The new Fifth and Broadway district in downtown Nashville flowed with tourists packing the heat-scorched sidewalks Saturday afternoon.
Rising above the venerable Ryman Auditorium and old-time draws like Tootsie's Lounge, the complex offers food courts, office buildings, clubs and the impressive National Museum of African-American Music.
Fifth and Broadway perches between the Ryman and Bridgestone Arena, home of concerts and the NHL Predators. It's also near the Country Music Hall of Fame and Broadway clubs.
My wife and I had driven up from Atlanta to visit our daughter and see the Nashville Shakespeare Festival's "12th Night." The night before, I'd gone with my son to witness the Braves' thrilling victory over the Giants at Truist Park.
Headed through the Nashville throng, I was startled to remember the empty dirt lot where Fifth and Broadway now stood. Over the years during periodic visits to Nashville, I'd marked the construction's slow progress. Now, as the crowds swarmed by, I had a moment of dissociation in realizing that this congested setting had once been that barren place.
Fifth and Broadway give me a spell of Nashville envy, although the tourist horde was overwhelming. Sure, Atlanta has the Beltline, the College Football Hall of Fame, Mercedes Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena, but lacks a downtown draw like Fifth and Broadway. The comparable Centennial Yards development at the Gulch appears years away.
On our way from east Nashville to the Shakespeare play, we got bogged down in traffic headed to the Titans' exhibition game against the Cardinals at the downtown Nissan Stadium. Like Atlanta, Nashville is a sprawling interstate-enmeshed city that burgeoned without rational urban planning.
As with the Braves, the Shakespeare production required traveling by car and parking in the garage of a corporate office tower. The Nashville Shakespeare Festival gives outdoor performances at an amphitheater that's part of the One City complex, one of the many multi-use projects popping up around the city, as in Atlanta.
Enhanced with Tom Mason's rock-flavored arrangements of Shakespeare's songs, the Nashville troupe presented an ebullient "12th Night." In the role of the fool Feste, Mason set a festive mood for the company, playing his guitar with the backing of a drum and bass and giving Shakespeare's lyrics a Nashville flair.
Arrayed in modern dress - boots and cowboy hats prominent - the cast adorned the comedy of cross-dressing, mistaken identities and concocted letters with a light sit-com mood.
The crowd left happy, just as the Braves fans had the night before.