Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Downtown again.

The City Paper ran a story today that the ICON in the Gulch sold all 217 initial-release condos in less than 48 hours. The rumour mill is swirling about the Signature Tower. Since I am one of the few development geeks who keeps up with said rumours, let me continue to spread it, the Signature Tower is going to be upped from 55 stories to 70 stories, making it the tallest residential building on earth, or something like that. (It's a rumour, so just go with it.) Plus with the Viridian, the Ballpark and Rolling Mill Hill and the other smaller residental projects, that's a lot of people.

So people really are moving downtown. I think it's great. Here's what worries me. There seems to be a "build it and they will come" attitude about the amenities that will make up these neighborhoods. For instance, the ICON says they are going to have 25,000 square feet of street level retail. But they don't say what it is going to be. I have a pretty good guess. The Gap. Nine West. Macaroni Grill. Applebee's. Cheesecake Factory.

These are the companies that have the pockets to go into untested markets like this. You're not going to get the crazy stuff, like over in Berry Hill or in the Village. So I think it is going to be pretty generic and corporate. Which, I suppose will be fine for the Garth-loving tourists from Manchester and Jackson and Bossier City.

But I think that Nashville has so much more to offer than another TGI Friday's. I like to compare Music City with Austin. Both are state capitals. Both are University towns. The main difference is that Austin is way cooler than Nashville. Part of it is because the University there, the other UT, has 50,000 students. That's a lot of young blood in town. So there is certain "hip" vibe that goes along with having that many people in that demographic. Austin is young and vibrant and cool.

I think Nashville is at a crossroads, as far as an image. There will always be the "hillbilly central" vibe that was perpetuated for decades by the hicks-in-charge down on Music Row. We are slowly shedding that image, as Tin Roof and Dan McGuiness replace Loretta Lynn's Wax Museum. We are building one of the most kick-ass Symphony Halls on earth. We are standing on the brink of changing from Country Music City, USA to Music City USA.

There's just one problem. Musicians in this town want to get paid. So the whole hip, exciting, diverse live music scene that is ongoing in Austin, where you can walk into any of two dozen bars any night of the week and hear two dozen different kick-ass bands, won't happen here. The youth and enthusiam of Austin leads to people actually forming bands and playing to be part of the scene. But I can tell you, as someone who slugged it out in the music scene in Nashville for years, the attitude is much different here. Musicians here have mortgages and children. As high as the talent level is, that's how high the pay requirement is. People make records here, they don't put together bands for the sake of saying something with thier music. With a few exceptions, the good players won't play in a bar for 50 bucks. That's why, for a city known as Music City, we have a relatively lame live music scene.

And we can't forget about the influence of our main tourists, either. People come here because they love Kenny Chesney and Shania Twain and Trace Adkins. They actually want to see someone playing some old Moe Bandy song at Tootsie's. And country music is one of the two genres that automatically get knee-jerk vitriolic reactions of disgust from large segments of the population (rap being the other). So as long as Music Row pumps out their crap about Watermelon Crawls and Honkey-Tonk-Ba-donk-ee-donks, we are going to have an image problem.

So what are we to do? Hell, I don't know. I just hope that the influx of young people with disposable income downtown somehow creates a vibrant and interesting scene before the Famous Amos Cookie Factory, Hillbilly Barn Dance and Corn Pone Museum takes over everything.i


At 11:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you want Nashville to be identical to Austin?

I'm always amazed at the attitudes towards the music that made us famous and continues to bring a lot of money in. Puzzling.

At 11:27 AM , Blogger Nashville Knucklehead said...

I don't remember saying anything about being identical to Austin, Mr./Ms. Anonymous. I was trying to make a point that I hope that the increase in downtown population triggers a diverse cultural environment, similar to Austin. This environment being in addition to the Country Music scene, not in spite of it.

I don't know why that would be puzzling.

At 12:09 PM , Blogger Kat Coble said...

Not really germaine, but I've got a friend in Austin who constantly laments the fact that people ask him to give away his music. "I'm not 19!!!" is what he usually yells.

I don't know if Nashville can ever fully duplicate the diversity of Austin, simply because our main downtown University is the poshest of posh private schools, unlike UTexas. All our young blood seems interested in doing is hogging the porch at SATCO and getting rich fa--aa--st. (Look at me stereotype like a mad bitch!!!!)

At 12:41 PM , Blogger ceeelcee said...

Wait a minute...you and I used to play in bars all the time for $50 a night. Are you saying we weren't/aren't good musicians? Err...forget I asked anything...

At 1:51 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I totally get what you're saying Knuck.

The way I see it, and you seem to think the same way, is that it's kind of the "don't put all your eggs in one basket" school of thought. Why just COUNTRY music. Why not have a town that is known for ALL KINDS of music.

Diverstity leads to dialogue and inspiration - and those two elements can lead to some pretty kick ass music. That's what Austin has on Nashville, among other things...

My thing about the downtown building boom is where are all these people working to afford all those $250,000+ condos? Because I seriously need a gig at wherever that place of employment might be if they are doling out those generous types of salaries.

On another note, if you think people want musicians to give away their work, try being a graphic designer in this town. If I hear "well, my wife can do that on the PC with Corel Draw..." ONE MORE TIME.....

At 2:31 PM , Anonymous burrito said...

Interesting post, NK. I agree with you that we're going to have to fight off the banal and hope for some interesting stuff downtown (I like Ashville more than Austin).

Most of the folks I've met who are investing in Gulch real estate are old money or Vandy/Belmont grads with more money than they know what to do with. The only problem I can see coming out of this is the fact that despite being young and hip, rich folks tend to have really crappy taste in music, art, etc... So we might be screwed anyway.

At 2:49 PM , Anonymous gsbe said...

This is a world class symphone hall:

We're getting a pretty cool upgrade to TPAC. I doubt that people will go to see the symphony for more than a year after it is opened. The Nashville Symphony is good and chooses good programs but the public's attention for classical music is waning as witnessed by most of the major symphonies in the world.

At 12:44 PM , Blogger Patrick said...

Hey, I'm all for canned, established downtown retail as long as it gets us one of these.


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