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6/6/24 residency show

The Scene

Nashville is different this week.

It’s different at the airport. Different at the restaurants. And different—so different—in and around Broadway.

It’s CMA Fest this weekend in Nashville, and approximately 100,000 people per day are expected to attend the various festivities in and around town. There is live music cranking at 9 a.m. on Broadway, usually a time when the main sounds are trucks power washing the street. Several blocks of Broadway are blocked off, with vendors everywhere—most importantly, an Eric Church pop-up directly in front of Chief’s—and police playing cornhole and helping visitors with photos (and occasionally providing a few gentle reminders of, you know, laws).

Chief’s featured live music all the way from 9 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, a schedule the building will keep for the rest of the weekend. Don’t picture tumbleweeds blowing across the stage. On Thursday, there were fans lined up on sidewalks throughout the downtown area from morning to well after midnight, just waiting for music—any music.

Church played the CMA Fest big stage last year, of course. The set received mixed reviews, but to anyone who was paying attention, it was a sneak preview of what was to come on the highly successful Outsiders Revival Tour, with new arrangements of familiar favorites and some deep cuts from the catalog.

One year later, the big stage came to him at the corner of Second and Broadway—because that’s where he built it. Interestingly, with basically the entire world of country music in town and performing from Nissan Stadium to smaller stages set up throughout around Nashville, artists like Koe Wetzel and Maggie Rose made their way to Chief’s to watch a small one-man show in front of fewer than 400 people.

On Saturday night, Wetzel is one of the headliners on stage at a CMA Fest event one block away. On Thursday, he was in a standing room only spot anonymously watching Church, with whom he toured on a couple of Outsiders Revival dates.

Talent most definitely recognizes talent.

Thursday’s “To Beat the Devil” show did have a slightly looser, CMA Fest-type of feel. At one point, as a couple of audience members threatened to turn the show into their personal Q&A, Church said from the stage, “Don’t hijack my story,” using just the right amount of humor mixed with some gentle admonishing.

And if CMA Fest is more like the rest of country radio—quick sound bites designed to showcase the hits and only the hits—that is never going to be the case at Chief’s. Last year, Church fans might have come to town expressly to hear him at CMA Fest. This year, multiple people in Thursday’s crowd talked of only realizing it was CMA Fest weekend when they tried to book exorbitantly priced hotels for their trip to see the residency show.

Standing by the back wall of Chief’s, you could just barely hear the sounds of CMA Fest knocking at the stained glass windows during “To Beat the Devil.” Outside was big and bombastic. Inside was intimate and personal.

Tomorrow they will line up again, and they will hope for a break in the Nashville heat, and they will snag freebies from the vendors and partake of the highly essential water fountains set up throughout the downtown area.

They will, in other words, do CMA Fest the usual way.

Which is fine. Because inside Chief’s, Church is concluding “To Beat the Devil” with the first four straight nights stretch of this residency. He, of course, is doing CMA Fest the only way he’s ever known how to do anything—his own way.

Get More on the Record

Looking down on first floor of Neon Steeple


This Town

A full day of Eric Church activities included a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame, a 15th straight sold-out residency show at Chief’s, and a reminder that a singer who once couldn’t get a job on Broadway is now influencing the next generation trying to rule Nashville.

Stage in Chief's Tavern


In My Soul

Tuesday night’s Eric Church residency show provided a little bit of everything that everyone in attendance needed. And a very special post-concert meeting was a reminder of the connection between the singer and his fans.

Stained Glass Windows in Neon Steeple


Friday Night

Broadway was being Broadway on Friday night. But Broadway is a little different inside Chief’s.