The Nashville Section of the AES, in cooperation with the Nashville Engineers Relief Fund (NERF), held its 17th annual AudioMasters golf tournament for the benefit of NERF on Thursday and Friday, May 15 and May 16 at the Harpeth Hills golf course and as usual, a buffet broke out.
With the implicit understanding that fresh air and exercise are anathema to the music recording lifestyle, sponsors of many of the day’s 19 holes (true duffers will understand the math) laid out smorgasbords themed with their own identities, or that at least constituted bad puns, to lure the pro audio proletariat out of their Faraday caves and into the occasional moments of sunshine the day managed to squeeze out.
A total of 140 players cruised through the course, raising an estimated $25,000-plus for NERF, and enduring lost balls, profuse profanity and occasional disorientation caused by seeing wildlife whose habitat is not traditionally found in acoustically isolated enclosures. If it all became too much for some, they were able to be fortified by the periodic arrival of Dr. Bil VornDick, whose liquid-lobotomy procedure proved once again that in this business, frontal lobes are truly optional.
But it was the food that made the difference. In an industry where haute cuisine generally consists of a drawer in the reception area holding dozens of grease-stained menus, the AudioMasters event allows studios and manufacturers the opportunity to show off their culinary skills. At a time when chefs are the new rock stars (the finance guys are lying low until Elizabeth Warren and Matt Taibi find someone else to trash), food becomes the new differentiator for studios.
Echo Mountain Recording
Studio manager Jessica Tomason walked us through their “punk wok” array: Johnny Rotten spring rolls and meatballs with a homemade mayo sauce, finished off with “sake suckers” — Jello shots fortified with fermented rice wine. The theme seemed immediately apparent: back in Echo Mountain’s Asheville, North Carolina base, they would seem to be the Far East relative to someplace like Nashville. But, apparently, only to me. Nonetheless, good spring rolls.
Vintage King & SkinnyFish Studio Services
Next up was a stop at Vintage King, at the retailer’s hole-#3 compound, which they shared with SkinnyFish Studio Services. The pulled pork came from Hog Heaven, a reliable source and a Nashville native. I will not be drawn into a debate about who has the best barbecue in Nashville — there was too much alcohol floating around and almost everyone has a concealed-carry permit these days — but it does come with HH’s Kickin’ Chicken sauce, which brings with it bonus points and acid reflux.
Conservatory for Recording Arts and Sciences
Over at Hole 7, the Conservatory for Recording Arts and Sciences was grilling up hot dogs wrapped in bacon. The fact that the dogs were Hebrew National, well, let sleeping dogs lie. But their preparation was elaborate enough to qualify as a bris-level ceremony.
First, we were told only really cheap white-bread buns will do, not because of cost but because industrial-grade buns — these came from CostCo — hold together better in the great outdoors. (This is a golf tournament, not a picnic.) Then, a thin skein of mayo is applied, followed by the dog assertively slammed into the bun and held there with a layer of chopped onions and ‘stard.
The assembly is topped off with a salsa picante verde, white-labeled, we were told, for CRAS by Derby Girl by way of Tombstone Studios in Nashville’s Berry Hill. While the provenance of the hot sauce was a bit murky, the flavor was anything but. Best sauce on the course.
Georgetown Masters is a classic Nashville brand, and they showed that class with a two-tent set-up offering an assembly line of pork and turkey brats and barbecue from Martin’s, a regional pork house with four locations in the South, mostly around Nashville.
Other elements d’table also reflected a local theme, including whole-wheat hot dog buns from the hyper-local bakery of Bobby John Henry, who used to run the Spence Manor on Music Row, Nashville’s early-1990’s version of a rock & roll hotel, complete with guitar-shaped swimming pool. The beer was equally local, from Blackstone Brewery on West End Avenue, and which actually had one its brewers represented at the Georgetown hole. (He would be one of several ringers on the golf course that day.)
But the piece-de-resistance was the deep-fried candy — your choice: Snickers or Reese’s rolled in funnel-cake batter and dropped into a portable deep-fryer filled with bubbling canola oil, whose well-documented health benefits I’m certain offset some of what the dessert was wreaking on arteries.
Blackbird Studio, where you can rent studio time and equipment, and more recently go to school to learn how to use them, took on the ambience of a taqueria on Nolensville Road, one of Nashville’s multicultural thoroughfares.
The Mas Tacos Pro Favor truck was on hand for the third year in a row, providing signature dishes like the carne molida taco, a blend of ground beef, roasted tomatoes, garlic and spicy habañero sauce; Blackbird’s own signature taco was made from pulled chicken toped with crema, cilantro and lime, which owner/chef Teresa Mason whipped up in the 1974 Winnebago that serves as mobile kitchen unit.
One always approaches the API stand cautiously. Out there on the 16th hole, an isolated dogleg on the course on the edge of its small forest, it’s an outpost of analog and other radical ideas.
Nothing radical, however, about the well-executed Ahi tuna sashimi offered as either tartar or tataki, the latter painted with a wasabi cream sauce, all on a toasted wonton chip, by celeb-chef Rance, a friend of the house, who seared the tuna on a propane camp stove. We washed it all down with Sapporo, then backed slowly away from what is the closest the pro audio industry has to a militia. Analog, indeed.
Soundstage Studios is now owned by Terry Pegula, who also owns the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, and its 13th-hole site offered just what you’d expect at a major-league game: Nathan’s hot dogs with bacon and sauerkraut, washed down with Tecate or Corona. Simple, basic game-day fare, the kind of stuff that keeps your mind off the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Grand Victor Sound Nashville
The last stop was, appropriately, the 18th hole, where Ben Folds’ recently rebranded studio Grand Victor Sound Nashville unfurled its new flag and where it was, fittingly, serving the day’s just desserts: Smirnoff-and-root beer floats. Pointing to the ballerina on the piano that serves as the promotional image for Folds’ recent performance with the Nashville Symphony, I wondered what the thematic connection might be.
Whomever she was who was making those floats, she had the best line of the day: “This is everything that a ballerina can never eat!”
— Dan Daley