A powerful tornado churned through Nashville just after midnight in early March 2020, chewing out a swath of destruction that included a direct hit on the iconic Basement East music venue. Wind speeds of up to 165 mph ripped off most of the roof and tore out massive chunks of the exterior walls, reducing the interior to rain-soaked shambles. After drying out and some minor preventive maintenance, the Basement East’s Meyer Sound reinforcement system was found to be in perfect working condition and ready for reinstallation.
“It was several days — some with heavy rain — before we could pull the speakers out and get them into our shop,” says Chance Stahlhut, Vice President of Audio for PRG North America. “These were not weather-protected models of course, and they obviously had taken hits from flying debris. But after drying, they fired up and worked perfectly, passing all of our analysis. A couple of MJF-208™ monitors that were sitting face-up on stage had rainwater pooling in the drivers, so we replaced those as a precaution. Other than that, with some fresh paint, everything was ready to go back to work.”
The upbeat report from PRG was welcome news to co-owner Mike Grimes, who considers the Meyer Sound system a keystone element in the success of the 500-plus capacity venue.
“It’s hard to underestimate how important the Meyer Sound system has been to the success of Basement East,” says Grimes. “The club has experienced monumental growth pretty much since it was first put in.”
When Basement East first opened in 2015, the owners cobbled together a used system as best they could within a tight budget. Fortunately, with a location in trendy East Nashville and astute booking of up-and-coming acts, the venue was soon ready to invest in the next level. A decisive factor turned out to be an earlier Metallica concert held at the venue’s sister club, The Basement, which resulted in the band’s 2010 live album, Live at Grimey’s.
“Mike came down here to talk about a new system, and we reminded him that the monitor package that Metallica brought in for that show was all Meyer Sound,” says PRG’s Stahlhut. “That tilted him strongly toward a Meyer solution.”
Installed early in 2017, the system comprised twin clusters of three each JM-1P™ arrayable loudspeakers as mains, supported by two UPJunior™ loudspeakers for center and two UPJunior VIP fills. Low end was powered by dual 1100-LFC™ low-frequency control elements, with artist foldback provided via eight MJF-208 stage monitors and a 500-HP subwoofer for the drummer.
“When the system went in, I knew right away it would be a game-changer,” recalls Grimes. “The first night we had Carl Broemel from My Morning Jacket doing a solo show, and I remember just standing there and gloriously bathing in this new sonic environment.”
Over the years, Basement East has built a reputation for eclectic programming, although more recently it has focused on alternative and indie bands, Americana, and eighties metal — even mainstream country acts have graced the stage. A sampling of acts includes Cage the Elephant, Alice Cooper, Todd Snider, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, Keith Urban and the Brothers Osborne.
“We do not consider our programming genre-specific,” emphasizes Grimes. “We’re all over the place musically, and fortunately the Meyer Sound system completely enhances the experience of any artist we book in there.”
The resilient PA system will continue as an integral part of the Basement East vibe, contends Grimes. “I don’t think I could find any more superlatives regarding our relationship to Meyer Sound and PRG, and how they have contributed to our success,” says Grimes. “And I’m really looking forward to hearing the system again with the new fill speakers when we can resume normal operations.”
For Chance Stahlhut, the comeback story of Basement East focuses the spotlight on the oft-overlooked commitment by PRG to smaller venues. “Yes, we are a global company with high-profile projects; and people are very aware of what we do in that space. But, more importantly, we’re a local company in every city we serve, and we’re proud to support an iconic venue that is helping to keep the club scene vital and growing. If we don’t have a strong club venue business to develop upcoming acts, then we’ll never have a strong arena touring business.”