of Nashville 2002
Nashville Scene's Readers'
Best New Bar
Best New Bar/Club
Best Pick-Up Bar (2nd
Best Bar That Makes You Feel Like You're Not In Nashville
Writers' Poll Winner
Best Cover Band (Guilty Pleasures)
Slow Bar is going for the jugular in every aspect of
its professionality and we intend to expedite matters
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
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
Slow Bars demise official
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 Bars 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, Im going to relax and think about
my new move. Grimes said he will now focus
his energies on Grimeys, 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
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 areas renaissance. I know its
not like Mike Grimes [jumpstarted East Nashville]
single-handedly, but he was the first to validate
the area with non-East Nashvillians, Perkins
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 dont
think the building will sit empty, she
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
Slow Bar's days will come to an end Aug.
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
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; www.slowbar.com)
for live music.
November 7, 2002
What's Your Guilty Pleasure?
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
Small investment leads to music shops success
By William Williams
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 months 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 Grimeys, 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 Grimeys potential, Grimes said he
is talking to a friend about forming a partnership
and moving the shop to a larger, and as-yet undetermined,
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
Were almost like the Floyds 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
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 Grimeys provides respected
competition for the long-established Great Escape,
a comparative goliath in the used-music product industry.
Mikes got a great selection, said
Davis, who has known Grimes since the late 1980s.
Nashvilles music afficianados have migrated
[to Grimeys]. Theres 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 Grimeys becoming more
big-time at some point. Until then, however, he is
pleased to turn on people to great music. I
dont have any [non-music] outside interests,
he said. A friend once said, Mike, youre
just somebody that music likes to be around.
Two men from worlds apart find home in the Slow
by Henry Piarrot
"Experience is not what happens to
you; it's what you do with what happens to you."
English novelist Aldous
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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."
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
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
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
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."
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"
the readers' votes
Dive Bar: Slow Bar
Best Jukebox: Slow Bar
Best Music Personality:
Slow Bar Jukebox was also voted by Nashville
City Search as The Best Jukebox
Country Music Marathon: Competitors, Spectators
Inspire Each Other
Slow And Easy
Slow Bar Is Fast Making A Splash On The Other Side Of
By Danny Solomon
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.
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
"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
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
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.