The Grand Ole OpryJune 14, 2017 in the United States
Now the Grand Ole Opry has been broadcasted as a 'one hour barn dance' to the nation since 1925. Since then it has outgrown its original home at the Ryman Theatre in downtown Nashville and now sits on a bend in the river east of Nashville amongst a huge hotel complex and mega mall. On entering we eschewed the idea of a warm glass of wine at $20 a head and instead bought water and a 'Goo Goo bar' which is a Nashville treat of nuts, nougat and chocolate. It was surprisingly delicious. There was a large crowd of mostly older clientele and mostly rather large. We squeezed onto our vaguely upholstered church pew near the front of the huge auditorium. 'Y'all got great seats!' the lady on the door promised. And they were, front and central. Trouble is we we sharing our pew with a huge couple from Georgia, the wife was continually rifling for candy in her bag and the husband had a bad case of man spreading. This meant that I was sitting sideways and Richard was pushed into the edge of the arm of the pew. I asked our Georgian friend how long the recording was. 'Oh I think about 3 hours' she worryingly replied.
In the end through the uncomfortableness of it all we were really blown away by the talent on stage. We were taken through a potted history of country music. Performers young and old were greeted with whoops and screams and we could see that Country music is still huge in the US. One up and coming young guy certainly impressed. His sweet soulful voice and agile guitar playing made him mesmerising to watch. Good manners, a simple life and memories of the old ways seemed to be the theme. We were invited to cheer for the second amendment which we hurriedly remembered was the right to bear arms. We were the only ones not clapping. One of the performers told us that following the shooting in Washington if everyone had been armed this wouldn't have happened. The twisted logic there made me frown so hard I gave myself a headache. God was also a heavy theme and clearly everyone was a believer but we weren't made to feel like outsiders.
We found it all very charming and had an insight into perhaps why the South feels constantly lectured to by the north, being told that their simple pleasures are unsophisticated and that their way of life is somehow backward and wrong and that their history is shameful. I think they are aware of this shame but rightly they refuse to be defined by it. Instead they celebrate the kinship, warmth and traditions of their ancestors and are proud to share them with all.
We were picked up by a softly spoken, young, black Uber driver who clearly hinted he was liberal but admitted that he kept a gun under his bed, 'Just in case.' I tried and failed to imagine a probable situation where it would be appropriate to use the gun. Later at a throughly untraditional sushi restaurant we spent time talking to the young waiter who dreamt of travelling to Japan and trying real sushi, he was so knowledgeable and the only qualified Sake sommelier in the state of Tennessee. He said he was sick of serving fireball rolls to bachelorette parties, his yearning to escape was palpable.
We really feel like we are getting a feel for the South and share in its Southern Pride. Many people we have spoken to sheepishly ask why we have come to their state and what we think about it and seem surprised when we say how much we love it. This pride is just under the surface and breaks through with smiles and agreement in their mutual love of the city and recommendations of other places to go.Read more