National Lampoon’s Vacation Meets The Bluebird Cafe

By Jack Edwards

Last summer, my family took a road trip similar to the one the Griswold’s took on National Lampoon’s Vacation. The only major difference was that despite our best efforts, we never managed to actually hoist a dead relative onto the roof of our car. When my older daughter realized that we were going to visit Nashville, she immediately had three heart attacks and a stroke, and demanded that we visit The Bluebird Café. I had never heard of The Bluebird Café, but my daughter, between the series of electroshock jolts the paramedics were applying to bring her back to life exclaimed with much enthusiast enthusiasm that this was where Taylor Swift was discovered. She said it verbally, not using her preferred method of communication – texting, but she still managed to say it in all caps, so it sounded like this: “THIS IS WHERE TAYLOR SWIFT WAS DISCOVERED!” Followed by a strange and unnatural shriek.

Understand that I never leave my office let alone my house, so virtually everything pertaining to pop culture is lost on me.

As my daughter’s sinus rhythm slowly returned to normal, she managed an emphatic grasp, “We HAVE to go!”

So, we go.

The Bluebird Café has every bit of the elegant curb appeal one would expect of a place called Mom’s Pie Shop. It’s a hole in the wall anchoring the butt end of dingy strip mall. We called ahead and a Bluebird representative told us to show up at least an hour early if we wanted to make sure we got a table. Not wanting to take any chances, my daughter suggested we pitch a tent and campout from the night before. We compromised at arriving 90 minutes early. We were second in line. Surprisingly, there were a varied list of activities to help us pass the time. These included popular pastimes such as, standing in line, looking around while standing in line, and my favorite, leaning against the wall while standing in line.   Every so often, someone who was obviously an important, “connected” Nashville “insider” arrived and was ushered immediately through the front door.

Then the big moment finally arrived. The front door opened and the swell of people waiting outside poured through like a monster tide. We dashed in and stepped up to claim the perfect table in the center of the room – not too close to the stage, not too far away. Perfect. And just then, as the swarm of patrons snatched the tables all around us, a guy who appeared to have some special Bluebird official authority grabbed a “Reserved” sign off a nearby table and slapped it down in the middle of “our” table. He gave us a look. The look didn’t say “sorry” as much as it said, “that’s the way it is, folks.” Understand that The Bluebird Café isn’t a particularly large venue. The entire room is just slightly smaller than the average postage stamp. My gut reaction was to argue with him, while, lucky, my daughter’s reaction was to immediately claim a table that wasn’t too far away. She employed a technique most often used in roller derby, where a woman slams her right shoulder into the solar plexus of her competitor. It was a surprisingly effective move, and after stepping over the victim’s body, I took a seat.

This is when a guy marched up to the front of the stage and gave us (well, everyone) “the talk.” It turns out that The Bluebird Café isn’t really a café, it is a “listening room.” Yeah, you heard me right – it’s a “listening room.” There is a no talking policy during the performances. And it’s strictly enforced. I felt like I was back in Mrs. Grumfielder’s 5th grade class. They made it crystal clear that any talking during the performances would be met with swift, and intentionally aggravated violence. At least that was the impression everyone got, because you could hear a pin drop following the warning, and the music hadn’t even started yet. The only noise was from our chairs rattling from our shaky intimidated legs.

But all the waiting, fear and intimidation was worth it. The music was excellent. It was a night to remember. I highly recommend it. And if you decide to visit, tell the door man the Griswold family sent you.

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