Wish You Were Here, Live Music Revisited

Part of my early morning routine, like most folks, is to listen to a favorite playlist on a run or during the morning coffee. According to iTunes at the time of this writing, The Avett Brothers are the titleholder for my most played artist over the last twelve months. Followed by Brandi Carlile and Taylor Swift, jammed down my throat by a teenager (not that I mind, I only like to taunt). But with COVID-19 running amok, I’ve realized how much I miss rocking out at the tent pole shows in Bridgestone and the Mother Church to grabbing a bite to eat at the Row or Pucketts—hearing my friends belt out a cover or original song.

Sure, these days you can geek out on Instagram Live or YouTube Quarantine Shows. There have been some solid moments from Garth and Trisha to Lady Gaga and Celine (And give that Jack Johnson a go), but … this isn’t quite the same. Sadly, have we traded our heroes for ghosts? Although live music is a selfish thought, a spoiled dream coming from someone confined to the outskirts of Music City, I hope to hear and see someone bend the guitar strings soon.

To me, music is personal, powerful, and everlasting. Living in Nashville, you have to try hard not to catch live tunes, an old-world thought. Honkey Tonk Row. Dive Bars. Coffee shops. The culture of talented artists is what makes this caring community vibrant.

To fill the recent void (Day 40 at the time of this draft), I scrolled through my photo reel of shows I caught before The Day Life Breaks rolled across the earth, a more fitting title for today’s time than my upcoming book (a parable on first world problems) could ever contemplate.

Nothing rivals attending a live show. The sound. The crowd. The stage. Oh, how I miss the impromptu harmony a live symphony brings. Thought I’d share a glimpse into the old world, if only for the selfish memories, to make these prodding days better:

The Accidental Front Row

After not seeing the value, I’ve now realized the only means to see a concert is to steal front-row seats. This happened by accident as my wife clicked best available for seats, instead of best available at a certain price. Accidents lead to glory; misplaced mouse clicks rule. And Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit? What’s not to love? My kid even managed to grab the drumsticks. My favorite performance of all time.

Brandi Carlile at Benaroya Hall

Through December to February, I caught Brandi live in concert more than a handful of times. I have no shame. She is, without a doubt, one of my favorite artists. I remember back to the bygone era when Apple used to hand out these cards at Starbucks. A free download. Song of the week. Most thought at the time the mobile music thing would never get off the ground. How quaint, but that’s how I discovered her work. Until recently, I wondered why I had two versions of the song Turpentine from the Story Album in my library. Well, certain playlists never die. Thank you, Apple.

Recently, she announced a run at Benaroya Hall. The last time she played? Well, ten-plus years ago, and this glorious album followed. Outside of hearing her earlier work live, this is worth a listen for the covers of the Sound of Silence and Hallelujah. Thank you, Leonard Cohen. While sleeping, my kid listens to the entire show on repeat.

So, what’s wrong with flying out to Seattle to see a show when you live in the center of the known music universe? Well, despite the knowing what you know now feeling (a Seattle trip in February before the world changed, not a great idea), the two days proved glorious. And compared to her run at the Ryman? I thought the shows at the Mother Church fared better, but that’s me looking through my coke bottle local lens (She did have the symphony behind her). Home-field advantage matters, at least to me.

Live at Red Rocks

The annual Avett Brothers festival at the best outdoor Amphitheater in the known universe might be canceled this year. But I have the memories. When the world claws back to normal, go to Red Rocks. Pro Tip, to avoid the winding line climb the stairs (pick the middle route). But buyer, beware. This is a hike.

Old Crow Medicine Show

A Nashville New Year tradition not to be missed. Ketch, a never-ending comet of energy, was sent down from the heavens. Early Metallica guitar speed meets an old-world Fiddle. And he is the owner of a favorite quote:

”The Ryman is not just the mother church of country music but he holy-rolling spiritual epicenter of Nashville.”

And most of the shows on the list were held at this venue. Best place to see a concert in the United States, hands down.

Outdoor Festivals

Shoals Fest. Take the Pilgrimage.

The Old Guard

Some still have the old Black Magic (The lead singer of Live has pipes). Others, well … see take in a show despite the sad reminder time catches up to all of us.

The Red Gretsch, Lightning from One’s Fingertips

Well, my favorite aspect of living in this epicenter of music and craft are the local up-and-coming artists. One of my favorites is The Young Fables, and I encourage everyone to follow them on Instagram. Better yet, pay for a Zoom cameo. The government can pass bailouts and loans for small businesses, but let’s not forget the artists and gig workers of the creative world.

Jazz vibe meets Dynamic Folk. They call this Modern Traditional Country. Solid Lyrics. Hardworking. Hustle. Kindhearted. The only drawback of late? The new Wes Lunsford wields a White Gretsch, and, for nostalgia purposes, I prefer ‘ole Red. His fingers fly over the strings. Still, hard to go wrong with Laurel and Wes, who shares the haircut of my other favorite local artist (check the likeness below). Under quarantine, I still manage to hear a little live music.

In closing, always find a means to look beyond death, despair, and the daily headlines. Recognize heaven from hell, blue skies from pain. Know a green field from a cold steel rail. Stay close to your friends. Wish your family well. And yes, a day will come when we can trade ghosts for our heroes, whoever they may be, once again.

Here is to hope. And thanks for reading.


  • Thanks to Pink Floyd for writing a masterpiece of a song, paraphrased lyrics cited beginning and end.
  • And a fantastic cover of said masterpiece by Miley Cyrus.
  • The cover picture is from downtown Nashville, an eerie ghost town these days.