.