Johnny Cash outside his home on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville, TN

New Nashville: Ramen, the Ballet & Johnny Cash

This month is my two-year anniversary in Nashville. That doesn’t exactly make me a seasoned veteran around town, but in a city that’s growing and changing as quickly as Nashville, it means I’ve seen some noticeable changes. Whether it’s a shiny new condo complex, a delicious eatery/gathering place or a now-annual event, there is something new popping up every day.

ramen-soupOne of the things I’ve found most fascinating to watch is the combining of two cultures in the city: the old-time country vibe that comes to mind when most outsiders hear “Nashville” and the more progressive arts-based culture that’s steadily growing all around.

I might be biased, but to me these two cultures are most apparent in food and music. It’s classic country and Americana; fried everything and local greens. I consider myself lucky to be in a place so filled with old-meets-new, and last Saturday I had what I consider a quintessential New Nashville experience.

Ramen – Extra large, please

The evening started with a trip to Marathon Music Works for pop-up ramen shop Otaku South‘s second annual Extra Large ramen and music charity event. It brought together some of the best ramen chefs from across the U.S. to give Nashville a sample of their tasty fare.

Living up to its name, this year’s crowd was much larger than last year’s. I arrived about 10 minutes after it started and had to wait more than half an hour to try Top Chef alum Edward Lee’s dish. (It was really good. But the line was still insane.) Life in a growing city is not without its (minor) downfalls.

20 desserts

We had to quickly run from ramen to drinks and dessert at 12th & Broad‘s February Signature Event. They invited 10 local bakeries to show off their best desserts. So as though eating a bunch of ramen wasn’t enough, I stuffed my face with cookies, brownies and cake with bacon on top. But surprisingly, the high point of the night was yet to come.

The dancing man in black

JohnnyCashHouseTwo things I never would have imagined working together: Johnny Cash and ballet. I’m not sure Mr. Cash ever danced. That’s why when I heard about Nashville Ballet company and Sugar & The Hi Lows teaming up for a show with some of his greatest hits, I knew I had to go.

The best performance of the night was the rendition of Hurt. I never imagined seeing it accompanied by ballet dancers, especially with a woman as the lead. But they absolutely pulled it off. I’m not going to pretend to be an art critic here, so don’t expect any fancy words. Suffice it to say I was blown away. Amy Stroud of Sugar & The Hi Lows has a ridiculous voice, and ballerina Mollie Sansone’s performance brought my roommate to tears. In all, it was a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary art, and that’s what this city is about.

So the bottom line here is I’m pretty happy I landed in Nashville. It’s great to be in this town at this time. I might even head to the ballet again. Ben Folds, any body?