There’s Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza. But for a different, and more intimate, kind of music festival experience, Nashville’s 22nd annual Tin Pan South is the one to visit. Taking place from 25th – 29th March in 2014, it’s the largest songwriters festival in the world. That means the emphasis is on the people behind the lyrics and the music, not necessarily the performers who usually get the big-name billing.
At ten different venues across Music City, concertgoers get to listen to songs as they were written, hear the stories behind the lyrics, and learn how the music came to be. The line-up isn’t announced until early March, but it doesn’t really matter. The programme is carefully curated and typically includes a handful of well-known country acts, with many more behind-the-scenes artists also included – while their names may not be familiar, many of the songwriters have household hits. Last year the stars of ABC’s TV show “Nashville” made appearances on stage, too.
A play on Tin Pan Alley, a moniker for music publishers in New York in the 19th century, Tin Pan South is presented by the Nashville Songwriters Association International, a not-for-profit trade organization. More than 5,000 people are members, and more than 350 of them come to play in Nashville during the festival. While Bonnaroo and CMA Fest (both in June in Middle Tennessee) draw in droves of music fans, Tin Pan South is unique to Nashville and gives people a one-of-a-kind music experience. In addition to the regular festival schedule, there’s typically one show for which proceeds are donated to a local charity and/or music related philanthropy.
With venues across town hosting a variety of different shows, Tin Pan South offers a great selection of gigs, all of which run on time. Concertgoers can plan to see an array of shows in one night, because they know they won’t be waiting around for a support act to work their way through their set before the headliner finally makes an appearance on stage. The songwriters at Tin Pan South show up, sing, talk and perform and then get off the stage in time for the next show (and usually stick around in the audience to hear their friends and mentors play). Venues range from high-profile places like The Bluebird Café to smaller locations like Belmont Tapas.
Tickets go on sale in March. There are both fast-access passes for those who want to see lots of acts, as well as one-off ticket sales. Most concerts are open to the public with admission charged at the door. So, book your flight, buy your tickets and get ready to sing a different song at Tin Pan South.
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Written by Margaret Littman