Best of Nashville 2002

Nashville Scene's Readers' Poll Winner
Best Dive Bar
Best Jukebox
Best New Bar
(2nd Place)
Best New Bar/Club
(2nd Place)
Best Pick-Up Bar
(2nd Place)
Best Bar That Makes You Feel Like You're Not In Nashville
(3rd Place)

Writers' Poll Winner
Best Club
Best Cover Band (Guilty Pleasures)

The Slow Bar is going for the jugular in every aspect of its professionality and we intend to expedite matters thusly.

August 15, 2003

Slow long, Slow Bar

When bass player/music entrepreneur Mike ''Grimey'' Grimes and drummer/partner David Gehrke launched Slow Bar three years ago, they weren't trying to change the face of east Nashville. They really just wanted to create an environment with a great jukebox, occasional live music and space for friends and would-be friends to gather.

But Slow Bar's aggressive booking of local and national off-the-charts but excellent artists made it a destination for music mavens and scenesters, as well as a drop-in for thirsty neighbors.

That's what makes Slow Bar's closure, announced this week, particularly sad for those enjoying and spearheading East End growth. But Grimes says rent hikes kept him sweating long hours to keep the place fuller than he ever intended. Attempts to find a partner to make renovations and share day-to-day management didn't come to fruition, and the bar will celebrate its final night Sept. 1.

Slow Bar's three years produced more lore and memory than most bars ever will. Residencies helped shape the sound of bands such as Departure Lounge and The Bees. All-star nights, including a celebration for Johnny Cash's 70th birthday, produced explosive performances. Maximum Twang, spearheaded by Slow Bar booster Mark Robertson, evolved into Jook Joint Mondays, offering Nashville's best weekly jolt of genuine country-billy.

And perhaps most popular of all were Slow Bar's Guilty Pleasures nights, when a house band of already hard-working pros rehearsed in all-day marathon day-of sessions to develop uproarious sets of 1980s music.

Grimes plans to focus on his record store, Grimey's, in Berry Hill and consider another bar/venue. For boosters of the east Nashville renaissance and fans of Grimey, whatever he does next, it's time to trust in fate, he says. ''There's a grand plan somewhere down the road.''

— Craig Havighurst, Staff Writer

August 12, 2003

Slow Bar’s demise official

Recent talks of the suspected death of the Slow Bar have proved accurate, as owner Mike Grimes announced Monday he soon will close the popular East Nashville watering hole and music venue. Grimes said the Slow Bar’s last night of operation is set for either Aug. 31 or Sept. 1.

Grimes declined to speak in detail as to why he decided to close, but noted lease considerations and the inability to find a business partner for the venue were factors. As for the future, he said he will consider reopening the Slow Bar in a different location.

“I would like to open another Slow Bar where the overhead is lower and where the bar can be profitable,” he said. “After I close, I’m going to relax and think about my new move.” Grimes said he will now focus his energies on Grimey’s, his Berry Hill record store, and booking/playing live music.

Bill McCormick, the owner of the property that houses the Slow Bar, could not be reached for comment.

Grimes said he plans to lay his bar to rest with a final bang of quality live music. For example, for the next three weeks, the Slow Bar will welcome The Alcohol Stuntband, The Bisquits, Josh Rouse, T Model Ford, The Dirtbombs and a Friday/Saturday double dose of Guilty Pleasures on Aug. 29-30.

Christy Perkins, owner of East Nashville vintage clothing store Nitwit, said the Slow Bar symbolized the area’s renaissance. “I know it’s not like Mike Grimes [jumpstarted East Nashville] single-handedly, but he was the first to validate the area with non-East Nashvillians,” Perkins said.

Perkins is coordinating an effort to create a merchants association for the Five Points area. She said the merchants will meet later this month and will discuss the topic of area landlords and the rents and leases they are offering. “Some landlords are trying to get rents that might be more appropriate three to four years from now,” Perkins said. “Some are being unreasonable.”

Lindsay Fairbanks, a neighborhood activist and former real estate sales official, said Grimes “set the tone” for Five Points. “It is going to have an impact on the other businesses that the Slow Bar helped drive,” Fairbanks said of the closing. Fairbanks said the Slow Bar space, which anchors the southwest corner of Five Points, is a prime spot. “I don’t think the building will sit empty,” she said.

In November 2000, Grimes opened Slow Bar with former business partner David Gehrke. Originally, the bar featured a jukebox, no live music and a tight space. Later, Gehrke and Grimes would expand the space so as to accommodate a music stage and larger crowds.

Bands of note that played the Slow Bar during its near three-year run included, among others, The Detroit Cobras, Mikey Dread, Ryan Adams, Alex Chilton, Patty Griffin, Beulah and The Shins, The Legendary Shackshakers, Los Straightjackets, Gary Louris and Badly Drawn Boy.

Grimes will close with employees Brian Bequette and Niko Gehrke, both of whom have been with the Slow Bar from its beginning.

— By William Williams

August 12, 2003

Slow Bar's days will come to an end Aug. 31

The Slow Bar, a hip east Nashville hangout for the post three eyars, will close its doors at the end of the month. In an e-mail sent to various media outlets, Mike Grimes, an owner in the bar, wrote "due to the inability to renegotiate a fair lease with the owner of the property, the Slow Bar will officially close August 31 at its current location.

"The next three weeks' entertainment are the best we have ever put together, so we are going out with a major bang."

Grimes didn't return a phone call regarding the closing. Talk has circulated for months about the longevity of the club in the Five Points section of east Nashville, where Woodland Street meets 11th Street.

The club has been one of Nashvill's hot venues for seeing local and national independant rock performers.

— Staff Writer


Hot 'hood: East Nashville. The once-dicey neighborhood of historic homes — from Victorians to '30s bungalows — is the address for cool young professionals and funky nightlife. Bars and eateries are popping up like bubbles on a buttermilk hotcake: the Red Wagon Cafe (615-226-2527) for "global comfort food," such as a roast chicken sandwich with avocado, goat cheese, dried cherries and herbed mayonnaise; the Slow Bar (615-262-4701;
) for live music.

November 7, 2002
What's Your Guilty Pleasure?

It always looks different in the daytime.
Especially when you were there last night till late-thirty, riding high on the after-effects of a packed, sweaty house that was rockin' all night, what with it being Guilty Pleasures' ''Rock Night'' and all. But the rag-tag, fugitive, fleet-fingered members of Nashville's greatest loosely configured '70s and '80s cover band are back at it again this fall afternoon. There may be football on the TV over the bar, but there's also Trisha Brantley's ''big book of lyrics,'' and there are songs to be learned.

What? You thought Grimey, Kimbrough, Tashian, Deaderick, Gerhke, Tommy, Marna, Kat, Kim, Masa, Jen, Jocelyn, Jeremy and whoever else ends up on the Slow Bar's stage know all those tunes by heart? Think again....

''We got it, man!'' exclaims Slow Bar proprietor/Guilty Pleasures guitarist Mike Grimes as I walk in the door. He's not talking to me, though; he's encouraged by the fact that their rendition of Heart's Alone, featuring Jocelyn Taylor and Brantley on vocals, has come together so quickly. Tonight, Grimes notes later, is ''Chick Night,'' with a power ballad-heavy rundown destined to bring out the Benatar-lovin' from band and crowd alike.

After a verse and chorus, the band has the instrumental rudiments down; now it's just a case of locking in the harmonies, which, on a Heart song, ain't an easy task. Keyboardist John Deaderick is pretty much warbling as high as his lanky frame will let him, and Jocelyn is trying to find the right place for her rich soprano. Brantley is the utility infielder, cracking the whip to keep the rehearsal flowing, shuffling around the reams of paper that make up the Guilty Pleasures ''songbook,'' and even providing some last-minute stage attire for horn guy/singer Tommy Keenum from her vintage clothing enterprise, The Hip Zipper. Right now, though, she's waiting for Jocelyn to find her vocal comfort place, which is where she'll jump in for the harmony part. ''You pick a note and I'll follow you,'' Trisha says, mostly patiently.

That's how it goes for a Guilty Pleasures rehearsal. They try to mix up the show as much as possible (save for guitarist Will Kimbrough's spot-on delivery of Journey's Lights, which always kicks off the night), but the experience and versatility of the players lets the singers play around a little bit.

Sometimes all it takes is one pass, as it does this day with Kevin Rhodes, a shaven-headed kid who has apparently spent way too much time listening to Vanilla Ice. Rhodes walks in while the band is picking up Annie Lennox's Why, with Marna Taylor wailing away while bassist Daniel Tashian plucks out his part prone on the floor. The band takes a moment to reset, then launches into Ice Ice Baby, for which Rhodes mounts the stage and doesn't miss a word, syllable or Rob Van Winkle vocal nuance. And when the song is over, just like that, he's gone.

Sometimes it takes a little experimentation, as with the re-creation of the Phil Collins/Philip Bailey hit Easy Lover. They cycle through four different sets of male vocalists in about 30 seconds before handing the assignment to Tashian and Keenum. With Keenum doubling Bailey's ridiculously high vocal parts, it's agreed this one is better earlier in the night, and tentative set lists are starting to form.

And then there are times when it takes just a little more effort to get a song off the ground. Japanese-American folk-rocker Masa needs four runs through My Sharona to get the lyrics down. (''You guys won't know what I'm saying anyway,'' he accurately notes later on.) Kat Martin, Keenum and Jocelyn need a little extra time for the ornate ''choreography'' required for Salt 'N' Pepa's Push It. And, as the band approaches the seventh hour of rehearsal (following an equal amount of rehearsal time plus a nearly four-hour show the night before), the appeal of learning Boys Don't Cry's I Wanna Be A Cowboy is just about nil.

Eventually the rehearsal breaks up, but by around 10:30 p.m., when the lights go down in the city and the sun shines on the bay, the crowd wedged into the bar that has become an East Nashville mainstay will have little to no idea that the players on the platform before them have been aiming for this moment since about noon today. The crowd is just there for the music and the memories.And so are Grimey, Kimbrough, Tashian, Deaderick, Gerhke, Tommy, Marna, Kat, Kim, Masa, Jen, Jocelyn, Jeremy and whoever else ends up on the Slow Bar stage.
–Lucas Hendrickson
The Washington Post

It's a Twang Thang
Previous Tennessee Travel Stories
By Joe Heim
Sunday, May 12, 2002

Drop a guitar pick on a U.S. map and it will likely land on a city, town or hamlet loaded with meaning for music lovers. Rock fans fly to Seattle just to pay tribute to Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. Blues enthusiasts roll down the Mississippi Delta on Highway 61 searching for Robert Johnson's infamous crossroads or the Clarksdale hospital where Bessie Smith died. And no passionate jazz fan would come to Washington without genuflecting in front of 1212 T St. NW, one-time home to jazz great Duke Ellington.

And country music fans? They head for Nashville. Not because that's where all the great country artists came from – most didn't. No, Nashville is pilgrimage-worthy because it is the collision point of so much country music history and mythmaking, legend and lore. It is the city that gave the music its identity. By the middle of the 20th century, if you wanted to be a country music star, all of America's back roads and blue highways led to this middle Tennessee city on the Cumberland River.

And with the opening of the gleaming new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum last May, it's a good time to visit. The $37 million building is nothing like the country cousin it replaced. The old hall, built in 1967 on Nashville's Music Row, had grown grim and forlorn over the years – stuffed with mementos and memories but rarely visitors. As the building boom exploded in Nashville in the 1990s, the city's music aristocracy began the push to have the hall replaced.

Banjo virtuoso Earl Scruggs, who with his late partner Lester Flatt was inducted into the hall of fame in 1985, was among those who fretted a bit that country music's history wasn't receiving its proper due in its capital city.

"Whoever named Nashville 'Music City, USA' hit it right on the head, but there was no darn thing to show for it," he said during a walk-through the hall last summer. "But this new building, well, I'd say it sure is a fine, fine place."

Indeed it is. But it's also rather bizarre-looking. One corner rises up like the prow of a giant concrete battleship, and the rotunda looks like a cross between a grain silo and a prison guard tower. And yet, despite its many peculiarities, the building fits in nicely in downtown Nashville, which lately has developed a thing for odd-looking structures. The nearby 20,000-seat Gaylord Entertainment Center looks like a flying saucer that has crash-landed in the middle of downtown. And locals refer to the 26-story BellSouth building as the Batman Building, because of its surreal resemblance to the superhero's cowl.

The hall of fame's designers solicited ideas from all quarters for country concepts to incorporate into the building. In addition to the expected musical components, they received suggestions ranging from grain silos and Cadillac tail fins to pickup trucks and prisons. Looking at the final result, it's pretty clear that no idea was rejected.

But while the hall's adventurous modern design may not capture the rural essence and simplicity of country music, there is no quarrel with the magnificent job that has been done inside the walls. Even several hours isn't enough time to absorb the astonishing assortment of music, film, clothing, instruments and memorabilia.

At one of the hall's many multimedia stations, you can listen to a 1927 recording of DeFord Bailey, the Grand Ole Opry's first African American star (indeed its first bona fide solo star), singing "Pan American Blues," then watch a young and raw Johnny Cash perform "Folsom Prison Blues."
Thick glass casing protects Ted Daffan's original handwritten lyrics to "Born to Lose," as well as a copy of one-time San Quentin Penitentiary resident Merle Haggard's full pardon from then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Secretly, I was pleased that it got the same treatment as an original copy of the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson would approve, I'm sure.

Today's gangsta rappers, accustomed to the bling-bling burnishes on souped-up SUVs, would look with envy at Webb Pierce's 1962 Bonneville convertible on display here, with its silver-dollar-studded dashboard and pistols for door handles. Parked nearby, Elvis Presley's 1960 gold Cadillac limo, complete with a television and record player, looks as exciting as Grandma's Buick.

In the hall of fame rotunda, a stately, almost hallowed place, I wandered silently past plaques bearing such venerated names as Jimmie Rodgers, Chet Atkins, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells and the Carter Family – names that are the equals of baseball's Ruth, DiMaggio and Robinson. A full century of history is marked by the names of the 101 individuals who have been inducted into the hall. The hushed tones are an unmistakable sign that visitors here revere their musical heroes. For tastes running from "Hee Haw" to highbrow, this building is a treasure.
Country Music ShrinesBecause this is Nashville, the country music lessons don't end with the hall of fame. Two blocks away sits the Ryman Auditorium, the "Mother Church of Country Music," which hosted the Grand Ole Opry radio show from 1943-1974. It was built as a religious revival hall by Nashville riverboat captain Thomas Ryman in the 1890s, so maybe it's not surprising that so many visitors find their spiritual connection to country music within its walls.

Walking through the lovely hall today, it's hard to fathom that this small auditorium was responsible for introducing so many great country music names to the world. Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kitty Wells are just a few of the thousands who performed on the stage of what is now a National Historic Site. Even Elvis Presley delivered a "shocking" performance here in 1954. The Ryman is air-conditioned these days – it was refurbished in 1994 – but I closed my eyes and imagined an impossibly hot summer night in the early 1960s, the hall filled with fan-waving country music lovers trying to keep from melting while Patsy Cline performed onstage.

"I recorded a song called 'I Fall to Pieces,' and then I was in a car wreck," Cline reportedly told the Opry audience during one of her shows. "Now I'm really worried, because I have a brand-new record and it's called 'Crazy.'"

Since reopening eight years ago, the auditorium continues to present shows by top artists, country and otherwise. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and James Brown have all made a point of performing here. In recent years, the Ryman is also where Nashville's music community comes to grieve. The hall has been the setting for memorial services and funerals for bluegrass great Bill Monroe, singer Tammy Wynette and, in March, outlaw singer/songwriter Waylon Jennings.

The Grand Ole Opry is another Nashville institution, even if it's no longer in Nashville. The world-famous radio and television show moved in 1974 to Opryland in the suburb of Music Valley, a 15-minute drive from downtown. Opryland itself is spectacularly charm-free – a stretch of restaurants, hotels, discount shopping outlets and, yikes, the nearby Music Valley Wax Museum of country stars. But taking in a performance at the Opry – a magical, musical variety show held every Friday and Saturday night – is still a must for any serious country music devotee.

The hokey red-barn frame behind the stage now has a giant video screen in it, but the show retains its old-time feel. Longtime Opry members like fun-lovin' Bill Carlisle deliver such cornball comedy lines as, "Year after next I'll be 94. And you know what, you can live that long too if you don't die." But it's the wonderful music provided by a parade of musicians – some well-known, others less so – that makes the Opry such a treasure. Favorites like Porter Wagoner, Stonewall Jackson and Little Jimmy Dickens rekindle country music memories, and new acts are always being introduced.

Part of what makes the show so appealing is the chance to see so many stars perform, even if they play only one or two songs. Singer Vince Gill, an Oklahoman who now lives in Nashville, treasures the Opry's nearby presence. "Having 20 or 30 country music stars in the same place every week means that the Opry has the potential to do something different," he says. "The fans enjoy seeing people singing with different people and playing with different people, something that's not the norm."

Clubbing in NashvilleWhile the hall of fame, the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry represent country music's enshrined and historic side, Nashville still pulses with country music's present. Music Row, home to the industry's publicists and record companies, is the destination for a never-ending stream of hopeful country singers and musicians.

With the abundance of talented session players and not-yet-famous singers in Nashville, it's not hard to find them playing in clubs around town. I was lucky enough to catch the young Patsy Cline sound-alike Mandy Barnett belting out her own wonderful songs in the 3rd and Lindsley Bar & Grill, just off lower Broadway. Later, at a great club called 12th & Porter, I happened across the Old Crow Medicine Show, a fabulously rambunctious group of youngsters who play punked-up, old-time hill country music, leaving me certain that country music is as vibrant as ever.

Singer Chely Wright, who moved to Nashville from Missouri, is a fan of Station Inn, a wonderful, if not exactly pretty, bluegrass/country bar in south Nashville. "It represents the true character of Nashville," Wright says. "Great pickin', cool hang, and ya never know who's gonna drop in!" The Bluebird Cafe, with its unlikely strip mall location, is another place to find country songwriters practicing their craft. Or head to the Slow Bar in newly hip East Nashville, where singer Lucinda Williams, now a Nashville resident, has been known to hang out on occasion.

Just as it was 50 years ago, Nashville is still a destination for musicians who come to town hoping that talent, hard work and a stroke of luck will lead them to a career doing what they love. And for a fan visiting the city, rediscovering the music's history – and its future – feels like a stroke of luck, too.

December 5, 2001

Small investment leads to music shop’s success
By William Williams

As Grimey’s Preloved CDs and Vinyl shop prepares to celebrate its second birthday, Mike Grimes fondly recalls the birth of his quirky little business. It was late 1999, and Grimes wanted a new challenge. So the former Bare Jr. bassist decided to sell his massive CD and record collection — about 6,000 pieces total.

He then found space in a Berry Hill building owned by dentist O.H. Rutherford. However, Grimes needed money for the first month’s rent in the store, which was a converted 700-square-foot house, and other start-up costs. “I had a dollar in the bank when I opened Grimey’s,” Grimes said. “I had to borrow $500 from a friend (Brad Jones) and $1,000 from my parents.”

Opening day was Dec. 11, 1999, and about one year later, Grimes was pleased to see his shop, now a mainstay in the eclectic Berry Hill commercial district, had generated sales revenues of about $90,000.

Though sales figures for 2001 are expected to be flat at best, Grimes, who now stocks about 6,000 CDs and 4,000 records, said he is nonetheless pleased with the progress of his store.

About two months ago, he hired Mickey Parks to man the shop. The move has freed Grimes to concentrate more on his other business, Slow Bar, which he and co-owner David Gehrke opened in East Nashville in November 2000.

Because of Grimey’s potential, Grimes said he is talking to a friend about forming a partnership and moving the shop to a larger, and as-yet undetermined, location.

Grimes said he views his tiny shop as a community gathering place of sorts. He loves introducing his customers, many of whom are friends, to new and non-mainstream music.

“We’re almost like the Floyd’s Barber Shop (of Andy Griffith fame) of used CD/record stores,” said Grimes, a Kentucky transplant. “We place so much emphasis on getting to know customers. And I kind of pride myself on having great left-of-center music.”

With a pleasant persona and extensive music knowledge, Grimes has earned great respect from others in the business, including longtime friends Doyle Davis, operations coordinator of The Great Escape, and Phonoluxe owner Mike Smith.

Davis said the upstart Grimey’s provides respected competition for the long-established Great Escape, a comparative goliath in the used-music product industry.

“Mike’s got a great selection,” said Davis, who has known Grimes since the late 1980s. “Nashville’s music afficianados have migrated [to Grimey’s]. There’s a buzz over there.”

Grimes said he chose his location in large part because of his friendships with two Berry Hill business persons: the aforementioned Jones, owner of Alex the Great Recording Studio, and Amy Patterson, owner of Venus & Mars, a hip vintage clothing shop. “Amy was my bookkeeper for a while,” Grimes said. “And Brad let me stay at his place rent-free when I first opened.”

Grimes said he envisions Grimey’s becoming more big-time at some point. Until then, however, he is pleased to turn on people to great music. “I don’t have any [non-music] outside interests,” he said. “A friend once said, ‘Mike, you’re just somebody that music likes to be around.’”

November 25, 2001

Two men from worlds apart find home in the Slow Bar
by Henry Piarrot

  "Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you."
    – English novelist Aldous Huxley

Athens, Greece, is the cradle of Western civilization as well as the birthplace of philosophy and democracy. Geographically, it belongs to Europe, because it forms the southernmost extremity of the Balkan Peninsula.

Owensboro, Ky., nestled along the southern banks of the Ohio River, is known by its residents as the City of Festivals. With the third-largest population in the commonwealth, it is also the Daviess County seat.

A world apart, these two cities have few cultural similarities. However, a son from each made his way to Music City and carved a slice of Americana into a ''five points'' corner of east Nashville last year with the opening of the popular Slow Bar at 1024 Woodland St.

Proprietor Michael Grimes was born Dec. 28, 1963, in Owensboro. He is the second of John and Nancy's four children. After graduating from Owensboro Catholic High School in 1982, young Mike, a self-taught musician, entered Western Kentucky University. After his third year, he decided to take a break from school and began working in a record store. Although Mike liked the work, he soon learned that selling music was not as satisfying as making it. So in January 1989, the aspiring guitarist headed for Nashville.

Co-owner David Gehrke grew up in Athens, but he was born in San Antonio, Texas, on Feb. 24, 1973. His father, Charles, an American soldier on guard duty in Greece, fell in love with beautiful Eleni Zabos while stationed there. The younger of the couple's two sons, David was less than 3 months old when the family returned to the ancient city. Then at the age of 13, David left the only home he'd ever known when his father was transferred to Fort Campbell. Finding little in common with his new contemporaries, he filled the hours learning to play music. After graduating from Clarksville's Northwest High School in 1991, the still displaced teen-ager became a psychology student at Austin Peay State University.

Mike was settling into a busy marketing position with Sony Music Group, playing the guitar whenever his hectic schedule would allow. In January 1996, he was promoted and sent to Atlanta, where he soon remembered that selling music is nice, but playing music is better. He returned to Nashville in June without a job.

After his third semester, David left college with dreams of becoming a rock star. He traveled across the United States and Europe, playing drums and guitar for several bands, and came to Nashville in 1995.

Meanwhile, Mike was at last playing music, performing as a band member of Bare Jr. for more than two years. When that gig ended, he decided to sell records again. This time, he wanted to own the store.

The road-weary musicians eventually met during the summer of '99 at a Berry Hill coffeehouse. Mike was opening Grimey's Music Store a block away at 2825 Bransford Ave. He hired David to build the store's display racks, and the two became great friends.

Mike and David decided to open a neighborhood bar where their many friends in the local music scene could gather to relax and unwind. Both men knew what they wanted; they just needed to figure out how to make it happen. After the first location they selected fell through, the disappointed duo found themselves drowning their sorrows at a place called Shirley's in east Nashville. They heard a rumor that after 17 years, the owner was ready to sell. Then, much to the surprise of the hopeful entrepreneurs, they left the bar that night as the new owners, and three weeks later, the Slow Bar opened in November 2000.

One year later, the Slow Bar has all the required elements for becoming an institution in a revitalized east Nashville. While both men are happy to have survived the first year in business, they confess the greatest thrill is that they have finally found a home.

Henry Piarrot is a Hillsboro Village merchant. Please send Mirror, Mirror story ideas to

September 13, 2001

Grow Bar
East Nashville hangout's expansion proves a good thing
By Heather Johnson

Patrons of the Slow Bar are starting to enjoy their personal space now that the East Nashville hangout has almost doubled in size. Earlier this year, co-owners Mike Grimes and David Gherke acquired two retail spaces next door to the bar, located at the corner of 11th and Woodland streets. With help from friends, they began tearing down walls this summer to create a roomier space.

The beer-only bar and small stage remain at the front and center of the original room. But now the long, narrow venue contains additional "hang space" with a few tables, red vinyl booths, a black sofa, and the tastefully diverse jukebox. The pool table, formerly located at the back of the club, now resides in its own cubby in the new room.

"It was something we had to do," Grimes says. "Even when we weren't having bands, there were people standing shoulder to shoulder." He points out that the extra breathing room allows him the freedom to book more established performers. Prior to the expansion, Brit-pop troubadour Badly Drawn Boy, a double bill featuring Georgia bands The Glands and Japancakes, and a fortnightly stand by U.K.-to-Nashville transplants Departure Lounge had attracted crowds in excess of 150--enough to turn a friendly gathering into an uncomfortable and often sweaty mass.

Grimes expects customers to have a little more elbow room when former Squirrel Nut Zippers violinist Andrew Bird brings his band, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, to Slow Bar Sept. 13. Grimes is also looking forward to a Sept. 25 appearance from lo-fi Sub Pop group The Shins, followed by an evening with singer-songwriter Angelo in early October. "It's like Morphine-meets-Dr. John," Grimes says of Angelo, who plays with a 12-piece band. "It's a total do-not-miss experience."

The two entrepreneurs (both of whom are also musicians) will continue to make improvements on a regular basis. They plan to add more draft beer selections and more furniture, and to create "more nooks for people to hang." The partners also intend to expand their current beer-and-pretzels menu. "We want to gradually add something each week to accommodate people," Grimes says.

Some patrons have expressed worry that the Slow Bar's cozy vibe will disappear now that the sawdust has settled. Most regulars, however, support the facelift. "You can move around so much easier now," says East Nashville resident Tommy Keenum. "If you want to hear music, you can go to one side; if you just want to play pool, you can go to another."
"When I heard they were expanding, I was skeptical," says another frequent visitor, Hugh Mundy. "But they managed to increase the space while preserving the atmosphere."

Grimes, of course, is more than pleased with the expansion. "Everybody's digging on it," he says with his usual contagious enthusiasm. "I think we've had a pretty driving business considering we only have one product."

November 8, 2001

The 'Ultimate Dive Bar'
Slow Bar And 'The Rage' Celebrate A Year

Thanks to a diverse, musician-heavy clientele, rumors of a new "un-Nashville" hangout/bar opening on the East side of town began spreading about a year ago, reaching such remote locales as San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Europe. A new, pocket-sized entertainment guide called The Rage reported, among other things, on the watering hole's last-minute band bookings, occasional art shows and, eventually, its expansion to a growing Gen-X and Gen-Y audience.

A year later, both ventures are going strong, and to celebrate their success, Slow Bar and The Rage are throwing a three-night joint birthday bash. Special guests include the Jaguars, a British Invasion-style garage rock combo featuring Los Straitjackets guitarist Eddie Angel and drummer Jimmy Lester, Slow Beats bassist Dave Roe and New York-based vocalist, friend and bandmate "Rabb."

Surfabilly singer-songwriter/producer Ben Vaughn (who also works as music director for television shows 3rd Rock From The Sun and That '70s Show) joins the Jaguars on opening night, while a makeshift '80s cover band plays "Even More Guilty Pleasures" as the grand finale on saturday night.

If all goes as planned, the "guilty" lineup will feature co-owners/musicians Mike Grimes and David Gherke, keyboardist John Deaderick (Dixie Chicks, Patty Griffin, etc.), guitarist/solo artist Will Kimbrough, and The Bees frontman Daniel Tashian. "We play the songs you're embarrassed to admit you like," says Grimes, also bassist for Garrison Starr and Will Kimbrough and owner of Grimey's Record Shop in Berry Hill.

Improvised cover tune nights are routine occurances at the Slow Bar. Mellow Brit Pop quartet Departure Lounge hosed the biweekly "Living Room" series at the small space, which features fearless local all-stars singing both originals and overs Kenny and Dolly's Islands In The Stream or the Village People's Macho Man.

Touring alt-pop acts like Wheat, Badly Drawn Boy, The Shins, The Glands and improv orchestra Japancakes also made rare Music City appearances at the cozy corner pub this year, which have helped further diversify the city's rich musical landscape. "I hope we've raised the barometer for quality," Grimes tells The Rage. "we just wanted to create a certain vibe, and the music we book has to be analogous with the vibe we created."

Creating a laid-back, unpretentious atmospere was a main order of business when Grimes and Gherke started making plans for a new place to hang. David and I realized that a lot of places we went fell short," explains Grime, who had originally planned to convert Grimey's into a beer bar/record store. "We wanted to do something different, so we said, 'let's find a place, get a good jukebox, maybe have some music...'" Gherke adds that their goal of creating the "ultimate dive bar" was based on years of arduous research. "When Mike and I were on the road, one of our favorite pastimes was trying to find the coolest dive in town," the drummer/bar co-owner reports. "We were always finding places that we wished Nashville had."

With a good beer selection and a now infamous jukebox, the Slow Bar has attracted enough like-minded patrons to allow the partners to expand in size and service. A few months ago, they acquired the former art gallery next door and knocked down a wall. Now the partners plan to grow again, adding more draft varieties, late night pizzas limited lunch menu, and eventually, wine and liquor. At the same time, they may scale back the live music menu in an effort to attract social butterflkies more interested in conversation and people-watching than live music.

This weekend, however, the crner of 11th Avenue and Woodland Street will host an excellent live lineup for the anniversary shindig. Rage staffers and correspondents will be on the scene to partake in drink specials, and possibly blow out the candle on the co-birthday cake,

Like Slow Bar, the colorful, to-the-point weekly plans to keep growing, and stick around for more than a few more birthday parties. "We're looking forward to celebrating our first birthday with our fellow 1-year-old degenerates," General Manager/Editor Pat Embry jokes. "My birthday wishesare that Mike Grimes and David Gherke dress in drag, get together a band, and take turns at the mike performing selections from The Carpenters Greates Hits. They've already promised two of the three: I don't know which two."

Bar Beat
by Craig Shelburne

To Hear Live Music:

The friendly mix of musicians, writers, and artists who call East Nashville home love to linger at the SLOW BAR. Eclectic sums up the sound, be it emerging indie-pop outfits or ironic cover bands. Between acts, the house jukebox entertains with old favorites and quirky treats. 1024 Woodland Street; (615) 262-4701

"The Best Of Nashville 2001"
by the readers' votes

Best Dive Bar: Slow Bar

Best Jukebox: Slow Bar

Best Music Personality:
Michael Grimes

The Slow Bar Jukebox was also voted by Nashville City Search as The Best Jukebox In Town

April 29, 2001

Country Music Marathon: Competitors, Spectators Inspire Each Other

January 3, 2001

Slow And Easy
Slow Bar Is Fast Making A Splash On The Other Side Of The River
By Danny Solomon

There's no one standing outside picking and choosing who's pretty enough to come in. There's no security guards positioned in strategic corners radioing back and forth to each other with headsets. Not so much as one make-your-own-bikini contest going on. Regardless, Slow Bar is the coolest new hangout. And, believe it or not, it's in East Nashville.

No theme, no demographic tareting, no fishbouwls full of liquor, but Slow Bar has been packing them in at their 11the and Woodland location most every night since their Nov. 18 opening - and it just keeps getting better. Co-owners Mike Grimes and David Gehrke have one philosophy: Keep it simple. And it seems to be working.

Slow Bar is not a meat market. It's definitely not a cigar or martini bar - the don't even have a liquor license yet. But Slow Bar can offer you 25 different kids of beer in the bottle and on tap. It's the kind of place you could go to in your pajamas. ther might be a dog running around somewhere. You might see your neighbor. Or you might see the bass player for Johnny Cash.

"I have always loved hosting parties," Grimes confessed. "David and I are both musicians, which makes us kind of natural entertainers." Indeed. Grimes has played bass and guitar with the likes of Bare Jr., Garrison Star and Wan Dive. Gehrke tours with Josh Rouse, and both Grimes and Gehrke played on Will Kimbrough's new album This.

"I've always been a musical slut," Grimes said. "I've really never had a job that wasn't music related." Be that as it may, neither is afraid to get his hands dirty. On any given night Gehrke can be spotted taking out the trash, and Grimes can be found bussing empty beer bottles off tables.

So what are two young picker and grinners doing running a bar? "David and I are just enough alike and just enough differnet to where it works," Grimes said. "we both thought that every place we went to fell short of what we wanted. We thought that if we opened our own place, our friends would come and maybe tell their friends.

With that in mind they went in search of a location. They looked at a place on 12th Avenue and even shook hands on a place on Belmont, but the deal fell through. Then they heard through the grapevine that Shirley, of Shirley's Bar, a semi-seedy hangout at Five Points in East Nashville, was looking to sell, and they bellied up to the opportunity.

"David said, 'Shirley, how long have you been here?' and she replied, 'Seventeen years and I'm ready to go,'" Grimes said. No stranger to the entrepreneurial spirit, he also owns Grimey's Pre-Loved Music on Bransford Avenue. "We asked her how much she wanted for the place and wrote her a check five minutes later," Grimes recalled. that was the end of October, and there was work to be done.

"The one word I'd use to describe the place when it was Shirley's is brown," Grimes said, and with that in mind they dug in a spent a couple of weeks renovating. The place itself is a no-frills affair - black and silver barstools, a couple of red and black vinyl booths, a pool talbe and some art here and there pretty much wraps up the grand tour. "The vibe is permeated by the music and the people," Grimes said. and who needs decorations when you've got a jukebox like they do at Slow Bar?

What's that you say? No Alan Jackson? No Hank? Shirley's Bar regulars were perplexed by the change, but Grimes isn't concerned. "It's some left-of-center stuff - the kind of stuff I'd put in my jukebox if I had one at home," he said. "The Smiths, Nike Drake, The Meters, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Big Star, Mick Cave, Stray Cats - I just wanted to make sure we had the best jukebox in town. That's what I brought to the table."

Not a fan of computers, Grimes gave Slow Bar its name as well. "I think technology has made our lives way too fast," he explained. "I want this to be a place where people can come, relax, be happy, and chill. It's kind of an ironic name, though, because we haven't been slow at all."

Though they've put a lot of work into the bar and have plans to do much more, owning Slow Bar frees both Grimes and Gehrke to concentrate on playing music and touring. And when they're not out playing music, they'll bring the music in. With three live shows under their belt so far, Gehrke and Grimes look to host two shows a week. "We had The Jaguars here," Grimes said. "Eddie Angel from Los Straightjackets plays in it, and they do covers from 'Teen Angel' to 'Wipe Out.' This place seats about 60 people, and we had about 120 people in that night. It was just magic."

Until they go there, people don't know quite what to make of Slow Bar. Open from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. every day of the week, it's not a gay bar; it's not a straight bar. In fact, the only name it's comfortable with is dive bar. Whatever niche it falls into, Grimes and Gehrke just want to emphasixe diversity and a cool vibe. "It's so simple," Grimes said. "It's just good beer, good music and good people." Sounds easy. Make you wonder why the other guys try so hard.

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1024 Woodland Street • Nashville, TN 37206 • 615-262-4701
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