Axios Nashville

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September 20, 2021

Happy Monday and welcome to the Axios Nashville family! We're glad you're here.

  • Today's weather: More heavy rain and thunderstorms with a flash flood watch in effect until 7pm.

🚀 Situational awareness: This is the first Axios Nashville newsletter. Every weekday morning, we'll meet in your inbox to fill you in on what's happening in our community. You can invite your friends to subscribe for free here.

Today's newsletter is 962 words — a 3.5 minute read.

1 big thing: Americana Fest makes a COVID-era comeback

Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlisle performing.
Brandi Carlisle performs at the 2019 Americana Awards. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for the Americana Music Association.

Two years of COVID shutdowns brought Music City to its knees and pushed venues, performers, and executives to the brink.

The latest: Americana Fest, which begins Wednesday and spans 30 venues across the city, will be the largest music event in Nashville since the pandemic hit.

Why it matters: The region’s largest festivals, CMA Fest and Bonnaroo, were both canceled the past two years. Now, Americana Fest represents a glimmer of hope for Nashville’s booking agencies, touring companies, and musicians.

What they're saying: Americana Music Association executive director Jed Hilly was overcome as he considered the high-stakes turning point coming this week.

  • "I need to take a moment, Nate, because I’m getting goosebumps," Hilly said in an interview with Axios.
  • "I do think this is a moment for our community. I think it’s important, and my goal is to participate with everyone to prove that the new reality we live in doesn’t mean we can’t do what we do."

Details: Hilly said his team revived Americana Fest under strict COVID-19 protocols.

  • Fans are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR or NAAT test, or a negative antigen test taken within 72 hours in order to attend a concert, and masks are required for all industry panels.

Be smart: Americana Fest is a fraction of the size of CMA Fest, but it’s hardly a backbench festival, having propelled artists such as The Avett Brothers, the Lumineers, and Yola. Notable artists playing this year include The Mavericks, Brandy Clark, and Allison Russell.

  • The 2018 festival generated $14 million in direct visitor spending with a combined 29,000 fans, according to an internal analysis.

By the numbers: To make up for the likelihood of lower attendance this year, the cost of a wristband to attend all concerts rose from $90 in 2019 to the current price of $199.

Meanwhile: Pilgrimage Fest is also back and will take place in suburban Williamson County this weekend.

2. Apple puts forgotten Nashville history on a global stage

Photo illustration of a collage featuring Diane Nash, James Lawson and John Lewis, partially pixelated and over a pattern of smart phone and app shapes.
Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photos: Getty Images

Apple is teaming up with Tennessee State University and professor Learotha Williams to create an app showing how the civil rights movement in the Jim Crow South grew out of North Nashville and the city’s historically Black colleges or universities (HBCUs).

Flashback: John Lewis, James Lawson, and Diane Nash were among the civil rights icons who met in Nashville before participating in iconic events such as the Freedom Rides, Bloody Sunday, and the March on Washington.

How it works: Apple already worked with TSU to expand diversity in coding. Now the company is pairing Williams with developer Marc Aupont and HBCU students from across the country to create the new app.

  • The app will guide people on a walking tour of key landmarks in the movement, including the cafeteria where TSU students were recruited for activism.
  • Along the way, people will be able to hear interviews Williams conducted with civil rights luminaries.

Why it matters: The new app, which is still under development, will supercharge Williams’ efforts to shine a light on the city’s often overlooked civil rights role.

  • "We produce stuff that maybe 50 people will read," Williams told Axios of his usual work as a historian. "Now you have an audience that’s potentially global."

Meanwhile: You can learn more about the local history of the civil rights movement through Williams’ North Nashville Heritage Project or in a book he edited on the topic.

3. Scoop: Top politico lands new gig

Tusk Philanthropies executive Lisa Quigley
Lisa Quigley. Photo courtesy of Tusk Philanthropies

Lisa Quigley, the former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, is joining the New York-based nonprofit Tusk Philanthropies as its new director of anti-hunger initiatives.

Why it matters: Quigley ran Cooper’s office for 13 years and is one of Nashville’s most influential and connected political operatives. Working for a large nonprofit represents a dramatic career shift after three decades as a Democratic strategist in Washington, D.C.

Details: Quigley will lead Tusk’s efforts to pass legislation combating hunger in the U.S.

  • Tusk has already advocated for legislation in 13 states to combat food insecurity.
  • Quigley, a leading expert on voting rights, and an advocate for expanding Medicaid in Tennessee, and also a frequent critic of Tennessee’s election laws, will work out of Nashville.

What they're saying: Tusk Philanthropies "not only advocates [for] public support for anti-hunger initiatives, but also runs campaigns in state (governments) to try to expand anti-hunger efforts there," Quigley told Axios. "So it was a great combination of my skill set of campaigns and more substantive work in the policy space."

4. The Setlist: Your daily local news roundup

Illustration of the windows of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, doubling as a graphic equalizer.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏈 The Titans upset the Seahawks in overtime, thanks to a game-winning field goal by new kicker Randy Bullock. (Music City Miracles)

🍻 "Transportainment" in downtown Nashville has led to an impassioned debate over safety and the city’s reputation. (New York Times)

🏳️‍🌈 Nashville Pride was sidelined by bad weather Sunday, but the first day of the festival went on despite the rain. (The Tennessean)

A local prosecutor said she won’t pursue charges against a former police captain accused of groping a subordinate officer, citing the statute of limitations. (WPLN)

The TBI is investigating after Nashville SWAT officers fatally shot a man who police said had opened fire on them. (WSMV)

5. Pour yourself a cup of ambition

A latte from Barista Parlor
Photo: Adam Tamburin/Axios

Coffee bean behemoth Barista Parlor today opens its sixth location in Hillsboro Village.

The deal: Sales and Marketing Director Brennan McKissick told Axios that the location will have free coffee and pastries on the first day, as long as supplies last.

Details: The store is smaller than most Barista Parlors. There’s some seating, but this outpost will focus on grab-and-go coffee orders.

  • A fancy machine will allow baristas to make five pour-over cups at a time to accommodate heavy foot traffic.

What’s next: New Barista Parlor locations are coming soon to the W Hotel in the Gulch and the Sylvan Supply development on Charlotte Avenue.

Our picks:

Nate is grateful for the sacrifices of his parents Dan and Jamie and his grandmother Charlotte so that one day he could work a cool job like covering Nashville for Axios.

Adam is scrolling through this slideshow of pictures from the Nashville Pride parade while listening to this classic cover from Trisha Yearwood, who celebrated her birthday yesterday.