The drive from Nashville to Chattanooga is a short and pretty drive. It's a drive of foothills and small mountains. And fireworks stores. Lots of those. It's a drive that during the fall would be spectacular with colours and shades. This time of year, the trees are bare and waiting the shawl of ice and cold to bear heavily upon each branch. The occassional hawk flew over the road in search of lunch.
Much of the trip I had Native american music blaring - still hanging over from the bison sculpture experience. It fit the scenery well. The soaring flutes and chanting taking me off to another time. A place where the spirit was allowed freedom and spirituality was ever-present and ingrained in us all. I almost half expected to see a ghost bison grazing in the distance off the highway, paying no heed to the cars dashing by, oblivious.
This was the first time I got to actually drive around and see much of Chattanooga. It's a wonderful town build in the valley of a few surrounding mountains, and the town itself has its share of pittsburgh-esque hills. They have a gorgeous waterfront, that on warmer days must be fabulous. I'd heard great things about their aquarium as well. And after passing their art museum, I wanted to have time to stop in. They had a Kennedy photos exhibit that looked pretty interesting. I'd have some time in the morning for sight-seeing, so my list was growing quickly.
I found a great little local grocery store akin to Whole Foods, with a wonderful 3 Bean vegan chili and an awesome discount on huge bags of raisins! Their Wifi allowed me some need computer time before performing.
That night I made my way to Lookout Mountain. I had high hopes of seeing Rock City (American Gods) or perhaps even Ruby Falls. The snag came about that there is little cultural to do in the area for under $15. And spending $20 to walk in the cold around Rock City didnt seem like a smart investment. Alas, some other time, some warmer time, I will check it out and get to the top, where one can see 7 states.
That's been amazing me since I saw the sign claiming that fact. There's obviously Tennessee, Georgia, maybe Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina... but what else? No other states are that close. Supposedly Kentucky and Virginia fill in the void. This claim was first made by soliders in the Civil War, but has yet to be verified scientifically. Though, you'd think they'd get on that! Rock City info.
The morning came and a chill remained in the air. So after a few minutes debating my options, I pointed the car south and made my way for Atlanta. I could always spend extra time in that city.
I had enough time to wander around Little Five Points and catch a few minutes of a cool Funk/Soul band at Smiths before making my way to Java Monkey. This cafe is uber cool. It's a caffeehouse with a bar. And some food (including hummus and veggie sandwhiches). And fantastic teas.
Atlanta has a store much like Coventry's Big Fun! It seemed even bigger, but perhaps there was just more space. Junkman's Daughter. Fun place.
The next day I actually got to take off my coat outside for the first time the whole tour! It was upper 60s and sunny. AAAAAAAHHHHHH! Sunshine!
My house concert was in a nice area hosted by friends that I met in Wyoming. It was a fun night, as their guests were encouraged to bring their little kids with them. And they were dancing up a storm! One of the neighbours that came out was born and raised on the other end of Brecksville, where I live. Such a small world, indeed!
I was on my way to Florida by sunrise. It was a 5 1/2 hour trip, though I gained an hour as I moved into Central time (and Alabama).
The drive felt long and the scenery was little to excite. Plus, at least half the trip was on back roads and small little county highways.
But then suddenly the shrubs open up, and you cross over an inlet in the Bay. And it instantly felt like you were close to the ocean - it was in the achetechture and the air. The smell of fish and salt and water drifted in even through the van.
The town of Seaside (established in 1981) is very quaint and beautiful. It is a little piece of paradise. Little cottages on the beach and modest homes all around. The town center has several restaurants, a record shop, all sorts of little shops, and a nice little boardwalk by the ocean.
After checking in and getting my room assignments, which turned out to be in this lovely guest house, I made my way back to the BMI festival kick off party.
The party was held at a place called Bud & Alleys which is right on the ocean. It was obviously packed, but I made my way in. Where I nearly ran over John Oates (he is a short man). After mumbling an apology, I met up with some of the festival organizers. I've gotta say that everyone involved in this festival were amazing! They were kind and warm. I don't think i've ever felt more welcome then they made me feel. Here, I was introduced to Evan LaFloch (aka Smallfish Adventures). He's a fun personality who has been able to travel all around the world. We were immediately recruited to stand guard for the local TV station that was about to be conducting an on-air interview segment with Matthew Sweet. Shortly after, Matthew Sweet and Suzzanna Hoffs took the intimate stage. Before the night was over, I'd met a few more great folks like Carmel Mikol. She is from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and put the International in this International Songwriter's Festival. She had an mid evening set, and mine was late, so I went to hear her at Shorty's. Shorty's in a fun upstairs venue. It was constantly packed all weekend, and they frequently were having to keep a line running outside.
The influx of people and the semi-frantic expressions of the staff, amde you wonder how much they liked having the extra business and how much was an unbearable pain.
Her set was fun, and then we all moved down the road to the Bluz Bar for my set. Augustine was wrapping up their set when we got there. Nice folks now based in Brooklyn. The Bluz Bar in a word - rocked! It was a nice-sized club - the kind of place where the band could have a good time. They had a big roomy merch table with a smiling happy volunteer to run it. They also had a ton of star-like decorations hanging from the ceiling, and best of all - 2 christmas trees still up! One set up under the Jager light (almost like a kind of demented Angel). All the sets were rounds. Meaning all acts were on stage, and they'd trade off back and forth until the alloted time was up. Usually we'd get 4-5 songs each in. This first night I had the funny Blake Guthrie and the roots-rocky Sonia Leigh (who's on Zac Brown's label). My songs were very weel-recieved and I thoroughly enjoyed Sonia and Blake, both Atlanta folks.
After our set was a set by 18 South with Sam Bush and Jessi Alexander. Wow. It was a great set, complete with a great bluegrass version of Bob Marley's One Love.
Thus ended the first Floridian night.