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New Year’s Eve in Nashville – Where the Coolest Kids Come to Party



Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

New Year’s Eve was a few days ago.  I’m late. Of course, New Year’s Day was my granddaughter’s first birthday, which, celebration-wise, took up the entire day, beginning with a birthday breakfast.  The next day saw an unforeseen illness in the family and that brought me to today. The way I see it, it’s all good. Nashville is in the central time zone, which always puts us an hour behind that big deal in New York City anyway.  We’re quite used to being late to the party. Fashionably so, we think. I encourage you to try and find this look back on New Year’s Eve the same way. Late, but in a fashionable way. Not too fashionable though, that would never be me.  I’m more of a thrift store sort of fashionable. That’s what this is going to be.

Forget Times Square or stuffy black tie affairs.  When it comes to New Year’s Eve parties, nothing beats Nashville.  Sure, they have a big, sparkly ball that drops. Sorry New York, that ball is a tradition and we get it, but we think our music note dropping at midnight central time is much cooler.  

After all, we are Music City, USA and if we’re going to throw a bash to usher in a brand new year, we’d better be prepared.  That means a killer lineup of performers year after year. So far, I think we’ve done our due diligence, but welcoming a new decade required a little extra zing.  Organizers did a lot of things to make that happen and the one thing they did not do was drop any balls, pun absolutely intended. This year was something else.

Storme Warren of Sirius/XM’s The Highway served as emcee.  If Nashville has an official “Emcee to Everything”, it might be him.  It seems he hosts just about every event I attend, and that’s fine by me.  He does a good job. People like him. He’s got that kind of personality that reminds you of the guy next door.  Out of charcoal for your barbeque? Don’t worry, I’ll just run over to Storme’s and borrow some. Crummy day at work?  Need to vent with someone over a beer? Storme’s probably around to crack a cold one. Take that and throw in just a dash of mystique.  This regular guy also happens to know some pretty famous people. He also knows what those famous people are going to do next.  He’s not telling.  That’s why he’s everyone’s best friend and such a great emcee.  They could put him in a tuxedo and slick him up, but that would ruin the whole thing.  He’s Storme Warren. Your average guy with a bunch of fun secrets.  

Video courtesy of Think Country and YouTube

The Fisk Jubilee Singers performed first.  They are often referred to as the “pride of Nashville” and for good reason.  They’ve been around since 1871 and were first formed to introduce the Negro spiritual to stages across the world, all in the interest of keeping Fisk University afloat.  They are an incredibly talented group of singers that have since performed at highly-acclaimed venues such as Carnegie Hall, The White House and the Smithsonian Institute.  They’ve collaborated with an endless array of artists including CeCe Winans, Shania Twain and India.Arie.  

The lineup included Kalie Shorr, who was recently recognized by The New York Times for her latest album, Open BookShorr really got the festivities in gear, keeping her set on a mainly uptempo beat as the light 6:00 crowd steadily grew larger while she performed.  A highlight was her song, “Gatsby”, (Kalie Shorr, Candi Carpenter, Skip Black), which she said was “written about the worst year of my life.”  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

In between artists, Dave Audé and DJ Case Bloom entertained the crowd with a fun mix of familiar tunes.  I witnessed people of all ages singing and dancing as they waited for the next performer to take the stage.  

When the night began, I was certain I was set.  I had a fully charged battery and I thought I would easily make it to midnight without a problem.  I barely touched my phone and my battery had gone from full to nearly dead. All settings checked. Nothing extra to drain it.  Whatever was going on around me was just sucking the life out of it. I completely missed Bren Joy’s set, although I could hear it slightly from the media trailer where I sat (in the heat, which was, admittedly, quite nice) recharging.  It sounded like it was good and the cheers tell me it was well-received.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

I emerged partially charged in time for Amanda Shires.  Shires is one seriously accomplished musician on her own.  With nominations and awards in the Americana genre, she is now also a member of the wildly successful group, The Highwomen, along with Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby.  Shires didn’t just bring her talent to the Nashville New Year’s Eve celebration, she brought practicality by wearing a full-length winter coat, and a touch of appropriate garb to glitz that warmth up with oversized, dark, sparkly glasses.  Shaped like butterfly wings. A standout for me was when she played the title track from The Highwomen, singing all parts, which are normally divided between all four women. She’s a violinist, a guitarist, a singer. Oh, and she’s married to “Jason Isbell Shires”, as she so eloquently put it.  Isbell handled guitar during Shires’s set.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Proving that Music City is not just country music and that we do it all here, Nashville welcomed The Struts to the stage next.  Hailing from the UK, these guys have more than earned their stripes. A high-energy band that has opened for some of the biggest names in the business.  The Rolling Stones, The Foo Fighters and Guns N’ Roses to name a few of the bands that they’ve supported and this four-piece group has only been together since 2012! That’s an outrageously amazing level of success for any rock band these days.  I especially enjoyed “Fire” off their latest album, Young & Dangerous. I have heard lead singer Luke Spiller compared to the late Freddie Mercury of Queen. He does bear a resemblance to him and has that “it” factor that makes it impossible to stop watching him, so I would have to say, it’s a fair comparison, but make no mistake, Spiller is his own artist, no matter how many similarities one can find.  The Struts, I believe, were the reason many people chose to attend this year. I posted video clips of each act on our country music Facebook page. The Struts, who aren’t even remotely close to a country band, drew the most views. That spoke volumes for me.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Once again, my battery was history.  I had no choice but to go recharge. It was tough.  I knew I was going to miss Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, but it was the correct decision.  We are, after all, a country music outlet and I still had a couple of major country artists left to cover.  It was my last chance to be completely ready for them. As much as I’m sure I would have enjoyed Isbell, I enjoyed a cold Dr. Pepper and a bag of Frito’s as I waited for my phone to charge.  This time, however, I did so from our truck. The media trailer was full at the moment with others also trying to get things done. I grabbed my soda and my snack and roughed it. I should also mention that signals were nearly impossible to acquire.  Keeping social media followers of Think Country up on things as they happened? Well, that wasn’t really happening much. I was constantly trying though. Another battery draining maneuver, but once in a while, like magic, something actually posted immediately.  It almost became a game for me.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

I waited until the absolute last minute before I unplugged my phone from the truck and headed back out.  It was Keith Urban time. Once Urban took the stage, it was all uphill from there. “Keith Urban and Friends”, they were calling it.  His “friends” for the evening were Ashley McBryde and Stevie Nicks. I had no idea how they were going to run this, but I knew there was an hour of time that Urban was allotted that included McBryde and Nicks.  Were all three going to be on stage together for that hour? Were they going to divide it up in thirds individually? No clue. All I knew, is that hour was an important one and I had to be there for all of it.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

As it turned out, the hour began with Keith Urban doing his own songs.  He kicked that off with “Never Comin Down”. Always positive, always a tremendous ambassador for the City of Nashville, Urban did a fine job of pumping up the crowd.  I’ve been reading a few things about him singing out of tune and I’ve just about had to shackle my own hands to keep from copying and pasting some of these armchair critics and their snarky comments to this piece.  

Anyone that was in attendance will likely tell you that Urban did a fantastic job.  There may have been sound problems that he was dealing with and that’s not uncommon with live shows, especially those that are being synchronized with other cities to be broadcast on live television.  By the time Urban’s set began, it was nearing the main event, the lowering of the music note and the countdown to midnight and 2020. Of course there were bound to be more technical issues. From where I stood, he did a wonderful job and I hope he’s back next year.   

Urban introduced Ashley McBryde who didn’t need to come out singing a rebel rouser to keep anyone interested.  She may have been the only artist in country music that could, at the eleventh hour, bring it down that much and have more than 200,000 people completely entranced.  “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” (Ashley McBryde, Jeremy Bussey) grabbed hold of the masses like the biggest warm hug and offered hope to everyone that was ever told they couldn’t do something.  Suddenly, the chill in the air was all but gone.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

McBryde played a cover of Wynonna’s “No One Else on Earth” and I now had this hour figured out.  Urban dominates the hour. “Friends” get two songs. Of course, it should be noted that Urban did remain on stage as McBryde belted out that cover.  His guitar work only adding to her impressive vocals.

The High Priestess of Rock and Roll.  That’s who she has always been to me. The Poet in My Heart.  The woman who gives me permission every single day to “rock on ancient queen”.  She is Stevie Nicks. I am not just a fan. I am a disciple. I have been since I was too young to attend a rock concert.  Did that stop me from knowing her and trying to understand her? No. Stevie Nicks is the reason I am enamored with songwriters.  She is the reason I have always sought out the writer of any song when I decided I liked it. She is the reason I am an avid reader of every last lyric, every last liner note and why I try very hard to separate the performer from the person.  She has taught me more about the music business than she will ever know. Following her career since I was too young to fully comprehend the complexity of it has been a journey for me. It obviously wasn’t over yet.

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

My last couple of months have been awful.  I have had one health problem after another.  In between, I had a scheduled surgery. Trying to recover from that, I was gifted with a lovely case of bronchitis.  It seemed I couldn’t catch a break. I finally gave in and pretty much quit social media. I did the unthinkable. I went off the grid.  In that time, the announcement was made that Stevie Nicks was joining the lineup in Nashville for New Year’s Eve. Guess who missed that memo?  Yes, me. When did I find out? Oh, about a day and a half before New Year’s Eve when my friend casually mentioned it, as if I already knew. She was surprised I didn’t.  That’s just how off the grid I had been. I wasn’t all the way there yet, but this was too much. Keith Urban and Ashley McBryde are already two of my very favorite artists today.  I knew I would probably have a chance to see them again at some point this year. I could watch the show at home and be a little sad for myself, but at least I’d be under a blanket and horizontal.  This latest bit of information changed everything. When, ever again, would I have the chance at this trifecta of musical favorites on one stage in my city? I could buck up for a few hours. Caffeine, water, more caffeine, more water and a serious cheeseburger beforehand would see me through.  I could collapse the minute it was over. I was going downtown.  

When Stevie Nicks joined Keith Urban to sing her hit “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, originally a duet with the late Tom Petty, I knew I had made the right decision.  She and Urban also sang Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News”. This would have been easier to see on TV. It would have been warmer, more comfortable and let’s face it, smarter, but trust me, I’ve made choices that were much crazier over my lifetime.  This was minor in the scheme of things. There is nothing that can replace saying, “I was there.” Nothing. I would have been kicking myself forever if I had stayed home. Nicks is in her 70’s now. She could be resting on her laurels. She is not. If I can be half as active and look half as good at her age, I’ll be more than happy.  Some may say she isn’t country. I could write a book here, but I won’t. I will say Stevie Nicks has a whole lot of country music flowing through her veins and some of it has even made it on to her records. She’s a fan of the genre and she has written songs that are arguably more country than much of what people say doesn’t belong on country radio today.  Go listen to “The Highwayman” or “After the Glitter Fades”. Those are just two off the top of my head. She belonged on that stage with Keith Urban. As far as I’m concerned, she belongs on any damned stage she wants to sing on at this point, but she definitely had a reason to sing with one of country music’s biggest stars.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Urban continued on with some more of his own music until just before midnight when all the evening’s performers came back on stage and the countdown to midnight began.  Storme Warren made sure everyone was accounted for and mentioned that Keith Urban requested that this year he wanted the countdown to be “really big”. At approximately 40 seconds to midnight, the countdown began.  The big note was dropping, eventually disappearing from view behind the stage, and finally it was midnight and 2020 was here! Confetti seemed to fall from the heavens. It was coming from everywhere. People embraced, champagne flowed and the traditional  “Auld Lang Syne” singalong commenced. Nashville, you did it up right. We aren’t New York City. We’re Music City. We might not be the oldest in the game, but we sure are in the running for the coolest.  

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

Want to join us for New Year’s Eve next year?  Start planning now. We’d love to have you. Here’s the best place to begin: http://visitmusiccity.com

Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country


*Featured image courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country

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