Director: Brian A. Loschiavo
Runtime: 87 minutes
Nestled in an unsuspecting part of Music City is a tiny venue that, with its rare form of Tennessee hospitality, has welcomed a who’s who of the country music community for the last 37 years. Like all of the hole-in-the-wall dives we revere, the Bluebird Café is not famous for its pristine appearance or spacious accommodations. But what it lacks in elbowroom and good plumbing it makes up for by being one of the most authentic musical experiences a person can have anywhere in the world.
In the new film Bluebird, which premiered this week at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas (an appropriate location given its own claim as the “live music capitol of the world”) viewers are invited to experience the unique history that makes the Bluebird such an unlikely special place.
Nashville is known for the music and musicians it has produced over the years. However, many country music fans overlook the person behind the song—the songwriter. It is the songwriter that creates the hit songs country music fans love. And, since 1982, the Bluebird Café has been ground zero for the songwriting community.
With wit, energy and a steady stream of excellent music laced throughout, Bluebird provides a backstage examination of the people behind this sublimely gritty bar and restaurant. We see how it became the city’s number one tourist destination – with music fans from all over the world lining up over 200 strong, early each morning, to fill one of only 90 available seats in the tiny strip-mall venue that evening.
The characters, and I do mean characters, we meet in the film – some famous, most not – are quick to give credit to the café’s visionary founder, Amy Kurland, as the force that birthed and sustained the Bluebird through some less than profitable years. When Kurland started the Bluebird, she was a young female club-owner operating a venue far from the male dominated honky-tonks of Broadway and “Music Row”. But what it lacks in location, it makes up for with authenticity. The Bluebird, from its earliest days, attracted both the famous and the unknown as a proving ground for the real heart of country music – the songs.
In Bluebird we witness the birth of the famous writers rounds that are a staple of the experience to this day. We hear the stories behind the many beer-fueled nights of music and revelry that make this place so legendary. We meet up and comers vying for a slot to play on its famous stage, an opportunity still afforded to the next generation of hit makers every week. And we hear how both Garth Brooks and a 14-year old Taylor Swift got their start in country music at the Bluebird.
In his debut as a feature documentarian, Director Brian Lociavo – himself a veteran of the hit television production Nashville – has crafted a visually beautiful and effective movie. But like the Bluebird itself, the cleverness of this film is in the songs. What you’re left with at the end of Bluebird is an enormous appreciation and gratefulness that some smart and caring people kept this remarkable place alive all these years. The Bluebird Café serves as a clubhouse for a worldwide community of music lovers- a place where the songs are born as well as a place where they will live on forever.
-Written by AP