Brit Beat

Love Song to Louisville

When I resigned from my job and packed up my miniscule, designer appliance-laden apartment in New York just over three years ago, everyone thought I was mad. “Where are you going? To the KFC place?” asked my friends in England. None had heard of Louisville. “Why are you going?” my East Coast colleagues grimaced in horror. They regaled me with tales of people with blue skin and no shoes. “You’ll be back in three months, begging us to take you for a glass of Pinot Grigio at Soho House,” they chorused.

I ignored their cynicism. I’d grown to really appreciate Louisville on weekends visiting my boyfriend (now husband), and was looking forward to leaving the nutters of New York behind to eat BBQ and drink bourbon. I knew what I was doing.

Or, rather, I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t suspect I would fall so in love with this place that, if past lives exist, I would be pretty sure my soul had been here before — that when I wasn’t writing the Magna Carta or getting my head chopped off by Henry VIII, I’d have been on the banks of the Ohio, pickling beets and trying to form a jug band.

Do you know what you have here? I ask because I’m leaving, and I’m looking back at my 38 months here with a misty-eyed, heavy-hearted adoration that is often only provoked by the realization that something is being taken away. We’re moving to the West Coast for one last American adventure before we head back across the pond to Blighty. If we didn’t yearn for our son to know his family, we would settle in The Ville for good — but our draw to the old world is too strong.

I saw, smelled and felt so much as I became a devout fan of your city — the hospitality, the restaurants, the kindness, the quirkiness, the architecture! As this column is about what you hear, I shall focus on musical things that have improved my life forever:

Getting bounced on by Sugarland as they crowd-surfed in a giant rubber ball at Papa John’s Stadium; laughing at girlfriends getting giddy whenever Will Oldham appeared at Blue Dog or Vint; watching an old lady swinging above the bar at Jim Porter’s, doing her best to ruin soft-rock classics; discovering at Freedom Hall that Keith Urban is more than Nicole Kidman’s boy toy and is, in fact, an amazing guitarist; learning the Electric Slide at Phoenix Hill Tavern; drifting up and down the river on the Belle of Louisville while an ancient DJ spun Taylor Swift records for a frenzied dance floor full of 6-year-olds; attempting to line dance with men in cowboy hats at Saddle Ridge; singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” with 30 of my favorite people in the karaoke room at Maido; watching my baby-bump bounce and wriggle to a bluegrass band at 21c; belting out the theme tune to “Only Fools and Horses,” beers in hand, with my fellow English ex-pats at a hot Louisville Bats game; fighting back tears on my graduation day at the KFC Yum! Center when the band played U of L’s alumni song; feeling my son come into the world, while a doctor wearing a Cardinals baseball cap held my hand and sang along to the Kenny Chesney song playing on the radio; bellowing “Jerusalem” in our basement at 6 a.m. on the day of the Royal Wedding, fuelled by imported tea, biscuits and patriotism; quiet nights in my porch rocker, reading LEO while my husband played guitar; being deafened by the orchestral drum of horse hooves at the Derby Museum’s 360-degree theater; listening to new bands amongst zombies and dead presidents at Zanzabar on Halloween; watching my baby boy and his little buddies bang on drums in “Music Together” classes at Shine; and swaying at sunset, surrounded by lightning bugs, to cover bands at Captain’s Quarters.

Oh my gosh, why are we leaving again? This could be a big mistake. Time to get out my British stiff upper lip, keep calm and carry on to California. In the words of Robert Smith from The Cure: “However far away, I will always love you.” Louisville, I will always love you.

Follow Sarah Ivens’ adventures in Mommyland at