Todd Dills

Tom Eizonas, Nick Rossi, Zach Ryan, and Chuck Beard

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the 111th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 110, I repeat … 110, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is East Side Storytellin’ 111. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of the night is not just an amazing writer and human being, he is also a publisher of beautiful weirdos. It’s true, this guy, alongside Eric Benick, started the oober-awesome Ursus Americanus Press. With several hit projects in the bag and more on the horizon, this guy barely has time to do anything else … but alas, he persisted. When this guy isn’t eating too much sugar, spending too much time on his phone, or staying up too late for no reason, he endlessly churns out original stories on the page, over the interwebs, on countless white t-shirts, and more. His diligent work ethic is only matched by his positive attitude and energy for everyone around him. To say that he has a lot of friends and literary peers would be the understatement of the year. He has a busy year ahead with a move and work appearing in MESMER, Souvenir Lit, MAYDAY magazine, Chicago Literati, Vanilla Sex Magazine, and a few bathrooms around Nashville. He also writes and plays in a band called Choovanski. Point being, this guy rocks. It was truly an honor to introduce the man, the legend, Nick Rossi!

Nick took to the microphone like a caged animal who had been drinking caffeine all day while trying to decide if he needed to make brand new prose and poetry ready for a reading or if he should just rely on his old and trusted friends. I believe he ended up drinking a few pony high life’s and doing a little bit of both. All in all, Nick was in his zone. He apologized for his Chicago voice, gave a multitude of personal shout outs throughout the reading and night, and set the mood of the event perfectly with his tales of life on the road and not so light material that felt right at home for this day and age.

photo by Chance Chambers

I though Nick did a beautiful job of tying together the three stages of his Nashville experience. He shared a poem that explained why he decided to first come to Nashville (he apologized for the lack of edits for parts he claimed that sucked but everyone else in the room agreed that his words and reading did everything but suck). He spoke about the places he had come from and where he is going soon. Somewhere in the middle, he shed light and a deep perspective of privilege that he and so many of us other white males live with on the daily in this country, all the while sharing vivid examples and imagery of references with the abuse towards African Americans in this world. Like Nick’s shirts, his words and thoughts are extremely powerful. The sooner you get in the groove of how to digest the manner in which he races through his words, thoughts, and pages, the better you are to understand the pure heart and passion for literature and life and connecting with other people that Nick exudes on the daily. It’s all right there in his work. You can hear it as plain as day right there in the recording below.

Our featured music of the night is someone who has been playing music regularly since the age of 11. He’s chased his dream under a multitude of names and across several genres, but he’s still truckin’ and searching for his truth. After spending years doing the solo artist thing, his current project is The Wanderers (not to be confused the That Thing You Do’s The Oneders). Drawing inspiration from sounds and folks like Tom Waits, David Lynch, Chet Baker, and Dick Dale, The Wanderers just finished a record due to be released in late September. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to wait until September to here this guy play his great music. Via a wonderful connection and introduction with our mutual friend Shane Tutmarc, I was thrilled to finally be able to shed a spotlight on the one and only Zach Ryan!

I recently watched a segment of CBS Sunday Morning that featured John Mellencamp. They were talking about how Mellencamp had originally moved to New York City on a visual art scholarship but then got a record deal as soon as he got there. When he first played an original song for the suits at the label, he didn’t believe they heard any of his words and could just tell from the first five seconds of his playing that he had that special something. Mellencamp later mentioned in the interview that he really believes you can tell when a person has that special something of talent in any creative medium in the first few moments. Fast forward to hearing and seeing Zach Ryan play the guitar at The Post and I was not alone to be completely blown away by his virtuoso skill and sounds and musicianship that struck us all like lightning in the first few chords he played and sang. Again, you can hear what I’m talking about it the recording below.

Zach’s music is guitar driven and guitar led, and surrounded with the air of cinema. Some of the people in the crowd mentioned that he looked like the great actor Robert Mitchum, and I said I’d love to hear Zach play his melodies to old Robert Mitchum movies that are filmed out West and have the uncertainty of death and dark subject matter … almost like a not-so-funny but still as brilliant version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’m sure there are a million great references that came out of this specific show from the music and story themes, but nobody could deny that Zach was on the top of his game, even without the extra players in his band. Zach, like Nick, came correct to the show with some stories and melodies that took our breath away and blew our minds at the same time.

During the conversation portion of the show, we learned that both Nick and Zach had roommates by the name of Carl (with a C, not a K, because that’s much cooler) … shout out to Carl Carbonell. What was not planned before the show and with the pairing but was acknowledged by Zach very early into his set was that the darker subject matter shared by each unprompted or pre-curated artist reflected like a perfectly symmetric swampy sunset that made you appreciate the glow of the sun descending but at the same time scared you to death about what was hiding in the dark to come. Not to make you jittery while reading this, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was plenty to smile about, during the talking and the reading and singing. In fact, one of Zach’s happy songs was about a man finding joy in moving away and getting away with murder. You really need to take a listen to it below to get where I’m coming from about loving these guys so much.

photo by Chance Chambers

It was my pleasure and an honor to share the stage and shed the spotlight on this unique pair of troubadours. I do want to add a little note here for the sake of big transitions and moves for Nick Rossi. He told me when I booked him for the show that this would be fitting  for him since East Side Storytellin’ was one of the first literary events he attended when he moved to town and it would be one of his final public readings (outside of a fun Life is Boring reading event the Friday before he moved later that week). In between those two shows, Nick has become a beacon for the literary community at large and we were lucky enough to promote and share his books and journals while we ran the retail portion of the first chapter of East Side Story. We are gonna miss him, but we are thankful he will continue being awesome in Chicago and connecting our Nashville family with people and ideas beyond the city limits for years to come. Plus he is going to come back and visit often. Plus plus he is going to hire me when he gets his white t-shirt company off the ground and going. This will happen.

That said, before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Nick and Zach for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us. These are two of the good ones doing great things and both are just getting started. The best is yet to come.

So here it is, the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 111, a show when we were lucky to feature the likes of Nick Rossi and Zach Ryan at The Post on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Feel free to listen to this one and share it with everyone you know, over and over again. You’ll thank me afterwards.

You can read more of Nick’s writing here – www.ursusamericanuslit.com

You can listen to more of Zack’s music here – zachryansongs.bandcamp.com

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website,www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own Words Tab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be

East Side Storytellin’ 112

Tuesday, August 1st

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Eric Benick

singing- Kira Hooks

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 111 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there.

Much love,

mE

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 a week prior:

“So let me get this straight.  You asked a friend, who happens to be the nephew of Magic Johnson, to see if Magic Johnson could ask the owner of the Chicago Cubs for tickets to see Pearl Jam play a concert at Wrigley Field?” My friend, Matt Hummer, looked at me funny.

I replied.  “Yeah.  So?  Are you shocked?”

“From you, not at all.  What did he say?”

“Well, apparently Magic didn’t feel comfortable with asking.”

“Are you shocked he’s not comfortable?”  Matt started laughing.

I wasn’t laughing.  “It’s not what you’re thinkin.  He’s not uncomfortable asking for me, a complete stranger, mind you.  He’s apparently uncomfortable asking anything from and talking with that specific owner.”

“Really?”

“Really.  I don’t know Magic Johnson.  But honestly, like I told my friend, anybody who isn’t a friend of Magic Johnson certainly isn’t a friend of mine.”

Matt continued laughing.

I continued talking. “I also told my friend thanks for asking your uncle, but I guess I’ll just have to work my own magic, pun intended.”

*********

And so, there I was driving home to slowly unveil the mother load of surprises, a long but mere three months in the planning, and yet I still had no concert tickets in hand.  That’s not to say that I didn’t already have Southwest plane tickets, a killer new t-shirt, permission from my wife’s boss and co-worker to get her out of town for at least one Frist Friday of sorts, grace from another friend (a best friend of my wife) ready to pick us up upon arrival into the windy city and crash at her pad, tremendously nice and talented people to watch the bookstore for the three days that it would be open while we were awol (one in the poet Nicole Branigan & the other is cat and art-lover Maggie Carrigan), a loving mother to pick up and care for the best dog in the entire planet (that’s bearKat in case you forgot), and pretty much everything else lined up in perfect timing in order to pull off the best, most secretive adventure I could dream up to surprise Emily Frances Harper Beard more than ever before (including the marriage proposal).  Yes, every single thing mentioned above was about all that I had at the point when I was driving home from the mountain on Thursday afternoon, July 18th, 2013.

And this is how IT went up and down and up all around …

I turned in my final papers and workshop critique to the most awesome Michael Griffith (who is also the author of the must read novel Trophy) and he let me depart out of Sewanee’s School of Letters a few minutes early so that I could make my magic happen.  On the drive home, I checked in with several other personal connections that I had been checking in with throughout the past few months that still bared some sort of hope, before and after I tried my luck with the all-time great Laker.  Lucky for me, the ticket scalping service a friend of a friend uses and relayed my way had plenty of tickets available.  Unlucky for me, each of the tickets they had to purchase, even the ones that were higher than the highest nosebleed seats, were astronomically and comically priced to say the least.  I like Pearl Jam.  I love my wife.  I also like and love my house, car, dog, cat, and food to eat for the next two months too.  I hung up the phone and smiled because I knew that I had a dark horse in my back pocket still out there in hiding somewhere.

I arrived at Eastside Avenue with a few minutes to spare.  To preface, my wife, even after all of my planning and days of ups and downs on ticket leads, emails, talks, and phone calls, seemingly right under her nose, hindsight, still had absolutely no clue of what was about to happen to us.  She was already talking about weekend plans around town with various friends.  In fact, I kinda felt like in the final week of planning that the entire world knew about my secret plans but Emily.  If anyone who came across my path the final month of planning mentioned the word or thought of Chicago, you can bet I mentioned my idea and asked if they knew of any connection to the coveted tickets that had previously sold out in record time back in February.

Back to the house.  I got home and bearKat (the greatest dog in the entire universe) greeted me with jumping paws and a Michael Jordan-like tongue.  She knew what was up.  She could sense something huge about to happen.  She is so smart.  She might be the smartest dog in the entire universe too for all I know.  I do know that I used the few moments I had relatively alone to stash the killer t-shirt that I had purchased to seal the Pearl Jam surprise deal and the airline tickets that were going to let us go there into my carry on.  I stuffed the bag.  The front door opened.  I had called Emily when leaving Sewanee to ask if she’d be willing to not make any plans with any of her girlfriends for the evening to possibly partake in a celebratory happy hour with yours truly for completing my latest semester of classes on the mountain.  She agreed on the spot and said she would even get home a few minutes earlier than usual.  The plans were set.

Emily greeted bearKat with jumping hands and a big, we might be going on a W-A-L-K around the neighborhood kind of excitement.  She turned the corner.

“Hi!” Emily said.

I also greeted her with jumping paws and a crazy smile.  “You need to go pack a bag.  We’re leaving in less than an hour.  My mom is on the way here to take us to the airport.”

“What?”  A look of confusion was a total understatement.  “Where are we going?  What’s going on?”

“We’re getting out of town for the weekend.”

“Did you tell Ellen about this?”  The first thing Emily thought about was missing work, true story here.  “I do have to go to work tomorrow.”

“I’ve already talked with Ellen.  Just trust me.”

She walked up the stairs.  She yelled, “Do I need a bathing suit?”

“Ummmm, go ahead and throw it in the bag.  You never know.  I’m not saying anything else other than it’s gonna be warm, kinda like Nashville but not raining.”

“This is just crazy.”  I think she said it to herself and to the cat, but I agreed.

My mom arrived and she joined in on the fun.  After Emily had packed, and I had packed, we took a seat with a few minutes to eat a snack.

My mom hyped up the surprise when Emily tried to pry for hints. “Gosh, if Roy Beard did the same thing for me that y’all are doing this weekend … well …. well, I might, I might just marry him again!”  Everyone laughed.

We arrived at the airport, and I took our confirmation numbers to the Southwest counter.  Emily agreed not to look at the tickets.  She went along for the ride.

We walked past security with nothing to be nervous about, but we both had big butterflies flying on the inside.  Emily, someone who prides herself on being a spontaneous person, was feeling nervous, not knowing where she was going, and out of whack.  I also try to be more confident that everything will work out more than the next person, but we still had no concert tickets.  I had a firework show planned without the grand finale; a circus without an elephant.  Mystery was the elephant in the room, in Nashville’s airport.

We had some time to spare before boarding and revealing the first secret of where we were going.  We had a drink to help squash the mystery anxiety for us both.  We toasted to the great unknown.  We passed on snacks because I hinted that our flight, despite Emily’s first guess, was not going to be an all-night flight to Hawaii.  I snapped this picture of Emily’s reenactment of her expression when I first told her to pack a bag at the house unexpectedly.

What?

What?

 

The intercom announced for passengers heading to Philadelphia to now board at our concourse, overhead.

“No way are we going to Philadelphia.”  Emily said in jest, with a shrug of confidence.  We both knew that Philadelphia wasn’t involved with either one of our dream trips, for sure.

“Just wait.”

The boarding call to Chicago was announced, just afterwards.

“That us?”

My silence said it all.  We got on the plane, after she did a little Chicago song and dance in the seat, and she immediately asked if we were staying with her friend Maribeth Joy (appropriately named … Emily only said Maribeth but Joy was implied).  I told her that we would definitely see Maribeth while on our adventure, that I had talked with her a few times, and that I had someone picking us up from the coolest place I had found on the internet to make her happy. *I never lied this entire time of planning and revealing.  **I never lie to Emily.

sweet home chicago!

Maribeth bound!

 

The ride, like the planning months, was relatively short but also long because of the weight of surprise still around us.  On our descent into the windy city lights, I mentioned that a few of my friends were serendipitously in town for different jobs they were working this particular weekend too.  I had discovered this fact in recent days before flying to Chicago.  She didn’t hear me.  She was already planning her trip in her head: priority one was visiting with Maribeth … then how we should go see her circus, Circ Esteem, perform, hang out with a few other people she knew who lived there, go see the art school Maggie is beginning next month, and … looking out of the window at the bright city lights, she turned to me with a mischievous grin.

-wait … I think Pearl Jam is even playing in town this weekend, aren’t they?

-Are they?

-No.  Yes, I remember reading it online the other day.  They are playing at a baseball field, I think.  I might just have to break out the ol’ credit card for that one.

-Didn’t we pay that thing off?

-Yeah, but I still have it for emergencies.  This would be such an emergency.

-Let’s wait and see what’s going on.  Let’s just see what I’ve got planned.

I was trying to keep the surprise suppressed and secret as much as possible.  Once the cat is out of the bag, you can’t put that thing on a leash and walk it around the neighborhood.  Cats run wild.  I was beginning to feel as if the volcano was about to burst and no plastic container or makeshift distraction could ever hold back Emily’s lava or love for Eddie Vedder from exploding once the thought arose.

We walked out of the plane and beyond baggage claim.  I finally succumbed to Emily’s twenty-third comment about “Maribeth is picking us up, isn’t she?” by telling her that Maribeth was in fact picking us up and was minutes away.  We jumped inside the van, gave hugs like handshakes, and headed north.  I felt lucky again.  The pure joy of seeing Maribeth and finding out that Maribeth was in on the surprise gave me some time to keep Pearl Jam under wrap.  Or so I thought.

sweet home Chicago!

We stayed up for a while as Maribeth shared some fun stories.  Beyonce had been in town the night before.  Not that she was interested in hearing Beyonce or seeing her dance (a friend of a friend got her a special pass, a major theme to this story or any story I usually end up being a part of these days) she got a real kick out of seeing the Beyonce shenanigans firsthand and doing so beside a dear old friend doing well for himself in the music business.  Actually, Maribeth wished she could have seen more of Michelle Obama, who was also at the show, rather than Beyonce.  Nobody in this story is much of a fan of Beyonce anyways, I digress.  We opted to talk more about how happy we were to be in such good company.  We hit the hay for the night after a little popcorn snack to get an early start on the next morning, because this day had done so much for us all.  Some of us (one, specifically) didn’t wake up this morning knowing we would be sleeping in Chicago by day’s end.  That fact alone would take a toll on any one person, Pearl Jam in the same city aside.

I didn’t know that our early start would start so early, at dawn.  I’m not sure if Emily even slept at all.  I had planned to unpack and gift the killer shirt to my wife while saying something to the effect of “You always look beautiful, but you really do need to wear this shirt where we are going tonight.”  I’m not saying I had rehearsed this exact speech and gestures during the months of planning, but I did want the gift to be as sweet and gentle as possible since I knew my wife’s head would fall off when she found out we were going to see Pearl Jam for her second time within a year and ever (I can’t emphasize this note enough.  I was there for the first time too, and that was something I can write an entire book about another time, if you want to read or talk about it more let me know … almost equally as good).  As always, what you try to plan and what actually happens in life are two different things.  I woke up.  I rolled over.  I was staring at my wife staring right back into my soul like bearKat waiting for me to feed her bedside at home, pre-dawn.  The alarm sounded.  I knew I was going to have to feed my wife with answers.  She was hungry to figure it all out.

“It just doesn’t make sense.  Are we going to Pearl Jam tonight?  We totally could have flown up here tonight for a fun, full weekend of Chicago and Maribeth.  I just don’t get it.  It doesn’t make any sense.  Did you get Pearl Jam tickets for tonight?”

I couldn’t lie.  “Truth be told, I’ve been working on getting tickets for months.”

“Seriously, you got tickets to Pearl Jam for tonight?  Didn’t you?”  She coyly grinned.  She still wasn’t hearing me.

“I’m serious.  I’ve tried Magic Johnson.  I’ve tried Kyle.” *A cousin’s husband who did sound for Pearl Jam once upon a time recently. “I’ve tried a friend’s family friend who is the guy that runs Lollapalooza, but he lives in Australia right now so he had a hard time getting back to me.”  I tried a few other promising, random connections and even had a friend who has worked for the likes of KISS and has friends who have worked for Kanye West (can you say irony with the Pearl Jam/Kanye West Bonnaroo backstory history twist on this one that makes my heart smile because I was there in ’08 and laughed with Robert Randolph the morning after) and who has catered for Pearl Jam ask around unsuccessfully.

Emily smiled.  “Don’t mess with me.  You got Pearl Jam tickets, didn’t you?”

I knew the secret was no longer a secret so I reached into my bag and pulled out the shirt that I had bought for the special occasion.  I handed it to her.  I continued with the truth.  “At this point, I’m still waiting to hear back from a good friend who is cousins of Jim James, and she said she was going to talk to him again today for one more last ditch effort.  We don’t have tickets, but we’ll see what happens.”

Emily continued to smile.

“I’m serious.  We don’t have tickets, but we’ll try.”

Emily got out of bed.  There was no more sleeping for anyone of us.  Maribeth was up.  Her cat was up.  Emily was up.  I was up.  T-minus a half-day until the Pearl Jam show started at Wrigley Field.  I had to get those tickets.

Maribeth and the cat treated us to morning fruit smoothies.  I had fun deflecting the light coming into the window onto the floor as the cat kept herself entertained by jumping on said light, never really catching it.  I laughed at the cat and myself because I too was chasing something that I really couldn’t fully grasp at the moment.  Maribeth and Emily walked in the room and mentioned that Circ Esteem was having a special performance at the main building (which just so happens to be located a half-mile from Wrigley Field) at 2:30pm.  I said we’d be there and be there early if our help was needed.  She said that was fine, but a lot of help probably wasn’t needed this go round.  We were the ones that needed help.  Maribeth had to run off to work.

At that moment, I got an email from Jim James!  Well, it was from his cousin (without naming too many names here to protect privacy and keep some kind of mystery since all my secrets are out of the bag at this point of the story) telling me that Jim thought that he could secure two tickets for us for the show and he needed personal information.  My friend gave Jim James my full name and telephone number!  Not a bad way to start your day, if I don’t say so myself.  The funny things to me were that not two weeks prior I had watched part of a Cubs’ baseball game on tv played at Wrigley because another college friend was at that very game (and I fully admit now that I was selfishly trying to envision myself in the future crowd more so than spotting my friend at the game) and that Emily and I had just seen Jim James on our regular Sunday Morning show on CBS the same day as that particular Cubs’ game.  I had been ridiculously busy making and manifesting connections that Emily couldn’t see.

I relayed the email message that we now had real hope with the tickets, upon which she was finally starting to understand my honesty and situation at hand, and so we decided to pretend to be chill about this newfound, crazy hope while walking to a nearby park with some food to have an enjoyable, spontaneous lunch picnic.  You can plan a pretty picnic, right?  We did have a nice picnic and had a good time while watching Cubs fans of all ages playing on the grass, in the swings, and around the water-spraying contraptions for public happiness.  I snapped a shot of Emily reenacting her confusion about not having Pearl Jam tickets and me gifting her one of the coolest shirts she has ever had (she’s worn it every day at some point since).

shirt without tickets?

shirt without tickets?  confused?  my wife is no stranger in jorts 🙂

Then we made it to Circ Esteem in time to be amazed.  The theme of the show was pirate.  Every kid was dressed to kill (okay, more like kill the performance rather than actually walking any planks, it must be written).  The camp kids gave the crowd a magnificent performance that involved spectacular tumbling, juggling, balancing, and big, circular metal wheel (for lack of specific circus equipment terminology) tricks, and more dynamic fun routines than I could have ever imagined being a part of when I was their ages.  I was so inspired and incredibly jealous at the same time.  That’s when you know someone is doing something awesome.

At the very same time as the crowd stood up and applauded the terrific, successful show, I got another email from Jim James!  It was from his cousin, but unfortunately I could tell by the two words in the subject line stating the overwhelmingly underused word combination of Dag Nabbit that the once promising tickets (albeit two hours prior at this point) had vanished at the blink of a pirate’s eye patch.  Jim and his cousin were disappointed.  I was surprisingly not so much.  I still had hope.  But, I also felt an immense appreciation for the fact that Jim and his cousin had even spent a second out of their busy schedules and creative lives to help try to make a wish for a long shot of a cause like this crazy mission and adventure a reality.  Just thinking about the Dag Nabbit situation is unreal, even now.

I shared the news with Emily, and I found out she had been researching a little bit on her smart phone on the side show as well.  She and Maribeth had discovered that Bjork was playing at the Pitchfork Festival down the street.  Apparently we had brought an element of Music City with us on the trip.  I would later find out that on top of Pearl Jam and Bjork, Phish was playing three shows in town and another friend had seen another boy band bus that I will get to in a minute.  The point being was that Emily was okay with buying tickets and taking her friend to experience Bjork, if we ended up without Pearl Jam tickets being the worst case scenario at the end of the day.  My wallet was fine with that safety net of a concept at this point in the game, but I wasn’t ready to give up all hope on Wrigley.  T-minus 3 hours until the first song.

I hurried to the closest computer and made a final push on Craigslist.  I found a few leads, some that were so obviously a scam and two or three that felt sincere.  I emailed and texted the two or three, sincerely.  I got a reply from one saying that they needed more money than what I could offer.  The second said they would meet and talk tickets in person.  I’m still waiting for a reply from the third.  Mind you, this is also when, instead of ticket prices fluctuating up and down, the lowest priced tickets for online sales on StubHub and others alike were going for well over buying a Kia … crazy, stupid prices.

Our plan ultimately changed to taking a wad of cash to the ballpark to meet the sincere ticket holders wishing to sell two to us. And if that fell through, we would simply call up Maribeth, put on our best smiles, and dance the night away at Pitchfork as our swan song (get it?).  I almost laughed at the notion that my wife was going to be the only person wearing a Pearl Jam shirt at a Bjork show down the street.  I almost laughed.  Maribeth dropped us off at statue of Harry Caray.  We waited for our next phone call for Mission: Possible.

On the way to the field of dreams, I got a text from another Matt.  All the way from Bowling Green, KY, it went as follows:

-You’re not going to The Black Crowes show tonite, are you?

-I would if I wasn’t in Chicago going to Pearl Jam at Wrigley.

-Trying to one up me, (explicative)?

-No, just being a Betterman 🙂  A total surprise for the wife.  Classic McGill move, eh?

My phone rang, and after I told the stranger on the other end that Harry Caray had my back, I was told to stay where I was at.  They were coming for me.  After I pushed end call, I started a game of trust (or mistrust if you will, and I most certainly did).  Not knowing who I was talking to on the other line, I began to judge people around me more so than usual.  Every person that walked by me got a second and third look over.  Some of them I was hoping were my ticket holders.  Others, I was forced to question on the spot if I would confidently buy them or not.

Then, I got another phone call.  Look behind you, across the street!  Come on over!  I try not to normally judge books by their cover, but this wasn’t a normal situation.  I don’t typically carry a wad or much cash at all on any street.  This was different.  These people were different, to be nice.  The guy was a fat white man with a red bandana, tall white socks, jorts, and a wicked mustache that screamed molester.  The girl by his side had neon green fingernails, dyed blonde hair covered with dyed baby blue hair, a fidgety pack of Kool cigs, and jorts to boot.  I am always good on my intuition, and I can lay claim quite proudly that my first instincts in any situation is to never trust a stranger in jorts, without going wrong.  After a few minutes of looking at the tickets and not feeling good about getting scammed, my friend Matt Hall called and gave me a way out.

I told the couple I had to pass.  The modern-day dunce, Ignatius in the flesh, asked me what he did wrong.  I told him my friend had tickets, which I didn’t know anything about yet, and that he had some for us.  I said I was sorry, but I wasn’t too sorry.

Emily walked around the stadium, still no tickets in our possession, and I talked the entire time trying to justify why I didn’t feel good about those tickets from Craigslist.  My final word was that of jorts.  I’ve watched The Craigslist Killer movie with Emily before.   I didn’t want to get scammed and end up being that guy today, of all days.

We managed to find Matt Hall at Captain Morgan’s party.  Sticking with the pirate theme, we tried to walk in too.  The bouncer said we had to have tickets.  I asked Matt if he had tickets because five minutes before he didn’t either.  He told me about a man across the street with a sign who sold him tickets that had a cop beside him to show that he was legit.  We ran over there immediately and bought tickets to Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field; two tickets to paradise.

“I think I’m gonna cry.”  Emily was beyond happy.

We pretty much skipped into the party to meet up with Matt and his brother.  Let’s just say that we hopped on over, because we were excited and because we were now down to one arm and a leg for each of us.  Seeing Matt and Emily so happy together, minutes away from the start of the show … the event of a lifetime, it was perfect.  It was beyond worth it.  Not so worth it was Matt’s story of the day.  He had been on a morning jog before work and saw a big crowd surrounding a big bus in front of a big hotel.  He waited around for a good while because he knew that it was Pearl Jam.  It just had to be.  When the doors finally opened, all of the girls began to scream.  I think Matt even screamed for joy, at first.  Then Matt screamed again for being late for work and because it wasn’t Pearl Jam on the bus.  It was New Kids On The Block (or NKOTB or whatever)!  Again, this entire day, and everything we all went through to get to where we were, was priceless.

centre of attention

centre of attention

We toasted to us and found our seats, after getting a little swag to help remember the night once back home.  Fitting that Emily opted for the baseball pennant souvenir.  It lasts longer than ice cream in a helmet.  Never in all my planning did I think we would have the best seats in the entire ballpark, but we pretty much found ourselves with the best seats in the entire ballpark.  We had pleasant new neighbors, and all was well.  Dream mission accomplished!

priceless

happYness!

It is true that after about thirty minutes of the show, once Pearl Jam really started going, they had to evacuate the field and stage because of the impending weather in the area.  The lightning was a beautiful backdrop and fun for Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in a Small Town, but I understood and I wasn’t alone.  Eddie promised the crowd he would be back to deliver a show like no other.  I sat down in my seat as the rain fell.  Emily laughed at me.  She said I looked serious and kinda terrified that Pearl Jam wasn’t going to play again.  Honestly, I was not worried about a cancellation.  Eddie would have come out and played acoustic if anything else for such a crowd and monumental event in his own life.  I was mainly sad that my phone died, for two reasons:  1- I couldn’t reach Matt Hall and get him to sit with us (I knew that whoever was sitting beside him was getting a heck of a show), and 2- I couldn’t give my man and #1 Pearl Jam fan in that of Joe Guthrie a play by play of the concert because he deserved to be there for this more than I did.  I came to find out that Matt had been texting Joe a play by play, especially after the last thing I could text before my phone died was a halfway downloaded picture of Emily with the pennant seen above.  That alone infuriated Joe to no effin’ end.  But that said, during the rain delay, Joe was making Matt jealous with his play by play of Pearl Jam’s setlist from their historic concert at Soldier’s Field playing on XM Radio.  The rain fell, but the crowd, like our search for tickets earlier, never left or lost hope.

Click the following link for a fun video to watch:

Elderly Woman at Wrigley before the storms rolled in

Where lesser bands like Bjork and Phish cancelled on the spot, Pearl Jam came back, as promised, better than ever.  Eddie came back on stage about 2 hours after they originally left us all in the rain (which was fun and made it all more memorable to say the least), and he sang an original song about “Someday we’ll go all the way!” in honor of the Cubs, his hometown team, and inspired by his childhood hero, the legendary Ernie Banks.  In fact, Ernie Banks came on stage after that very song!  Eddie said it was one of the best moments of his life.  Ernie was so cute. The crowd went wild.  Ernie said his  trademark phrase “Let’s play two!”  Then Eddie said screw the curfew and that they were going “to play until two!”

And they did.  Eddie’s voice helped resound Emily’s teenage youth, innocence, and memories back to the surface, once again.  But for me, and I didn’t say it that night for fear and best interest for all the Eddie fans surrounding me, it didn’t/doesn’t get much better than the playing of Mike McCready.  Seriously, Mike took it to another level on that field that hardly any Cub has ever done.  He is a guitar god.  I had to sit down, mostly because I wanted to take it all in and the other fact that it was almost two in the  morning.  We all sang, we all danced, we all cheered, and we all experienced one of the best events Pearl Jam will ever play.  Eddie, playing out his childhood dream, was between sounding like the ultimate rock star that he is all night during the songs to sounding like he was five years old again with his sincere, open gestures of gratitude towards the crowd, the band, and Wrigley Field for making his wildest dream into a reality.  I know that Emily, from where she was sitting, standing, and dancing, felt a kinship with that same sentiment as well.

After the show, it felt like we woke from a dream and we were a long way beyond a bed or a bath.  We got home safely and crashed like the wet, happy dogs we were.  Wow, what a day!

With a major dream cometh true, the rest of the weekend was icing on the cake.  Upon my good friend, Lesley Patterson-Marx’s advice, we had amazing afternoon filled with some of my favorite things:  ice cream, books, pizza, live music, and good friends (we got to hang with one of the best Bowling Green athletes who played football and graduated at Northwestern University and is one of the most intelligent, driven young adults you’ll ever get a chance to meet, Jared Carpenter.  I’ll let the pictures below say a few thousand words.

picture of Todd Dills' book beside Dave Eggers' at The Boring Store and 826Chi (see www.826chi.org and http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-14-where-the2ndhand-and-east-side-story-came-alive/)

picture of Todd Dills’ book beside Dave Eggers’ at The Boring Store and 826Chi (see www.826chi.org and http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-14-where-the2ndhand-and-east-side-story-came-alive/)

ice cream from Margie's Candies (www.margiesfinecandies.com)

MY ice cream at Margie’s Candies (www.margiesfinecandies.com)

Millennium Park's water park of sorts

Millennium Park’s water park of sorts

mE, Em, Jared, and Maribeth at The Bean

mE, Em, Jared, and Maribeth at The Bean

Giordano's with the Chicago Symphony and The Thor Building at our backs.

Giordano’s with the Chicago Symphony and the building of Thor at our backs.

One last memory made, before the rain washed away plans of meeting up with other friends in town for fireworks that ended up being cancelled, was that Maribeth pointed out the famous Chicago skyline building where they filmed one of the climatic rooftop action scenes for Adventures In Babysitting.  Some people call it by another slang term.  I call it the building of Thor.  My trip was complete!  We all took the train and made it home to crash in bed like the wet, happy dogs we were again.

To every story, there must be an end.  Our end almost never happened.  I only tell this part because it was similar to the rest of the unexpected adventure we experienced.  After we broke bread one last time with Maribeth, Emily made our way to the airport.  Because Nashville’s public transportation and lack of a train at all, we talked about how every major city trip feels even more exotic because of the fun to be had with public transit.  Anyways, we got to our concourse on time and early.

It was 4pm.  We had already sat and waited for our boarding call.  There was no surprise this round where we were going.  We were going home.  We had plans for dinner back on Eastside Avenue, where this journey started, with a friend.  Again, our plans changed.

The lady at the front desk told us that our plane had a weight issue.  They were asking some of the people on board to volunteer to get off so the plane could leave on time.  A few people took the bait.   We weren’t given the choice because we hadn’t been allowed on board yet.  They told us that we would have guaranteed seats on a plane that next morning at six, and that we were given priority standby seating for the next two flights out to Nashville that evening.  Unlike everyone else who tried to be angry and lie to get on the plane, we took it in stride because we were still riding the high of a true story dream weekend.

We walked over to the first of two later flights, and we relaxed in waiting.  While sitting back, we watched one of the same blonde ladies who had bitched and moaned at every Southwest employee at the original plane come back to make another terrible showing for the new faces behind the counter.  We ditched her and this particular flight, opting for a dinner at the Harry Caray Bar and Grille around the way.  We had a lovely meal and a hysterical older waitress that really took to us.  When we told her about our situation, we thought she was never going to let us leave her table because she kept telling us to sit tight and more jokes to keep us company.

But our time came and went, and we went back down the original concourse of the day for the last effort of the evening before we either camped out in the airport or got a last minute hotel room for a few hours of sleep (it’s easy to make these kind of decisions with less stress when you travel with an awesome life partner who packs everything she needs for any trip in one bag to carry on like I always do too).  We took our seat by the television, and we bided our time.  After an hour, we looked up and saw two people we knew … Sophia and her son Benji!  Emily and Sophia were more than ready to share a glass of wine and catch up on each other’s trip to this point of the weekend while I had the excellent company of the most excellent and awesome Benji.  We split time talking about Grandpa time in Albuquerque and watching between cartoons and news on CNN (the story about the 90-year-old lady drummer really caught us both off guard).

Emily and Sophia!

Emily and Sophia!

After a while, I had to text Emily to see if she could sit and watch cartoons for a second so I could tinkle (as a solid friend of Benji might put it if he’s not already talking like Arnold Schwarzenegger … too funny, this kid).  Emily took my seat and told me that Peter Cooper was around the corner.  I jumped up and, sure enough, Peter Cooper was around the corner, wouldn’t you know.  He and Eric Brace were hot off a handful of shows out west, making their way home back to Nashville too.  It was such a good feeling to feel so close to home.  But, in the flip side, we still didn’t know if we were going back with these guys or what the heck was going on.  Sophia, Benji, Peter, and the gang got on the plane.  We took our seats.

Emily and I kept our cool, waiting in the wings, as directed by one of the Southwest employees that now knew us on a first name basis, but something happened that really lit both our fires at the same time.  It was as if the theme song for the Wicked Witch of the West played over the intercom as that same bitching blonde lady strolled up to the counter, said her piece, and then was allowed to get on the freakin’ plane!  Oh hales no!  Emily and I hopped up, stormed to the counter, and told the lady behind the counter that that blonde witch did not deserve to be on this plane.  The employee told us that they had another weight issue with this plane due to a combination of overloaded seats, too much fuel, and short runways (I guess they don’t call it Midway for nothing).  Emily told her that we didn’t want the plane to crash, obviously, but we really didn’t want that one witch on this plane (even if we couldn’t get on there tonight) because of the way that she had treated everyone the entire day.  Good people don’t always have to win or get ahead, we understand that completely, but bad people should never win or get ahead, in my humble opinion.  But we got the last laugh.

As fate would have it, the plane and all of the passengers inside, sat still for about two hours.  I felt sorry for our friends, but we couldn’t do anything but sit and wait for answers.  Similar to the Pearl Jam show, we stood outside and waited for magic to happen.  Benji and several other people were allowed to get off, stretch, and walk back around the concourse instead of sitting still (understandable since the rest of the airport was pretty much closed down for the night).  Benji and I watched a few more cartoons for good measure, and, lo and behold, Emily and I were given two of the last seats available on the entire plane once the problems were magically resolved without answers being given to the public.  At 2 am, it didn’t bother Emily or me that we didn’t get to sit beside one another.  I sat beside a lovely old couple that had to drive two more hours once we landed in Nashville.  I fell sound asleep after the first wave of turbulence. Emily sat between a cool, working musician, shocker, and a loud-mouthed, decent looking Russian girl, coming to Nashville with dreams of starting a music career, that never shut her mouth and kept Emily and everyone around her awake the entire ride back.

We all landed safely home on Monday morning, later than originally planned but earlier than the standby ticket scheduled for sunrise.  Our Sunday dinner plans had long been shot.  The cab fee reminded us whey we never take cab rides in Nashville.

And we crashed to bed, happy and tired as dogs, heading straight ahead towards our next dream, together.

Credits and extra links:

(in order of appearance above)

-Emily Frances Harper Beard = www.efharper.com

-Ellen Pryor and Frist Center for the Visutal Arts = www.fristcenter.org

-Nicole Branigan = www.facebook.com/BlackbirdPoetry 

-Maggie Carrigan = http://reallifemaggie.com

-Michael Griffith = www.amazon.com/Trophy-A-Novel-Michael-Griffith/dp/0810152185

-Sewanee’s School of Letters = http://letters.sewanee.edu

-Circ Esteem = www.circesteem.org

-Jim James = http://jimjames.com & www.mymorningjacket.com

-Lesley Patterson-Marx = www.lesleypattersonmarx.com

-The Boring Store = www.notasecretagentstore.com

-Todd Dills = http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-14-where-the2ndhand-and-east-side-story-came-alive

-Dave Eggers & 826 Chicago = www.826chi.org 

-Margie’s Candies = www.margiesfinecandies.com

-Peter Cooper & Eric Brace = http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-12-where-writers-read-sing-and-eat-their-great-uncles-with-a-side-of-red-beets-for-dinner-outdoors

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Tom Eizonas, Chuck Beard, Joshua Payne, and Susanna Felts

Hello again and welcome back to another recap for another amazing East Side Stortyellin’ show that was experienced on the evening of Tuesday, June 4th, in the most lovely of Nashville weather with some of the coolest people around.  To preface a lovely evening without stress, I should let you know why I changed my outfit besides the fact the I didn’t want to be any kind of person or animal in sheep’s wool clothing in the new Nashville humid heat.  One day before the show, and one week after paying off one of our cars (not that we have 50, we have 2), our trusty RAV4 decided to slap us in the face and stab us in the wallet with a broken radiator out of the blue.  I can’t say I was feeling very cool in the midday summer heat of pre-CMA downtown on a Monday at noon with everyone, including a metro bus a time or two, and their mother honking at me every 5 minutes when the car quit every 5 minutes on the way to a repair shop.  We are good now, but it was a rollercoaster ride … tis life.

Now, back to the change of attire and show.  I opted for a t-shirt and MY shoes … a solid pair of CHUCKS.  Fast forward to the skies clearing up on Tuesday afternoon with a certainty that the show was yet again going to be outdoors at Fat Bottom Brewing Co. and the artists arrived early and ready, the show was set.  Oh, did I mention that their wasn’t an empty table or seat outside this go round?  I just did.

Before we got started or recording, I let another Nashville native author take the stage and share information about her recently published book and event across town the coming weekend at another bookstore.  The author’s name is Rosemary Zibart and her website is- www.rosemaryzibart.com.  She was very sweet, and great for the crowd.

After Rosemary sat down, we started the radio introduction to a heartwarming opening applause from the crowd before I even said a word.  It was very touching and endearing.  I took a moment, as usual, to introduce the show quickly under the time constraint, and then I was honored to bring to the stage the 2nd half of the most delightful dynamic literary duo in Music City.  She is a fiction writer, freelance writer, teacher of aspiring writers, and the author of one novel (so far) called This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record.  The novel is sold at East Side Story and a couple ended up buying a copy on site at the show after the reading.  The author that was featured was none other than the talented Susannah Felts.

 

Susannah took to the stage like a pro.  She jumped right into telling the crowd about what she was about to read and went to it.  She read a passage from her novel, a book that is set in 1989 Nashville.  You know, when teenagers actually lived life in real time and places rather than on smart phones and the internet.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m 80, but I’m a proud child of the 80’s, and I was not alone in thoroughly enjoying Susannah’s prose and delivery.  The crowd was captivated the entire time.  Then, just when you thought she was finished, Susannah pulled another original piece out of her notes and shared a story inspired by the Watkins lady.  It was perfect.

Susannah sat down to a round of applause and I jumped up at the chance to introduce one of the most true artists that I am so fortunate to know and call a friend on and off of Facebook.  This guy has been in 6 movies, recorded several albums, sang in operas professionally for a decade, paints, takes beautiful photographs, and does pretty much everything his creative heart tells him to do every moment of every day.  With a beautiful, classically trained voice that is both fragile and extremely powerful, this guy is a widely accomplished singer who is also a lyricist, a poet, a composer, an arranger, and producer in his “spare” time.  He is often accompanied by a full orchestra or band, but he took the time to come correct with a solo performance for the ages as you will hear below.  This artist that I write about and speak of is a name that you need to remember for some time.  It is Joshua Payne.

 

Joshua took a seat, and casually began to tell the stories behind his songs and strum out some of the most pleasant sounds I’ve heard in a long time … like forever.  He worked his volume and microphone with ease, and he worked the smiles on the crowd of everyone that was present (I saw it … fact).  He combined humor with a deep sense of humanity in every lyric that he shared.  One of my favorite moments was when he did a cover of one of my favorite Wizard of Oz songs in that of “If I Only ha a Brain.” (hence the art poster below designed by Alex Smith).  Another instant classic moment that made everyone smile AND sing was when he had everyone join along with his Jesus and Cornbread ditty.  Listen to the recording below and learn it for the next show.  You never know what fun and spontaneous, instant classic moment you’ll experience at East Side Storytellin’.  You just need to show up and enjoy.  You really have no excuse at this point.

I’m serious, the combination of Susannah’s Nashville based stories and Joshua’s sounds couldn’t have been a better fit for the evening (the people, the weather, the environment, etc. collectively).  I really enjoyed having a few moments to talk with both at the same time about their Nashville experiences, journey to and around town in the time they have both spent here, and goals for the future.  These two are great talents in their respective fields of creativity and they both seem to have a sense that they have a lot more they want and will accomplish before all is said and done.  You can hear pretty much all of it below in the recording.

All in all, I was/am yet again feeling very humbled and fortunate to have had the opportunity to share such a wonderful experience with some extremely beautiful human beings (the artists and the crowd).  Thank YOU!

 

art by Alex Smith

art by Alex Smith

Before I share with you the edited recording below, I’d love to take a second to thank some special people that helped make East Side Storytellin’ 15 happen the way it did.

-My wife, Emily Frances Harper Beard.  Without you in my life and your support, none of this happens.  I loves you.

Alex Smith, YOU sir are an ARTIST in every sense of the word!

Tom Eizonas, you make us all sound better than we are and allow others who weren’t as fortunate to be at the show in person able to experience a hint of the greatness over and over again at their convenience.

Fat Bottom Brewing Co., you provide such a pleasant home for heartwarming performances to happen in your backyard.  I am very grateful we have crossed paths and look forward to the shows to come.

Susannah Felts (www.susannahfelts.net) – Thank you for taking time to read out loud what so many other people I know will be reading at home and around town very soon.  Your style is right on point, and you are a main reason why this city is on the rise with its literary scene.  Please continue to teach the way you do, write the way you do, and support others all over with the creative writing dreams and goals you have in store for many years to come.  You are an inspiration.

Joshua Payne (www.joshuapayne.com) – I can’t honestly thank you enough for coming out and sharing the amazing talents and person that you are.  You are a great artist and an even better friend.  Keep building that epic catalogue of goodness all around and don’t ever stop doing what you do.  Thanks for being YOU.

WAMB Radio, thank you for saving us a spot on air and for allowing us to be a small part of your treasured history.

NOW, without further ado, here is the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 15 that we recorded on June 4th, 2013 and aired on WAMB Radio (1200 am/99.3 fm) at 2pm on Saturday, June 8th, 2013.  Listen, post, and share as many times as you wish!

https://soundcloud.com/eastsidestorytn/sets/east-side-storytellin-15-6-4

But wait, I’m not finished with this idea and storytellin’ show by any means.

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ event will be …

Date- Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Time- 7 pm sharp (Central)

Location- Fat Bottom Brewing Co. (900 Main Street)- www.fatbottombrewing.com

Need information or details about Fat Bottom Brewing Co., call 615-678-5895.  Otherwise it is first come, first available seats.

Who will be featured- Ralph Murphy (author of Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting – The Bookhttp://murphyslawsofsongwriting.com) and music by the East Nashville rising star duo called Carolina Story (www.carolinastory.com).

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Tom Eizonas, Mike Willis, Chuck Beard, Todd Dills

East Side Storytellin’ 14 was going to be something new for me.  It was the first show that I knew for sure that my loving and always supporting wife would not be attending because she was on a business trip of sorts.  The day of the show, May 21st, first appeared to be rocky and stormy in the sky and I figured Emily not being present was one of the reasons why.  Then, as if a higher power heard my woes, the cloudy skies opened up and turned blue, the sun came out alongside my mother and brother and sister-in-law arrived out of the blue too, and I received a text from the “business trip” from Baltimore.  It was a picture of a hot dog, a cold beverage, and a clear view of the Baltimore Orioles’ stadium that read something like,  “The Yankees are in town! Have a wonderful show.  I loves you!”  Getting this text, a text from someone who loathes sports events on television or in person as much as I loathe liars and people who skate by on life without trying their best (another story or ten altogether), I knew this text was a good sign for a great show.

As mentioned, the skies cleared for us to have another stellar radio show outdoors.  I was super excited about the show because I knew the author and musician had actually worked on a project fairly recently and planned on showcasing the project at some point in the night.  Judging from the excitement and quality that the artist collaboration of East Side Storytellin’ alumni Craig Havighurst and Don Gallardo & How Far West brought to the show the week before, I was again geeked out for something extraordinary to happen.  In the end, I get geeked out every show because I know that something extraordinary is about to happen between two artists that are good-hearted and very talented.

I stepped up to the mike and introduced the featured author of the evening.  Todd Dills is one half of the most delightful literary dynamic duo around this town (his wife, author Susannah Felts, is having her own show on the 4th of June).  He is the driving force behind the nationally known quarterly magazine & weekly online magazine that features short writings called The 2nd Hand.  When he’s not busy with that or freelance gigs, and being a great dad, he’s got his hands full with 3 published works that are all sold at East Side Story.  The first was called Sons of the Rapture, the 2nd is a collection of 10 years of stories for The 2nd Hand called All Hands On, and the latest one, and the one from which Todd read from for the evening, is called Triumph of the Ape. And speaking of Triumph of the Ape, you should totally check out this Kickstarter link that Todd has started to get his latest book even more recognition that he justly deserves-

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/the2ndhand/triumph-of-the-ape-stories/

 

Todd took the stage and totally rocked it.  He mesmerized the crowd, had them laughing at the times he also chuckled, and told an eloquent story that had you feeling the words of the character and the actions of the story in general.  I can’t say much other than it was a FINE reading in all caps.  You can listen to it in its entirety on the recording link below this page.

 

After Todd took his seat, it didn’t take long to get the stage set for the solo artist of the evening.  Mike Willis, a close friend of Todd, is a busy man.  I was grateful that he took time to be a part of the show and only learned upon arrival that he had another gig after our show at another place with his larger band called The Cumberland Collective.  He spends a lot of time writing songs for a lot of people with names and songs you’ve heard before, but I always like it more to hear the person that actually writes the great songs play … don’t you?  Mike has an authentic country feel to his melodies, an author’s touch to his words and stories, and a powerful voice to carry the entire package to another level.  On this evening, Mike cut right to the essence of his original songs, some of them new and played for the first time, and amazed everyone there to see and hear it.

 

Before Mike finished, he managed to get Todd back up there with him to perform the collaboration they recently worked on.  I’ll let you listen to it below in the recording, but you can gain more insight from Todd and his writing in the Chapter 16 posting before the show on this link-

http://www.chapter16.org/content/what-can-fiction-writer-learn-nashville-recording-session

 

So yeah, after Todd and Mike completely wow’d the crowd, we had a casual conversation about creativity, Georgia Bulldawg football for 2013, and basically sharing your stories and making things happen that need to happen.  Overall, the night was so refreshing to the soul.  These two artist know who they are, are true to themselves, help countless others achieve their creative goals, and are great guys to know.  I felt honored to be able to be a small part of this wonderful event on this occasion.

 

art by Alex Smith

art by Alex Smith

 

Before I share with you the edited recording below, I’d love to take a second to thank some special people that helped make East Side Storytellin’ 14 happen the way it did.

 

-My wife, Emily Frances Harper Beard.  Without you in my life and your support, none of this happens.  I loves you.

Alex Smith, YOU sir are an ARTIST in every sense of the word!

Tom Eizonas, you make us all sound better than we are and allow others who weren’t as fortunate to be at the show in person able to experience a hint of the greatness over and over again at their convenience.

Chris Haston and the Fat Bottom Brewing Co. family, you provide such a pleasant home for heartwarming performances to happen in your backyard.  I am very grateful we have crossed paths and look forward to the shows to come.

Todd Dills (www.the2ndhand.com) – Thank you for introducing me to Mike Willis and his music.  Also, thanks for being the amazing editor, writer, 12 Supper award-winning beverage maker, and all around great friend on and off Facebook that continues to inspire more creative people here, near, and far than you know.  I look forward to reading everything you write!

Mike Willis (www.thecumberlandcollective.com) – Thank you for listening to Todd Dills and making a blind faith leap into East Side Storytellin’.  I feel like you two compliment each other so well and really made this event something special for everyone involved.  I’m glad that you overcame the initial silent, listening crowd that we brought together and blew them away with every note and word that you could hear all around.  You make excellent songs.

WAMB Radio, thank you for saving us a spot on air and for allowing us to be a small part of your treasured history.

NOW, without further ado, here is the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 14 that we recorded on May 21st, 2013 and aired on WAMB Radio (1200 am/99.3 fm) at 2pm on Saturday, May 25, 2013.  Listen, post, and share as many times as you wish!

https://soundcloud.com/eastsidestorytn/sets/east-side-storytellin-14-5-21

But wait, I’m not finished with this idea and storytellin’ show by any means.

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ event will be …

Date- Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Time- 7 pm sharp (Central)

Location- Fat Bottom Brewing Co. (900 Main Street)- www.fatbottombrewing.com

Need information or details about Fat Bottom Brewing Co., call 615-678-5895.  Otherwise it is first come, first available seats.

Who will be featured- Susannah Felts (author of This Will Go Down on Your Permanent Record – www.susannahfelts.net) and music by the one and only Joshua Payne (www.joshuapayne.com).

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I normally don’t watch much of the weather or the radar unless I hear that strong winds will keep my wife up at night because we don’t have a storm shelter.  That said, I was paying extra attention to the forecast during the days leading up to Tuesday, May 7th.  We had already cracked open the wondrous splendor of experiencing East Side Storytellin’ outdoors during the previous show with Robert Hicks, Eric Brace, and Peter Cooper, and I didn’t feel much like taking the show back inside any time soon.  Lucky for everyone involved, I played Blind Melon’s “No Rain” all day and night in order to offer my respects to the clouds and clear the way for one of the most pleasurable shows to date.  The sky was blue, the stage was set (and lit by a few Christmas lights that even Clark Griswold would have been proud of for sure), and everyone was present for the right reason … to enjoy another East Side Storytellin’ to the fullest.

Tom and I had a minor hiccup with the scheduled, pre-recorded introduction from our friend Dave Eastman of WAMB radio, but it didn’t bother us one bit.  It actually got everyone’s attention and then we hit the ground running with everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in the crowd actually there and respectful for the show at hand.  Before I get started on the recap, I do want to say thank you to 98% of all the crowds so far that have attended every East Side Storytellin’ show at Fat Bottom Brewing Co. up to date.  The other 2%- the inevitable passer-by, immature, mid-20’s, still getting sloppy drunk off their parents’ tab and talking so loud that not only do they embarrass the other people they came in the taproom with for the evening but they also disrupt the show for the rest of the 98% of the people that came to actually hear and enjoy this extraordinary show- well, let’s just say I was so happy to be outside and surrounded by 100% of a packed crowd that was enthusiastic about the featured guests of the evening.  Now, I can get on with the recap of this wonderful show.

I introduced the show first by acknowledging that Nashville had recently lost one of its, if not THE, most influential artists, teachers, and human beings in that of Don Evans the day before.  I didn’t want to take all the time in the world sharing the loss of a friend, but I did want the crowd and people over the air waves to know about the passing and possibly take a moment later to look up some of the amazing things Don did for others and this world in general after the fact.  Don will truly be missed.

After a very brief moment of condolences, I jumped at the chance to introduce a man that I now, after knowing about everything he does in town and also finding out that he is a skilled musician in his own right, refer to as the quintessential music man of Music City.  Craig Havighurst is the author of the book Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City.  He is also a major contributor and co-host of the weekly, award-winning show of Music City Roots.  Craig has been a featured speaker at TEDx Nashville in the past, and he also performs in a unique show called “String Theory: a one-man show about music.”  In his one man show, Craig distils lessons from a life as an amateur musician and a professional music documentarian into a 90-minute, two-act multi-media event.  So as you can read, it is no stretch of the imagination or words why I can easily call Craig Havighurst the quintessential music man of Music City. 

Craig prefaced and read from two different excerpts from his book.  Similar to the East Side Storytellin’ show with Bill Friskics-Warren and his book reading from I’ll Take You There: Pop Music and the Urge for Transendence, Craig pretty much laid a smack down on the attentive crowd much like a very cool professor of music culture history.  He had his lesson plan on the reading stand and took us all to school in a very refreshing and innovative way that left nothing but smiles in the seats.  The material was poignant to the area, prolific in its delivery, and captivating all around.  You could hear a pin drop if there were any pins to drop at the time.  Bottom line, it was a very special moment for all to experience.

And speaking of a very special moment for all to experience who attended the show, Craig was not finished when the reading ended.  I took a second to introduce who I believe is hands down the hardest working band in a city filled with them in that of the awesome Don Gallardo & How Far West, and Craig stayed on stage to perform two classic songs from the Nashville days of ole’ alongside the band at hand.  For reasons due to time and legal constraints, we had to edit said 2 songs out of the final recording of the show that you can listen to below, but let me tell you that it was something remarkable to witness.  It was a perfect extension of a closing number from Music City Roots, but yet it also felt like something totally different as well if that makes any sense.  I guess you had to be there!

Craig left his guitar and took a seat with the rest of the crowd while Don and the boys treated the event like a back porch, family hootenanny.  Four of the five guys were singing, and every single person on stage was bringing everything they had for the show.  It was excellent and beyond words.  My face was hurting after a few songs because I had a steady perma-grin for the evening.  Don told personal stories about travels and other musical inspirations behind the meanings of each song, and it felt like a house show more than any other concerts I’ve been to in person.  Needless to day, I was almost sad when it was time to close the show with an interview.

Again, because of time constraints, I wanted to keep the interview brief in order to keep the most amount of music that we could in the end.  That is a very tough task to keep when the featured guests are as busy and as talented as Craig and Don.  Both of these guys are constantly on the go, creating as much as they can possibly create, and do everything at another level than most people in this town do single acts for their livelihood.  You can listen to the interview and the rest of the show that made the final cut below, but I ended the show pretty much where I began the evening … with a memory of Don Evans.

I felt like the quote below that I closed the show with was not only appropriate for the evening’s special guests because they constantly push their creative envelops on a daily basis to help others better themselves and the world they live in, but this quote always perfectly reflects everything I have managed to be a part of while starting East Side Story in general over a half year ago.  I guess this quote wraps up what I learned from Don and attempt to implement into my own life every single day I am here with every possible idea that I think is worthy of coming to light and life.  I’ll let you read Don’s words for yourself.

Don Evans said-

I’ve always done things by accident.  I’ll learn a medium because I have to, because it’s something I want to do.  If I have an idea that I want to do something in a film, or a video, or with an environment with a lot of people, then I have to invent the machine or the thing and … and well, part of it’s just pragmatic.  I couldn’t afford to go out and buy lasers or pay people to do anything. So you had to convince them that it was worthwhile … to be part of the project and not to do it for any other reason.  And it did become, as it went along, it became my philosophy … TO DO STUFF.  I don’t think a human being is here just to watch tv and spend money and get a lot of money and buy cars and stuff.  He’s here to make things, or to invent things, to help mankind progress.  We’re not going to go anywhere if people don’t do things and actually push the envelop. 

Don Evans

Don Evans

Nice … right?!  Good words to live by indeed.

Now, before I reveal the edited radio show that aired on WAMB radio (1200 am/99.3 fm) at 2pm Central on Saturday, May 11th, here is the spectacular art print that my good friend and artist Alex Smith made for this lucky number 13 show to commemorate the WSN tower and pay homage to our Old Kentucky Home Kentucky Derby race from the previous weekend before. 

Again, amazing stuff, right?!

Ok, so here’s the link to the show … enjoy:

https://soundcloud.com/eastsidestorytn/sets/east-side-storytellin-13-5-7

 

I’d love to take a second to thank some special people that helped make East Side Storytellin’ 13 happen the way it did.

-My wife, Emily Frances Harper Beard.  Without you and your support, none of this happens.  I loves you.

Alex Smith, you paint the perfect pictures for this evening to really come to life and I am constantly amazed by your creativity.

Tom Eizonas, you make us all sound better than we are and allow others who weren’t as fortunate to be at the show in person able to experience a hint of the greatness over and over again at their convenience. 

Chris Haston and the Fat Bottom Brewing Co. family, you provide such a pleasant home for heartwarming performances to happen in your backyard.  I am very grateful we have crossed paths and look forward to the shows to come.

Craig Havighurst (www.stringtheorymedia.com), you are so talented in everything you put your heart and mind into.  I am honored to promote and sell your books in my bookstore, but even more so I am honored to call you a friend.  Your skills and passion for recording, reporting, playing, and sharing music in this city to the masses is unmatched by anyone else.

Don Gallardo & How Far West (www.dongallardo.com), you don’t need me to write or say it to know that you guys are well on your way.  Your music, your attention to details, your efforts to practice all the time and spend the rest of the time on the road for your musical journey, is inspiring beyond belief.  I hope you guys have half as much fun as everyone who hears you play. 

WAMB Radio, thank you for saving us a spot on air and for allowing us to be a small part of your treasured history.

But wait, I’m not finished with this idea and storytellin’ show by any means.

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ event will be …

Date- Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Time- 7 pm sharp (Central)

Location- Fat Bottom Brewing Co. (900 Main Street)- www.fatbottombrewing.com

Need information or details about Fat Bottom Brewing Co., call 615-678-5895.  Otherwise it is first come, first available seats.

Who will be featured- Todd Dills (author of Triumph of the Apewww.the2ndhand.com) and music by Mike Willis of The Cumberland Collective (www.thecumberlandcollective.com)

Come on out and join the fun while being a part of an amazing crowd like we had this past time outside!!!!

 

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