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A cherished East Nashville tradition ends next week, as Derek Hoke brings down the curtain on more than a decade of “Two Dollar Tuesdays” at The 5 Spot.
As the host of the popular weekly showcase, Hoke has overseen more than 12 years of East Side regulars, up-and-comers, unique collaborative side projects from established musicians, and big stars looking for a chance to perform in a friendly and intimate setting.
Two Dollar Tuesdays was the place where you could see Jason Isbell or Margo Price perform before they were stars, or Peter Buck from R.E.M. sitting in with somebody, or just a neighbor from down the street wow you with talent you didn’t know they had.
While Hoke is ending his run as congenial host, he’s also looking toward his future with the release of his album Electric Mountain, which dropped Friday (September 9) via 3Sirens Music Group. Hoke spoke with The East Nashvillian about his future plans, and the accomplishment he never planned for when Two Dollar Tuesday first came together, sometime in the summer of 2010.
“The 5 Spot had started the Motown Mondays dance party thing, and then they kicked off the Wednesday night bluegrass jam,” Hoke recalls. “There was a dead Tuesday in the middle. Sometimes they’d be closed, sometimes they’d be open and there’d be a band from Alaska or someplace playing in front of a small group of regulars, sometimes a band wouldn’t show up, but we’d still be there. I started bringing guitars and daring people to play. It was at least a year before we really understood what we were doing.”
The gradual evolution of the Tuesday show means it’s impossible to set a fixed birthdate, but Hoke recalls that the usual format of five songs from each artist on the bill evolved as they tried out different ideas.
“I saw it as a variety show at first, and tried having a couple of comedians perform, but that didn’t work with the audience we had. It also wasn’t a singer-songwriter thing, but there are plenty of those in town, and we were having too many acoustic guitars show up. ‘Quietest to loudest’ eventually became the idea. Even if a ‘headliner’ act was on the bill, if they were quiet, they would go on earlier in the evening.”
Another big change occurred as East Nashville started to evolve into a tourist destination, a status that accelerated when the TV show Nashville began running on ABC and chose The 5 Spot as a setting for several episodes.
“I always thought of it as, ‘Let’s just have a party at the bar we all love and hope people show up,’ ” Hoke says. “And suddenly it was like, ‘Who are all these people?’ I would ask jokingly onstage how did they know what this is, and people would respond they were told to come here, the same way they were told to go to Robert’s, to eat hot chicken, or something else they ‘had to do’ when in Nashville.”
Even with the change in audience, Hoke continued to enjoy his Tuesdays. But, eventually, all things must pass. “At some point I thought, ‘I’m going to do this for 10 years and call it quits’ ” he says. “Then the pandemic stretched it, and I didn’t want that to kill it. We did a few live streams [during the worst of the pandemic], and did it in the daytime a few times when it was still weird to go out. Then we brought it back in earnest in late January, but over the course of the summer I began to feel it had run its course. You have to know when you’re repeating yourself. It’s the same way with making records. Like, I’ve done that, what else can I do?”
That question is exactly the approach Hoke has taken on his new album, Electric Mountain. A collection of songs that Hoke describes as “hillbilly music meets Peter Gabriel,” the album explores the boundaries of what roots music might be considered.
“No matter what I do, it’s going to be in the world of roots music. That’s the world I live in,” Hoke says. “I’m not trying to rebel against that, or make a metal album just to be a dick. The question is, how can we stretch the genre a little bit, and how can I stretch my ability? I already know what I can do, and I’ve already made those records.”
As for the future outside the studio, Hoke has plans for more performances that also push the envelope. He’s already planning a web series of informal performances with friends that he’ll record in his home, and then there are other unexplored horizons.
“I’d also like to find out what’s it’s like to play The 5 Spot on Thursday night,” Hoke says with a chuckle. “Just, what’s that like?”