So, I’m sitting on the front porch of my best friend’s house, enjoying the only slightly humid weather and trying to recuperate from three days of nearly non-stop excitement. I never realized just how badly I needed a vacation until I actually left, and as my thoughts turn to the drive I have ahead of me back home to rejoin reality, my brain is also a whirlwind of memories. I never want to forget a single moment, though in time all memories will fade. That is why I’m typing this blog, to turn adventures into memories.
Not knowing where else to begin, I’ll start with Nashville itself. We drove in from Illinois, where cornfields and flat earth began to give way to foothills and mountains. Perched high above the earth, one truly begins to understand why man has been fascinated with flight for centuries. We envy the birds for their view. The winding roads are carved into the powerful mountains, allowing all who pass through to witness the glory that is Mother Nature. It’s as if each layer of stone was carefully arranged by hand with gentle fingers.
The mountains open and spew us into Nashville where we are graced with a breath taking sight. A sweeping skyline of magnificent buildings and architecture, where the old beautifully blends with the new. Some roads are brick while others are asphalt, some buildings are aged while others reflect the sun brilliantly. New and fancy cars share the roads with classic “clunkers”, bringing everything together in a harmonious way.
After checking into our hotel and freshening up, we set out to brave the traffic of Nashville. The roads are a bit confusing for first time travelers, with roads suddenly turning into one-ways, but overall it was relatively easy to fall into the swing. Perhaps we were just lucky, or Nashville is just a laid back kind of place. Three days is hard to tell. But we were there with one thing in mind: The Ink-n-Iron festival.
A word of caution to first time travelers to Nashville, parking is almost as much an adventure as the rest of the trip. Be prepared for frustration. I don’t think of it as getting lost, I think of it as unexpected sight seeing. Finally we arrived at the festival, located at the Bicentennial mall park.
The park is simply too beautiful for words, with fountains greeting visitors as they arrive. Music from the ongoing concerts can be heard from the gates immediately filling us with tremors of anticipation. Trees covered most of the walkways, and stone walls offered a beautiful and rocky place to sit. Food of various flavors filled the air with enticing smells that cause your stomach to immediately growl and your mouth to salivate.
We were surrounded by people dressed for the occasion, embracing the rockabilly/50’s feel with ease. Girls with impossible heels and nicely done bobs twirled away in beautiful dresses. W weren’t able to see the tattoo convention, and the races were postponed, so we decided to enjoy everything else the festival had to offer.
Vendors were extremely friendly, and not just in the “buy my stuff” way. There were three concert stages filled with music and people dancing.
Deciding we would enjoy some music, we headed towards the back of the park. Rounding the corner we were stopped short when we realized the members of the band we had come to see were standing right in front of us.
I will be the first to confess The 69 Cats was the main reason I attended the festival, so to have them right in front of me just standing around casually was overwhelming.
And I may have panicked a little. And froze to my spot. I was too scared to go closer.
I’ve never been very good with approaching celebrities. I’ve never been good at approaching normal people either. But here stood a group of people I’d idolized for ages. Admittedly I knew more about the lead singer, Jyrki 69, than the others, but I was in love with their work.
Staring got awkward after a bit, with weird glances passed back and forth between us, so we gathered courage and went closer. I am glad we did. He took my friend’s hand and dragged her closer, introducing us to the band as though we were old friends. Chopper shook our hands and smiled, then finally Danny B approached. We were introduced, and the first words out of his mouth to me were “I like your top hat”
I beamed and thanked him before Jyrki joked I was trying to rip Danny B off. To which I awkwardly responded “I can’t help that I look better in it than he does!” I earned a chuckle, forcing me to relax just a bit further, and Jyrki informed me that I had until tomorrow to obtain a sheriff’s star if I was going to try and pull off the Danny B look. I told him I’d do my best.
Jyrki excitedly says “let’s take pictures!” But my poor hands wouldn’t stop shaking and I could not operate my camera very well.
When I finally convinced my hands to cooperate and work the camera, guess who decided to look down.
Not wanting to keep them any longer, we got hugs and left to explore a bit more. Next up was the classic cars, where I began my drool routine.
I never really realized how much I loved and enjoyed this particular scene until this moment.
We bought awesome hats and a few other things, then called it a night.
Weeeell after we played in the fountains.
Back to the hotel where we ordered pizza. Best pizza ever. So good.
Skip to the next day, the day when the wondrous 69 Cats would take the stage. Jaynie and I pulled out all the stops for our outfits.
We had a few hours to kill so we wandered through the vendors and cars again. We helped ourselves to a few alcoholic beverages (don’t worry guys, we took a cab this time). I discovered I really like Jack and coke. A lot.
Liquid courage a-go-go.
We were treated to the fantastic showmanship that is the Koffin Kats, a band I’d never heard of until that day.
Even not knowing the songs, I found myself dancing and singing along. The band knows how to work a stage and keep an audience engaged. We saw stunts involving standing on the cello to play.
Switching instruments mid song without missing a note, and an energy that lit the crowd on fire!
Up next, the 69 Cats. We maneuvered our way until we were front and center, and afraid we would lose our spots we waited through intermission and watched them set everything up.
Front and center, just as I promised Chopper.
The show itself was fantastic!! Crowd interaction was great! At one point Jyrki stepped to the edge of the stage and held the microphone out for us to sing, and after getting over the “oh shit he’s going to walk off!”, I sang back to him. The sunglasses came off for a bit as he sang, which was really cool because he had amazing beautiful eyes. Danny B and Chopper were on point…and then I took three of the best concert photos I’ve ever taken in my life.
Perhaps I’m biased, but I see album art material.
By the time the show was over, I couldn’t hear and I barely had a voice; but my adrenaline was through the roof and I was sweating whiskey. That last part may have been too much information, but it was a shock to me.
Now for the part I’m most excited to write about. After the show interactions. We stood at the back and waited for them to come out, and all I had was a 69 Eyes comic book. I felt bad about it, but 69 Cats merchandise is hard to find.
We chase them down like creepy stalkers, and get autographs. Poor Jyrki was sweating and they all seemed clearly miserable, but they were good sports about sitting and chatting with us.
I handed Jyrki the comic book and asked him to sign a picture. He looked at me.
“Are you sure you want me to sign this picture?”
“Well, the front and back are black so a signature won’t show up well.”
“Let’s see if we can find a better one.” He takes the comic from me, flips through the pages, and finally lands on this:
Pleased with himself, he signs the picture and hands it back to me. I ask Chopper to sign it as well, and while he’s doing that, Jyrki starts talking about the new album. The love and passion is clear on his tired, heat-exhausted face, and he informs us the new 69 Eyes album will be out in February. So exciting!!
Pushing my luck a bit (I blame the Jack), I asked for a picture. And with a voice that I’ve often heard my five year old use, he gets excited and says “Selfie time!!”
Normally I don’t smile for pictures. Just not my thing. I don’t like the way I look when I smile. But when he put his arm around me and lifted his other hand, I looked down and realized he was miming groping my chest. It amused me, and my hand decided to capture the moment I realized what he was doing.
He does the same for Jaynie.
And with a grin on his face he says “I’m not a chauvinist, I’m not being chauvinistic. It’s just show business.”
Pushing my luck one more time I asked for a hug. He gladly gave it to me after I promised him a present. The present, by the way, was this:
I handed it to him in a folder so he wouldn’t get covered in pencil, and his face lit up. He smiled and took it, thanking me.
I am humbled by these men. Each and every one of them are so talented, and together they create an unstoppable force. We (as common folk) hear horror stories all the time of celebrities being rude or dismissing of their fans. Yet each person in this group really embraces you, and for a moment you feel like their best friend, like you are part of something great. Chopper, Danny B, and Jyrki, you guys are absolutely wonderful. I went to the concert expecting a fantastic show, and I walked away overwhelmed. I was disappointed a bit because we had to leave. The 69 Cats, in my opinion, is one of the greatest groups to take the world by storm.
And then we chased down Danny B for an autograph. In the process, we ran into the sweetest woman you could ever possibly know, Annie Marie Harvey. After juggling sharpies and drinks, we managed to get her autograph and selfie pic.
Seriously guys, you all need to meet her. She’s wonderful.
Finally catching Danny B, he made us walk with him, or as he said “We’ll do a walk-and-sign”. He signs the CD first, then takes my comic book. With a laugh he says “Ha, Jyrki signed himself.” And signed in the corner.
The rest of the time in Nashville was spent shopping and exploring, a trip to the Johnny Cash museum, and finally we had to leave.
Nashville, Tennessee will forever have a special place in my heart and memories. I’ll forever be captivated by its history and its beauty. I’ve not even been away 24 hours, and I already wish I was back on those streets.
And, the last bit of good news. It was a day late but I’m happy to announce:
I finally got my sheriff’s star.