Posts Tagged With: Ryman Auditorium

Political science

BreitbartPut a book out into the world and you just never know where its ripples might surface. For example, “Losering” has been popping up in the conservative political blogosphere, believe it or not.

As you probably know, Ryan Adams covered Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” the other night at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the same hallowed hall where he did not respond well to a heckler’s request for that same song way back when. As you’d expect, this was widely reported in the usual places — but it was apparently a big-enough deal to attract attention from politically slanted sites that dabble a bit in pop culture on the side. So it is that my book is now enshrined on Breitbart.com (the conservative network founded by the late conservative firebrand Andrew Breitbart with an agenda of “the destruction of the old media guard”) as background source for an item about it:

In October 2002, Ryan Adams ejected a fan from his concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville for repeatedly requesting a cover of Bryan Adams’s “Summer of ’69.” The show was part of the singer’s intimate “Demolition” acoustic tour; the heckler’s repeated shouts for the song were an annoying distraction.

The incident haunted Adams through the years, according to Ryan Adams: Losering, a Story of Whiskeytown by David Menconi.

“Over the years, the Ryman ‘Summer of ’69’ incident has come to be Ryan’s equivalent of Bob Dylan getting called ‘Judas’ onstage in England in 1966,” Menconi writes. “It’s the one thing that everybody seems to have heard about Ryan, even nonfans.”

Golly. Oddly enough, however, Breitbart.com isn’t the first right-wing site to have cited “Losering.” In the fall of 2013, Ryan got into a Twitter dust-up with Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity. That inspired the folks at Moonshine Carolina — a political blog that lists keywords like “Obama” and “ACA” under the heading “Prohibited thoughts” — to opine on “celebrities as role models,” and to summarize Ryan’s career via my book thusly:

The Jacksonville boy Ryan Adams, who made a name for himself as frontman of Raleigh’s alt-rock band Whiskeytown, has lived every inch of the clichéd rockstar lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll. As David Menconi details in his book Ryan Adams: Losering, a Story of Whiskeytown, Adams dropped out of school as a teenager to start up the band, and quickly became dependent upon a variety of illicit drugs and alcohol. The band was notorious for smashing up equipment and generally behaving badly. Once, the whole band was fired from a gig in Texas; alcoholism treatment was on the cards for Adams shortly after that. Following more stints in rehab and a successful solo career, Adams has calmed down – he married the very lovely singer and actress Mandy Moore in 2009, they have adopted a puppy, and are both committed to their careers, with Adams running a successful recording studio. Importantly, he has his addictions under control – he made mistakes, and learned from them.

Scoldy! Well, sir, there was a little more to it than that, but so it goes. In any case, we’d better not tell Moonshine Carolina about this.

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In the spring of 2015, Ryan Adams plays “Summer of ’69”

In October of 2002, Ryan Adams played Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and it did not go well. A heckler kept yelling for “Summer of ’69,” Ryan threw something of a fit and it’s been following him around like an albatross ever since — still the one thing everybody seems to know about him, even non-fans (see Chapter 15 of “Losering” for more on this). In a long-overdue settling-up, however, Ryan played the Ryman again last night and actually played a right nice solo acoustic rendition of Summer of ’69.” Take a listen; and there’s more about it herehere and here.

So, wow. Do we dare hope a Raleigh date on his tour schedule is next?

ADDENDA: This actually wasn’t the first time Ryan played “Summer of ’69” in public. In a July 2005 show with the Cardinals, Ryan kind of burned it to the ground. And here are Bryan Adams’ thoughts about it.


While I’m at it, the night before Ryan brought Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires onto the Ryman Stage for a drop-dead gorgeous run-through of Whiskeytown’s Pneumonia song “Jacksonville Skyline” — check that out, too.

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Ryan Adams, on the short list

Ryan10BiggestButtsYou know, there are times when I really do feel kind of sorry for Ryan Adams (or at least understand his paranoia about the negativity of haters). Consider “The ten biggest assholes in rock,” a listicle that’s been making the rounds after it originated in the Denver-based weekly Westword last month.

It’s very thin in both conception and execution, but I’ve certainly got no beef with the top choice; and it’s also hard to argue with the likes of Axl Rose (No. 2) and Courtney Love (No. 6) being on such a count-down. As for Ryan, he comes in at No. 9, the meat in a Brit sandwich between No. 10 Liam Gallagher and No. 8 Lily Allen. And what is cited as proof of Ryan’s assholery? The only thing the author came up with is the “Summer of ’69” blowup from way back in October 2002, which ain’t exactly new news.

Now granted, that was a regrettable moment and it certainly painted Ryan in a robustly asshole-ish light (see Chapter 15 of “Losering” for more details). Still, take it from someone who has witnessed far worse (and is also familiar with plenty more), it’s hardly definitive and it might not even rank in Ryan’s personal top-10. But if you’re going to claim that Ryan belongs in the pantheon of buttockal behavior — over Lou Reed, Aretha Franklin, Gene Simmons and numerous other certifiable legends of raging egomania missing from this list — it seems like you’d need to present a bit more than a single incident from over a decade ago. Just sayin’.

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A not-so-average Joe

When I did the big Raleigh reading for “Losering” last month, one of the evening’s few disappointments was that Joe Newberry was unable to attend. But he definitely had an excused absence. For you see, Joe was at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville that same night, where he was up for a “Hillbilly Grammy” (well, an International Bluegrass Music Association award, if you want to get technical about it). And darned if he didn’t win best gospel song, for “Singing As We Rise” as performed by the Gibson Brothers and Ricky Skaggs. Every now and then, good things happen to people who are so deserving that it warms your heart, and this was just such an occasion.

Joe is one of the most stellar humans I’ve ever known, and modest to a fault. I’ve been trying to talk him into letting me do one of the N&O’s weekly “Tar Heel of the Week” features on him for years, and he has always demurred. But after his well-deserved IBMA triumph, he finally relented. You can see the story here.

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Remembering the “Summer of ’69” at the Ryman

Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium figures into Ryan’s story as site of one of his most infamous onstage meltdowns, the “Summer of ’69” incident. Reports vary as to just what happened that night in October 2002, when Ryan played the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. But it started with somebody in the crowd keeping up a line of heckling that culminated with a mocking call for the mid-’80s Bryan Adams hit. Ryan got angry, words were exchanged and the heckler was either thrown out or moved to a seat farther from the stage, with Ryan reportedly giving the guy his money back.

Critic Peter Cooper reported on the incident in his review of the show in the Nashville Tennessean (visible here), which went out over the wire and caused a minor sensation that rippled far and wide. For a while back in Ryan’s former hometown, it became fashionable to yell out “Summer of ’69” at shows in Raleigh, as a mocking stand-in for “Freebird.” And Ryan’s alternative-country peer Robbie Fulks, who is always up for a joke, offered to reimburse the ticket price for anyone who made Ryan mad enough to get themselves thrown out of a show. A decade later, it’s still the one thing even non-fans seem to know about Ryan.

In one of his online post-mortems about the incident, Ryan later claimed that Cooper made the whole thing up for the purposes of sensationalism (which I don’t believe). He also had some harsh words for the Ryman, the fabled cradle of country music, swearing he’d never play there again (nevertheless, he has). See Chapter 15 in “Losering” for more on this. Nobody asked me, but I thought Ryan could have defused the whole thing by working up a speed-metal version of “Summer of ’69” to break out for hecklers; sort of like the black metal “16 Days” he did onstage last year. Oh well.

I don’t know where Ryan was on Wednesday night, but Cooper was back at the Ryman — onstage, one of several-dozen performers playing the Americana Music Association awards show. I’d never been to the Ryman before, so I had a fine time wandering around drinking the place in. It’s not too long on creature comforts, and the seating is hard wooden pews (it is a former church, after all). Nevertheless, the Ryman has a living, breathing vibe you can’t help but get caught up in, imagining all the legends who have played there over the years. The Opry  broadcasts moved elsewhere long ago, but here is where that spirit still lives.

I would have been content seeing anything at the Ryman just to go there, but man, did I get lucky. The AMA show was the stuff of dreams, a fantasy all-star revue: Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Rodney Crowell, Brandi Carlile, Alabama Shakes, Guy Clark, Punch Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jason Isbell…On and on.

It left me wanting to hear more from pretty much all of them, but still — wow. Coolest live event I’ve been to in recent memory. Highlights included the Punch Brothers’ acoustic skitter, as appropriate for a conservatory as a folk festival; the always-wondrous Thompson, one of the few guitarists I’d dare mention in the same breath as Doc Watson; and Alabama Shakes, who I’m still not completely sold on, but what a voice.

Best of all was the all-hands-on-deck finale, a version of “The Weight” led by Amy Helm in tribute to her late great father Levon. Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard blew the place out with her verse, but Raitt’s more restrained closing verse was even better, ringing loud and clear up to the heavens. I was misting up by the end, and I don’t think I was the only one.

ADDENDUM (2/9/2017): Ryan’s version of the incident.

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