Nashville Rallies With Community Cleanup, Fundraisers, Donations

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

If disasters have any silver lining, it’s the way they draw communities closer together. In the wake of the vicious tornadoes that hit Nashville and Central Tennessee early Tuesday, killing 25 people, Music City residents quickly mobilized to do what they do best: support one another. From volunteering on cleanup crews to staging benefits and even opening their homes, Nashvillians who didn’t suffer damages reached out to help those who did. 

As word spread about the devastation in East Nashville, Germantown, 5 Points and other communities, the Basement East, a beloved East Nashville music venue, became a symbol of both the destruction and the city’s resilient spirit; though it sustained severe damage, the “Beast’s” red, white and blue, painted-on “I believe in Nashville” sign remained unscathed.

Co-owner Michael Grimes immediately began rescheduling shows, and a regular Tuesday-night new-artist showcase at the original Basement became a fundraiser for displaced Basement East staff.

Other fundraisers and GoFundMe drives immediately sprang up to help area service-industry employees who worked in now-decimated establishments such as the popular Burger Up restaurant. By 1:30 p.m. Thursday, a relief fund for service industry workers started by the Nashville chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild had raised over $41,000, twice its $20,000 goal, on GoFundMe (click here to donate.) And photographer Stacie Huckeba, who collects and distributes donated items to Nashville’s homeless communities during the holiday season, has activated her Amazon wishlist again to collect necessities, as well as supplies such as gloves and coveralls for volunteer cleanup crews.

Her pal Brian Wright, meanwhile, is hosting “Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for Nashville Tornado Relief,” tonight (March 5) with Café Rooster Records and Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge, at 8 p.m. at Dee’s, 102 E. Palestine Ave. in Madison. Performers include many luminaries of East Nashville’s tight music community: Brian Wright & The SneakUps, Josh Rouse, Neil Night (Audley Freed‬, Jen Gunderman, Jared Reynolds, Jamie Rubin, Marc Pisapia), Aaron Lee Tasjan, Will Hoge,‬ Tim Easton‬, Steve Poltz, Jon Latham, the Pat Sansone Trio (featuring James Haggerty and Marc Pisapia)‬, India Ramey, Kristen Englenz, Andrew Leahy, Erica Blinn, Allen Thompson, Megan Palmer and Bob Lewis, Joe Pisapia, Laura Rabell, Tim Jones and Stuffy Shmitt; more unannounced artists undoubtedly will join them. (Wright releases his now all-too-appropriately titled album, Lapse of Luxury, May 8 on Café Rooster Records.)

Local rappers organized a benefit titled “Cashville Strong: Hip-hop Helping Our Community,” tonight at 7 p.m. at Ponobes Party Bar & Grill, 903 Rivergate Parkway, Goodlettsville. Donations will support Gideon’s Army disaster relief efforts. Performers include 615 Exclusive, Blasian 83, D Strap, Hard Liquor Shawty, They Need Weez, Goldie Mac, Legendary Spitta & Hunnibands. FOE Bruddas.

Tonight also marks night two of “From the Ground Up: Eastside Tornado Fundraiser for Relief & Love,” a benefit for the Heartstrings Foundation’s fund for East Nashville musicians, artists, industry workers and others affected by the tornados. Sponsored by Heartstrings, LunaSea Media, Roanoke Music and Cold Lunch Recordings, it features Cosmic Shift, Admiral Phunk Brass Band, Matt Doughtry & Friends, MELD and Roanoke Music. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at the East Room, 2412 Gallatin Ave. To donate directly to the foundation’s service industry GoFundMe account, click here. To apply for help, click here.

The Recording Academy’s MusicCares South Region office also offers assistance to those in the music industry. On its Facebook page, the office posted, “We’re here to support music people in times like this. Contact us at 877-626-2748 should you or someone you know need our assistance, and please help us reach others by sharing this information.”

And Gibson Gives, a philanthropic arm of Nashville-based Gibson Brands Inc., has offered to replace guitars for those who lost theirs in the storms via its Gibson Gives Guitar Recovery Plan. Email to apply.

Breweries throughout the state, meanwhile, are donating $1 from every pint purchased this week to Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s Emergency Response Fund. Organized by Tennessee Craft Brewers, the drive includes East Nashville Beer Works, Black Abbey, Mill Creek, Yazoo and Jackalope breweries.

Hands On Nashville, which coordinates volunteer efforts, had signed up 20,000 volunteers by Thursday afternoon. On its website,, it posted the following: “To donate money to tornado recovery efforts, visit Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. To donate items — in particular baby food, baby and toddler clothes, batteries, flashlights, formula, underwear, bras, gloves, trash bags, trash cans, box cutters, bleach, and personal hygiene items — drop off or mail to the Community Resource Center at 218 Omohundro Place, Nashville, TN 37210. If you are with a group that is organizing small volunteer efforts on your own and you do not need additional volunteers, please know every volunteer counts in disaster recovery. In the event that this disaster is federally declared, our city will need to report out on the tremendous volunteer response we have received in order to access federal recovery dollars. Click here to access a sign-in sheet you can use at your project, which you can scan in or photograph and email to”

Kacey Musgraves pitched in by selling clothing on Stage to Closet, an online celebrity consignment shop, to benefit tornado relief. Miranda Lambert’s MuttNation also is supporting Nashville’s Metro Animal Care & Control, which needs food, crates, collars and other items (not to mention fosters). Muttnation is directing supporters to Metro’s Amazon wishlist for donations.

Crossroads Pets, the organization cofounded by Emmylou Harris that provides affordable housing and support programs for young adults while teaching them to care for adoptable pets, suffered serious damage at its Germantown home, though all residents and animals survived. The retail and grooming center, which provides 40 percent of its income, will be closed for some time, however. Donations are needed and can be made by clicking here.

Other celebrities pitching in with dollars or labor include Taylor Swift, who donated $1 million to the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund, according to USA Today. Dierks Bentley and his band and crew showed up to help drummer Steve Misamore clear debris after his house was leveled. Chris Young pledged $50,000 to the Music City Inc. Foundation. Cole Swindell pledged all merch sale proceeds from his Thursday, March 5 show in Toledo, Ohio, to recovery efforts. CNN reported Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Johnny Van Zant donated $10,000, calling Nashville “my second home.” And that’s just a sample of what’s pouring in. More fundraisers are sure to be announced soon.

More events, funds, organizations, etc.

Thursday, March 5, 7 p.m. – Tornado Relief Benefit Concert, Boulevard Record Shop, 2006 Belmont Blvd. Featuring Hardcastle and The Thing with Feathers; $5 Donation goes toward Zeal Church’s tornado relief efforts. Also accepting donations of nonperishable food items, socks, clean towels, blankets, cleaning supplies, water bottles, soap, diapers, wipes, pop-top canned goods.

Thursday, March 5, 6-9 p.m. – Showcase featuring Alexis Ebert, Leaving Lennox and Sarah Beth Terry at Redneck Riviera Nashville, 208 Broadway. Sponsored by Live Laugh Love Nashville, Girls Write Nashville, Leaving Lennox and Redneck Riviera Nashville to benefit the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s fund for middle-Tennessee tornado victims.

Saturday, March 7, 8 p.m. – Tornado Alley Live! Hosted by RP & Tornado Alley and VFW Post 1970-West Nashville, 7220 Charlotte Pike, West Nashville.

Saturday, March 7, 6-10 p.m. – Punk show/tornado benefit, Media Rerun, 2820 S. Rutherford Blvd., Murfreesboro. Featuring Shih Tzu, Black Market Kidney Surgeon, Local 58, Medusa’s Hairdresser, plus Kayo Dot and Psalm Zero, originally slated to play at damaged Little Harpeth Brewing. All ages; $5 admission; food and clothing donations welcome. Sponsored by Bucket City Punx, Media Rerun, Black Market Kidney Surgeon.

Monday, March 9, 7 p.m. – Whiskey Row Tornado Relief Concert, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, 400 Broadway. Hosted by Mitchell Tenpenny & friends, featuring Jessie James Decker, Devin Dawson, the Band Camino, Hardy, etc. Benefitting Hands On Nashville charities. This show is sold out, but donations may be made to Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee

Tuesday, March 10, 8 p.m. – Hailey Whitters show moved from Basement East to Exit/In, 2208 Elliston Place. Proceeds will support tornado relief. Ben Burgess opens.

Friday, March 13, 6:30 p.m. (showtime 7:30 p.m.) – There’s No Place Like Home Nashville Tornado Relief Benefit at the Sanctuary (a house concert venue), 381 Oakview Drive. Featuring KF Hox, BEZ, Mercury Blonde, Streetlight Curfew, the Hollow Roots, Spirits Republic, Half Watt Aströnaut, De3ra, Chewers and Soy Milk Boy. Sponsored by the Sanctuary Nashville and Sonic Affair Entertainment, benefitting Gideon’s Army; donations to be matched by Harold Hart & Associates. More info here.

We found this Facebook post by Brian Wright, posted early Thursday, particularly moving and worth sharing.

“My wife and I went the back way into the neighborhood to see if we could be of any help.

Nobody’s slept very much and everyone’s lifting more than they would if they were just working in the yard some Sunday. No ones complaining. They’re heartbroken but there’s no time for it right now. There is work to be done. When they throw the wood into the pile they take a second to look out over the path of it. Clear, cruel, devastating. They use the words war zone, which may be accurate, I’ve never seen one and most of them haven’t either. Some of them have.

I’ve also never seen a neighborhood I know this well brought to the ground in a few terrifying minutes. It’s gigantic trees uprooted and snapped in some sudden violent early morning. It’s little red backyard tool sheds thrown from God knows where to land comically in the broken branches of a tree older than any of us or our great grandparents, a pile of twisted bows and splinters and everyone’s new burden.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Most of these people haven’t either. Some of them have.

I carried my daughter’s sparkly silver school backpack and my wife carried my son’s blue one full of bottled water and work gloves for ourselves and whoever might need them. Everyone needs them. Everyone’s covered in saw dust. It feels good to be covered in saw dust with them. We found our friend. The one who lives in 5 points. The one who called us a moment after his house was shaken and shattered to tell us to take cover because it was heading our way, so we did. His house took a lot of damage, his neighborhood doesn’t have power, and he spent yesterday digging out his neighbor’s homes from under these useless trees. His damage is bad, but not quite as bad these so here is. In another part of neighborhood, one of many who don’t live on this or any of these streets, lugging branches and brambles and pieces of whatever this was from a stranger’s yard. Maybe a carport. His wife is taking the kids to stay with family. The school is all wrecked anyway. They’ll be more comfortable there for a few days til everyone can get a better idea of what to do now.

I saw musicians I know and admire. These cats can play and have played with everyone you love to listen to. Written songs that get everybody on the floor. Rocking the enormo-domes everywhere. The best of the best. They looked different than I’m used to them in their old shirts, jeans and weekend sneakers. They were filthy and lifting logs much heavier than the amp they don’t have to carry themselves anymore. Some of them lost their homes. Most of them got lucky too. Like we did. Went right by us. Over us. Around us. Not through us like here.

I tried to help a lady fix the chain on her chainsaw. She’d just bought it so she could help out. She caught a downed power line and busted the chain. I got it farther along, but I don’t know anything about fixing chainsaws. Maybe a little more than her. I think we got it. She went back to the stranger’s yard she’d been working in, and hopefully didn’t catch anymore downed wires.

I saw people with their charcoal grills on the corner cooking burgers and hot dogs for everybody. Asking them which house was theirs. Listening. Shaking their heads in disbelief. Neighbors pulling wagons of snacks and drinks. A nice lady with a bag of sandwiches offering them to anyone who might be hungry. Most people don’t take them. Not hungry. Too much to do now.

I heard our friend who’s windows were shattered, vehicles buried, a few inches one way or the other and things would’ve been a whole lot worse, tell us her 5 year old daughter doesn’t want to live in that house anymore. It’s not as bad as many of the others, but I don’t blame her. I don’t know where they hunkered down, but I know it didn’t keep out the sound. I’ve still never heard anything like that, but she has. Her mother is tough, she holds back her tears. Not the time. Work to be done. Dad just called, found them a place to stay. Let’s see if the neighbors need to use this generator.

I saw a lot of things I hadn’t seen before. I saw people working together for the only good reason, something important needed to be done and it was the right thing to do. They weren’t doing it to be thanked, or to be compensated, or to display some sort of benevolence they could wear like a feather. They were just doing it to help. Otherwise the helplessness of this whole sorry thing will eat at you.

I heard a school teacher thank a cop for helping out with everything. I heard her thank him too.

I didn’t hear anyone complaining. I didn’t hear anyone arguing. I didn’t hear boasting. I didn’t hear anyone call someone else stupid or tell them they were the reason for whatever wrong was done. No time for that nonsense. Work to be done. Look at this mess.

I didn’t think anyone was anything that I usually do today. I didn’t care what they did for a living or where they were from. I didn’t care what they thought about whatever it was we were arguing about yesterday before Mother Nature showed us all in no uncertain terms, how very insignificant any of us or our problems are, again. I thought about our luck. Our good fortune. I looked at these strangers and was glad they were alive. I was glad I was too.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like this or the others to make us forget whatever differences we have and realize our homes, streets, loves, hates, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, jobs, problems, friends, neighbors, memories, prejudices and ever dwindling time on earth Isn’t much more than a pretty string of paper dolls made from these now shadeless trees, but most of the time it does. Life is short and it is beautiful and it is cold and mean as a snake, and it isn’t fair and that’s the way it goes sometimes, and no one really has a good handle on it no matter what they say, and as far as anyone knows it’s not coming back for a second season despite its cult appeal and critical acclaim.

Then my wife and I had to leave, and we were heartbroken and I was angry at the weather and she was kind because she is kind but there was no time for it now. There was still work to be done.”

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