I’m considering suing DJ Baylen Leonard for £27.38. That’s how much my Uber cab home cost when, despite my earnest plan to get the last tube back from Nashville Nights’ London launch, the DJ chose the precise moment I was scheduled to leave to play Girl Crush, swiftly followed by Mama’s Broken Heart. My lawyer would argue that this was an intentional ploy to destroy my resolve – and to also destroy my diet since I subsequently found myself hoovering down a Subway sandwich in the small hours.
Four hours earlier, as I’d followed Google maps to find the glitzy Under the Bridge nightclub, I was nervous. I’d decided to bring three country music virgins with me to the very first event of its kind and though I’d tried to dull their senses with Tennessee whiskey beforehand, there was the very rational fear that we were about to walk into an empty room, or one with the vacuumed atmosphere of a school disco. But as we arrived, and I took off my leather jacket (which is burgundy and matches the detail on my newest cowboy boots if anyone’s looking closely enough) something happened.
After years of going through the motions of sipping and shimmying at one friend or another’s birthday bash at one interchangeable nightspot or another, I finally knew what it felt like to walk into a club and think;
“Oh my God, this is my song,
I’ve been listening to the radio all night long,
Sittin’ ’round waitin’ for it to come on,
And here it is…”*
So I shook off any pretence of street-cred and made my entrance lip-syncing along to Cole Swindell like my life depended on it, to be met by a dance floor full of Others. We, the kindred spirits, had found each other, in a basement club in Chelsea’s football ground of all places. The blurb had said cowboy boots were NOT a must, but we’d obviously all missed that part. There was a good turn out (I’d guess a few hundred) and the place was comfortably full but with enough space for the pockets of people occasionally attempting line dance routines. Almost everyone had gone for some combination of jeans, checked shirts or cutesy dresses. A string of folks with cowboy hats perched on the peripheries, perhaps unsure they’d signed up for the pop side of country, but the main crowd were ecstatic.
As expected the mainstay was chart toppers by New Country royalty (Florida Georgia Line, Brett Eldredge, Carrie Underwood) pleasing the floor full of mainly 20-40 somethings, but there was a surprising smattering of classics (Johnny Cash and The Charlie Daniels Band). My personal highlight was the trepidation on the males’ faces as a sea of women (who probably made up at least 70% of the crowd) roared along to Before He Cheats with the vigour usually reserved for our bedrooms with hairbrush microphones in hand.
That, like so many moments, summed up the sense of community which earmarked this inaugural event, and hopefully many that will follow. People who’d come solo were welcomed into clusters of dancers, people who’d come with friends made new ones. I managed not to be overcome with boot envy for the girl with the Corral fringe pair and had a great night.
I’m not sure how much of my great night I can put down to anything special on part of the Nashville Nights team, because this community has been so starved of anything country in the mainstream, we came ready to wolf down whatever they served up. Fortunately, they served up a night to rival some of my best nights out dancing in the real Nashville. My country music virgins may not have been converted to the music (yet!) nor are they likely to ask me for any dancing tips, but I think they got a glimpse into what is so addictive about this little subculture.
Now as for suing the DJ; perhaps I can be talked down with complimentary tickets for the next event…
DJ photo thanks to Twitter user @Claralee_123
*Any excuse to quote Luke Bryan…