4th of July: Nashville Edition
By Katie Marker
Photo’s by 90 East Photography
Two weeks ago, the CMA Music Festival that occurs every year in Nashville, TN came to an end. During the festival, and while I was down for it, an article was shared on Facebook announcing Nashville to have the largest 4th of July Fireworks coming up. Halfway joking, I thought to myself, I should come down in two weeks just for that. The other half of me that wasn’t joking is the side that won, and I’m glad it did. The 4th of July in Nashville was everything I thought it’d be, more, and something I’d do again, with some minor changes.
I was in Nashville for the whole weekend, and on Friday night, my friends Patti and Bill McClintic (who graciously let me stay at their place for the weekend) were going to the Nashville Symphony. They are recent Nashville transplants from Buffalo, NY, and a friend of theirs, Gary Call Hanley who is also from New York not too far from Buffalo wrote a score for that night’s performance. Gary is also in a Nashville rock band called, Subway Lights. Really people, they don’t call it Music City for nothing. I enjoy all types of music, and I didn’t have any other plans that night, so I thought I would broaden my musical horizon and give it a shot. I’m super glad I did. It was a neat way to start off the 4th of July weekend too, as they played many patriotic favorites and honored all the branches of the military by playing each branches song and having members of that respective branch stand during the song. The whole performance was amazing… Not one drum beat off, not a violin string left un-strummed, and not an ear left empty in that theatre.
After the symphony, we did what seemed like the appropriate thing to do and went downtown. We decided to hop into Margaritaville for some drinks and food. There was a cover band playing called the Alex Michael Band, and they were actually pretty good. We didn’t hear any original songs from them, but the crowd loved them no doubt as they sang along and danced to the familiar songs of the night.
The next day was the 4th of July and wouldn’t you know it, Mother Nature had to have an attitude and provide us with a nice cloudy, rainy, damp holiday. This made for good snoozing weather which was warmly welcomed after a great, late night of partaking in some southern concoctions. Since my friends recently moved here, they’ve been on the search for a home to call their own. They let me tag along the day before to take a look at a home they were interested in, and wouldn’t you know it, their realtor Becki McLeod, also a singer. Only in Nashville. She mentioned she’d be singing at Whiskey Bent one of the Broadway honkytonks. Since no plans were set, and none of us had seen her yet, we set that in our plans. It was a nice break from the rain, and Becki was great too! I could tell when I met her a day prior that she was an outgoing person with a bubbly personality. That came out on stage more so with her spunky approach to all the songs she did, which definitely kept the crowd wanting more. Becki did covers of country classics like Reba McEntire’s, “Fancy” and some of today’s current music, like Megan Trainor’s hit, “All About That Bass”. She was also taking requests from the crowd, “20 dollas, make ya holla!” she would exclaim as she reminded those that if you wanted to hear something they didn’t know, it’d cost you 20 bucks. They did get a few requests such as the Goo Goo Dolls’, “Slide” and Bruce Springsteen’s, “Born in the U.S.A.” They did so without missing a beat too! Sure she had to look up lyrics but seriously… I’ve always been amazed when a band has never performed a song before and with just a few minute meeting on stage with chords being randomly strummed, they begin to play the song in its entirety as if they’d been playing it every night.
Even though it was raining, we knew we had to venture out and get something to eat. Something off of the beaten path because all of those would be packed. We found ourselves at Demo’s, and waiting in line for a table, not a huge line, but a line… and I know, I know, Italian food on America’s birthday. Judge as you will, but it was delicious. Shortly after we got in line for a table I started to hear echoes of music floating through the buildings of the down town area. “Loves the only house, big enough for all the pain in the world…” those words and that melody were becoming more clear and obvious the more I heard them. Soon I realized Martina McBride was on stage downtown, and we were missing her! Bill and I really wanted to see her, as he wanted to get good photos of her, and really, who doesn’t want to see Martina McBride?! So, we ventured downtown. That was our first mistake. We went downtown. They had a stage set up on First and Broadway. This is where I personally think Nashville dropped the ball on the 4th of July festivities. The whole street was wall to wall people. There was absolutely no open space or any order to how people were to maneuver. I’m talking on each side of your body there was at least two other bodies touching it. I’m talking the only way to get through the crowds is to nudge your way forward sideways. I think you get it. It was bad. Once we got further and deeper into the pool of people, or clog rather, we thought we should continue on and see how far we could get. Half way there, and I realized only certain people were being let past a certain point. I turned around and told Bill, “We can’t get any further!” His colorful response told me that in the year that he had attended it before, it was nothing like this. We both turned around and decided it was time to get the hell out of there, and fast. As fast as we could anyway.
I’m not sure it would have mattered if the rules of what was allowed, and wasn’t allowed, had been stricter. On top of the already vacuum packed streets, they allowed people to bring in lawn chairs to set up early, and if there was rain in the forecast, people could bring an umbrella. Just about everybody and their brother and their brother’s brother knew it was going to rain that night, and they apparently all owned umbrellas too. So while you were walking through the crowd, rain from the sky was hitting you, and so was rain from the umbrellas… Not to mention, if you are short like me, half way back, big screens and all, you aren’t going to see a thing with all of those umbrellas in the air. The lawn chairs didn’t make any sense either, because I’m not sure about you, but the last thing I’d find to be fun is sitting in the rain, in a chair, while people are sandwiched around me so much so that I can’t even see the stage and just barely hear the music. But, again, that’s just me. On top of all what seems like more annoyances than real problems, I whole heartedly believe had there been a serious medical emergency, or any other type of emergency there would been a serious issue happening in downtown Nashville. There was absolutely no way anyone could even zig zag their way through that crowd. They did have big screens and speakers set up all over downtown, so people could watch on the screen what was happening on the main stage, but that didn’t seem to matter to most people. Most people still wanted to be right there, right in the heart of all the action. I personally think they need to keep tabs on how many people who are in the vicinity of the action. There are cut offs of number of people allowed at Riverfront during CMA Fest per fire code, so I’m not sure why this was any different.
As said before, two weeks prior to this event CMA Fest had taken place in the same place. Sure, there weren’t 300,000 people on the street, but there were more rules then. There was more of what was not allowed, and there was more order. Again, this is where Nashville seriously dropped the ball in my humble opinion, but I’m sure others enjoyed it. While it did bother myself, and may not have bothered others, what I’m taking from it, is I know where I’m NOT going to venture to, to see the fireworks in Nashville again.
On a lighter note, aside from all the active terror threats that were running around the country, and all the craziness that ensues on the 4th of July no matter what part of the country you are in, the police presence was there. I don’t think they had anything to do with the clog downtown, I think they were there to protect and keep an eye on any type of danger anyone in that city could experience that night. Both uniformed and plain clothed officers kept that city safe that night, and for that I am truly thankful. From myself, and the other 300,000 some others who were there, thank you.
When we made it back to the restaurant, it wasn’t much longer after we sat down that we heard the first firings of the fireworks. Did I want to go back out there? I thought to myself. Of course I did, I did fly there for this, so I had to see them. I hopped up, ran outside, and caught the fireworks right outside Demo’s Restaurant. It actually wasn’t a bad view. No, I couldn’t see the lower fireworks, but I saw the fireworks. Everyone knows that the finale of any fireworks show is usually the most fantastic part of the whole thing. Fireworks in Nashville for the 4th of July were one huge continuous finale. Absolutely amazing. To add to the already amazing display they had blasting in front of our faces from every angle, the Nashville Symphony played music that was synchronized to the show. My personal favorite was the Star Wars themed portion. I couldn’t hear all of it that well, but for whatever reason that one stuck out to me, and c’mon, Star Wars and fireworks? Yeah, they go together. Even if you’re not a huge Star Wars fan, which I’m not.
My Dad was texting me periodically back from home while I was down there. I had found out that Nashville’s show was going to be livestreamed on the internet, in case he wanted to skip the show at home and watch that instead. He was keeping me updated on his end from time to time, and I’m fairly certain he had a better view of the show than I did. Because of the weather that Nashville was experiencing that night, there was a cloud of smoke that was competing with the fireworks, and my Dad said he could notice that on the live stream too. But, even with that factored in, and not the best viewing area, I have to say… They were still perfect.
It seemed shortly after the fireworks show was over, those who wanted to stay out and celebrate America’s birthday all night long were on their way to the local bars, and the rest of the crowd headed towards their cars or other destinations. The next day was the last day in Nashville, and it was a relaxed day, just reminiscing on what I had experienced, and taking in all the final moments before I had to leave the city that I truly feel my heart is in.
So, would I do it again? Yes. Would I do it differently? Yes. Was it what I thought it would be? Not exactly. Do I forgive Nashville? Of course. I hope I’m not the only person who felt this way about the crowd downtown and others have expressed their concerns also, so that maybe next year the event can be enjoyed by each and every person that attends. Other than that, when you think about it, and the fact that Nashville Tennessee’s fireworks beat out New York City’s Macy’s fireworks, and Washington DC’s fireworks, that’s pretty impressive for a city that the common population associate with “just country music”. I tell every person who hasn’t been there yet, “get there, you’ll be glad you did.” It’s music city, all music. But it’s also just a wonderful city, and it’s nothing I can begin to explain. Nashville is a place with a feeling that cannot be explained, just experienced.