Alumni Spotlight Arts & Humanities Business & Economy

The Venue Guys

Brent Hyams ABJ ’94
General Manager
Cannery Hall

 Colin Keegan BBA ’13, BSEd ’13
Talent Buyer
Brooklyn Bowl Nashville and Live Nation Entertainment

If you’re a musician in Nashville, you need a stage. Fortunately, in Music City, there are more than 180. With so many opportunities, it can be good to have a connection.

Enter Colin Keegan (above right), talent booker for Brooklyn Bowl Nashville and Live Nation Southeast, and Brent Hyams, general manager at the soon-to-reopen Cannery Hall. They make the deals to bring musicians to the stage and so much more.

Half of the Brooklyn Bowl is a traditional concert venue. The other half is a flashy 19-lane bowling alley that overlooks the stage. It’s open not just for concerts but corporate gatherings, bachelorette parties (another of Music City’s most popular industries), or just general bowling and mingling.

Brooklyn Bowl Nashville, like many prominent residents, is a transplant. As the name implies, the concept began in New York, and new venues have been slowly popping up across the country. Nashville’s iteration opened in the rapidly growing Germantown neighborhood north of downtown in 2021.

Keegan worked at the original Brooklyn Bowl for four years before transferring to Nashville, just as the new venue was opening. The coronavirus pandemic postponed the launch, but once the place got rolling, its impact was substantial. In 2022, the influential online magazine Pollstar named Brooklyn Bowl Nashville the country’s best new concert venue.

“I love working in clubs because of the energy and atmosphere,” Keegan says. “Not just Brooklyn Bowl but 40 Watt or Georgia Theatre. People remember what bands they saw there. It’s just such a good feeling.”

Cannery Hall, by contrast, is as Nashville as a hot chicken sandwich. It’s located on Cannery Row, a block from the convention center just south of downtown, and has been a staple of the city for generations. The Cannery Hall building opened as a flour mill in 1883 and housed a variety of food-related businesses through the 1970s. In 1981, it opened as a music venue/restaurant and hosted some of the biggest names in country and rock.

When a new owner took over the space in 2019, they decided to renovate the whole thing and hired Hyams to manage the venture. He’s one of the most well-known and experienced venue managers in the city, having spent 16 years at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the last six as its COO.

“Historic buildings have become my passion,” says Hyams, who worked in marketing at the legendary Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry early in his career. “We’re saving a 40-year-old music venue, but it’s a 140-year-old building. It’s exciting to be able to breathe new life into it.”

When it opens in early 2024, the refurbished Cannery Hall will include three stages and an event center. It will be the largest independent music venue in Nashville.

Both Brooklyn Bowl and Cannery Hall are relatively intimate rooms that appeal to similar performers and fans, which can lead to some intense competition. It’s a dynamic that Keegan and Hyams both understand.

“It’s good to be part of an ecosystem that’s healthy,” says Keegan, whose role recently expanded to include booking additional Live Nation venues across the Southeast, though Brooklyn Bowl remains his base.

“I think the way you build a community is by having multiple venues with similar capacities that foster competition to help grow artists,” Keegan continues. “Especially if they are local. That’s huge for all of us to be part of that story.”

“We all need each other,” Hyams adds. “It’s good for all of our businesses to work together as much as we can. It just makes everyone excited about Nashville.”

Photos by Peter Frey BFA ’94