Even Eagles fans can't tailgate all weekend long. Can they?
Surely they can't. So Philly fans headed to Nashville to see the Super Bowl champions play the Tennessee Titans next Sunday afternoon at Nissan Stadium will have a weekend-long opportunity to be tourists in Music City, U.S.A.
In Nashville, music means country music, of course, but not exclusively so. The mid-South metropolis' recent growth means more variety in all cultural realms.
There's a mother lode of country history to explore in a town that makes music central to its identity. And along with the mainstream country business that's headquartered in central Tennessee, there's also a wide-ranging Americana, rock, and folk scene growing steadily in gentrifying East Nashville, exemplified by such rising acts as former Philadelphia garage rocker Ron Gallo, who kick-started his career by heading south to Music City.
Most of the recommended musical activities highlighted below offer one-of-a-kind Nashville experiences. But next weekend, Carson Wentz-jersey-wearing fans singing the Eagles fight song won't be the only out-of-town musical visitors. There are also plenty of touring bands playing Music City.
Live music options abound, many of them non-country. Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth sings with the Nashville Symphony at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Friday and Saturday. The California "Beach goth" band the Growlers are at Basement East on Friday. Nine Inch Nails plays the Ascend Amphitheater on Saturday.
This could be odd: On Sunday, funk master George Clinton plays the Cowan, a new venue that's attached to Topgolf, the driving-range entertainment chain. And before her show at Union Transfer here next month, indie rock heroine Liz Phair plays the Exit/In near Vanderbilt University on Monday.
OK, let's start the tour:
Ryman Auditiorium. The hallowed venue known as the Mother Church of Country Music originally was a church — that will hit home when you take a seat on a wooden pew. It opened as a tabernacle for evangelist Samuel Porter Jones in 1892, a reminder that Nashville has been a Bible Belt stronghold even longer than it's been the capital of country music.
The Grand Ole Opry was headquartered here from 1943 to 1974, and after falling on hard times, the Ryman got back into action as a full-service venue in the 1990s. Statues of Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl greet you in the lobby, and tours are offered during the day.
Country Music Hall of Fame & Studio B. After the Ryman, the Country Music Hall of Fame comes in second as an excellent spot to soak up history. The current special exhibit explores the Lone Star State rebel movement that made stars out of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, along with other Texas greats such as Joe Ely and Townes Van Zandt. It's called Outlaws & Armadillos: Country's Roaring '70s. Hatch Show Print, makers of classic country-music posters, operates inside the museum, with printmakers at work visible to visitors and artwork for sale.
The museum runs buses to RCA Studio B, the historic Music Row space where Roy Orbison, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, and, in particular, Elvis Presley recorded. Studio A, where Chet Atkins created the string-sweetened Nashville Sound in the '60s, was saved from demolition in 2014 and is now the home base of producer Dave Cobb, whose long resumé includes records with Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, and Jason Isbell. (222 5th Ave. South; 615-416-2001, countrymusichalloffame.org)
Grand Ole Opry. Happening weekly since 1925, the Opry has been continually on the air for longer than any other show in American radio history. Since the show left the Ryman behind in 1974, it is held at the Grand Ole Opry House in the Pennington Bend section of town, with a mall and theme park and hotel close by.
The music is still unabashedly old-fashioned and the humor corny, but there will be plenty of veteran talent on stage both Friday and Saturday nights, with Steve Wariner and Tony Joe White on Friday and Brent Cobb and the Whites on Saturday, plus cowboy vocal group Riders in the Sky both nights. (2804 Opryland Drive; 615-871-6779, opry.com)
Lower Broadway. It's always 5 o'clock somewhere on Lower Broadway, where a strip of no-cover honky-tonks rolls down toward the Cumberland River. The quality of musicianship is often high. This is Music City, after all, and if you don't have the chops, you don't belong on the stage. If the band or the bar isn't to your liking, just head on to the next one.
Robert's Western World, the neon-lit former boot emporium known for its fried bologna sandwiches, is a top locale that spawned 1990s revivalists BR5-49. Tootsie's Orchid Lounge is a storied spot where Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson once hung out, with three bands playing on three different levels, plus a roof-top patio.
Be forewarned: As Nashville — or NashVegas, if you will — has boomed as a tourist destination and become the bachelorette capital of the U.S.A., the boozy adult amusement-park attractions have multiplied. No fewer than seven branded restaurants have been opened by male country stars on Lower Broadway since 2016, with Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, and Dierks Bentley all cashing in. This month on Twitter, rising star Margo Price reminisced about a bygone era on Broadway "before it was overrun by fake bro country [expletive] bars and cranes." (Robert's: 416-B Broadway; 615-244.9552, robertswesternworld.com. Tootsie's: 422 Broadway; 615-726-0463, tootsies.net)
Station Inn and Bluebird Cafe. Rather than chase after big names, seek out the intimate spaces where world-class pickers and singers hone their craft. Station Inn, in the Gulch neighborhood not far from the Barista Parlor Golden Sound coffee shop, is the spot for bluegrass purists. Sunday morning, there's live gospel music, so you can do your tailgating and say your prayers for the Birds there.
Don't be put off by the Bluebird's location in a strip mall five miles from downtown. The cozy music club serves as a workshop and proving ground for Nashville's songwriting professionals, and while such big stars as Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift are known to show at the venue frequently featured on the Music City soap opera Nashville, it's more likely you'll catch an up-and-coming act or a veteran songwriter with lots of credits to her name. (Station Inn: 402 12th Ave. South; 615-255-3307, stationinn.com. Bluebird Cafe: 4104 Hillsboro Pike; 615-383-1461, bluebirdcafe.com)
Ernest Tubb Record Shop. The walls are lined with autographed photos of country stars throughout the years at this music emporium founded by the late "Walkin' the Floor Over You" Texas Troubadour in 1947. The Midnite Jamboree radio broadcast, whose alumni include Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Elvis Presley, still happens live every Saturday night at the Texas Troubadour Theater in nearby Music Valley Village for free and goes out on the air (and streaming) on WSM radio. (417 Broadway; 615-255-7503, etrecordshop.com.)
Third Man Records. Jack White's stylized music boutique is as willfully weird as you would expect. Vinyl is for sale in a playful "novelties lounge," and there's a direct-to-acetate recording studio on the premises, as well as the 1947 Voice-O-Graph booth where Neil Young recorded his 2014 album A Letter Home and where you can record your own straight to vinyl. (For a more conventional record-store experience, in a spot that also frequently features free in-store performances, head to Grimey's.) (623 7th Ave. South; 615-891-4393, thirdmanrecords.com)
City Winery Nashville. Philadelphians traveling to Nashville, your mission is to check out the Music City outpost of the music, food, and beverage chain City Winery coming soon to Fashion District Philadelphia, the new updated version of East Market Street's Gallery mall. Actor Dennis Quaid plays with his band Saturday, and on Monday country singer Terri Clark sings for her Syrah. (609 Lafayette St.; 615-324-1010, citywinery.com/nashville)
3rd and Lindsley. The most fun I had the last time I was in Nashville was seeing the Time Jumpers, the collection of A-list studio musicians who get together every Monday night at 3rd and Lindsley to play classic western swing and traditional country songs. Vince Gill plays with the band most Mondays when he's not on the road. If you're not sticking around through Monday, Tim Akers and the Smoking Section's Friday night gig takes a similar approach to funk, featuring many of the top studio players in town. (818 3rd Ave. South; 615-259-9881, 3rdandLindsley.com)