MEMPHIS—Phil Bredesen's Senate campaign brought in a big crowd for a free concert at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Memphis that was intended to boost early voting, but some in attendance were there more for the music than for the Democratic candidate.
Tickets for the concert with blues guitarist Keb' Mo and saxophonist Kirk Whalum were free. Though the campaign told attendees they had to RSVP ahead of time to get tickets and said the event was sold out, the venue ended up handing out tickets to anyone who showed up. The event was well-attended, but certainly not sold out.
Five of the most enthusiastic attendees, standing and clapping throughout the set and even during Bredesen's speech, won't be voting for Bredesen. They were from the Netherlands and just in Memphis as part of a trip—they said they wouldn't cast a ballot for Bredesen even if they were locals.
Bredesen press staff told the Washington Free Beacon tickets were exclusively for his Tennessee supporters.
The five men wandered into the free concert during the second leg of a four-city vacation through the South. They said after the concert that everyone from their home country would be a Democrat in the United States, but they weren't impressed with Bredesen.
"I wouldn't vote for him," said Eric, who lives just outside Amsterdam. "He's got no charisma, no power, no anything. But the concert was great, Keb' Mo was really good."
Asked about Bredesen, another one of the Dutchmen looked at the event poster he had just been handed and said, "Which one was Bredesen? The drummer?"
Bredesen gave his remarks after the set by Keb' Mo and Whalum, two talented musicians who had the predominantly African-American crowd on its feet by the end of the show.
"Bredesen better bring his A-game after that," one attendee turned to tell reporters, who were tucked in the back row of the theater, just before he took the stage.
It was tough for Bredesen to match the energy of Keb' Mo and Whalum, who had the crowd singing along, or even Lee Harris, who was just elected to a local office and gave impassioned remarks on local Democratic successes in the past year.
Bredesen's message was that he could be an effective problem-solver in Washington and wouldn't get caught up in the partisan bickering. He ended with a bit on how he has devoted his life to "paying it forward."
Asked after the speech whether Bredesen brought his "A-game," the man said he'd "give him a B, or maybe a B-plus."
For Bredesen to win in November, he needs big turnout in Memphis, a deep blue pocket in a red state President Donald Trump carried by over 25 points in 2016.