Nashville is true to its Music City moniker—music is everywhere. From the traditional sounds found on the historic stage at the Grand Ole Opry, to the neon-lit honky-tonk bars on Lower Broadway, there is always a place to hear a foot-stomping tune.
For music lovers who want to experience as much live performances as possible, and explore some of Nashville’s neighbourhoods beyond Broadway, here’s a list of venues that offer free admission.
Hear student showcases and professional performers at Vanderbilt University. The Blair School of Music schedules classical, jazz and rock concerts throughout the academic school year. Master classes are limited to Blair music students for participation, but the curious are welcome to attend and listen.
One of the best-known listening rooms in Nashville hosts an open mic night at 6:00 p.m. every Monday. Arrive early to secure a seat to hear emerging singer/songwriters from the city and afar who are hoping to kickstart their journey to fame.
A beloved record store, Grimey’s hosts occasional all-ages shows that showcase singer/songwriters or bands releasing their newest audio creation. Check the its website to see what’s on. Below Grimey’s, adults can also see free weekly shows during New Faces Nite at The Basement. This bar is where well-known bands like Mumford & Sons have shown up for surprise gigs.
This free festival is a reason to plan a summer long-weekend in the city. It takes place almost every Thursday in August and on Labour Day weekend at Public Square Park in downtown Nashville. The 2017 festival featured headliners Sheryl Crow, Spoon, Future Islands and Portugal. The Man. Be sure to come early. The Thursday night shows draw 16,000 to 20,000 people each week.
Inspired by London’s Speakers’ Corner, this public stage at Centennial Park hosts a free concert series in May and June. Featured performers have included Emmylou Harris, Josh Rouse, The Blind Boys of Alabama and Son Volt. Food and beverage trucks are set up for the Friday and Saturday performances, making for a delightful impromptu picnic.
Live music has been at the airport since 1988. The Arts at the Airport program now offers more than 700 performances each year featuring local jazz, country, bluegrass, pop, soul and rock artists. With six locations to catch a show, plan some extra time at the airport to indulge in a few songs before leaving Music City.
This Tennessee chain has evolved from a 1950s grocery store to a Southern food restaurant and live music venue. At the Nashville location, diners can indulge in slow-cooked barbecue with a side of country and bluegrass. Up-and-coming artists such as the Matt Nicholls, Justen Harden, and Stevie Woodward make for a memorable dinner and a show.
A fixture on the live music scene since 1974, this no-frills bar focuses on bluegrass, country and roots music. It’s hosted well-known singers such as Ricky Skaggs, Gillian Welch and Alison Krauss. Every Sunday night at 8 p.m., the Bluegrass Jam feature is perfect for those who love the folksy sounds of guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass and a cappella songs.