Nashville Lives Up to ‘Music City’ Moniker With 3 ACM Awards for Club, Theater & Arena of the Year

by Jim Casey

Nashville lived up to its “Music City” moniker by winning three Academy of Country Music Industry Awards on May 13. Nashville venues Basement East (Club of the Year), Ryman Auditorium (Theater of the Year), and Bridgestone Arena (Arena of the Year) earned three of the eight city-specific ACM Industry categories.

The award is especially fulfilling for fans of the Basement East, which was devastated by the Nashville tornadoes in March 2020. “The Beast,” as it’s affectionately known by locals, reopened last year in March of 2021.

The win marked the Basement East’s first ACM Award, while the Ryman scored its seventh. Earlier this month, the city of Nashville recognized the 130-year-old Ryman Auditorium as “Music City’s most famous and respected concert venue” with an official resolution. In addition, Bridgestone Arena picked up its second consecutive trophy for Arena of the Year.

Chicago’s Windy City Smokeout—one of Outsider’s favorite festivals—was named Festival of the Year. This year’s lineup at the Windy City Smokeout on Aug. 4-7 is stacked with Willie Nelson, Turnpike Troubadours, Miranda Lambert, and Zach Bryan, as well as many others. Moreover, the food is just as good as the lineup.

The 15th ACM Music Honors later this summer on Aug. 24 at the Ryman Auditorium will celebrate the Industry and Studio Recording winners.

ACM Industry Award Winners

  • Casino of the Year – Theater: Choctaw Casino & Resort – Durant, OK  
  • Casino of the Year – Arena: Mohegan Sun Arena – Uncasville, CT
  • Festival of the Year: Windy City Smokeout Festival – Chicago, IL
  • Fair/Rodeo of the Year: San Antonio Rodeo – San Antonio, TX
  • Club of the Year: Basement East – Nashville, TN
  • Theater of the Year: Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN
  • Outdoor Venue of the Year: Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO 
  • Arena of the Year: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, TN
  • Don Romeo Talent Buyer of the Year: Todd Boltin – Variety Attractions  
  • Promoter of the Year: Brian O’Connell – Live Nation

Studio Recording Award Winners

Similarly, the ACM’s Studio Recording Awards recognize the creators behind the music. To be eligible, each artist, musician, producer, and engineer must have played a part in a commercially released single or album embodying the creator’s performance that achieves Top 20 chart position or better during the eligibility period.

Pedal steel guitar legend Paul Franklin notched his 17th career ACM Award, while producer Dann Huff copped his 10th. In addition, first-time winners include Charlie Worsham (acoustic guitar), Evan Hutchings (drummer), and David Dorn (piano/keys).

  • Bass Player of the Year: Jimmie Lee Sloas 
  • Drummer of the Year: Evan Hutchings   
  • Acoustic Guitar Player of the Year: Charlie Worsham
  • Electric Guitar Player of the Year: Tom Bukovac     
  • Piano/Keyboards Player of the Year: David Dorn     
  • Specialty Instrument(S) Player of the Year: Paul Franklin  
  • Audio Engineer of the Year: Jim Cooley
  • Producer of the Year: Dann Huff