Big D and I were out of the house by 9:45 Saturday morning. We wound our way around the country road with the windows down. There was a taste of fall in the air; an amuse-bouche of my favorite season.
“So, this is what people do on Saturdays” I said.
“This is what they do when they have money” he answered.
To be clear, we didn’t have money. Our friends and fellow songwriters had been given tickets to a concert. They had two extra – did we want to go? Big D and I were on our way to meet them at a trucker’s stop. We’d carpool with them to McMinnville, TN; an hour-and-a-half out of Nashville.
McMinnville is the kind of place you go for outdoor activities. Hiking, fishing, white water rafting, biking; it was the perfect day for all of these. But we weren’t going to be outdoors. We weren’t exactly going to be indoors either. We were going underground – 333 feet down in the Cumberland Caverns.
The last time I was in a cavern near Austin, TX, I felt like bursting into song. The natural acoustics are a singer’s dream. (Something I’ve tried to artificially reproduce on my Roland and Steinberg for years.) Someone, 1000 miles away, was thinking the same thing I was, and The Volcano Room became the “Home of Bluegrass Underground”.
Before walking into the darkness, we could feel the cavern’s 56 degree constancy greeting us, beckoning us into a world reminiscent of that one in Florida. You know, the small one with the singing animatronic children. A little deeper down and Big D was given a cavern kiss – a cool drop of water on his skin. “It’s good luck” I heard a guide say.
As we passed the formations, I did a closed-book, elementary science review in my head. Stalac holding tightly to the ceiling – stalactite. Stalag might reach the ceiling – stalagmite. We walked steadily down, down, down into the roomful of 500 concert-goers. There, I saw a man-made stalactite (a gorgeous chandelier I COULD NOT get a good picture of) hanging above the audience.
When the music began, we realized it wasn’t just a concert we were invited to; it was also a birthday party. Bluegrass Underground was four years old. And the band that launched the series, The SteelDrivers, was back to celebrate. I could go on and on about how amazing these guys (and one gal) are. I could tell you all about their Grammy nods, and long lists of performance experiences with who’s who among professional musicians. But, how about they just “speak” for themselves.
When we realized Bluegrass Underground features many different kinds of music, our friends, Big D, and I were all thinking the same thing, “This would be the coolest place to perform.” So when that happens, I’ll let you know. If you can’t make it, you might be able to catch it on PBS.
Until then, go often. Get there early. Get and give lots of cave kisses.
The jeep that hauls musical gear down the cave.
For videos, more information, and MUCH BETTER photos, visit: http://www.bluegrassunderground.com/
– Anita, Noted in Nashville