This past Friday I caught the final Nashville Unplugged show at the Sunset Station Casino. For those of you unfamiliar with Nashville Unplugged, it is an outstanding show in which Nashville songwriters play their hit songs and tell the stories behind them. The atmosphere of the show is loose and casual with the songwriters often joking with each other and the audience. Basically picture hanging around with your friends drinking beer and playing guitar on the back porch if your friends were hit Nashville songwriters. This past Friday’s show was particularly outstanding and a fitting finale to a great run at the Sunset Station. In addition to Nashville Unplugged mainstays Aaron Benward and Travis Howard, the crowd was treated to the bluesy piano ballads of Regie Hamm and the down home guitar picking and songwriting of country troubadour Danny Myrick.
Readers of this blog probably recall that I’ve attended Nashville Unplugged in the past and written about the show on this blog. Nashville Unplugged is the brainchild of singer/songwriter/actor/producer/Vegas showman extraordinaire Aaron Benward. During Friday night’s show Aaron mentioned that Nashville Unplugged has been running for 7 1/2 years, first at Green Valley Ranch Casinos, then Red Rock, and most recently Sunset Station in Henderson. The move to Mandalay Bay brings this incredible show straight to the Vegas strip, with the first show expected in September 2016 (stay tuned for more updates). Although it will have stiff competition in the Entertainment Capital of the World, Nashville Unplugged provides a unique niche that sets it apart from other shows. By focusing on songwriters themselves and the stories behind their hits, the show brings an authenticity that audiences can connect with as opposed to just watching performers sing and dance to other people’s music (an oversimplification of Vegas shows, I know!). And by featuring a rotating cast of Nashville’s top songwriters, the format allows for a unique performance every time.
I was fortunate enough meet Aaron this past October when I was attending the Sunset Songwriting Festival and I wish him all the success in the world as his show moves to the Vegas strip. In addition to being thoroughly entertaining and one of the hardest working individuals you’ll find in the music industry, Aaron is also deeply concerned with the ongoing struggles facing artists (especially songwriters) in today’s music industry. Several times during the performance on Friday he made references to the state of today’s music industry, specifically the recent DOJ consent decree ruling as well as the impact of streaming sites such as Pandora and Spotify on songwriters. Aaron’s dedication to these causes isn’t just passing lip service at a concert either. Indeed these struggles and more are the subject of a Nashville Unplugged inspired documentary and traveling tour entitled “Ghost Town Troubadours“.
I look forward to the future of Nashville Unplugged at its new home in Mandalay Bay as well as the upcoming Ghost Town Troubadours documentary. If you love country music, songwriting, and Las Vegas then make plans to stop by the Mandalay Bay starting this September to catch Nashville Unplugged, I can’t recommend it enough.