Your Ability to Dance: An Ode to Tennessee

Yesterday was a momentous occasion in Bristol, Tenn. British breakthrough band Mumford & Sons turned the city into a mustache-plastered music festival for one day when it chose Bristol as one of seven destinations from around the globe for its Gentlemen of the Road Stopover shows. And they rekindled my pride as a Tennessean.

“One of the things I love about playing in the South is your ability to dance.” – Marcus Mumford

Mumford & Sons play to 17,500 fans during a GOTR Stopover show in Bristol, Tenn. Photo by TrinitySquared, Flickr.

I’ve always been proud to don my Tennessee paraphernalia and represent the Volunteer State, but as I grow older, my personal and professional goals continue to lead me outside of the South. I spent an amazing year in Syracuse, New York while pursuing a master’s degree in arts journalism. I visited Toronto, Ontario in Canada to attend a film festival. I spent several months in New York City while interning. And I maintain a strong desire to visit and even move to bigger cities around the country, including Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. Since finishing my master’s program, I’ve been a nomad, traveling from couch to couch and appreciating the kindness of various family members and friends.

Throughout my experiences, I’ve often found myself criticizing the South for some of its problems. Of course, that doesn’t mean the New England area or the Midwest or California and the North Pacific region don’t all have issues as well, but I find myself quick to disparage what I know best. Sometimes it takes other people to remind you of the good things.

Tennessee’s state quarter celebrates music history. Public Domain.

And one good thing about Tennessee and the surrounding region is its music. Nashville. Elvis. The Carter Family. Beale Street. Memphis Blues. Sam Phillips. Sun Records. The Grand Ole Opry. Stax Records. And now, while maintaining its music roots, Tennessee also boasts famed music festival Bonnaroo and more contemporary artists such as Kings of Leon and Justin Timberlake.  Or Nashville’s Apache Relay—who were invited to play on the Mumford & Sons stopover tour. Along with this rich history and current creation, the fans down South bring it all together. Musicians and music lovers unite to form a community. Everyone is encouraged to share music and listen to other people’s music. And most of all, no one is afraid to feel the music, to let the music move them, to dance.

Mumford & Sons immediately saw Tennessee’s musical soul. On stage in front of 17,500 fans, including thousands from Tennessee and Virginia, the band discussed their love for the area. They said when they visited Bristol for the first time, they “met kindred spirits.”

As kindred spirits, the crowd, the bands and the entire city joined together to celebrate the music and to dance. It was the perfect setting. A warm Tennessee night. A summer breeze. Radiant stars. I still aim to move out of the South, but no matter where I am, no matter whose couch I am sleeping on, Tennessee will always be my home. Thank you for the music.

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