“I discovered The 5 Spot about a year and a half ago on what I like to call, ‘The Great Bar Crusade,’ as I did whatever I could to find the Holy Land of booze. As a single, twenty-something and recent Nashville transplant, it was the only thing I could do to keep myself sane, and maybe, not so lonely. The scavenger hunt didn’t take long, once I stepped foot in this East Nashville venue, it was pretty clear that I was going to spend every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday (the most reasonable nights of the week to drink alone) posted up at the bar. Turns out, those nights ended up being the best times to see and hear true Music City talent, ranging anywhere form old-school country to punk to 50s surf, 60s and 70s rock and roll and everything else in between. My relationship with The 5 Spot has been a valiant love story ever since, with scandal, adoration and a raucous refuge against the cruel, silent world.
It was the second week since I had landed in town and my first Sunday night at this five points bar. I wasn’t expecting much to come out of this particular evening in the middle of winter, especially since there were more people working the bar than paying to drink there. However, it was free and warm and Heath Haynes and the Hi-Dollars were playing some Merle Haggard, so I stayed. I learned very quickly that those who wish to dance, sit near the stage, and those who don’t, go outside.
As I sat outside in the middle of February, I reflected on my choices and people-watched until I ran out of well whiskey. Making small talk here and there, it wasn’t until I was waiting for my next ‘party liquor’ drink when a gargantuan man in overalls and turquoise rings for days, who calls himself Hot Carl, asked for a dance. In a moment of hazy unease and timidity, I thought about that one time I accepted a stranger’s request for a Texas Shuffle at some Urban Cowboy themed roadhouse in Austin a year earlier, and was told I danced like a ‘2×4.’ Reluctantly, I choked back my shot, winced and nodded at Hot Carl’s catfish grin, accepted his offer, thinking, ‘what else could I possibly lose?’ I held onto his big ‘ole hand that lead me into the neon glow of the spotlight in front of Heath Hayne’s snarling rendition of The Replacement’s ‘Kiss Me on the Bus,’ and realized I could never top this night in my new hometown with my new country friend.
A handful of Sundays later, I found more friends from many walks of life stumbling around in their own clouded misadventures, finding solidarity in the bottom of the glass or in that one verse of a George Jones song played loud by the house band. Creatures of the night ranging wildly on a broad spectrum of occupations from burlesque dancers to musicians to boutique owners to seamstresses to cowboys to bouncers to djs to club owners to crippled townie-outlaws to washed-up former ‘sexualites’ to whatever else a person could do in a town where everyone comes to do something. I’ve found myself caught up in the underbelly of a world of creative cultural movers and shakers that sought the same refuge, as I had, from the unrelenting misfortunes of post-adolescent life; and it felt good to have found a place that would welcome me in to take shelter from the storm, as it had for so many people before me.
The 5 Spot has become a place where you can spend your night paying respects to the late Bobby Keys, or BB King, or Allen Toussaint courtesy of $2 Tuesday’s Dj Tim Hibbs, or slap hands and lend reasonable praise to the incomparable Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes at Country Western Wednesdays, or catch a touring band in primitive masks set their drum kit on fire. It’s a place where you can see members of Deer Tick perform secret shows during the holidays, or sit next to Langhorne Slim, or walk up on Phil Kaufman’s Birthday party. As seasons changed and manifested into fresher versions of themselves, I found that my weekly jaunts to the bar were more than an excuse to leave my house, but a ritualistic visit to my very own sacred haunt. A hard-up, no frills, no catch place of worship where the Holy Trinity is music, libations and friendship.
Tucked back behind the East Nashville Public Library on Forrest Ave, right off Gallatin Rd, the quaint and dimly-lit watering hole will always be a sanctuary for the lost, and perhaps, you’ll find that you have a place at the bar too.”
Contribution from Liz Earle – Liz, a recent Nashvillian, spends most of her time getting out of trouble. She is a writer and frequent contributer to Original Fuzz.