The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Paper plate awards: Nashville concert venues

Explore Nashville’s music venues through our superlatives.
Christin Ann Sanchez
A map of a few of the music venues in Nashville. (Hustler Multimedia/Christin Ann Sanchez)

The Bluebird Cafe: Most likely to be a bucket list item

If you’ve ever wanted to witness an intimate performance of your favorite country songs, the Bluebird Cafe is for you. Despite hosting some of the biggest names in country music, the venue only seats around 90 people, meaning anywhere in the club is an incredible view. The Bluebird Cafe hosts nightly songwriter rounds and weekly open mic nights. Even if you don’t know the names of who is playing that night, I can assure you that you’ll know a song or two. Tickets are hard to get since the venue is so small, but if you are ever able to snag a pair, it will be an unforgettable night. 

Brooklyn Bowl Nashville: Most likely to have something for everyone 

Want to bring the whole friend group to a show, but someone claims not to love live music? The Brooklyn Bowl is the perfect spot to please the entire crew. With four locations across the U.S., the venue has perfected putting on a great show. In addition to a fantastic roster, the venue offers 19 bowling lanes, so fans can bowl while listening to their favorite artists. Outside of concerts, the venue hosts many raves, such as the iconic “Gimme Gimme Disco.” 

Grand Ole Opry: Best for taking your parents

This music venue started it all. Every country artist dreams of performing on this historic stage. Its calendar is dotted with jam-packed shows featuring multiple country stars a night. Not only does the Opry host shows with the biggest names in the genre, like Darius Rucker, Trace Adkins and Little Big Town, it also offers tours of the venue. These insider experiences give tour groups a glimpse into the untold stories in country music. This theater-like venue is reminiscent of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, with just as rich a history. This is a must-visit when your parents or grandparents come to Nashville.

The Basement East: Most likely to make you believe in the power of Nashville

In early March 2020, a tornado wiped across Nashville and tore down The Basement East. But one wall was left untouched: the “I Believe in Nashville” mural painted across the side of the venue. Despite the tragedy of the tornado, the mural still standing was an important message of hope for the venue and the broader Nashville community. Even though fighting back after the tornado and pandemic was challenging, The Basement East, locally known as The Beast, is one of Nashville’s most happening venues — it seems the venue never takes a night off. The venue consistently hosts iconic shows and has an incredible staff, so be sure to pay it a visit soon. 

Bridgestone Arena: Best for the arena experience 

Home to the Nashville Predators, Bridgestone Arena is a 19,000-capacity arena located on Broadway. While Nashville has many small general admission venues, Bridgestone Arena is for artists who have had their big break. Since the venue is so big, every section experiences the show differently, but even if you’re up in the nosebleeds, you’ll still have a great time. 

The Listening Room: Best for an acoustic vibe

The Listening Room is a magnet for local singer-songwriters to share their craft in its most raw form. Each show is an intimate experience, with all of the glitz and glam of modern music stripped away. The stellar acoustics of the venue leave no room for error — no tricks, no autotune, nothing to hide behind. This venue requires excellence. Their signature philanthropy, “Sound Good – Do Good,” is the perfect illustration of their commitment to the Nashville community. A trip to The Listening Room is a rare opportunity to connect with Nashville’s local artists to hear songs the way they were created: just a voice and an instrument.

The Ryman Auditorium: Best for a historic night

Just up the street from Broadway’s honky-tonks sits the historic Ryman Auditorium. Not only is the Ryman one of Nashville’s most highly rated spots, but it is also known across the globe as one of the most iconic stages. The Ryman has hosted many stars over the years, including everyone from Elvis Presley to Harry Styles. Before its time as an iconic stage, the Ryman — then known as the Union Gospel Tabernacle — was the stage behind the Grand Ole Opry. Sitting in the pews of the Mother Church definitely leaves attendees feeling like they’re experiencing magic. 

The East Room: Most likely to find a Belmont crush

The East Room is off the beaten path — hosting under-the-radar bands and dominating the indie music scene. If you’ve ever been down the midwest emo rabbit hole or if you identify as a recovering Car Seat Headrest fan, The East Room is the place for you. The East Room also plays host to Belmont bands like Platinum Moon. Take a break from the commercial vibe of the downtown district and take a trip to East Nashville to scout out some underground artists.

Ascend Amphitheater: Best for a summer night under the stars

Despite only being a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Broadway, Ascend Amphitheater hosts iconic outdoor shows during the summer months. Fans can purchase seats or lawn tickets, which are an incredible option for large groups. Watching your favorite band perform in front of a sunset or star-filled sky is truly unforgettable. The venue has a stacked lineup coming up, including Hozier, Darius Rucker and the Arctic Monkeys, so it is one to consider if you’re staying in Nashville this summer. 

Wildhorse Saloon: Best for dancing along

Dust off your cowboy boots and get ready to move because Wildhorse Saloon is guaranteed to help you close your Apple Watch Move ring. This venue has top-of-the-line country singers, charming line-dancing instructors, three levels to hang out on and a mechanical bull to top it off. Patrons under 21 are welcome before 10 p.m. CDT, so it’s a great place to take any younger visitors. It boasts all the best parts of downtown Nashville. You can’t leave college without paying a visit to Wildhorse.

Exit/In: Best for testing the waters

Exit/In is one of the foundational staples of the Rock Block — the strip of bars and music venues along Elliston Place. The walls are covered with the names of bands that have stood on the sacred stage, including genre-defining bands like R.E.M. and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Exit/In has been closed for the past few months as it has undergone a change in ownership but is about to reopen, with shows beginning in April. Their new lineup includes an eclectic mix of artists, ranging from Appalachian bluegrass to electronic pop. The venue might experience a shift in atmosphere and artistry, so head to Exit/In to find out how it is transforming.

Nissan Stadium: Most likely to hear superstars

Nissan Stadium is Nashville’s largest music venue, seating nearly 70,000 people. Only the biggest names in music can fill such a big space, like Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It takes a special musician to make this massive musical experience into a personal interaction. With the right kind of charisma, an artist can make all 70,000 attendees feel like they are in on a special secret. Keep an eye out for ticket sales at Nissan Stadium to catch a show performed by pop culture’s biggest idols.

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge: Most likely to spot a celebrity

Tootsie’s is one of the most iconic country music staples in Nashville, owing in large part to its long and storied history. It opened its doors in 1960, hosting legends like Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline. Today, it is both a venue for performers and an afterparty spot for celebrities. From a pop-up performance from Keith Urban to an after-concert encore from Pink, Tootsie’s is hands down the best place to rub shoulders with celebrities. 

Eastside Bowl: The Jack-of-all-trades 

Eastside Bowl is a jack-of-all-trades venue. It boasts a small stage for intimate events, a large stage for superstars and bowling alleys on top of that. They’ve gained a loyal following through their signature events, like SISSI: A Queer Competition. Because the venue leans toward the smaller side, you have the opportunity to connect and chat with fellow concert attendees. Eastside Bowl’s premises are available for reservation, making this the perfect venue for a birthday or an extracurricular celebration. Check out its lineup of eclectic artists and bring your friends to a bowling night.

The End: Best for the “Rock Block” experience  

Even though many small general admission venues exist across Nashville, nothing is quite like The End. The small 200-capacity room with limited air conditioning leaves fans in a sweaty dance party with a crowd that feels like a family. Located on the iconic “Rock Block,” the venue is best known for being a rock dive bar and has hosted some of the most iconic names in the industry. Of course, many rock bands still play the stage today, but The End now hosts shows of any style of music. The venue is within walking distance from campus, and many shows are under $10, so it is the perfect spot to head to soon. 

3rd and Lindsley: For any type of vibe

3rd and Lindlsey is an extremely special venue since the space feels like a coffee shop or a general admission dive bar depending on where you are seated. With the varied seating and standing options, the venue can hold anywhere from 340 to 700 fans, making it a great spot to catch on the rise artists. The venue also hosts many writers’ rounds and acoustic sets, so it is a great date night spot. 

Marathon Music Works: Best for catching artists before they’re selling out arenas

Check out Marathon for everything from folk singers to punk rockers. The industrial aesthetic of the venue is perfect for a concert photoshoot that’ll make your home friends think you’re so cool. With well-priced tickets and incredible musicians, Marathon gives an up close and personal experience that stadiums and arenas can’t compete with. To give a taste of the variety in its forthcoming performances, it will be hosting Joshua Bassett, Sleeping With Sirens, beabadoobee and M83. Keep Marathon on your radar as you plan out the last few weeks of this school year.

The Basement: Most likely to find “New Faces”

The Basement is the older sibling of The Basement East and is an extremely intimate space located off 8th Avenue. Like The Beast, the venue hosts shows practically every night of the year. While many different tours and local artists play at the venue, the venue hosts a free weekly “New Faces Night” each Tuesday, where attendees can discover the newest stars in Music City. It is important to note that most shows are 21+, so check the age requirement before showing up!

Nashville Municipal Auditorium: A venue that can do anything

Nashville Municipal Auditorium opened in 1962 and has been going strong for over 60 years. Over this time, the venue has hosted everything from concerts to circuses to auto shows. While the venue doesn’t host as many shows as other listed venues, when there is a concert there, it is a great one. Recently, the venue hosted iconic stars, including The 1975, Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Lil Nas X. While there aren’t many upcoming shows announced yet, be sure to keep an eye out for what is coming up soon.

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About the Contributors
Sara West, Senior Staff Photographer
Sara West ('25) is majoring in psychology in the College of Arts and Science and human and organizational development in Peabody College. Sara loves going to concerts, thrifting and exploring new places. She was previously Deputy Photography Director and hopes to enter the music industry after graduating.  She can be reached at [email protected].
Holland Perryman, Staff Photographer
Holland Perryman ('26) is majoring in political science and climate studies and minoring in anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She performs in the Original Cast and organizes first-year events as Crawford Service Commissioner. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, singing, and finding new coffee places to try. She can be reached at [email protected].
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