8 Best Venues to Hear Nashville’s Next Big Thing

These lesser known venues are the perfect spots to hear Nashville’s best artists before they make their breakthroughs.

Beyond the legendary Bluebird Cafe and Ryman Auditorium, Nashville boasts some of the best music venues in the country. Although these lesser known spots are usually skipped over by tourists in the Music City, they are where you can find some of the best shows in town. If you’re wondering where to hear Nashville’s next big thing, check out this list of the city’s best small capacity concert venues.

The Listening Room Cafe


This cozy full-service restaurant and concert venue is located in downtown Nashville is one of the newest venues in the city. The Listening Room Cafe is a great spot to see acoustic sets from local singer-songwriters while enjoying a weekend brunch or a late night on the weekend. The cozy atmosphere and excellent sound makes it a great place to relax and enjoy new music.


Photo credit: Lorie Liebig

FooBar is another great dive bar tucked away on the outskirts of trendy East Nashville. The attached room that houses the venue area is easy to miss if you’re not looking for it, but is a great space to see the city’s best unsigned acts from all genres of music. For such a small room, the venue has great sound and is a great place to connect and chat with artists after their sets.



Midtown’s Exit/In is a great place to catch buzz-worthy artists that are on the cusp of hitting it big. The venue only has a five-hundred person capacity, which makes every show feel intimate and engaging. Since the venue opened its doors in 1971, artists like Kenny Chesney, Cole Swindell and Lady Antebellum have played shows just as their careers took off.

Santa’s Pub


While the historic dive bar isn’t officially a music venue, the small stage at Santa’s Pub has been stood on by many now famous faces. The stage is usually filled by those singing their hearts out during a karaoke session, but the bar also features up and coming bands during pre-party hours in the early evenings. As an added bonus, many country stars frequent Santa’s while they’re in town, so you never know who you’ll see climb on stage.

Douglas Corner Cafe


Since it’s opening in the late 1980’s, Douglas Corner Cafe has hosted concerts and showcases of some of country’s now biggest stars. The venue hasn’t changed much since its early days, which is displayed by the numerous photos and posters of musicians that line the walls of the cafe. Garth Brooks regularly played the venue before he hit it big, along with other big artists like Alan Jackson and Blake Shelton.

3rd and Lindsley

Delta Rae performs at 3rd and Lindsley. Wikimedia Commons

3rd and Lindsley‘s calendar has a great mixture of artists from all genres, from unsigned artists to legendary performers. While you’re there, you can either stand in the crowd or sit down for a meal while you enjoy the show. Their popular weekly Sunday night showcases focus on artists that are breaking in the industry and tend to sell out quickly, so you’ll want to plan your visit ahead of time.

Winners Bar and Grill

Old Dominion takes the stage at Winners Bar and Grill. Facebook

Winners Bar and Grill in Midtown is a legendary bar that is one of the best places to spot country stars cutting loose and enjoying some live music. The weekly Whiskey Jam concert series takes place every Monday night and features artists that are making an impact on the industry as a songwriter or artist themselves. Even though the event happens on a weeknight, it’s not unusual for Winners to be packed to capacity in the first hour of the concert.

The Basement


Tucked away one floor beneath the famous Grimey’s record store, The Basement is a wonderfully tiny venue that is the premiere spot to hear the best new music in Nashville. Between album release shows, open mic nights and special events, you’re sure to discover something great at the Basement. It’s normal for the space to host multiple shows back to back, and since it only holds 100 people at a time, it’s best to get there and claim your spot early.

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8 Best Venues to Hear Nashville’s Next Big Thing