I’ve lived in Nashville for three years now, and one of the main perks of living here is that friends always want to come visit. I love playing tour guide (though I know precisely zero historical facts) and curating activities and restaurants for my people.
This past weekend, one of my dear friends and her fiancé made the trek to Tennessee all the way from Michigan. We saw the usual sights (the Parthenon at Centennial Park, the Ryman, Broadway—which we immediately walked away from) and sampled the southern classics (i.e. hot chicken, grits, and banana pudding). The highlight of the weekend, however, was a new experience for all of us: listening to bluegrass music at The Station Inn.
The Station Inn has been home to iconic bluegrass performances for upwards of fifty years, and was a surprise in all the best ways. As people who love to be prepared, we read up online about the protocol for the venue—it’s first come first-served, cash only (they have an ATM right outside, just in case). The show starts at 9 but doors open at 7, and the line begins to form by at least 6. Our day didn’t lend itself to that early of an arrival, but we showed up at 7:30 hoping for the best.
The venue looks unassuming from the outside, and there was no line when we arrived. When we ducked into the dive bar from the busy street we were met by a low ceiling and the warm glow of neon beer signs. After we handed the bouncer our cash cover fee, we stepped around the corner into the bar and simultaneously back in time.
There were warm globe lights strung from the warping ceiling and hundreds of vintage band and festival posters peppering the wood paneled walls. On every guitar case and appliance in sight were collections of stickers from anything and everywhere. Everything in the room had character. We snagged a table for three right at the front, and settled in to wait.
Though we had an hour and a half of downtime before the show began, the crowd was completely content. It was as if they’d all come to the Inn just to chat. No one around us was on their phones, but instead they were laughing and sharing slices of pizza purchased from the bar (definitely frozen with some added toppings), big bowls of popcorn and pitcher drinks. We discovered we were seated right next to the artists’ family and close friends—and the atmosphere was buzzing. Unbeknownst to us, that night’s performance was an album release party for the group—so not only was the energy electric, but there was also free cake!
Closer to show time, the room filled even more, and folding chairs were retrieved to create more seating as the lights dimmed. The Stillhouse Junkies took the stage in their matching jumpsuits, and we were all swept up into their performance.
It was a true Nashville night—witnessing incredibly talented musicians practicing the thing they love to do most with the people who helped make it possible. It was hard work coming to fruition, artists having uninhibited fun playing their instruments in a space where so many greats have performed before them—and the audience couldn’t help but experience their elation. It felt like a hallowed bluegrass hall, and it was filled with joy on Saturday night.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.