The Best Intimate Music Venues in Nashville

Updated 10.18.17 | Advertising Disclosure | Our Sponsors may be mentioned in this article.

Craving live music but not in the mood for the masses typically found at Bridgestone Arena, Ascend Amphitheater and Ryman Auditorium shows? For a more intimate experience—one where you can actually see the faces of the musicians on stage—check out these smaller, equally impressive local venues.


12th & Porter

Neighborhood: The Gulch / North Gulch

Following a gut renovation and major rebranding in 2015, 12th & Porter has rightfully regained its footing in the Nashville music scene. It now boasts state-of-the-art sound equipment, an upgraded balcony and a bonus acoustic stage in the adjacent bar—that’s also new. Despite all the changes it’s endured over the past three decades, this venue remains a room where stars are born. (Just ask Dierks Bentley.)

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3rd and Lindsley

Neighborhood: SoBro

There’s no arguing that 3rd and Lindsley is part of Music City’s fabric—it partners with Lightning 100 to broadcast their weekly Sunday night shows and offers up its stage for big local events like the CMA and Americana festivals. Add in a Monday-night residency with the Grammy-winning swing band The Time Jumpers and this place is simply one of the best in town.

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The 5 Spot

Neighborhood: East Nashville

The 5 Spot gained national attention when it was featured on the hit show Nashville—and then again when Lady Gaga chose the tiny club as the first stop on her 2016 dive bar tour. On normal days, this East Nashville club features a healthy mix of modest, primarily local acts and dance parties.

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The Back Corner

Neighborhood: Germantown

This vibey spot is filling a void in Germantown, which lacks live music venues and late-night clubs. Venture to The Back Corner for everything from DJ sets to folk artists. If you want to dance, this place is usually the place to be on Fridays and Saturdays, too.

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The Basement

Neighborhood: 8th Avenue South

The den-like setup of this classic Nashville club can place you mere inches from your favorite bands—close enough for them to sweat on you, should you wish. The Basement has a couple tables up front if you need to sit, but being part of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd is a tight squeeze that’s always worth it. (Just step outside to the back patio when you need fresh air.)

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The Basement East

Neighborhood: East Nashville

Dotting the calendar of The Basement’s sister property in East Nashville are local acts, national tours and “tribute” nights (recent concerts celebrated the music of Chuck Berry and Dave Grohl). With a capacity of about 400, it offers about four times the breathing room as the OG Basement. Affectionately called The Beast, this newish addition to the city’s roster is already a crowd-pleaser.

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The Blue Room

Neighborhood: SoBro

Jack White’s music empire, Third Man Records, wouldn’t be complete without a hip way to showcase the rising artists he digs. In true Jack fashion, The Blue Room is the only live venue in the world capable of recording shows direct-to-acetate, essentially producing a vinyl master in real time. Concerts here are few and far between, so if you see one that intrigues you, pounce on those tickets immediately.

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The Bluebird Cafe

Neighborhood: Green Hills

If you only know of the Bluebird from watching Nashville, you might not realize it’s actually located in a strip mall in Green Hills. But the real-life interior is just as magical as it appears on TV, with twinkling lights, an in-the-round setup for its performers and a generally hushed vibe. For an extra heavenly experience, try to score a coveted church pew seat.

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Cannery Row

Neighborhood: SoBro

At the Cannery Row complex, three popular venues—Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom and The High Watt—live in harmony under one giant roof. While they share an owner, each has its own strengths and personality. Mercy Lounge debuted first, in 2003, and was followed by the 1,000-capacity Cannery Ballroom, about double Mercy’s size. The High Watt opened in 2012 and is the most intimate, club-like spot of the trio, with room for just 250 music fans.

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City Winery

Neighborhood: SoBro

Just like at the franchise’s other locations, Nashville’s City Winery values live music as much as its in-house winemaking facility. Regular shows employ assigned seating and the atmosphere is relatively subdued, making this spot a good pick for date nights and intimate evenings with friends.

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The Cobra

Neighborhood: East Nashville

The Cobra (née Foobar) prides itself on being a dingy, dive-y east side club. It most frequently hosts rock acts but also caters to standup comedians with its “Another F***ing East Nashville Mic” night every Sunday.

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The Country

Neighborhood: West End

Seemingly contrary to its name, The Country welcomes all types of genres to its stage (including a blues night every Tuesday). This place is often overlooked as a midtown hangout, which is a shame because the acoustics are great and it’s a comfortable distance from the rowdy tourists downtown. Use that to your advantage and enjoy the extra breathing room while you can.

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Douglas Corner Cafe

Neighborhood: 8th Avenue South

Don’t be duped by the name—Douglas Corner Cafe is a music venue through and through. Singers, songwriters and small acts alike pack the calendar; plus, Tuesdays are open mic night, if that’s your thing. Go here to catch the next John Mayer or Joni Mitchell and be able to say you saw them when.

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East Room

Neighborhood: East Nashville

You probably know someone, or someone who knows someone, who’s recently played at East Room—so it’s no surprise that when you’re here, it feels like you’re chilling in a friend’s basement. (Maybe it’s the couches, too.) It’s dark and low-key, with a focus on spotlighting local musicians and comedians.

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The End

Neighborhood: Elliston Place

This grunge-y dive club can get cramped on certain nights, but that’s part of the hole-in-the-wall appeal of The End. So are the dirt-cheap beers, the purple-velvet-covered walls and the up-and-coming rock acts that frequently take the stage.

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Exit/In

Neighborhood: Elliston Place

Nearly 50 years into its life on Elliston Place, Exit/In is still going strong. That’s likely because it attracts a nearly limitless range of top-notch acts, from Cee-Lo to Maroon 5 to Paramore. Want (many) more examples? Get lost in the hand-painted “Wall of Fame” above the bar, featuring the names of bands who’ve played sold-out sets at this Nashville institution.

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The Family Wash/Garage Coffee

Neighborhood: East Nashville

A 2015 move within East Nashville gave The Family Wash a more accessible location (it’s now on the main drag) and nearly quadruple the space. Luckily, the original’s cozy feel has been carried over, thanks to the small stage area being sectioned off from the new coffee-consuming quarters.

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The Listening Room

Neighborhood: SoBro

When you think of songwriter nights in Nashville, you think of The Listening Room. Whether you’re a wide-eyed visitor or a wizened local, the lineup always manages to feel fresh. Its new digs in SoBro features separate rooms for music and food—a notable departure from the previous location.

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Rudy’s Jazz Room

Neighborhood: The Gulch

Rudy’s Jazz Room is located in an 1800’s stone-walled basement with about 50 seats, providing an authentic jazz room atmosphere similar to renowned jazz clubs like Smalls in New York City. Rudy’s is named after the late saxophonist Rudy Wooten, brother of five-time Grammy award-winning bassist, Victor Wooten, who is a supporter of the jazz-centric venue. For a cozy setting and an ultimate jazz experience, Rudy’s has it.

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Springwater Supperclub and Lounge

Neighborhood: West End

Open as a bar since 1897 and in its current iteration as a club for nearly 40 years, Springwater has seen it all—it’s even served as a set for a Black Keys video and Taylor Swift’s first Diet Coke commercial. Rock bands and comedians from across the country perform in front the stage’s famous glittery streamers. Though Springwater finally (finally!) went smoke-free, the allover grittiness remains intact.

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The Station Inn

Neighborhood: The Gulch

As the Gulch’s landscape booms, its iconic bluegrass and roots venue, The Station Inn, hasn’t changed a bit. Every seat provides a picture-perfect view of the stage, and you’ll likely walk out with a few new music-loving friends. Sunday nights are reserved for a free weekly bluegrass jam session—a classic “pickin’ circle” where you never know which local legend will show up.

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Is there a great intimate music venue missing from the list? Let us know in the comments!