The little big town that could was stretched to capacity on June 2, 2017 and even with the help of every crane looming over Nashville it would have been difficult to create a little more space as sports, music, art lovers and convention goers simultaneously converged on America’s current “it” city.
One of the first things we noticed were the bloodied and ghoulish admirers of all things related to The Walking Dead who were gathering at the Walker Stalker Con in Music City Center. Over 20,000 fans of the popular television show were estimated to be in attendance at the convention where they could view the set of the program and meet some of the franchise’s incredible actors. On Saturday night this freaky horde assembled to march up the demonic Denombruem Street in a hellish zombie walk.
On any other given day this scene would have been unusual and unrivaled except for the fact that the Nashville Predators were in town getting ready to play in their first ever Stanley Cup game at the Bridgestone Arena. In addition to the 17,000 ticket holders the City of Nashville invited the rest of the state to converge on Broadway for a pre-game party and concert with country music legend Alan Jackson. So, another 50,000 or so of the gold clad contingent were themselves strutting around in a hot daze as the temperatures surpassed the 90 degree mark.
But, Music City wasn’t done. Far from it. English rockers The Muse were performing a show at the outdoor Ascend Amphitheater while Joan Baez and friends were setting up shop at the Ryman Auditorium. In addition to both of these sold out concerts the monthly Saturday art crawl was also taking place and all this collective activity was being held within one square mile in the Capitol of Tennessee.
This certainly was an unusually busy day in the downtown and it was equally strange to be playing hockey in June in Nashville. The hot South is not the first thing you think of when ice sports come to mind but by all accounts this city is fast becoming one of the hottest markets in the NHL as far as fan support goes.
They could be seen all over Broadway, on lower Broad, camped out on the Bridgestone Arena plaza and strolling on the “Predestrian Bridge” that crosses the Cumberland River and connects to Nissan Stadium where that other local team plays. Parked mid span was keyboard player Jerone Williams who was entertaining the masses with his lovely melodies as they made the passage. As the town is best known for guitar players this was also a savvy way to work for tips. But, at the foot of the bridge looms the Country Music Hall of Fame with its piano themed facade so it all made sense.
Nashville made a big deal about announcing their Broadway Smash party with Alan Jackson and here’s where they really dropped the ball – err, puck – on this occasion. When the show started the screens only showed video clips of the performer and not the concert itself. Also, there were no repeating sound systems so unless you were in the two-block pen between 5th and 3rd Avenues you couldn’t hear the music. There was no real introduction and no sign of top hockey supporters mascot Gnash and Mayor Megan Barry. We expected a little more fanfare.
Perhaps Nashville really was stretched to capacity as their Annual CMA event and Fan Fair preparations were underway as over 88,000 country music fans per day would soon be descending on the city, too. Still, this was the first time we observed local organizers really blow a music event. It is Music City after all. But, maybe that underscores the fact that on this day hockey was king with music taking a back seat in importance.
In example, we saw one vendor selling cool T-shirts in the Preds’ colors with the words “Hockey Tonk” printed on the front and they were moving fast. The boys in gold and blue really have taken over the hearts and minds of most of the mid-state and it’s an amazing accomplishment to steal some of the attention away from the packed honkey tonks on Broadway this far into tourist season and this close to the CMAs.
Still, the historic season and run for the Cup will soon be over and things should return to normal on the streets of Nashville. We saw signs of it while we were there. A new club owned by the guys from Florida Georgia Line was having their “soft” opening and this looks like it will become a hot new destination with it’s modern bar, two stages and a rooftop view of the city. Also under construction was “Big Red’s” which is Blake Shelton’s entry into the modern nightclub market. Positioned right on Broadway this work in progress also looks promising. But, for now, let’s go Preds!
Related Links: For more information on the NASHVILLE PREDATORS please visit the following links — NHL.com – Predators | Bridgestone Arena | FGL House | Walker Stalker Con | Jerone Williams | Email – Hockey Tonk T-Shirt