The State of Music City
You may not have heard about it, but Nashville was underwater. Called by some a once-in-80-year flood and by others a once-in-500-year flood, the storm that struck Nashville on May 1 caused the Cumberland River to rise 12 feet above flood levels. Cultural landmarks like the Grand Old Opry House and the Opryland Hotel sustained millions of dollars in damage. But to musicians, perhaps the most devastating thing to happen was the flooding of SoundCheck Nashville, a rehearsal venue and storage facility situated by the Cumberland River. Artists lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of instruments and equipment during the disaster.
Tennessee isn’t called the Volunteer State for nothing. Residents have responded to the crisis by volunteering their time, energy, and talent to help rebuild Nashville. Hands On Nashville, the organization handling flood relief efforts, has organized teams of volunteers to do everything from distributing drinking water to tearing out drywall. On May 8, Hands On Nashville reported that 7,000 volunteers turned up to help their neighbors. Churches, schools, and other volunteer groups have pitched in to help, and good Samaritans from other states have responded as well.
Being that Nashville is Music City USA, it’s no surprise that almost the instant the flood waters started receding, benefit concerts started cropping up at venues from local bars and coffee shops to the Ryman Auditorium, where on May 16 GAC TV came together with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau and Gaylord Entertainment to present a star-studded telethon that raised $1.7 million. Musical artists aren’t the only ones donating their talent. On May 15 David Spade hosted a comedy event in Los Angeles that benefited the Nashville Red Cross, and local visual artists have created numerous T-shirts and poster campaigns showing Nashville pride.
An online post written by sports blogger Patten Fuqua spurred one such T-shirt, bearing the slogan “We Are Nashville.” Fuqua spoke to what many Nashvillians have felt, that the national media gave the flood disaster only the briefest amount of coverage in the first days, favoring stories about the Gulf oil spill and the Times Square car bomb attempt. He speculates that part of the reason for the lack of media attention is that throughout the initial crisis and aftermath, the people of Nashville have been kind and compassionate neighbors and there has been little to no looting in the style of Hurricane Katrina. His rallying cry has gone viral and now appears as a ribbon on Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts, as well as on the lips of Nashville residents across the city.
As the flood waters receded, a growing concern for Nashville’s population was fresh drinking water, as one of the main water treatment facilities for the city and surrounding areas was damaged by the storm. People were encouraged to use 50% of their usual water consumption, and posters with the mantra “If you like water to drink, might be time to stink” began showing up on telephone poles and blog posts. Repair to the water treatment facility is now underway, but as of early June folks are still being asked to conserve.
In a bit of good news, the Nashville Convention Center and all downtown hotels were unaffected by the flooding. The Summer NAMM Convention will be held as scheduled, and Mayor Karl Dean had this to say, “While Summer NAMM is an important event for the music industry, for Nashville, it is an event that we hold close to our hearts.”
There are many groups collecting money to help with rebuilding Nashville, but there are two organizations specifically geared towards helping musicians. MusiCares, the Grammy Foundation’s relief branch, is raising money to help Nashville musicians, engineers, and producers who have lost instruments and equipment. The Nashville Musicians Association is also reaching out to Musicians Union members who have suffered losses. If sporting Nashville love on a shirt is more your speed, check out the “We Are Nashville” T-shirt by Cool People Care, or other designs by Nashville Flood Tees. Proceeds from both go to benefit various relief efforts.
photo cred: James Tan