We all know Nashville is a musically inclined town—the music recorded here, the artists who call it home and the never-ending stream of shows and events makes our city unlike anywhere else. As a real estate guy, I’m also interested in the physical space where all of this great music happens. Nashville’s music venues are as unique as the musicians who play in them. Each one brings something to the experience in terms of acoustics and ambience. Think about it: hearing someone like The Avett Brothers play in the Bluebird Café is a much different experience than hearing them play at the Ryman. Where you listen to music has a lot to do with what you experience.
Here’s my take on the best music venues in Music City, USA:
Marathon Music Works
Photo credit: Kate Cauthen
Formerly the home of Marathon Motor Works automobile plant, Marathon Music Works is now a popular concert venue, part of Marathon Village. The venue kept the original plant’s industrial feel, with the surrounding spaces filled with creative and artistically inclined tenants. Since it’s standing room only, head to the shows early for a front row spot.
Photo credit: Brent Hood
There’s a reason this venue is referred to as “God’s own listening room.” The Ryman is in a class by itself, with the history, atmosphere and acoustics like no other place in the world. Reminded of its former life as a church, concertgoers enjoy shows in its distinctive wooden pews. Long called the Mother Church of country music, the Ryman is one of the few venues that inspire unyielding reverence from musicians and fans alike – and it is about to get even better. A $14 million expansion was recently announced that will add a café, multimedia history tour and new event space, plus upgrades to the box office, restroom, concessions and merchandising areas.
The Bluebird Café
Photo credit: Larry Darling
Now a well-known backdrop on the hit television series Nashville, the Bluebird Café has been a city treasure since 1982. Unassuming and tucked away in a Hillsboro strip mall, you wouldn’t expect this place to be such a haven for aspiring songwriters and legends. Vince Gill and Kathy Mattea honed their skills on Bluebird’s intimate stage, and it was at an open mic night in the ‘80s when the aspiring country singer Garth Brooks first heard “The Dance.” They offer original music seven nights a week, so make a reservation and you just may hear your new favorite country classic.
Robert’s Western World
Photo credit: Fori/Bosque Pescador
There aren’t many spots on the neon-soaked Broadway that locals frequent, but Robert’s is one of them. A true honky tonk, this is one of the best places in town to enjoy some of the world’s greatest rockabilly music, a burger and a beer. Just be sure to wear your best dancing boots. And if you don’t have any, don’t worry. Robert’s also doubles as a boot store.
Photo credit: Jeni Richard
Another Nashville institution, Grimey’s is one of the best record stores in town and my favorite spot to purchase vinyl. Appropriately located atop another music venue (The Basement), it’s also conveniently next to indie bookstore Howlin’ Books and local coffee shop The Frothy Monkey. Come in around 5:30 and you might catch an in-store performance or a music-lovers’ happy hour with free beer and great music pumping through the sound system.
The 5 Spot
Photo credit: Keith Sherwood
Located in the heart of East Nashville, The 5 Spot offers a diverse mix of local live music on the roster. This place is particularly jumping on Monday nights, where they throw their legendary 50s-themed dance party, affectionately dubbed “Motown Mondays.” With an intimate stage and cool vibes, The 5 Spot is a great place to discover new rock music. Situated near the Five Points neighborhood, go early and grab dinner at one of the great restaurants around the corner.
Photo credit: fancygirrl
Keeping Music City’s deepest musical tradition’s alive, The Station Inn is bluegrass mecca. Squeeze in to this little dive and enjoy some of the finest bluegrass, country and Americana players in town. Admission to shows is first-come-first-serve, so come early. And don’t be surprised it you run into Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss and Dierks Bentley, who’ve been known to pop in for an impromptu performance.