Blast from the Past(s)

The unidentified warm-up act had audience members up on stage singing

The unidentified warm-up act had audience members up on stage singing. The foreground beer does not reflect any endorsement of the consumption of alcoholic beverages on my part.

One of the interesting aspects of conferences is the really cool and exciting event planned for one night of the conference to make our customers feel like they got to experience something special.

While I could worry about how many people could be employed for the same amount spent on such special events, in a time when there are no holiday parties, no fancy dinners, limits on spending that make it difficult to get a new pencil, and no excesses in spending in any part of the budget, it’s kind of nice to get to be there to experience something really grand.

The Grand Ole Opry filled slowly with much of the audience hanging around outside until the big acts began

The Grand Ole Opry filled slowly with much of the audience hanging around outside until the big acts began

And grand it was.  In fact, it was in the Grand Ole Opry–that makes it grand by definition, even if the Grand Ole Opry isn’t so old anymore having been moved to the Opryland resort outside of Nashville in 1974.  Well, maybe that is old?

If you look carefully of the photos that include the stage, you can see a light circle in the wood in the stage.  That circle was cut from the stage in the previous home of the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, in downtown Nashville.  I got to see Ryman Auditorium from the outside when I diligently followed the directions my GPS provided, taking me to the former Grand Ole Opry location in spite of the fact that the Grand Ole Opry hadn’t been located there since long before the invention (or at least the availability of) GPS.

Gin Blossoms had the place hoppin' with lots of audience participation

Gin Blossoms had the place hoppin’ with lots of audience participation

What was amazing, was to be at a conference of about 3500 people and to have the entire Grand Ole Opry to ourselves.  Although its maximum capacity is limited to a surprising 4400, we still had plenty of space up in the balcony at stage left to sprawl in our seats.

If having this historic place to ourselves wasn’t impressive enough, the line up of bands to entertain this small audience was over the top.  The Gin Blossoms opened (which was impressive to those of us who went through their musical formative years in the 90’s) followed by Uncle Kracker (which was impressive for those who were into country), followed by Foreigner (which was impressive to everyone even if only one of the original band members was still part of the act).

Uncle Kracker was probably also exciting, but this is about when I went out to get a beer

Uncle Kracker was probably also exciting, but this is about when I went out to get a beer

What was most impressive was the all-out attitude of all three performances.  I can imagine for any of those bands, who enjoyed huge popularity at one time in their history, playing to a corporate conference audience could have been a bit of a let down.  If they were disappointed, they kept it well hidden.  They had us all rocking right up to the last chord.  I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun at a work conference.

iPhone Photographers note:  While the iPhone made for the best camera because it was the only one I would have carried with me during a work conference, adding a telephoto attachment might have made for some better images from the stage.

Foreigner brought down the house--I've never seen so many people over 40 moving so well

Foreigner brought down the house–I’ve never seen so many people over 40 moving so well

Dead Animals

This little guy might have been less startling had his back half not been missing

This little guy might have been less startling had his back half not been missing

After a long lack of business trips, I spent most the week in Nashville at a conference.  It’s rather ironic that the conference was in Nashville–only a 2 hour drive from home.  Because I was there to present at a “pre-conference” session, I had to arrive on Sunday.  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one.

A group of us congregated in the center of the Opryland Resort, trying to decide where to have dinner.  Since the probability of leaving the resort decreased with each day we were in Nashville, we decided to go off-prem for dinner since it was likely to be our only chance.

This guy gives the place a little kick

This guy gives the place a little kick

However, we ended up taking the hotel shuttle across the street to a place called Caney Fork.  Personally, I would have gladly driven downtown just to get a chance to get away from the resort that night, but I guess across the street was far enough for the rest of the group.

Caney Fork was a bit of an enigma.  It’s tag line is “Southern Style Camp Cuisine Served with a Killer Smile.”  There’s just something creepy about the word “killer” in that sentence.  That’s not the only thing creepy about the place.

A white-tail deer stares down diners

A white-tail deer stares down diners

I’m not fond of being reminded of the life I’m participating in taking when I eat a piece of meat.  I know this is hypocritical of me.  I have a great respect for responsible and talented hunters who take care to kill as quickly and painlessly as possible and who eat what they kill.  I just don’t want to be the one holding the gun.

The bar has a nautical theme

The bar has a nautical theme

I was a vegetarian for 10 years, but I guess that doesn’t give me a free pass from facing that the meat I eat comes from a living creature.  None-the-less, despite the hypocrisy, I do not want to face my dinner staring down at me from the wall while I eat.  I had a hard time swallowing the Elk burger I ordered as the glass eyes in the elk head on the wall glared at me.

A view of the dining room--including the front of a truck stuck into the wall

A view of the dining room–including the front of a truck stuck into the wall

The other thing I found a bit odd was how many of the animals displayed in the restaurant cannot be found in the wild in Tennessee.  Elk were recently reintroduced in Great Smoky National Park, but other than that herd, there hasn’t been an Elk in this part of the country since 1700.  That didn’t keep them from appearing in the Caney Fork restaurant next to wolves, moose, and a variety of other critters I’m pretty sure can only be found with any predictability out West.

A moose head decorates the entry area

A moose head decorates the entry area

I’m always suspicious of a restaurant whose interests seem to cross over into taxidermy.    But, the burger was pretty good, as were the fries.  No one seemed disappointed with their meal and I came home with some pretty interesting iPhone images.  While it would have been nice to make it downtown, Caney Fork was an adventure all its own.

Waiting for the shuttle back to the hotel

Waiting for the shuttle back to the hotel