Eric Church’s Fan Loyalty Breaks Nashville’s Nissan Stadium Attendance Record

Eric Church. Photo: John Shearer

If there’s one thing to know about Eric Church fans, it’s that they’ll show up.

In Nashville, on Saturday (May 25), their loyalty gave Church the footing to set a new attendance record for a concert crowd at Nissan Stadium, to the tune of 56,521 (breaking the 2018 record of 56,112). This nearly tripled his attendance record from two years prior, across town at the Bridgestone Arena.

“I got a glimpse of this place as I came in, all the way full, all the way sold out,” confirmed The Chief—as he is known to the diehards—from his stadium stage. “I came here 15 years ago and had dreams, but I’m not sure I could dream this big…this is something I’ve never seen before in my life.”

If not about heartbreak, “Record Year” offered the most definitive punch to the vibe of the evening with the line, I owe you a beer/For my record year.

Church made good on that offer, with more than beer available for fan-club members and VIP in the pre-show tailgate. Six food truck vendors were present, alongside activations for vinyl pressing, Jack Daniel’s trailer tours and a tee-shirt screen printing. Known for doing things his own way, Church brought high-end merch with his infamous pop-up stores, offering whiskey glass sets to the tune of $750 in addition to quality clothes.

Eric Church with fans who camped out for pit access. Photo: Courtesy of the Double Down Tour

Speaking of loyal fans, many apparently waited on a first-come-first-serve basis for space in the stadium’s concert pit. Church made an appearance early Saturday morning around 12:30 a.m. in line outside the gates of Nissan Stadium, where fans were camping out beginning Friday afternoon.

In a blitz to sign records which audience members held up around his catwalk, Church prominently elevated artwork for his complete studio discography.

Eric Church. Photo: John Shearer

“Tonight is going to be about all six albums—from Sinners [Like Me] all the way to Desperate Man,” Church declared before playing his banjo-driven debut single from 2006, “How ‘Bout You.” Give me a crowd that’s redneck an’ loud, we’ll raise the roof, more or less chanting the lyrics to the throwback tune, reverberating with the input of the fans in the outdoor stadium. Joanna Cotten helped Church pack a punch of an intro on stage with “Drowning Man” alongside “That’s Damn Rock & Roll” and “Over When It’s Over.” Cotten held a meet and greet of her own for the base she’s steadily growing with the elevation received from her slot on Church’s tours.

Coordinated lighting and a duo of video walls, similar to those seen at CMA Fest’s nightly stadium shows, gave Church the reach to connect with fans all the way in the 300-level seats, who at times were all on their feet.

Church was backed by a six person band, then stripped to acoustic renditions of “Mr. Misunderstood,” “Creepin’,” and “Mistress Named Music.”

Joanna Cotten and Eric Church. Photo: John Shearer

What stood out most about the night is his camaraderie with the audience, who he speaks to– to a tee. Church sings in the first line of Mr. Misunderstood, Sitting in the back of the class; I was just like you/Always left out, never fit in; he reaches the country-bent crowd, declaring their adult independence in the lyrics Grown-ass man from “Desperate Man”; getting left behind in heartbreak in a hometown for “Round Here Buzz”; and the plain-stated crowd favorites “The Outsiders” and “Sinners Like Me.”

He is perhaps most outspoken on songs such as “Kill A Word” and “The Snake,” speaking to a relatively progressive, traditionally conservative political base. The audience balances these traditions and progressions with the haze of marijuana puffing from concert seats with nods to traditional country—namely Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. Both legacies progressive and traditional in their own right.

And all this was before the intermission. Church has been playing two dates in cities throughout 2019, except Nashville. Only one supersize venue was required for Music City. The evening’s feat made him the first artist to play Nissan Stadium alone in the venue’s 20+ year history. He went on stage at 8:45 p.m. and played well after midnight.

Although Church introduced his mother in the audience after the 30-minute intermission, the party really started post-break. Wearing an American flag print like a robe, Church performed “Jack Daniels,” advising if anyone needed, to puke and rally to keep up. And in gratitude, Church played well over three hours.

In the free seats, fans on Nashville’s walking bridge peeked over the gates to hear the reverberated echoes of some of those titles worth hearing remnants of—such iconic material as “Talladega,” “Knives of New Orleans” and “Round Here Buzz.”

Prior to the event, Church made an appearance with his label and management to accept a 30-million album sales plaque.

“He defies pretty much any imaginable odd on how you build a career,” said UMG President Cindy Mabe of Church, who she’s worked with since his first album. “You can watch it out here tonight because he built this fan-base one by one. There are so many people in this town that want to be just like this guy, but there’s only one Eric Church.”

For fans that missed the Nashville Double Down Tour, Church has just been announced as a CMA Fest performer at Nissan Stadium Friday, June 7.

Pictured (L-R): Eric Church, Cindy Mabe and John Peets. Photo: John Shearer

Eric Church. Photo: John Shearer

Upcoming Double Down Tour Dates

June 28 & 29               George, Wash. || The Gorge Amphitheatre
Sept. 13 & 14              Green Bay, Wis. || Resch Center
Sept. 20 & 21              Calgary, Alberta || Scotiabank Saddledome
Sept. 28                       San Francisco, Calif. || Chase Center
Oct. 4 & 5                   Grand Rapids, Mich. || Van Andel Arena
Oct. 11 & 12               Philadelphia, Pa. || Wells Fargo Center
Oct. 25                        Little Rock, Ark. || Verizon Arena
Oct. 26                        Birmingham, Ala. || BJCC Arena
Nov. 1                         Manchester, N.H. || SNHU Arena
Nov. 2                         Hartford, Conn. || XL Center
Nov. 15 & 16              Washington, D.C. || The Anthem
Nov. 22 & 23              Sacramento, Calif. || Golden 1 Center

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Eric T. Parker oversees operations and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine, MusicRow.com, the RowFax tip sheet and the MusicRow CountryBreakout chart. He also facilitates annual events for the enterprise, including MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards and the Rising Women on the Row. [email protected] | @EricTParker

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