The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Hillsboro’s heartbeat: AB Block Party brings live music back to the original Music Row

A combination of local musicians, Nashville businesses and hometown vibes made for the perfect first annual AB Block Party.
Sara West
Joy Oladokun belts out a note, as photographed on Sept. 4, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)

After the shocking announcement this June that Live on the Green would not be returning this year, it seemed that returning our beloved Music City back to its live music roots might be more challenging than the city originally anticipated. Thanks to AB Hillsboro Village, formerly known as Anzie Blue, live music has finally returned to an area that Vanderbilt students and Nashville residents know inside and out.

The owners of AB Hillsboro Village, Marcie and Derek Van Mol, are responsible for the creation of the AB Block Party. Van Mol said that, as Nashville natives, it was really about helping people rediscover Hillsboro Village. They expressed an interest in focusing on members of the community who live here year-round and bringing communities together on Labor Day. 

“As two Nashville natives, my husband and I really wanted to have people rediscover Hillsboro Village,” Van Mol said. 

Hillsboro Village, often credited as being the original Music Row, is a core piece of Nashville history that once was the hub for music. Since the Belcourt Theatre was once home to the Grand Ole Opry broadcast in the 1930s, it made sense that the block party was in the Belcourt Theatre parking lot. As I walked through the crowds and listened to the music, I thought of the many artists who originally got their start many years ago standing exactly where I was. 

In many ways, this block party felt like a rebirth of all the things Nashville has lost due to COVID-19 and urban sprawl over the last few years. On top of that, it supported growing businesses in the area. Their lineup during the 10-hour block party, which included Joy Oladokun, Grace Bowers and Daniel Nunnelee, was the perfect combination for an electrifying and welcoming event.

Daniel Nunnelee sings into a microphone, as photographed on Sept. 4, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West) (Sara West)

Joy Oladokun, previously an opener for Aly & AJ and John Mayer, added a level of reality to the performances. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and a woman of color, she writes highly personal music about her experiences, making her presence on the stage feel therapeutic. Within her music, she talks about many important topics that people experience in their daily lives, like relationships with friends and religion. Some of the songs on the setlist, like “if you got a problem,” allowed her to really connect with the audience by sharing important life experiences like being someone’s source of strength during difficult times.

When Oladokun performs, it feels as if you’re listening to a friend tell her story instead of a performer hiding behind a facade like so many other artists. As a resident of East Nashville for close to five years, she truly is connected with this community. Her favorite part of Hillsboro is the Belcourt Theatre where she frequently goes to watch movies. According to her, she was just there a few days before the event, enjoying the movie “Bottoms.” In East Nashville, she spends her time watching live music, saying that there is always something there to enjoy. 

“I love live music. I’m a music fan first. I think it’s a way to get communities together. To get people from all different types of life experiences,” Oladokun said. 

Joy Oladokun looks down while performing, as photographed on Sept. 4, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Sara West)
(Sara West)

Another spectacular artist during the event was 17-year-old Grace Bowers, a Nashville-based, Gibson-endorsed guitar prodigy. At only 16, she hosted a benefit concert earlier this year with other music artists called “Love, Life, and Music,” dedicated to honoring the Covenant School Family and all those affected by gun violence. Proceeds from the event went to Covenant Heals and MusiCares. As I watched her dance with the other guitarists during her performance, I was amazed at the drive and determination she has both on and off the stage at such a young age. 

Although the performances continued throughout most of the event, there was also an abundance of local businesses and restaurants to enjoy. In order to support local businesses in the Hillsboro area, AB Hillsboro Village created “passports” where visitors collected stickers at different shops around the event. When visitors spent $200 at any combination of the shops, they could redeem the passport for goodies from AB and other shops.

Concert attendees view merchandise at a block party vendor, captured on Sept. 4, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Bella Guzman)
(Bella Guzman)

One business, FluffedUp, was an absolute favorite of mine. The cotton candy, marshmallows and other treats sold were plant-based and vegan with the intent to bring more of those candy options to the Nashville area. As I continued to walk around the different vendors, I saw things like apparel, candles and jewelry. 

Overall, the event was an amazing opportunity to discover what Hillsboro Village has to offer the community, as well as just being so much fun. The overwhelming sense of community and support is something that makes this area of Nashville, and this event itself, so special.

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About the Contributors
Kate Connell
Kate Connell, Opinion Editor
Kate Connell (‘26) is from Seneca, Mo., and studies psychology in the College of Arts and Science on the pre-medical track. She previously served as Managing Editor and Opinion Copy Editor and Podcasts Director. When not working at The Hustler, you can find her getting coffee, relaxing at Centennial Park or stressing in the Stevenson building. She can be reached at [email protected]
Sara West
Sara West, Deputy Photography Editor
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts, thrifting and exploring new places. She was previously Deputy Photography Director and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating.  She can be reached at [email protected].
Bella Guzman
Bella Guzman, Staff Writer and Photographer
Bella Guzman (‘26) is from Charlotte, N.C., and studies human and organizational development and sociology in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her training in the gym, listening to a new podcast or planning her next travel adventure. You can reach her at [email protected].
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