Small Venues to Watch Local Bands in Nashville


Nashville, also known as Music City, is becoming more and more popular each year, and one of the prize possessions of the city is small music venues. Singer/songwriter nights and open-mic rounds pretty much dominate Nashville nightlife, not to mention big names in the industry pack out larger venues on the regular. If you're looking for distinct Nashville ambience and music in a dive setting, visit the following venues for a unique listening experience.

Exit/In
For 45 years, Exit/In has been host to hole-in-the-wall shows and on-the-rise artists of various genres. Just off Elliston Place, this tiny venue has a full bar and completely open floor with limited seating because if we're being honest, who needs a chair when good music is happening -- get up and move! Despite Nashville's tendency to tout country music, a huge faction is into the more alternative bands you'll find playing at Exit/In. Don't try to tote little sister along for your music foray, as the venue hosts mostly 18 and up shows. Make sure to buy tickets in advance and plan to stay once you arrive because the venue doesn't allow re-entry for obvious safety reasons.

3rd and Lindsley
Located, well, at 3rd and Lindsley, this venue is tiny but packed to the gills for every show. 3rd and Lindsley hosts bands and artists of various genres, including Vince Gill's bluegrass band the Time Jumpers. For over 20 years, locals have enjoyed "Good Music. Good Food. Good Friends," and with shows on the calendar every night of the week, they'll continue to enjoy an inexpensive good time. For little to nothing (literally, some shows are free), you can hear famous artists and up and coming hopefuls. A trip to 3rd and Lindsley is easily cheaper than a movie in these parts, so head around the corner and save Mr. Franklin for the more commercial concerts.

Rocketown and Sixth Avenue Skatepark
Rocketown is a unique venue geared more toward the younger religious crowd. A non-profit organization housing snack bars, music rooms and after-school programs, Rocketown provides a cool alternative for teenagers who might otherwise spend time up to no good. The venue includes an indoor skatepark that stays pretty busy year around. I've attended a music event or two at Rocketown, and while it is more of a teen hang out, it's not uncommon to see adults attending shows by relatively unheard of bands and artists who are cutting their teeth on the Nashville music scene. Depending on your interests, you can spend very little or quite a bit buying tickets for various shows and events. Parts of the venue can be rented out for private gatherings, and they even host a skate church (check the website for more information). Rocketown isn't your typical Nashville venue, but it's worth noting because few major cities offer anything like it.

A Final Thought
You can't walk two feet in downtown Nashville without stumbling upon live music, but if you're looking for something different, it's worth your time to venture away from the obvious locations up and down Broadway and 2nd Avenue. If you have a chance, scope out 12th and Porter, Mercy Lounge, Bluebird Cafe, The Family Wash, The Basement, Station Inn, and the plethora of small music places Nashville has to offer. Your ears will thank you, and in most cases, so will your wallet. Happy concerts!

Ashley is an English teacher, cat lover and fitness freak with a love of words and an equal affinity for talking and eating. She enjoys family and friends and truly believes that dancing while eating makes everything taste better -- especially chocolate and coffee.