To dance is a wonderful – if complicated – thing. On one hand it’s nature’s physiological companion to music, a whimsical and perhaps evolutionarily important part of our operating system.
On the other hand, culture can condition it out of us. School dances are a source of emotional trauma for many, including your correspondent. People can grow up afraid to dance like they’re afraid of public speaking. Nashville itself has a kind of anesthetic effect on the dance gene, what with all the industry types who stand stiffly in the presence of swinging tunes, looking serious with arms folded. It’s not the most boogie-loving town I’ve ever lived in.
But folks, the Loveless is at the Edge of Music City, so those rules don’t apply. During some shows we get a little dance pit going in front of the stage. But about once a year, we go all in, pulling the pews and chairs back into a big horseshoe to make an open floor. Then we stock the lineup with bands that love to move people’s feet and hips. And since we’re in a barn, we’d never leave you lacking for square dancing and two-stepping. Last year’s first Barn Dance was a sublime joy, one of my best memories of 2012. You can never recreate the first time, but we’re going to throw another Dance Night on Wednesday and see what happens.
We’ll be in good hands and boots from the opening set with John England & The Western Swingers. They’ve been a staple on Lower Broadway on Monday nights since 2001. I loved ‘em so much I hired them to play a party the night before my wife and I got married, and that was almost ten years ago. Since then, tall and amiable John England has kept his band smoking with fiddler Pappy Merritts and steel player Tommy Hannum among the distinguished musicians. So brush up on your two-stepping.
Then it’s rave-up polka and heaven knows what else as Black Jake & The Carnies take the stage. They bring more theatricality and drama than most dance bands, and critics around their home city of Ypsilanti, MI can’t say enough good things about their roaring live shows. That will segue into to Nashville’s own Jacob Jones, whose vibe will transport you to a Memphis nightspot in the 1960s. Jacob will likely be wearing his signature dark suit with thin lapels and tie and he will almost certainly look slicker than you. Add the tight, horn-driven band and swinging, hooky songs and you’ve got a vintage good time.
Our square dancin’ will come thanks to the Whiskey Bent Valley Boys, whose bio captures the band nicely: “Hailing from the back woods of PeWee Valley, Kentucky, Whiskey Bent pays homage to their southern kin. Songs from the tobacco fields to the rivers, iron skillets to moonshine stills, upbeat and professional, this band possesses the skill to honor history and preserve the instruments, their style and every authentic nuance of the day.” In other words, they know their way around a Barn.
And wrapping up the night, a band that’s sharing bills on the road with the Valley Boys, our old friends Spirit Family Reunion. Always raucous and energetic, always with driving rhythm, they’ll take the square dance into perhaps jammier territory, but who knows? We’ll have a caller on hand and it’ll be his call, as it were. Also here’s a big heads up! In an unlikely turn of events, the Music City Roots crew and Spirit Family Reunion is going to be participating in this Wednesday’s kickoff parade for the CMA Music Festival. Around noon, the band will be on the roof of an old bus, playing through a PA, and we’ll be following along in MCR’s EM-50 production van. We’ll see how many souls we can save that day.
So wear appropriate shoes. Leave your inhibitions at home. Come prepared to do-si-do, sashay, two-step or the funky chicken if you need to. And for those who listen or watch at home, do like they did back in the early days of the Grand Ole Opry when households around the South would move the furniture back, roll up the rug and participate. Dancing is a strength in numbers thing.