Hidden Treasures of Live Music

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. Although these are standing weekly gigs, always check with the venue to confirm who’s playing.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum live events

Hiding in plain site are the Country Music Hall of Fame’s two venues: the Ford Theater and the CMA Theater. Use the link above and click on Categories to identify the event(s) that interests you. Showcases include noteworthy songwriters and artists who enjoy the intimacy of smaller venues. Past concerts have featured Los Lobos, Bruce Cockburn, Marty Stuart and John Oates.

Joelton Hardware

Yes, you read that right. It’s a real hardware store but they hammer out live music six nights a week. You’ll need to check their Facebook page to see upcoming shows but a typical week might encompass bluegrass, Americana, a songwriter night, old-time rock’n’roll, country classics, and original country music. The limited menu emphasizes locally produced ingredients and they stock a surprising array of beer options. (Photo above: Matthew Burgess)


Long Hollow Jamboree

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. 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 Jam @ The Station Inn: Sundays, 7pm

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.

Arrington Vineyards

It’s not Napa Valley but absolutely picturesque (see above) in a Tennessee kind of way. Buy a bottle of wine, bring a picnic lunch, sit on their inviting wrap-around porch and watch grapes grow. You’ll find live jazz and bluegrass on Saturdays and Sundays, 3pm-7pm, starting in April. They also host Food Truck Fridays, 5pm-9pm from May through October, with live music.

Plaza Mariachi 

You’d never know this very cool Hispanic-flavored mini-mall was once a Kroger. Under one roof, you’ll find a really cool mercado (complete with a bakery, butcher shop and hot food bar). a Cuban restaurant, several walk-up food-court type specialty restaurants, a live entertainment courtyard, a glassed-in radio station studio and more than a dozen shops selling everything from cellphones to insurance.

Concert in a Cave

In the realm of something different, this one is hard to beat: on Monday morning, you can boast, “I saw the Sam Bush Band in a cave Saturday night. What did you do?” Top-notch Americana, neo-folk, roots rock and bluegrass artists perform at The Caverns, 80 miles south of Nashville via I-24 at the northern base of Monteagle Mountain. (Note: this is its CURRENT location, replacing Cumberland Caverns.)  If you can’t go, watch the same-titled PBS series that’s been described as “Austin City Limits underground.”

Don’t like their line-up? You have an option back at its original location. Chill out at the Cumberland Caverns Live Concert Series in McMinnville. Beneath a massive chandelier hanging like a manmade stalactite, you can dine and dig music by a variety of artists.

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

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

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.

Tin Roof's Bus Call concert series

Credit: Bus Call@Tin Roof/Demonbreun

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

Mix 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. Photo credit: Tin Roof/Demonbreun

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.