There are few places on the planet where music is woven into the fabric of a community the way it is in Nashville. The city is home to some of the most prominent recording studios in the U.S., countless musicians, and a number of important record labels. It also happens to be a place where you can catch live music on pretty much any given night and has some of the best music venues in the world.
If you're heading to the Music City and catching a few bands is on the agenda, these are the 15 best places to listen to live music while you're in town.
For more than 40 yeas, the Station Inn has provided a stage for some of the best blues, roots, and Americana music that Nashville has to offer. The place is open seven days a week with bands playing live nearly every evening. Some of the big name stars that have cut their teeth at this venue include Alison Krauss, Alan Jackson, Dierks Bentley, and Vince Gill, just to name a few. Who knows who might drop in on any given night or you might just be lucky enough to catch the next breakout country artist.
The Ryman Auditorium began its life as a Tabernacle built specifically for a gospel choir. Later however it would become the home for the legendary "Grand Ole Opry," which would broadcast live from the Ryman stage for more than 30 years. When the show moved to another theater the auditorium fell into disrepair, with its future in serious doubt. But in the early 1990s the Ryman underwent a renovation and a revival, becoming one of the premier music venues in the entire country. The acoustics in the building are practically unmatched and allow a talented and powerful voice to shine in front of crowd of as many 2362 fans. Because of this, the auditorium is often host to some of the biggest names not just in country music, but other genres as well, hosting rock, blues, gospel, and more.
Situated on the banks of the Cumberland River, in downtown Nashville, the Ascend Amphitheater is one of the city's newer music venues. The site opened in 2015 and has been hosting major recording artists and bands ever since. This outdoor venue has 2,300 fixed seats with room for another 4,500 on the lawn, making it a popular location not only for listening to live music but also enjoying some time in the outdoors as well. The amphitheater is located in the heart of downtown as well, making it easily accessible on foot for anyone staying in the area.
Home to the Nashville Symphony, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center was built in 2006 and was quickly recognized not just for its amazing architecture, but also for its outstanding acoustics. With the city's collection of amazing musicians, it should come as no surprise that the local symphony is an impressive one. The orchestra puts on numerous shows all year long, including some of the best classical music, movie soundtracks, and pop culture performances imaginable. The Schermerhorn also hosts all kinds of shows that aren't classical, including some amazing rock events.
With its amplified acoustics, amazing light show, and high-intensity energy, 3rd and Lindsley is another music venue that has seen more than its fair share of famous artists pass through its doors. Located on Third Street, just a half-mile from Lower Broadway, this stage has seen the likes of Ed Sheeran, Lady Antebellum, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, and countless others perform in front of raucous crowds.
Another local favorite, The 5 Spot has live music every day of the week with a rotating list of regulars mixed in with special guests and limited engagement acts. The place feels like your favorite neighborhood bar, although one that always has live music playing. Regular drink specials and some tasty snacks help to add to the atmosphere.
If jazz is your jam then head on over to Rudy's to get your fill. Finding great jazz in a city known for its blue grass, rockabilly, and country isn't always easy, but thankfully this venue fills that void nicely. Stepping into the Jazz Room is a bit like stepping back in time to an era when jazz was king. Whether you're looking to dance or just sit back and enjoy the music, it's hard not to be enchanted with this one-of-a-kind location.
With two locations to choose from, The Basement is another Nashville institution that offers live music every night of the week. You'll find a wide assortment of genres on the calendar at both venues, mixing in a nice blend of indie rock, country, folk, Americana, and just about every other genre you can think of. Although there is plenty of local talent to feature on stage, the Basement pulls in musicians and bands from across the country, often featuring some big names as they tour the U.S.
Nashville isn't just about music and musicians, its a home for songwriters too. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Bluebird Cafe, where the music and the words are celebrated on a nightly basis. This is a place where many famous songwriters got their start, including Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, and Dierks Bentley, just to name a few. On any given night, one of those musicians may even be in the crowd, listening to the next great voice in country, pop, or rock. Come early, stay late, and enjoy the performance. The Bluebird is Nashville to the core.
Although 12th & Porter has been around since the early 1980s, the venue underwent a major renovation in 2015 that took it from a good place to catch live bands to a great place to listen to music. Over the years, this historic stage has hosted such luminaries as Neil Young, Kings of Leon, and Run DMC. It is also the place where Keith Urban and Sugarland was discovered, which says a lot about its legacy. This is a place that is somehow both intimate and filled with energy at the same time, making it a wonderful spot to catch an old favorite or an upcoming star.
The combination of great music, great food, and great wine makes the City Winery a standout even in Nashville. Yes, there are other City Winery locations across the U.S., but few have such ready access to a steady stream of impressive talent. A big part of what makes this place so special is the fact that you can enjoy live music while enjoying your meal, creating a sensory experience that is tough to top, even in the Music City.
Another intimate venue that has played host to some of the biggest names in music, the Douglas Corner Cafe has seen major stars come through its doors over the past 30+ years. This is place where rising young talent get a chance to shine, while country legends return to pay homage to a venue that helped launch their careers. Originally built by a recording engineer back in 1987, the acoustics are incredible inside this unique and intimate space.
Nashville's country music roots are well know and there are plenty of places where that genre reigns supreme. But at the Exit/In other types of music get their chance to shine too, including rap, punk, rock, metal, and even the occasional DJ too. The place has been open since 1971 and helped launch the careers Jimmy Buffet, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Avril Lavigne. It has seen the likes of Etta James perform on its stage, as well as Death Cab for Cutie, and the Talking Heads. In other words, the range of music you'll hear at the Exit/In is eclectic and wonderful, making it well worth a stop for visitors looking for an alternative to country.
Located in Nashville's trendy Cannery Row area, this second-story music venue has spotlighted up-and-coming bands and major headliners alike. The space offers several different rooms that can range from small and intimate, to large and raucous depending on the artist and crowd. Acoustically it is an amazing place to catch live music, with Adele, Bon Jovi, Imagine Dragons, John Fogerty, and the Lumineers all playing the Mercy at some point in their careers.
There are few places in Nashville with the history and legacy of Springwater. The place has been a bar for more than 100 years and even served as a speakeasy during the Prohibition Era. Its current incarnation has been around since 1978 and has seen a slew of musicians and bands come through its doors. At first glance, it looks like a rather nondescript place to get a cheap beer, but hang around a while and you'll start to pick up on the storied venue's lore, some of it true, some of it not. Nightly music helps keep the regular patrons and visitors happy, with some great local talent on display. This is another one of those Nashville locations where you just never know who might walk through the door.