NASHVILLE, Tennessee. () – When frantic news began to flow, that a tornado hit a beloved music venue in Nashville, Mike Grimes thought it couldn’t be that bad.
Could Basement East really be destroyed? Just a few hours earlier, the co-owner of the Grimes Club had held a benefit concert for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Kindly known as “The Beast”, the club was only 5 years old, but it has already built a reputation as one of the most fashionable music spots in Nashville, across the river from tourist-laden honky tonks on lower Broadway.
The 475-seat venue quickly became known as the premier event venue for famous names in an intimate setting. Margo Price, Cage the Elephant, John Prine, Maggie Rogers, Maren Morris, Sturgill Simpson and many others played there.
Maybe, Grimes thought desperately as he drove to the club, the people who wrote to him about the destruction exaggerated.
But when he stopped for the Beast, his stomach sank. After one o’clock in the morning, the tornado tore down the roof cleanly, tore apart most of the walls, leaving a tangled mess of destruction.
“You don’t want to believe it,” Grimes said. “It was an immediate shock.”
The March 3 storm killed more than 20 people, some in their beds, when it struck after midnight. More than 140 buildings were destroyed in about 60 miles (97 kilometers) of the Central Tennessee area, where people were buried in rubble and basements.
The six Basement East employees who cleaned up after the Sanders incident escaped damage by fleeing to the building’s actual basement just minutes before a powerful EF-3 tornado roared down the street. It took two employees to close the door against the wind just as the twister passed.
Right at the foot of the tornadoes, the robbery virus entered the state last spring, and on Thanksgiving Day, Tennessee ranked among the worst affected countries with a record number of hospitalizations and cases. To date, more than 11,000 people have died on COVID-19.
The pandemic hit the renowned Nashville music scene particularly hard. Small, intimate clubs were not designed to take into account anti-virus measures such as social distancing.
“It’s so weird that we have a scenario where the building is gone, and then we have something … like COVID-19,” a confluence of devastating events, “which has never been so affected in our lifetime,” Grimes said.
As the virus raged, the dream of repacking the East Basement, full of music lovers, seemed more shaky than ever.
“There were times when the thought came to me, ‘It won’t be a mess,’ ‘Brown said.
The club first opened its doors in 2015, but it took almost five years for the venue to be profitable. Until 2020, Brown and Grimes felt they could breathe that what they were doing was working. The partners – who call themselves adult teenagers with a love of rock ‘n’ roll – wanted to celebrate their five-year anniversary in ril 2020, but the tornado and pandemic had different plans.
Now that the anniversary of the two catastrophic events is approaching, the partners hope to finally reopen. Amid signs that the cases of viruses are dwindling and more people have been vaccinated this spring, they have focused. However, they still plan to require patrons to wear masks and spread tables around the club’s 465-square-foot space.
When a tornado hit the basement east last March, it left one thing to happen: Part of a mural with the slogan, “I believe in Nashville.”
Like this wall, the city itself is steadfast and resilient, Brown and Grimes note. Both believe that Nashville’s central role in the world of American entertainment and culture will ensure its perseverance.
“The magic of music,” Brown said. “That makes this place so strong.”