Nashville had a case of double vision after an important addition was made to the city’s calendar Monday morning. The mayor held a news briefing announcing that the Academy of Country Music Awards would be held in the city for the first time September 16, to be broadcast on CBS from three locations — the Grand Ole Opry House, the Bluebird Cafe and the storied Ryman Auditorium. As everyone looked to add that to their calendars, though, a red flag arose: The Americana Music Association had that date booked at the Ryman for its awards show for ages.
Although there is probably some segment of the population that would welcome a crossover show with Luke Bryan/Jason Isbell duets, it would certainly be a tiny one. So what was up with the double-booking? Some who were planning on attending the Americana Honors took to social media to wonder aloud what was happening. Was the annual Americana conference being canceled on account of coronavirus? Or were the bigger and better-financed ACM Awards somehow bullying the Americanas off their traditional date?
The Americana Association responded to inquiries with a statement: “At this time, the Americana Honors and Awards show is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, September 16th at the Ryman Auditorium. Under the circumstances we are, of course, monitoring the COVID-19 situation and assessing our event daily. Our artists’ and community’s safety is our utmost concern. We refer any questions regarding this morning’s announcement of the Academy of Country Music’s awards broadcast to ACM leadership.” There was no further comment from the organization, which was said to be less than thrilled at the morning announcement leading to speculation their gathering had been canceled.
Asked for an explanation, the mayor’s office also punted the ball to the ACM.
Eventually, an answer emerged — and it was somewhat more mundane than the intriguing prospect of mainstream country and roots-rock aficionados taking up knives, chains and mandolins for a turf war in the alley between the Ryman and Tootsie’s.
In a statement late Monday afternoon, the ACM said that while material from the Opry House and Bluebirds would be live, segments at the Ryman would be filmed in advance, prior to the Americana Honors setting up in the house that week.
“Thank you for the opportunity to clarify our plans,” the ACM’s statement says. “The Academy’s current plan is to utilize the largest of the three iconic Nashville venues, the Grand Ole Opry House, as the live centerpiece of the night, with select live performances from the Bluebird Cafe. Special performances and moments from the Ryman will be captured in advance of Sept. 16’s CBS broadcast of the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards. Our plans will remain fluid based on the status of the quarantine and we are prepared to adapt them based on the status of Nashville’s Roadmap for Reopening.”
The ACMs will air on CBS Sept. 16. The Americana Honors show traditionally sends out live audio of the event over streaming and satellite radio services and then appears later as an edited television broadcast on PBS.
Whether either show will be able to film in front of fans by September remains an open question. But advocates of either social distancing or genre distancing can rest assured there will be no forced commingling between the two camps that night.