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4/18/24 residency show

A Living Legacy

A couple hours into their daylong visit to Chief’s on Thursday, Rob Paterson looked at his sons, Price and Phil. They are nine and 11, and they were having an incredible day.

They had done the Choir Coffee tour for premium Church Choir members, getting in line before 8 a.m. to make sure they could go on the comprehensive tour that visits every level and explains every detail of the building.

They had seen the over 300 different concert posters that make up the walls, floor and ceiling of Chief’s Tavern on the first floor. They had eaten Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog Barbecue on the fifth floor. They drank beer at 9:30 in the morning…OK, fine, only Rob drank beer at 9:30 in the morning.

It had been exactly the day they had hoped it would be when they made the trip from Massachusetts, and they still had tickets for the evening’s To Beat the Devil residency show. But even before seeing the show, as they talked about all the details of their day, they came to an immediate consensus:

Erika Paterson would have loved Chief’s.

Erika was the original Eric Church fan in the family. She introduced Rob to Church before they were married, and she was fanatical. You would have wanted to stand next to her at a concert, because she knew every word. She would have made it even more fun.

Erika and Rob were married in 2013. She loved live music and loved sharing it with her family. She and Rob went to see Church in Boston in 2019, and it was terrific, but as they were leaving, they made a pact:

“We’re never seeing Eric again without the kids.”

So Price and Phil have already seen Church in multiple cities in the Northeast. Look at pictures of Price with his mom, and he’s almost always wearing his camo Eric Church hat with the orange letters. Most recently, they went to the Saratoga Springs edition of the Outsiders Revival tour. It rained. They didn’t care.

“It was,” Price said, “awesome.”

The boys enjoy the full catalog. Phil’s top pick is “Longer Gone.” Price likes “Talladega.”

It seemed impossible when Erika was diagnosed with lung cancer. Women in their late 30s don’t get lung cancer. They go hiking and ride Ferris wheels with their kids and absolutely, definitely, go to concerts.

Erika did all those things. In her final days, in March of 2024, the last song Rob sang to her was “Love Your Love the Most.”

“I want you to know
“Honey, I love your love the most.”

Then she was gone. And a suddenly single father had to figure out how to explain a very unfair life to his boys.

They came up with a plan: they would go to Chief’s. Eric Church was building a bar in Nashville, and Mom would have loved to go. They would see Eric Church in concert at his own bar.

One problem: getting tickets was a challenge. Thousands of Church fans tried and failed in the presale. Somehow the Patersons scored seats for Thursday night, joining Rob’s cousin, Marc Bergeron, and his family. Do you know how hard it is to get even two tickets to one of these shows? The odds are vastly against you.

Rob’s family, with multiple Choir members among them, got eight. It sounds almost impossible. And kind of makes you wonder if maybe someone wasn’t somehow helping them out a little.

It just so happened that Price and Phil had a break from school this week, so it was the perfect time to make the trip to Nashville. They spent hours at Chief’s in the morning and then hit the pool in the afternoon and just, well, they just made memories.

When they returned to Chief’s to pick up their tickets, Phil sat for an hour in his seat, watching the endless Church videos on the giant screen on loop.

This is where I should tell you that Thursday night’s show was full of tears. And maybe there were a few. But mostly what it did was this:

It fucking rocked.

It should not have. It was just one man with a guitar. But as soon as Church took the stage, you could tell this group had different energy, and by the second song you could tell he was feeling it.

Which was perfect, because Erika would have loved it. This crowd was different than the first two residency nights. This crowd raised their glasses of cold, cold beer. This crowd raised their hands above their head to clap along to songs. This crowd got out of their seats and screamed loud and long during and after the finale.

Actually, not the finale. Church put a unique coda on this particular show, one he hasn’t done at either of the previous performances. That is just Eric Church. Even on a show with a committed script and video elements that are specifically paired with specific songs, he is going to play what he wants to play when the moment is right to play it. And this moment was right.

Was it on the set list? Nope. Keep up.

As recently as two weeks ago, Rob went back through Erika’s phone and watched the videos she took that night less than eight months ago in Saratoga Springs. The last song Church played that night was “Love Your Love the Most.” It was one of only two times he played it on the Outsiders Revival tour. He doesn’t play it often anymore. But something made him play it that night.

“I walked through downstairs earlier,” Rob said, “and I touched every one of the posters from shows we went to together. Every single one.”

“My mom,” Price said, “would have stayed here all day today. She never would have left.”

And maybe now she won’t have to. Behind the bar at Chief’s is a group of signed one-dollar bills. The first that was hung up belonged to Eric Church. Others have since been added.

There is, however, one two-dollar bill. Rob and Marc put it there on Friday, a memory of their day at Chief’s. There was only one name to write on it:

Erika Paterson.

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