When New Sound asked me to write an article about my favorite venue in Nashville, I knew I didn't want to write yet another story about one of the touristy Broadway honkytonks –I don't care that Patsy Cline and Hank Senior used to play there, they sure as hell aren't playing there now. I didn't want to write about the Bluebird Café – yes, it's a songwriter's mecca and you might get lucky enough to have someone who wrote one of Carrie Underwood's hit singles (or even better and more inexplicably Dave Grohl) show up out of the blue, but it's still too expensive and too hard to get in to go on a regular basis. The Ryman Auditorium's beauty and history and acoustics are undeniable, but again, there's no scene there. Tourists go to these places, they're not where you go to find people who actually live here watching a great local band on a weeknight. Plus, anyone who actually lives here knows that over the bridge in East Nashville is where the interesting stuff is happening.
So I decided to write about the weirdest and coolest venue on the east side. The East Room is off the beaten path even for East Nashville, in a building on Gallatin between a defunct-looking mechanic's and a Subway. There's no sign. The venue doesn't advertise. In order to see the most interesting shows in East Nashville, you kind of just have to know where The East Room is, or at least know someone who knows where it is. I certainly felt a healthy dose of uncertainty the first time I went traipsing down the alleyway to the entrance by myself a couple months after moving to Nashville. But that secret vibe is something that was cultivated purposefully, The East Room's owner Ben Jones tells me over coffee on a late May afternoon, just a couple months after the venue's one-year anniversary.