My final stop on my last day in Nashville was the intimate East Nashville music venue, The 5 Spot, which was on my pre-trip short-list, and had been recommended to me the night before, by my server at Dino’s, which is only blocks away. I honestly didn’t know anything about The 5 Spot, other than that it kept coming up in Google searches for best music venues in Nashville. And even after visiting, I feel like I’m only beginning to understand what it is, and its place in the East Nashville community.
As I’m thinking about it, it might be easier to explain if I sort of back into this story. Until about ten years ago, about all I knew of Nashville was its reputation for country music. Then, around that time, I was introduced to the music of an Americana duo called Gillian Welch, whose music I fell in love with. As I researched more about Gillian Welch, I found out that they lived in East Nashville, renovating an old movie theatre into a recording studio, primarily for themselves. And from what I was reading, it sounded like East Nashville had previously fallen on hard times, but was gradually coming out of that, evolving into a mecca for all sorts of indie musicians, DIY recording studios and artists.
In more recent years, I had heard about an innovative indie alt-blues/rock band called Alabama Shakes that also turned out to be based in East Nashville. And so, the neighborhood of East Nashville, was gradually seeping into my consciousness over time. I’ve been curious about it and have wanted to start exploring this area, so that’s partly how Dino’s, Family Wash (which I didn’t get to) and The 5 Spot made it onto my short-list for this trip.
As I started working on this post, I bumped into this article, an obituary for the recently deceased co-founder and co-owner of The 5 Spot, that will explain more than I can about what The 5 Spot and East Nashville are about: Nashville Scene – 5 Spot Owner, Diane Carrier.
The night I went to The 5 Spot there was a four-act bill, four music acts that started at 6:00, an early show. I may have gotten there as early as 5:00, not knowing when they actually opened. The young man who answered the door said I was right on time, that they were just setting up. I was, in fact, the first person there.
I don’t have photos of the interior, other than the performers on stage that I’ll show you later, but The 5 Spot is very bare-bones. The room was fairly dark. There is a long bar along one wall, that seemed old and nicely worn. There were a handful of small tables with chairs. They seemed old and worn, as well. The walls seemed nearly bare. The overall décor seemed to be no-décor. And there was a very plain stage with a red-drape backdrop and spotlights. The room had a nice, neighborhood bar sort of divey feel.
The bartender, who turned out to be the young man who let me in, was friendly and talkative, so we immediately struck up a conversation. I mentioned the Family Wash, and his immediate response was, “Yeah, their Shepherd’s Pie is amazing.” Where have I heard that before?
Gradually, it was the musicians who were scheduled to perform that started trickling in next. And they were all friendly…particularly this woman…Lindsey…who sat right next to me and started chatting right away.
Oh, and I had my DSLR camera with me, so that always gets attention, just sitting on the bar. A gentleman with silver hair, who had been chatting with the musicians, got on stage with an acoustic guitar and played through a couple of songs, conversing through the microphone with the sound-tech, who was in a little corner behind the bar at the opposite end of the room. This was the sound-check.
A short while later, this same gentleman took the stage again, performing the opening set of the night, a mix of original and cover songs, but not country. Here are a couple of photos I was able to capture during his set.
I later introduced myself, asking if he was the owner, and in fact, he was…introducing himself as Beau. So, before I knew who Diane Carrier was, I had met her recently-widowed husband, William “Bones” Verhiede, who is mentioned in Ms. Carrier’s obituary.
Beau was very laid back, seeming almost to not want any attention, despite sort of quietly chatting among the musicians. In hindsight, I would not be surprised if his quiet demeanor was at least in part due to the grief I can only imagine he is still working through.
I commented to Beau about how great the sound system was, and he began to explain how he had it custom-designed for this room. He also explained how the stage, itself, was designed to contribute to the quality of the sound. So, now I was beginning to understand that this was no ordinary neighborhood bar.
The next performer was…I think I have this right…Bob Lewis, who had accompanied Beau on his set. It seemed that all of the musicians knew each other well, had performed at The 5 Spot regularly, and so conversed with each other between the stage and the audience, which was easy because the audience was very light.
The next performers were an acoustic duo who called themselves simply, Jesse and Noah. As they played, Lindsey told me that they were the sons of the singer who sang the pop hit Let Your Love Flow, in the 1970’s. Anyone who was in high school during the 70’s, as I was, knew this song, since it received enormous airplay.
So, as I started writing this post, I researched Let Your Love Flow online, and sure enough, it was sung by a duo, The Bellamy Brothers, and Jesse and Noah are the sons of David Bellamy, one of the Bellamy Brothers.
Last up were Lindsey and her niece, whose name escapes me. Lindsey’s niece sang harmony to Lindsey’s mostly-original songs. Here are a few photos from their set.
I had no idea what to expect at The 5 Spot, but on this night, it seemed mostly like a venue where musicians could get on stage to try out some original material, although Jesse and Noah’s set was very polished. It was a much mellower scene than Robert’s Western World from just a couple of hours earlier, and without my knowing, just what I needed to complete my last night in Nashville.