Musicians' gear, Opry devastated by Nashville floodwaters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Brad Paisley's H2O Tour is all wet. Really, really wet.
Paisley is one of hundreds of Nashville's top stars, working musicians and tour support company owners who lost what will likely be millions of dollars in gear due the historic floods in Music City. Paisley was poised to start rehearsals for the water-themed tour when record rains inundated the area.
His staging and props are under water, most of his guitars, amps and equipment are destroyed — though his favorite guitar was spared — and he's scrambling to find replacements and suitable rehearsal space with the first stop on the tour at Virginia Beach, Va., just two weeks away.
"I sent a Tweet the other day that basically told people that when they come to the show just know that what you're seeing has been fully tested under water," Paisley joked in a phone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. "You're talking about total cred. This is the H2O Tour. This isn't posers acting like we know about it. We've done it, buddy."
Paisley is one of an estimated 1,000 musicians and business owners who house gear at Soundcheck Nashville, a storage rental hub in an industrial park down by the Cumberland River. Owner Ben Jumper said the 160,000 square feet of space he rents out is all flooded and the losses will be in the tens of millions. The storage facility is full of classroom-sized "lockers" used to store gear.
Keith Urban lost his gear. Friends say Vince Gill may have lost most of his entire guitar collection, including irreplaceable vintage pieces with historic value. A tractor-trailer full of LeAnn Rimes' road gear is also probably under 3½ to 8 feet of water, her guitarist Ryan Wariner said.
Musicians — like most Tennessee residents — had little warning the deadly storms that swept the state would be so violent. It mostly affected outlying areas around Tennessee's capital city, initially sparing some of the nation's most important music landmarks.
All that water eventually flowed into the Cumberland River, though, and it caught everyone by surprise when it flooded downtown and northeast Nashville, two important areas for musicians. Along with Soundcheck, the Grand Ole Opry House has flood damage and several music-themed businesses downtown took water as did the mechanical room at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Wariner is trying to be optimistic, but there's not a lot of reason for hope.
"Everything that I use but two guitars is in there — pedals, amps, speakers, mics, front house consoles, everything was in there," said Wariner, son of Grammy-winning country artist Steve Wariner.
All Scott Scovill could do by Tuesday night was laugh about his losses. The owner of MooTV, a video production company that supplies those large video screens and other high-tech gear for large concert tours, was taking a philosophical approach, considering dozens of people were killed in the floods and thousands of homes were damaged.
"Compared to losing someone you care about or your home, all of this can be replaced," he said.
He was stunned when he heard floodwaters were several feet deep and wasn't waiting around for someone to tell him it was OK to go look.
"I snuck in," Scovill said. "I went around to an area where the police weren't watching and I called a friend who had a dinghy."
What he saw shocking. There was 8 feet of water in his warehouse. He figures everything is a loss since motherboards and high-def screens don't take kindly to water.
"All my competitors are calling to help," Scovill said. "I took them up on it. I said I need an LED screen this weekend and they said come get it."
Jumper couldn't stay away either. What he saw moved him to tears.
"I was overwhelmed and my heart broke," he said. "It's a huge loss for the Nashville music entertainment industry and nationally because of all the national talent that operates in Nashville and out of our facilities."
Paisley is deadset on starting his tour on time. He said the fans deserve it and the logistics of a postponement would actually be harder than grinding through a quick recovery.
"My guitar tech is spending like a broker on the stock exchange floor," Paisley said.
Much of the tour staging is made from aluminum and will need to be dried off and cleaned up with just a little plywood and carpet to be replaced. And luckily the "brain" of his video production gear was not at Soundcheck.
But the locker that stored all of his guitars and personal equipment has been flooded, though.
"Things like this make you really take stock in what you're given. And this is going to mean so much more than some normal tour that we're embarking on," Paisley said.
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