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4/5/24 private opening

Friends & Family

One by one, they walked to the glass doors at the corner of Second and Broadway.

“What’s happening in there?” they asked the men by the door wearing the schmedium polo shirts.

“It’s a special night tonight,” they were told. “This one is for friends and family.”

Starting Friday, Chief’s will be the cornerstone of a new Broadway. Fans will line up outside and Eric Church will play his new “To Beat the Devil” residency and those lucky enough to score tickets will sing along to every word.

But Wednesday was for friends and family, the first day to throw the doors open, staff the bars, and see what happens.

At a lunchtime walk-through, there were still a few boxes on the floor and stage decorations that needed to be spray painted. But by 7 p.m., the building was perhaps as pristine as it will ever look. The thousands of fans who come through the doors starting this weekend will eventually make it a home, will make it lived in and comfortable.

Wednesday, it was still shiny. It was like a housewarming party. On this floor, there’s a DJ. On the second floor, there are dueling pianos. And upstairs, well…

Ben Weprin, Michael Jordan and Eric Church“This is like ‘We Are The World,’” Ben Weprin said while welcoming the approximately 350 people to the evening. Well, not exactly. Because “We Are the World” didn’t have Michael Jordan dancing on stage, and Wednesday night did.

But it was pretty close. Jordan was over there. Peyton Manning was over here. Lainey Wilson stopped by. Bo Jackson was sitting directly in front of the choir.

Oh yes, there was a choir. They spent most of the early part of the night blending in with everyone else. But during the second song, a never-before-performed one written by Church in response to The Covenant School shooting in March of 2023, they suddenly joined in. They took everyone by surprise — including Jackson, who was minding his own business at a table when suddenly everyone around him broke into song. First, he looked surprised. Then, amazed at the incredible harmonies. And then, like the rest of the room, touched. Church was singing. Grown men were crying.

Extreme measures have been taken to make sure this building is not just another Broadway bar. But no meetings, no pitch deck, no marketing plan could have ever infused the four walls with as much soul as that moment.

Those types of moments are going to happen here because the proprietor demands it. The third song featured Church playing one of six guitars that ringed the aviators inlaid into the stage (shaped from wood that came from a vintage still on Church’s land), performing a song he’s never done anywhere else, with a choir backing him up.

Safe bet that you’re not going to find that particular blend of creativity anywhere else on Broadway. This ain’t “Wagon Wheel.”

And nowhere else will you find someone who does a mashup of “Take Me To The River” with “Smoke a Little Smoke,” as Church did on the fourth song of the night.

He did only five songs, closing with “Record Year” in a perfect example of leaving a crowd — even a crowd of friends — wanting more. Starting this weekend, there will be plenty more. It will be different and it will be unpredictable and it will be, every single night right here on Broadway, Eric Church.

Oh. It will also be something else.

“Friday,” he promised, “is going to be the shit.”