Written by: Dave Sebille & Matt McLaughlin // Illustration by Aaron Gelston
For the purposes of this edit, Matt will speak in italics and Dave will speak in bold.
Day one started 30 minutes behind schedule with a warm beer on the nightstand and a ringing in my ears. After a few quick stops, we hit the road—the engine of the Alfa Romeo growling pleasantly and the radio playing song 97 of a 100 most influential classic rock songs countdown.
It was the start of a nine day trip that we had been shitting our pants over for months. And then providence handed us that top 100 countdown as a wink and a finger gun. It may not sound cool, but neither of us are cool, so flying down 71 with “Barracuda” blaring was pretty damn great.
We got to Nashville only stopping once for gas. We agreed at that point—due to combined drinking and spending problems—that we would drink strictly PBR and tequila. It only solves one of our problems, but I was more worried about our wallets than our livers.
Beyond that, the plan was to not have a plan, and we fucking nailed it.
At this point, it is important to note that Gregg Allman had died the night before. Nashville was blasting his music on every corner. If you can travel to Nashville on the day a rock and roll legend dies, I highly recommend it.
After a couple of bad recommendations from Matt’s friends, we got some good information and headed to The 5 Spot, Nashville’s Grog Shop, which had a food truck that put out some pretty tasty dogs and yucca fries.
Another round of PBR and tequila and a girl takes the stage with an electric acoustic and a 15 watt. A curtain of red hair and swath of black fabric draped around pale skin. She can’t be older than 19, but when she starts playing her voice is smoke and pain. Her chords are simple and her lyrics are childish, but she’s selling it. She means every word, and it makes her powerful. She’s laying herself bare while I’m getting drunk and passing judgement, much too afraid to take the stage. By the time she’s done, I’m in love.
We talked for a while about how badly both of us need to cancel our Netflix accounts and get back to writing. The next band opened their set with a heavy stoner rock version of “Midnight Rider,” one of many tributes we would would hear to Gregg Allman.
These guys looked like fat Weezer and had claymation videos on a projector. I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to them. I was looking for the previous act, hoping to thank her and encourage her.
The next band sucked, so we decided to make our way to the next spot, Duke’s. Duke’s was rude and cliquey, and people bragged about it being Kid Rock’s favorite bar twice in the ten minutes we were there. The only good thing that happened was we got a recommendation for a bar called Mickey’s.
Mickey’s looked bad. It was in a strip mall. I was not excited about it. But the moment we stepped in—the floor creaking beneath our feet—I knew we were home.
Mickey’s was a 10. Holy Grail. Dive of dives. Our journey was worth it. This was the place bartenders in Nashville went to get down. We were finally among our people, and I became uncharacteristically outgoing, talking to all kinds of strangers and making new friends left and right.
Dave crashed a booth and I politely fell in after him. He started chatting with a couple and their friend. The boyfriend was an off-off brand John Lennon and was a mess. I thought, if I can tell you’re drunk, you might want to go to a hospital. I think I tried to say that.
Matt even managed to string a sentence or two together. The group grew and shrunk and I realized most of these people didn’t know each other. Mickey’s was our kind of place.
The next thing I remember is waking up in our Airbnb to the door handle wobbling serial-killer style. After yelling, “OCCUPIED!” the door popped open and in walks a cat. With Dave and I in our underwear, the cat’s owner, our middle-aged host, walks in and sits at the end of the bed to hear about our night. This could’ve been weird, but it just wasn’t. It was actually pretty nice.
We had one more thing to do. Damn near everyone we talked to said we had to get some hot chicken. Most of them recommended Bolton’s. If you take one thing from this article, let it be this: do NOT be a hero when choosing heat level at Bolton’s. Matt and I both took one bite of the “hot,” which is the middle heat level, and neither of us could handle any more. We were so defeated we threw the food away. Something I was not raised to do.
The last thing I did in town was throw up hot chicken and Pabst all over a Nashville mural.
So with atomic dry rub in our eyes, we hit the road for Atlanta. I had ensured Matt that the aquarium alone was worth the three hour detour.
He was wrong.