Amid threats of a winter storm, at 6 a.m. Friday morning, January 23, 2015, my sister (by another mother whose birthday would have been on Saturday), and I began our travels from Maryland to Nashville to surprise her 27-year-old son, my nephew, Brandon, and his band Two Ton Twig, at their first Nashville area gig on Saturday night at the Legendary Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor.
Travelling west into the bright sun that glared through the windshield and off the paved roads that so long ago were cut through the Appalachian Mountain Chain across the Potomac, Roanoke, and James Rivers; down through Skyline Drive, the Shenandoah National Park, and Rockfish Gap, onto Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smokey’s–all of our senses awakened and delighted. As we drove this scenic route for 12 hours the sun rose and set and light-to-heavy rains came down. The temperatures dropped and the rain soon turned into snow.
When morning came, we awoke to hills salted in white and mountains capped with snow in a distance. And this is how our weekend trip to support a family member along this stage of his young adult life’s journey began.
By mid-morning Saturday in Franklin, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and unseasonably warm temps had returned. We ventured only a few miles into downtown Historic Franklin, and after a quick stop at the local Starbucks for my favorite Chai Tea Latte (with soy), we spent several hours walking along brick sidewalks and among lovely Victorian architecture in this 16-block Historic National Register district. We browsed the antiques, art galleries, gift, book stores and boutiques just to sample the local culture and history. Then, much to our surprise, we stumbled right into Kimbro’s Pick’n Parlor front porch and sat down at their inviting table to take a picture.
In the early afternoon, we hit the streets of Music City and the Songwriting Capital of the World. As we soon learned, Nashville’s settlers as early as the late 1700’s celebrated with fiddle tunes and dancing. And Nashville’s first celebrity was the noted frontiersman and Congressman Davy Crockett, (also known far and wide for his colorful stories and fiddle playing).
After parking our car, we were quickly whisked away by the sounds of live country music of Steven Clawson (a season 11 American Idol contestant), that streamed out of the open doors of the Tequila Cowboy on Broadway Street. While being entertained, we ate lunch which was a mouth-watering southern recipe of pulled pork BBQ with Cole Slaw and onion rings. As Steven signed his autographs on a couple of his CD’s, he asked where we were from. When I asked him how long he had been in Nashville, he explained that after he graduated high school at age 18, he immediately left his home in Georgia for Nashville. He went on to say that tomorrow he would turn 33 and even after 15 years, he’s still trying to make it big. Steven said he’s had a few contracts and lost a few, but isn’t giving up on his dream.
And talking about dreams and dreaming–I thought we were when before our eyes appeared a Nashville Pedal Tavern–people using bicycle pedals to party and tour the city while imbibing. And their driver was another aspiring singer songwriter–Luke McPherson. He, too, was working to sustain himself while pursuing his dream. This looked like great fun to us. We just might suggest a spin-off concept for one of our church events at our local beaches.
With this being said, it was time for us to say goodbye to Nashville for now and head back to Franklin for our Saturday night gig–planned as a surprise for Brandon and the other band members of Two Ton Twig.
Over the past 18 hours or so there were a series of little white lies that played out among the texts and calls between mom, Diane, and son, Brandon, as to her whereabouts and what she was doing. All the while, Diane was closely tracking Brandon and his band along their way. As it were, when we arrived in Franklin about 8 o’clock Friday night, the band was several hours behind us and didn’t arrive until sometime in the wee hours of Saturday morning. This gave them just enough time to catch a nap before the evening’s performance–Oh, the life of struggling artists who have day jobs and nighttime/weekend gigs.
It was 6:30 when we parked across the street from Kimbro’s. We carefully looked around to confirm there were no signs of Twig. A lot of hustle and bustle was going on inside because set up was happening for the first band began to play at 7 and early birds were ordering food and drinks from the bar. We were lucky and easily got front row center seats. To kill time, we took a couple of pictures of ourselves sitting in seats in front of the stage. Then it occurred to us–why not send Brandon a photo of Diane and not say a word.
As it happened he immediately texted back “Really?!?” And through the doors he came. Unfortunately, I was at the bar in an adjacent room, but Diane said Brandon’s reaction was great and all that she had hoped for.
Twig’s band members include:
Jordan Balzer – Mandolin, Vocals
Brandon Boling – Banjo, Vocals
Ian Greening – Bass, Vocals
Anna Hennessy – Fiddle, Vocals
Donnie Riggs – Dobro, Guitar, Vocals
As a bonus, here’s another one of the songs they played for the audience Harvest Moon:
In addition to other songwriters and musicians among the audience, we sat next to Eric Close, (Nashville TV’s character Teddy Conrad), and his brother Christopher Close (Detective Porter in 2014’s Unspeakable Indiscretions and Dan Pritchard in Massacre Lake movies). By the way, Chris Close plays a mean and bluesy harmonica! Both the Close brothers seem like very grounded guys and we enjoyed briefly talking with them.
We also sat next to Bito Mann and his mom who came in from Memphis to see her son perform. FYI, Bito is TRULY the MAN–he arranged the mini-tour weekend, put up the Twigs at his home in Franklin, and is one heck of a performer with his band. Bito on the anniversary of his brother Robbie’s death, dedicated a song in memory of him that brought us all to tears.
In return, we became closer and met many strangers who quickly became strangers no more purely out of our common love and respect of music, compassion and even empathy for the artists shared moments in time through their storytelling lyrics and tunes–some happy, some funny, some so stirring and sad we wept, hugged, and washed away each other’s tears.
So many stories to be shared, so many songs to be sung, so much music to be heard from so many talented, gifted, and struggling artists. That about sums up our life experience and take away lessons from this weekend in Nashville. May God’s blessings go out to all those young people who are trying to make it!