11 Great Nashville Bars To See Live Music

The best places to listen to live music that’s not just bro-country or ‘90s rock.
Bluegrass band playing live set on dimly-lit stage at Dee's Country Cocktail Lounge

photo credit: Bailey Freeman

Nashville is called Music City for a reason, and not just because of the honky-tonks on Broadway, the city’s (in)famous downtown party street. Music runs this place, literally and figuratively—live music is everywhere, the waiter at your favorite restaurant probably plays in a band, and you don’t need to reserve a seat in a theater or stadium to see the good stuff. 

When you check out any of the bars on this list, you might end up seeing songwriter rounds featuring bright-eyed hopefuls alongside long-suffering industry veterans, secret pop-ups hosted by big-name stars (you never know when folks like Lady Gaga or Tom Morello are going to appear!), and shows by local bands who have been holding down the scene for years. So make some plans, sip a PBR or an Old Fashioned, and enjoy every genre imaginable.

If you're looking for the absolute best bars in the city, we've got a guide for that, too.


photo credit: Bailey Freeman

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$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsClassic EstablishmentSee And Be SeenLive Music
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Robert’s Western World feels like it’s been around forever. And in Nashville, where new concepts open and close at the drop of a hat, it kind of has. The building’s lived many lives (as a warehouse, steel guitar factory, boot shop), but the old-Nashville feel—less Kid Rock, more Johnny Cash—is still there. During the day, you’ll find people of all ages listening to some bluegrass and filling up on Robert’s recession special: a fried bologna sandwich, Moon Pie, Lays potato chips, and a PBR, all for $6. But at night, it’s adults-only and a perfect place to listen to some music, sip that beer (don’t even try to order a cocktail here), and get a glimpse of the down-home music style that launched Nashville to fame.

You won’t have a hard time finding the Station Inn—it’s the squat stone building surrounded by the glossy high-rises of the Gulch. Pick a chipped vinyl table and settle in for an evening that just may feature some of the most famous bluegrass musicians in the world: Bill Monroe, John Prine, and Allison Kraus have all played here. Our favorite event is the Bluegrass Jam on Sunday nights where folks set up a circle of chairs on the dining room floor and musicians of all skill levels can join in. It’s not unusual for 15+ people to play at once to a song they’ve never heard before, and the Station Inn intentionally doesn’t charge a cover so people have full access to the musical magic. The bar serves Yazoo beer, chips and salsa (which may be Pace, but no judgment from us), and thin-crust pizza, but you’re really here for the banjo pickin’.

Yes, this spot is in an actual basement of a building over 110 years old, and the venue feels like it’s seen some things. Tiny, grungy, and very loud, the Basement brings you back to the days of being a teenage dirtbag—there’s been a longstanding indie and underground scene here, with the venue playing host to scores of up-and-coming artists and established musicians looking to throw low-key shows for their die-hard fans. For most performances, drinks are only the essentials, seating is nonexistent, and earplugs are highly recommended. Its younger sister Basement East (or the Beast) is another great spot to see music, but it’s more of a venue than a bar. Together, though, these two spots make up an essential part of Nashville’s music scene.

photo credit: Eliza Kennard



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Flamingo Cocktail Club feels like someone took a small slice of South Beach and plopped it right in the middle of Wedgewood-Houston without thinking anyone would notice. Except everybody in Nashville did. This former church is constantly full of people hanging out on textured couches and dancing to everything from live funk/jazz to DJ-spun EDM under a shimmering disco ball. Mojitos are the move here, but the ever-changing cocktail menu highlights plenty of tropical drinks and seasonal specials like mezcal hot chocolate. There is a strict dress code here: no flip-flops, shorts, or athleisure. Miami wouldn’t expect anything less.

Going to Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge is like inserting yourself into a ‘70s movie scene set in a local bar. You’ll find all the expected characters: the pool players, the flirty couples, the semi-gruff bartenders, and a gaggle of musicians in the corner, all of them bathed in that magical celluloid glow. Dee’s is a honky-tonk to be sure, but one with an open mind, a cheeky attitude, and a great sense of style. You can see everything from old-school country to smooth R&B and Led Zeppelin cover bands here. If you need a little air, snag a satisfying Frito pie or a barbeque sandwich and head out to the spacious patio which, you guessed it, also has a stage. Unlike other honky-tonks that pride themselves on only serving beer, Dee’s has a concise cocktail menu with solid margaritas and Old Fashioneds.

If you think that Nashville’s music scene is one-note, this stellar subterranean jazz bar will change your mind. The musicians are basically close enough to touch—but please don’t—as they wail away on funk, soul, salsa, and of course, jazz in its many iterations. In a town that loves dark liquor, we appreciate Rudy’s lighter cocktails, like the Night in Tunisia that blends elderflower and citrus. That said, whiskey lovers shouldn’t miss the bar’s takes on classics like the Sazerac and Vieux Carré. The dinner menu has New Orleans favorites like gumbo and a crawfish grilled cheese, along with a late-night menu of stuff like crispy fried pickles and cheesy fries smothered in red beans and rice.

If the phrase “musical eclecticism” could be summed up as a bar/venue, 5 Spot would be it. At first glance, this spot looks like a simple dive. But it offers way more on the music front than you’d expect like T.Rex tributes, electronic mini-raves, and rock and roll Happy Hours. There are two unmissable parties, though: Sunday Night Soul, where you’ll see top soul performers put on by local artist and legend Jason Eskridge, and Motown Monday, an epic swing dance party with DJs spinning vinyl live. The Happy Day Bobby’s food truck serves up Cubans and bratwursts, but this is more of a drink-and-dance sort of place. Stick with a beer from local mainstays like Yazoo Brewing or a simple spirit/mixer combo.

Jane’s achieves the Nashville trifecta: excellent music, food, and cocktails all in one place. This shotgun-style bar is cozy with a hint of neon—just the way Nashvillians like it—and it features Americana and folk acts every night of the week on its shiny little stage. The food menu has stuff like crispy okra fries and deviled eggs with all the fixings, but the star of the show is the Nashville fried chicken sandwich—it’s juicy, flavorful, and has just the right balance of spices. The cocktails are good, too. Don’t miss the Atlas, a rye-based cocktail with pecan, bitter orange, and lime, or the Truffle Hunter that unexpectedly (and successfully) combines mezcal with truffle hot sauce and lime.

Located alongside Centennial Park (you know, where the fake Parthenon is), The Local feels like a honky-tonk for those in the know. Small inside but with a decent outdoor patio, the bar has a listening room feel with all the trappings of a good dive—including a stuffed beaver wearing sunglasses and a statue in a hotdog suit (we don’t know, either). As unserious as its decor is, the music coming from its corner stage is top-tier. Depending on the night of the week, you can catch everything from songwriter rounds to full bands. And in a time where it’s common to pay an arm and a leg for a tiny “artisanal” burger without any sides, the Local rejects that concept wholeheartedly. Just order a G-OFF: you’ll get a big patty served on soft buns with candied bacon and jalapeños, plus a healthy helping of fries.

Here’s an easy and fool-proof recipe for a night out: Start with drinks at Le Loup, head downstairs for a seafood-forward dinner at The Optimist, and then shut down the night at the neighboring Star Rover Sound, a live music hall that serves a bunch of different steaks and soft serve. It feels like a honky-tonk, but there’s some mid-century modern energy here, and you can actually have a conversation without screaming while you watch local acts perform every Thursday through Saturday night. Grab a tufted vinyl booth and a margarita from the neon-lit bar, and enjoy the jazz, bluegrass, country, and Americana.

You know it’s going to be a fun night when the bartender pauses making drinks to run over to the stage and introduce the acts. Welcome to the Bowery Vault, a vintage store and coffee shop by day, and a bar and listening room by night. This bar is housed in a former East Nashville brothel (yes, really) and has musicians playing everything from plucky queer pop and heart-rending folk to synth-heavy indie. The production value is pretty impressive given the small size of the venue, and acts take on a friendly, conversational tone with their audiences thanks to the close proximity. The bar menu has cocktails featuring beer and cider as their bases rather than liquor, and also includes a refreshing variety of creative non-alcoholic beverages like the Terma Patagonia, a take on Argentinian mate.

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