Hidden Treasures of Live Music

With dozens of honky tonks on or near Lower Broadway, you might think these are your only options for live music in Nashville. Not true. Friends helped me curate this list of hidden treasures that won’t be found on most “visit Nashville” websites. Mouse over the headers to find links to the websites. Although these are standing weekly gigs, always check with the venue to confirm who’s playing.

Joelton Hardware

Traditional country at Joelton Hardware
Traditional country every Saturday night at Joelton Hardware

Yes, you read that right. It’s a real hardware store but they hammer out live music six nights a week. There’s also a limited menu and a surprising array of beer options. Monday nights is tuned to bluegrass, Tuesdays get jazzy and Saturday night is devoted to traditional country. Matthew, my professional musician buddy, scouted the Saturday night show and gave it high marks, noting that several band members have backed up some of country music’s icons.


Live Music & Dancing @ Long Hollow Jamboree: Friday and Saturday

The country cookin’ restaurant is open 10am-2pm Sunday and 10:30am-2pm Monday. The rest of the week they operate a split shift of 10am-2pm and 5:30-11pm. Things rev up in the evenings with a live band and you’re encouraged to take your two left feet to the dance floor for square dancing, line dancing and two-stepping. (See photo above.) It’s about the most authentic country come-together you’ll find where most guests are locals…but they welcome everybody. Bill Monroe was a regular because it reminded him of his younger days. As a teenager, I saw Roy Acuff fiddling in the parking lot. It’s 30-45 minutes north of downtown but if you’re really looking for country, it’s worth the drive. Family-friendly; no alcohol allowed.

Bluegrass Brunch @ Von Elrod’s Beer Hall & Kitchen: Saturdays/Sundays 10am-2pm

Bluegrass in a beer hall? Why not? With the closing of Nashville’s beloved The Sutler, the banjos have relocated to keep a tradition alive. Feast here on sausages made in-house, malted blueberry pancakes and more.

Bluegrass Jam @ The Station Inn: Sundays, 7pm

honky tonks beyond broadway, Station Inn

My friends Carol and John highly recommend the Sunday night shows at this revered little stone building surrounded by trendy businesses and apartments in the Gulch. You never who might join in this top-tier session including some of the best pickers in Nashville.

Jazz Jam @ Rudy’s Jazz Room: Sundays, 9pm

Professional musicians and jazz fans pack out the room so you’d best get there early. Expect to be impressed as some of Nashville’s finest take turns in the spotlight. Located a few blocks east of the Gulch. All ages. $10 at the door.


Song Suffragettes @ The Listening Room: Monday, 7:30pm

Billed as “Country’s Newest and Brightest Female Singer-Songwriters,” this savvy and fun bunch of ladies take the stage most Mondays (check the website) for an evening of heartache and belly laughs. The stories told are on par with the songs played. $5 cover.

The Time Jumpers @ 3rd & Lindsley: Monday, 8pm

TimeJumpers: a hidden treasure of live music
The Time Jumpers. Photo credit: Jim McGuire

Major league musicians come together for an evening marked by a heavy dose of Western swing and country classics. If they’re available, Vince Gill and Ranger Doug Green of Riders in the Sky are in the band. It’s so popular with both locals and visitors that the cover is $20, steep by Nashville bar standards but definitely worth it. It’s an all-ages show so you can bring the under-21 members of your party. Consult the website because they do NOT appear weekly.

Whiskey Jam @ Winners: Monday and Thursday, 8:30-11:30pm

This live music party in the parking lot behind this Midtown bar features up-and-coming artists with guests that have included Chris Stapleton, Melissa Etheridge, OneRepublic, Dan + Shay and Kasey Musgraves. Some nights a record label takes over, strutting its stuff with its whole roster.

Honky Tonk Tuesdays @ Am. Legion Post 82: Tuesday, 8pm-2am

Who knew the American Legion post would become a melting pot of old veterans and young hipsters? Yet here they are every Tuesday. Dance lessons start at 7pm with the featured band taking the stage at 8. Don’t expect to hear Florida Georgia Line; they feature “country & western and hillbilly bands.” The lodge is located at 3204 Gallatin Pike, 37216–all but hidden behind another business so look sharp. Co-sponsored by 650 WSM-AM. All ages, free admission but feed that tip jar.

Bluegrass Jam  @Larry’s Grand Ole Garage: Tuesdays 5:30-9pm

Bluegrass Jam at Larry's
Credit: Larry’s Grand Ole Garage FB page

549 East Maple Street, Madison. I haven’t attended in person but I like the vibe of Larry’s Grand Ole Garage. It’s the sort of pickin’ parlor where everybody’s welcome and you don’t need a union card to sit in with the other musicians. Although bluegrass is in the name, you’re just as likely to hear country or gospel songs. One caveat: the schedule is a little unpredictable so check their website or Facebook page to make sure the music is happening. Concessions available; no alcohol allowed.

19 Miles from Music Row  @ Franklin First United Methodist Church, 1st Tuesday of the month, 6:30pm

It only happens once a month but it’s a dandy of a show. Some of Nashville’s best-known songwriters come together for a laidback (and alcohol-free) evening of song and storytelling. The evening starts with rising songwriters followed by a group of proven hitmakers. Among those who’ve appeared: Tony Arata, Keith Thomas, Wood Newton, Amy Grant, Keith Thomas, Will Rambeaux, Sherrie Austin and Pat Alger. Perfect for folks who don’t enjoy the vibe of a bar.

Bus Call @ Tin Roof/Demonbreun: Wednesday, 8-11pm

Bus Call at Tin Roof, Nashville

Photo credit: Tin Roof/DemonbreunMix with the folks working on Music Row and other music lovers at this weekly gathering featuring 6-8 bands. (Don’t confuse this with the sister venue on Broadway.) Not a huge room so you might want to get there early. No cover.

Open Mic Night @Fox and Locke, Thursday, 6:30-10pm

About a half-hour southwest of Nashville lies the little community of Leipers Fork, home to a handful of shops and restaurants (and very low-key celebrities). Formerly known as Puckett’s Grocery (you’ll find Puckett’s restaurants in Franklin and downtown Nashville), the place comes alive on Thursday nights with pickers playing their own tunes and the occasional cover. Food is southern traditional and there’s a $7 cover charge. It’s popular so reservations are suggested.

More music connections
* Every honky tonk and music venue on Broadway
* The Bluebird and other listening rooms around Nashville
* Live alternatives to country music

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