Nashville music club owners recall night the music died

Nashville music club owners recall night the music died


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — When frantic messages started trickling in that a tornado had hit a beloved music venue in Nashville, Mike Grimes told himself it couldn't possibly be that bad.

Could Basement East really be destroyed? Just hours before, the club Grimes co-owns had hosted a benefit concert for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Affectionately known as “The Beast,” the club was only 5 years old, but already had established a reputation as one of Nashville’s trendiest music spots, across the river from the city's tourist-laden honky-tonks on lower Broadway.

The venue, with a capacity limit of 475, quickly became known as a premier site for hosting big-name acts 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 over to the club, the people texting him about the destruction were exaggerating.

But when he pulled up to The Beast, his stomach dropped. The tornado had ripped the roof cleanly off a little after 1 a.m., crumbling the majority of the walls and leaving a tangled mess of destruction behind.

“You just don't want to believe it,” Grimes said. “It was immediate shock.”

The March 3 storm killed more than 20 people, some in their beds, as it struck after midnight. More than 140 buildings were destroyed across a roughly 60-mile (97-kilometer) swath of Middle Tennessee, burying people in rubble and basements.

The six Basement East staffers who were cleaning up after the Sanders event escaped harm by running to the actual basement of the building just minutes before the powerful EF-3 tornado roared down the street. It took two staffers to shut the door against the winds, just as the twister passed...

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