Just after Thanksgiving 2022, a staple venue of the music community in Nashville, Tennessee, shut its doors for the last time in its 51-year-long history. The Exit/In, which opened in 1971, was sold to AJ Capital, an investment company, after a bitter battle from the current owners, Chris and Telisha Cobb, and longtime local fans. Unfortunately, the Cobb’s crowdsourcing campaign couldn’t withstand the financial and institutional power of the new owners, and the real-life story of this iconic piece Nashville’s Rock Block history finally came to an end.
Saying goodbye to the Exit/In is soul crushing for Nashvillians. Over the last decade, it’s been my favorite music venue and one of the first places I sang again in front of a crowd, thanks to Jonn Nicholson’s EYE Productions’ sponsored Industrial Night events.
On July 9, 2022, I performed a cover of “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge on the same stage where I had seen them perform it in 2019. Then on Halloween Oct. 31, 2022, I sang “Every Day is Halloween” by Ministry with some of my best friends as part of the Return of the Halloween Ball.
For over five decades, the Exit/In hosted many of the best bands to roll through Nashville. It was evident when you looked at their iconic chalkboard signs out front, above the bar and in the greenroom. … I’ve seen legendary acts perform there, including Gary Numan, Rasputina, Lacuna Coil, Hozier, and even stand-up comedy by John Dunsworth (Jim Lahey ) before he passed away and Patrick Roach (Randy) of the “Trailer Park Boys.”
The venue has been a huge supporter of local acts too, welcoming bands like Not Your Nails, Flummox, Voltage Hawk, Omenbringer, and Fable Cry with open arms – and that’s just in 2022.
Nicholson, my bandmate in God in Rehab and Not Your Nails, who worked at Exit/In during its final year in business and used to change the marquee for the bands playing each week, took possession of the “No Stage Diving” sign – a memorable piece of the venue – as well as the B-52s black and white plaque from when they performed there. The plaques made up the wall art throughout the space, now being stored in the original owner’s garage until it can be donated to a museum for display.
Before the new owners could take possession in January 2023, Exit/In was vandalized. Broken glass, graffiti over the once historic music mural heading into Hurry Back next door, missing fixtures, and destroyed infrastructure greeted representatives of AJ Capital upon arrival. While I understand the point the vandals were trying to make with the marquee reading: “Sorry, Not Sorry,” their utter destruction of this beloved historic landmark was beyond heartbreaking, even in the midst of it changing owners.
While the Exit/In will never be the venue it once was, my hope is that it will be remembered and honored for all it has done for the music community – not only locally but also nationally.
Exit/In, thank you for all you’ve done for us. We love you. We’ll miss you.
Photos by Leslie I. Benson; B&W Greenroom Photo by Stacy Pomfrett;
Vandalism Image from The Tennessean.