Nashville Dispatch: Goodbye $2 Tuesdays, Hello Derek Hoke

All good things must come to an end—and in the case of $2 Tuesdays, Derek Hoke had it all mapped out from the get-go. “In my head, I always thought it would be 10 years—that’s enough of a chunk of life,” says Hoke from the lobby of the Westin Nashville hotel on September 14, less than 24 hours removed from hosting his final $2 Tuesday at the 5 Spot in East Nashville.

Though not a sanctioned event, the 5 Spot’s $2 Tuesdays grand finale was a fitting kickoff for AmericanaFest 2022, a week that saw breakthrough performances from husband-and-wife soul duo the War And Treaty, Red Dirt country phenom Kaitlin Butts, U.K. retro-charmers the Heavy Heavy and recent Gary Clark Jr. collaborator Abraham Alexander, among others. Many of the musicians who took the stage September 13 at the 5 Spot would participate in AmericanaFest events in various capacities.

Performing songs from his excellent new Young Heart, Old Soul, Matthew Szlachetka was joined onstage by keyboardist Ty Bailie (Joss Stone, Katie Perry), pedal-steel ace Jules Belmont (Chris Stapleton) and trumpeter Kiran Gupta (War And Treaty). Adding vocal support was singer/songwriter Sarah Aili (also Szlachetka’s wife) and American Idol season-10 finalist Paul McDonald (who seemed to be everywhere at this year’s AmericanaFest).

Matthew Szlachetka and band; photo by Nate Johnson

Hoke had his own set of seasoned players for his set, including the Legendary Shack Shakers’ Mark Robertson on bass, Steve Latanation on drums, Irakli Gabriel on acoustic guitar, Steven Cooper on electric guitar and Adam “Dutch” Kurtz on pedal steel. 

Conceived as a way to jumpstart a so-so night at the iconic community-minded club, Tuesdays took on a life of their own under the nurturing eye of Hoke. The $2 cover was an obvious draw, and there were early efforts to offer cheap beer and hots dogs. But it’s always been about the quality of the music and the surprises that might ensue—a real bang for your two bucks.

“Everybody from Jason Isbell to Sturgil Simpson did it—usually at the early stages of their careers,” says Hoke. “Justin Townes Earle never played one, but he was there all the time. Shovels & Rope played one night, and I think that was a first show for a lot of people.”

And while such appearances didn’t happen all the time, they happened enough. “I knew it was getting big when I’d look around and not recognize anybody,” says Hoke. “I wanted people to leave with good memories, not with like, ‘Oh man, those guys are still here.’”

Derek Hoke plays his last $2 Tuesdays set

Now that $2 Tuesdays have gone out on top, Hoke can focus on promoting his new LP, Electric Mountain (3Sirens Music Group). The product of a non-musical family from the sleepy crossroads town of Florence, S.C., Hoke worked at the local vinyl shop and taught himself to play and write music by ear.

“I was a punk-rock kid—Fugazi, the Misfits and all that,” he says. “But I was also the kid at the skateboard park with a Clint Black shirt on. I enjoyed all of it.” 

Produced by longtime Florence buddy Dex Green (Elvis Costello, Allison Russell), Electric Mountain draws on influences as disparate as Appalachian folk music, prog rock, Eno and the Boss. In its most accessible moments, it sounds a bit like a collision of Peter Gabriel and Rodney Crowell.

“I always try to make a record that I’d like to own myself—putting care and craft into” says Hoke. “Even if only a handful of people notice, I’ll notice.”

—Hobart Rowland

Matthew Szlachetka with Paul McDonald; photo by Nate Johnson