Drive The Music – A Conversation with Todd Ohlhauser


COVID-19 has rocked the world of live music and not in a good way. Independent venues everywhere have been forced to close their doors until the world is safe for shows. We all need these venues to still be there when the pandemic ends, that is why Two Rivers Ford’s partnered with the Music Venue Alliance Nashville (MVAN) to create “Drive the Music”. The initiative aims to keep independent venues alive through the support of fans. “Drive the Music” t-shirts are available for supporters of live music and local venues on their website, all proceeds go to Music Venue Alliance Nashville! Donations are also greatly appreciated!

Lightning 100’s Lt. Dan sat down with Todd Ohlhauser of Mercy Longue, Cannery Ballroom, and The High Watt to drive the music and reminisce on some iconic moments through their history. Ohlhauser came to Nashville to go to MTSU in 1986. During his college days he started booking shows and managing a handful of local bands. For the last 17 years the Mercy Lounge complex has put on shows at their venues and Todd has been there every step of the way. 

Todd tells the story of Chris Stapleton, who now headlines massive venues like Bridgestone Arena, playing the Cannery Ballroom. “He did a two night stand in the Cannery right before his debut record came out. The first night sold out. Then they put out a second night and it immediately sold out within hours.” He tells the story of hearing his voice for the first time and being impressed right off the bat. One of the perks of being a smaller independent venue is the ability to watch an artist grow.

Dan gives a word to the wise and says “Get there in time to see the opening act.” because before you know it, they’ll be huge. That’s one of the beautiful things about venues like the Cannery Ballroom, Mercy Lounge, and the High Watt. They are where the magic happens at the beginning of an artist’s career. Ohlhauser says that is part of the reason that The High Watt is where you’ll be able to find him most nights. It’s the smallest of the three and takes away the pressure of a large show. It’s more intimate than intimidating and is really something special.

Ohlhauser has seen countless incredible artists up on the stages of his venues, from Nashville bands to out-of-towners. In his conversation with Lt. Dan, he played songs from and told stories about acts, including Drive-By Truckers, The Wild Feathers, Those Darlins, and more. 

Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom, and The High Watt have integral parts of Music City for years. We need them to be here when all of this is over! Be sure to support to the Drive the Music campaign here by purchasing a t-shirt, poster, or just donating directly. Let’s keep live music alive!