Showtime in Nashville

So You Wanna See a Show in Nashville…

not just a band competing with the roar of a rowdy bar. Okay, let’s start with our most famous show, then introduce you to a variety of musical revues, concerts and close a rundown of impressive tribute bands. Note: unlike the honky tonks, expect to pay for admission.

Grand Ole Opry

The granddaddy of live radio programming, “The Show That Made Country Music Famous” debuted in 1925.  Most two-hour shows take place at the Grand Ole Opry House in Donelson with occasional pilgrimages back downtown to the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music. No two shows are identical due to the constantly revolving cast of performers, typically a mix of stalwarts and new talent with a big name or two sprinkled in. Shows take place every Friday and Saturday night as well as many Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with tickets starting at $50 for weeknight performances. TIP: Tennessee residents pay the discounted rate of $45 year-round for Level 5 seats.

General Jackson Showboat

Southern dining, live entertainment and a cruise down the Cumberland combine aboard this paddlewheeler. The daytime show is called “Tennessee Legends” show while the dinner showcase alternates between “Rollin’ on the River” and the Elvis-themed “A Tribute to the King.” You can opt out of the meal for a lower price point.

Nashville Night Life

It’s dinner and a show here for their “Best of Country” review spanning the music of the legends right on up to today’s hits. Don’t want the all-you-can-eat buffet? No problem. You can buy show-only tickets in this 300-seat theatre.

Ray Stevens’ CabaRay
Ray Stevens performing


So Ray had this idea: create a Vegas-style showroom where he could perform. Some nights others could book a special show. And he decided to make it work as a TV studio for his series airing on PBS stations (and streaming via Well, Ray’s dream has take up residence in an impressive facility he built on the far west side of Nashville at 5724 River Road. First comes lounging in the piano bar at 4pm, dinner at 6 and the show begins at 7:30pm.

Nashville Palace

Since 1977, country music fans have flocked here for the live performances and large dance floor. Randy Travis famously washed dishes here before being discovered. In days gone by, stars would pop in for a song or two after performing on the Opry. These days featured artists are booked in advance and promoted on the website. They still attract big names occasionally like Kane Brown, Margo Price and Jimmie Allen. Line dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. All ages in the front room; 21+ in the back where line dancing happens with $7 cover.

Nashville Jubilee

Feeling a little nostalgic? Nashville Jubilee combines comedy with country music from the ’70s to the ’90s performed by a live band. They schedule it early so folks can get to a weekend Opry performance. Current prices for the show are $35 or you can opt for the dinner/show combo for $54. Held at the Troubadour Theater across from Opryland Hotel.

Music-Focused Clubs

In other words, you go to these places because you really want to see the performers and listen to the music…not because you want to chat with your friends over a bucket of Coronas.

Because most shows sell out at the venues below, reservations are strongly recommended.

3rd and Lindsley

Reliably one of the best rosters in town. Artists include their frequent Monday night guests The Time Jumpers, a stellar Texas swing and old-school country band whose members include Ranger Doug from Riders in the Sky and (if he’s in town) Vince Gill. On-going series include the daytime songwriters showcase Backstage Nashville and the noon Finally Friday radio broadcast.

City Winery

Another top-drawer venue, City Winery emphasizes pop, jazz, Americana and occasionally a walk on the wild side with a drag show or improv comedy. Baby boomers and busters may find artists who made it big during their formative years taking the stage. Come for dinner or just get tickets to the concert.

I’ve profiled them in the Songwriters post but it worth mentioning that The Bluebird Cafe and The Listening Room Cafe are also music-forward venues. Except for the occasional early show, expect to pay a cover charge.


Without question, Analog has one of the coolest, most laidback vibes around. And somebody is working hard to book acts that fit the room.

In addition to what’s listed above, consult my roster of clubs where you probably won’t hear country music and songwriter showcases such as The Bluebird Cafe.


Nashville is the town that gave you current hot comedy commodities Nate Bargatze and SNL’s James Austin Johnson. Catch a rising star at one of these venues.

Zanies Comedy Club

Keeping people laughing for 40 years, Zanies has hosted a who’s who among rising stand-up performers including Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes, Joe Rogan and Margaret Cho. Love the size of the room–big enough to feel like a real audience but small enough that comedians can take the pulse of their listeners.

Third Coast Comedy Club

In addition to its resident improv troupe based in Marathon Village, the club also sometimes hosts stand-up comics and open-mic competitions. My friend (and performer) Jessica says “a fun time is had by all.”

Comedy nights and open-mics You’ll also find them at variety of clubs across the city. For upcoming shows, browse through the venues listed in the Not Country post.

The Dinner Detective

Not strictly comedy but if you’ve got an itch to solve a murder, this may be your jam. These dinner-and-homocide events are held on weekends in two locations: Margaritaville Hotel in Nashville and the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs. Cost: $79.95 includes the meal and mayhem.

Tribute Bands

Forget that so-so band that played at your high school dance. These groups are comprised of cream-of-the-crop musicians with serious credentials in the studio and on the road. Because they play in multiple venues, I’m sending you to pages maintained by the bands to discover upcoming dates.

  • Eaglemaniacs–Music by the Eagles, Don Henley, Glen Frey, Jackson Browne and occasionally other Southern Cal rockers. (Photo credit above: Deanna Hemby)
  • Music City Stones–Can’t get no satisfaction? You haven’t heard these guys with a front man who does a spot-on Mick Jagger.
  • The Smoking Section–an expanded rhythm section, horns and vocalists performing the songs of Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha, Stevie Wonder and many more. Special guests have included Michael McDonald and Melinda Doolittle.
  • The Long Players–they pick an album and play it live song-by-song. Past performances have pulled from the discographies artists including R.E.M., Pink Floyd, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Beatles, the Pretenders and Elvis Costello.
  • Resurrection-A Journey Tribute–Don’t stop believin’ that these Nashville-based guys are high-calibre entertainment.
  • Faithfully and H.F.O.–one band with dual identities saluting Journey and the Eagles.
  • Barracuda–they crush on Heart.
  • World Turning Band and Back 2 Mac–join them for Fleetwood Mac attack.
  • Journeyman–Eric Clapton salute.
  • The English Rain, Forever Abbey Road, The WannaBeatles –Fab Four fans.
  • The Twilight Train–Sparkling on Neil Diamond.
  • The Piano Men–Elton John and Billy Joel.

And honestly, it seems there’s a new tribute band every week.