Marathon Music Works
1402 Clinton St.
Since its November 2011 opening, Marathon Music Works has developed a well-earned rep as one of the trendiest nightspots in Music City, hosting performances by such artists as Gavin DeGraw and David Nail. The building was built in the early 1900s, and effectively blends history with modern technology to bring the music to the masses.
Intel: “A great space, because it can be adjusted to accommodate a few hundred to over a thousand. We have utilized the space for events from showcases to platinum parties for clients. The sound is great, parking is accessible, and they work with us to create an ambiance, whether that means bringing in sponsors or setting up unique consumer-interactive areas.” -Ebie McFarland, owner, Essential Broadcast Media
3rd & Lindsley
818 Third Ave. South
3rd & Lindsley is perhaps the most diverse nightspot in town, with a history of performers that includes Sheryl Crow, Train, Bela Fleck and Ed Sheeran, and a newly redesigned stage space drawing praise from insiders. Mondays are a highlight — most weeks feature the Time Jumpers, fronted by Nashville’s reigning king of country Vince Gill leading legendary Nashville studio shredders on accordion, guitar and fiddle, including pedal-steel virtuoso Paul Williams.
Intel: “3rd & Lindsley’s redesign has made it an ideal place to see performances from such magical artists as Ashley Monroe and the Time Jumpers. There’s nothing like having a beer and a front-row table to witness the insanely gifted musicianship and artistry Nashville has to offer.” -John Esposito, president/CEO, Warner Music Nashville
The Stone Fox
712 51st Ave. North
You may hear some country, you might hear some bluegrass, or maybe even some of Nashville’s top indie-rock artists. You never know what you might encounter at the Stone Fox, but it’s definitely going to be music worth remembering. The club brings out some of Nashville’s top execs — for the music, of course, but also for its organic, home-style grub.
Intel: “I love the Stone Fox, in historic Westtown. The name alone is exciting to me, but it’s also a great spot for cool music.” -Carla Wallace, GM, Big Yellow Dog Music
The Basement Nashville
1604 18th Ave. South, #330
As the old saying goes, “it is what it is” when it comes to the Basement. It’s actually in a basement — of one of Nashville’s most eclectic record stores, Grimey’s. On Tuesdays, the club hosts “New Faces” night, a favorite of both patrons and aspiring musicians. Get there early, as the place gets packed.
Intel: “The Basement will always be my favorite Nashville hot spot. It’s the best place in town to discover new talent, and owner Mike Grimes has the best taste in music. For a performer, the community of the room is unlike any other venue in Nashville. It’s easy to pack out, rock out and melt faces. Its close proximity to Music Row makes it a great place to host a showcase.” -Lauren Tingle, producer, Premiere Radio Networks
The Station Inn
402 12th Ave. South
Next year, the Station Inn will celebrate 40 years as one of Nashville’s top hot spots for acoustic music. For many years, it was solely a bluegrass club, but it has expanded its range a bit through the years (though you’re guaranteed to hear some solid banjo and fiddle work most nights).
Intel: “The world-famous Station Inn is a Nashville institution and one of my favorite music spots. The folks are friendly, the beer is cold, and it’s where the best musicians in the world play.” -Marcia Campbell, host of “The All-Nighter” on WSM (650 AM) Nashville
410 4th Ave. South
The Rutledge has played home to some of Nashville’s top country artists, from Keith Urban to Eric Church, but it also often features many of the newest sounds that people are buzzing about in Nashville and beyond, such as Hot Chelle Rae, Cage the Elephant and Bo Bice.
Intel: “One of my absolute favorite venues for live music in Nashville is the Rutledge. It has a great, intimate vibe with amazing acoustics and sound engineer Frank Sass at the board. The Rutledge is one of the venues for the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, and it’s within walking distance of other great downtown spots-ideal for Nashville visitors and locals alike.” -Lisa Harless, senior VP, Regions Investment Solutions
114 Second Ave. South
A recent addition to the club scene, SEEN features one of the most diverse musical lineups of any downtown venue, ranging from hip-hop to EDM and then some. It’s also one of the most alluringly decorated — the posh interior is more reminiscent of hot spots in New York or Los Angeles than it is the home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Intel: “I’ve really been impressed by the club SEEN-it’s one of Music City’s most unique live music venues. It’s a really good-sounding room and a great place to see artists of all formats perform.” -Byron Gallimore, CEO, Streamsound Records; producer (Tim McGraw, Lee Ann Womack)
The Bluebird Cafe
4104 Hillsboro Pike
Located a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of Music Row in tony, suburban Green Hills, the Bluebird Cafe presents the unsung heroes of Nashville — the songwriters — in one of the most intimate settings you’ll find in Davidson County. In 2008, original owner Amy Kurland transferred ownership to the Nashville Songwriters Assn. International, ensuring the focus of the club would stay as true as it was when she opened the doors in 1982. The Bluebird’s profile has increased tremendously with ABC’s “Nashville,” which has filmed many scenes there.
Intel: “In Nashville we say, ‘It all begins with a song.’ There’s no doubt that the premier place for songwriters to display their craft is the Bluebird. While the venue’s simplicity and unexpected location might surprise some, its devotion to the songs and the stories behind them makes it a place to be inspired by music in its purest form.” -Steve Buchanan, president, Opry Entertainment Group
116 5th Ave. North
The Ryman is one of the most historic stages in Nashville: Riverboat captain Sam Ryman built it in the late 1800s as a church, but it’s best-known as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Gaylord Entertainment renovated the venue in 1994, and since then, the stage has attracted a wide variety of entertainers including Kid Rock and Coldplay — in addition to hundreds of country and bluegrass musicians. And those ghosts from the past? They’re still very much alive.
Intel: “That venue makes us dig deep within ourselves to rise to the performances that have gone on before us. Every opportunity to play the Ryman is extremely special, but selling out our show at the Ryman this year was such an amazing sense of accomplishment and acceptance.” -Darrin Vincent, Dailey & Vincent (Rounder)
Douglas Corner Cafe
2106 Eighth Ave. South
A Nashville fixture for more than a quarter-century, Douglas Corner remains one of the top locales for new artists to showcase their wares. Artists such as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood played Douglas Corner before becoming household names. The venue is also a full production facility, with an on-site audio/video studio known as the Ugly Truckling.
Intel: “I’ve always found Douglas Corner to be one of the most underrated singer/songwriter venues in this town. The lineups stay strong with good talent, which makes it a great place for an impromptu visit.” -Jeff Walker, president/CEO, AristoMedia Group
Grand Ole Opry House
2804 Opryland Drive
Yes, it’s still referred to by many in town as the “new” Opry House, even though it’ll have hosted the WSM radio show for four decades next March. But the 4,400-seat venue is more than just the home of the expected country superstars and legends: It’s also one of the top and most diverse event spaces in Nashville, playing host to the Radio City Rockettes and Harry Connick Jr.
Intel: “The moment you walk onstage at the Grand Ole Opry House, there’s an undeniable reverence that sweeps over you. To think of all the incredible entertainers of our genre and beyond that have stood before you and will stand after you is just crazy. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.” -Darius Rucker, recording artist (Capitol Nashville)
By far the biggest of all the venues in Music City, this is where the stars play, from all formats, whether it be Blake Shelton, Beyonce or even the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Since the downtown arena’s 1996 opening, it’s played host to more than 13 million people, as well as Nashville’s SiriusXM studios.
Intel: “Bridgestone Arena is a great venue for its versatility. Also, you cannot beat it for location — downtown where the action is, and plenty of hotel rooms. Traditionally arenas are a challenge sound-wise due to the high ceilings, but I have never heard a bad show at Bridgestone.” -Joe Kelly, VP/GM, CDX