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Turn the Quiet Up

Opening Morning

“When the weekend comes and the weather’s clear
There’s a high spot 15 miles from here.”

Finally, the weekend came. And let the record show that the weather was indeed clear.

But let history also show that when opening weekend finally arrived for Chief’s on Broadway, the weather was not just clear—but bitingly cold. Friday morning temperatures in Nashville were in the mid-30s; wind chills were colder than that. It was a morning to stay under the covers a little longer and most definitely a morning to stay inside.

Which made it all the more amazing that before 6 a.m., a line had already formed and was snaking down Broadway, around the corner onto Second Ave. Diehard fans arrived before 4 a.m. to make sure they were the first ones through the doors when they opened to Church Choir members at 9 a.m. (the general public was admitted at 10).

Dave Weber traveled from Kansas City to be one of the first people in line. He went to the Hall of Fame residency show last summer, saw Church at Red Rocks, and has been to close to 40 Church concerts. He knew he had to be in Nashville this weekend. “The people you meet along the way at these shows become family,” he said. “The music brings everyone together.”

Indeed, most of the people who waited patiently in line on Friday morning either already knew each other or were friends by the time the doors opened. This wasn’t just the opening of a building. This was a new home base for a community that’s been building for nearly two decades. Angel Busby (you might know her better as “Angel with the blue tattoo,” because she has Church’s signature tattooed on her arm in blue) came from Mississippi to bring a limited edition Chief’s flag for everyone in line to sign—it was then given to Chief’s to display inside the bar, where it will join an American flag signed by some of the very same folks that was given to Church on stage at Nissan Stadium in 2019.

Aaron Shriver is from Chicago and has been to 175 Church shows. He was near the very front of Friday morning’s line. “I came by myself, but I knew I would have friends here,” he said. “In every state, somewhere there’s a couch I can sleep on, and that’s all because of Eric Church and what he has built.”

Inside, the final features were being hammered down moments before the public entered. A set list in the trophy case next to the Chief’s Tavern stage had fallen at some point between Wednesday and Friday. As it was rehung, there was a sigh. “I think it was Michael Jordan,” came the explanation. “That was a big guy dancing around up there.”

Yes, Jordan was here on Wednesday night. And yes, the building already has its legends.

For the sake of posterity: the doors officially opened at 9:04. The first “Chieeeffffff” was heard at 9:05. And the first round of drinks was, of course, on Eric Church.

The rooms existed well before the first customers walked through the door. Construction has been a long, delicate process. Chief’s isn’t just another Broadway bar. It’s a careful restoration of the historic Leslie Warner Building, with details added brick by brick to ensure the building has the same authenticity as Church’s music.

Each floor has its own theme. But what Chief’s still needed, until Friday morning, was a personality. It needed the people. That’s why it was so rewarding to watch fans walk through, floor by floor, discovering all the details.

On the first floor, Chief’s Tavern quickly got rocking with the very first performer—Shelby Lee Lowe. Instead of playing covers, Lowe did exactly what Church wants the performers in his building to do—he played original music. Of course, much of that original music was inspired by one key individual. “When I was in high school,” Lowe said, “a friend gave me a burned CD that had ‘Sinners Like Me’ on there. And I was like, ‘Damn, this is something different in the best kind of way.’”

On the second floor, where the Church Choir has exclusive access this weekend, tables were occupied by longtime friends catching up or new friends who had just met in line. And on the performance level third and fourth floors, dozens of fans were just sitting in the pews—not just any pews, but pews that date to 1890, the same year as the building itself—soaking in the atmosphere of the 350-seat venue. Church’s 19-show residency begins tonight, a series of shows that will be unlike anything fans have seen from him before.

They’ve never seen him anywhere like this, but in a very odd way, they’re seeing him in a place that immediately felt like home. The fans inside on Friday morning didn’t need any explanations of all the references. They knew about the Fiddle and Steel. They got the meaning of all the decals that signify key moments in Church’s career that line the stairwells. They greeted members of Church’s team, all of whom showed up on Friday morning to give directions and help with drinks and do anything that needed doing, by name and like family.

Church’s longtime manager, John Peets, is one of the biggest insider names in Nashville. There are thousands of wannabe stars who would throw themselves in front of Broadway traffic to get two minutes with him. And on Friday morning, there he was, moving mostly anonymously from table to table, chatting with fans and asking if there was anything he could do to help them.

A walk down Broadway before noon on Friday morning revealed bar after bar with vast amounts of empty tables, with singers repeating the same country standards. And then you walked into Chief’s, where new acquaintances were taking pictures together, the bar was standing room only, the singer on stage was playing his own music, and later tonight an entertainer who sold over 600,000 tickets last summer will play a completely new concept of a show to a crowd of 350.

There are plenty of options on Broadway. But there’s only one Chief’s.

“The personal touches are immediately obvious,” Weber said after his first walk-through. “This isn’t a place where someone famous just threw his name up on the wall and took his 15 percent. Eric has never cared about doing stuff like everyone else. He wants to be himself, and that’s exactly what Chief’s is.”