Skip Navigation- Button will scroll to this section on the current page.

5/22/24 residency show

This Town

Eric Church is everywhere in this town.

Wednesday was another To Beat the Devil residency show at Chief’s, the 15th in a series of 19. But with all day before the 8:30 p.m. show time, it was an opportune moment to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame’s exhibit on Church, which is open through June 16.

The memorabilia itself—high school yearbooks, childhood photos, handwritten lyrics—is incredible. An example: they have the actual boots that inspired “These Boots.” It doesn’t get much more original than that.

And how much different would our world be if “Smoke a Little Smoke” included the line, “Let this old world just trip around.”

According to handwritten lyrics donated by longtime collaborator and band member Jeff Hyde, that was the original phrasing, until Hyde crossed out “trip” and wrote “spin” above it.

In many ways, it’s the perfect complement to the To Beat the Devil show, even when it’s not intentional. If you’ve been to the show, you’ll understand this reference: steps away from the Church display is the full video of the landmark Chris Stapleton/Justin Timberlake CMA performance of “Tennessee Whiskey.” Church was there that night, too, and, well…you just have to come to the show.

And when you need a little bit of humor, consider that someone with an incredible sense of irony positioned a Garth Brooks display directly across from the Church exhibit, where the two can safely keep an eye on each other. Former tour-mate Toby Keith is there, too, and somehow that just feels right.

When Church’s exhibit closes on June 16, the next special HOF exhibition focuses on Luke Combs, one of the biggest artists in the genre currently. Remember, Combs grew up listening to Church’s music and attending his shows at Coyote Joe’s. “Without him,” Combs said of the Chief, “there is no me.”

That’s the kind of influence that reminds you Church’s music belongs to everyone packed inside of Chief’s on Wednesday night. But it’s also having a profound impact on the next generation, the ones who might not have known it was OK to sing about Merle Haggard until he did it first.

Which made it fitting that on the walk to Chief’s on Wednesday night, one of the nearby bars had their windows and doors thrown open and a cover band playing. The tune of choice was “Hell of a View.” Now, this was perhaps the 384th best version of “Hell of a View” ever done, sandwiched somewhere between your school choir and the version you do in the car when the windows are rolled up, you think no one is listening, and you’re hitting the drum beats on the steering wheel in incredibly rock-and-roll fashion.

But still: it was “Hell of a View.” The music has become such a part of our everyday musical lives that it’s on the list of tunes you can play on Broadway that are guaranteed to generate some tips.

The original artist, though, is still preferable. Which is why another sellout crowd filled Chief’s for the residency show. This one was a wild one. This crowd was told they needed to be loud and rowdy on PBR and they took it to heart; without his Fiddle and Steel background, Church might not have been able to lasso this group, which seemed to think the show was more of a two-way conversation than a performance.

Somehow, though, he corralled them, and they were in perfect sync by the epic close to the show. It’s completely absurd that Church has so many great songs kicking around in his notebooks that he can afford to throw a few into a no phones, never-released format like the residency shows. Without spoiling anything, there are songs in this set that would be career-defining radio smashes for other artists.

Church just plays them for fun in a room of 389 people. They create moments when grown men cry; 15 shows in, I know exactly what is coming and there are still full-body chills at certain moments and certain lines. Imagine what it’s like to experience it without knowing what’s coming next. That’s why you need to get to Chief’s.

The building has his name on it, which is an incredible honor and testament to his impact. But they can take names off buildings—in the six weeks Chief’s has been open, one nearby bar has already had a name ripped down and replaced within a week by a newer, different artist’s name.

But walk from Chief’s to the Hall of Fame and you’ll see very clear evidence of a lasting relevance that is deeper than real estate. And odds are that on that walk, you’ll hear that evidence, too.

Get More on the Record

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.

Friendly Shadows dueling pianos


Ups and Downs

A memorable Wednesday night at Chief’s included one of the best To Beat the Devil residency shows so far, plus two Nashville residents smoothly transitioning from stuck in an elevator to hanging out with Eric Church in the green room.