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Tennessee Nightlife

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Bluebird Café
4104 Hillsboro Road
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 383 1461

Shhh! Even a whisper will get you the evil eye from one of the music purists who keep this fabled singer/songwriter Mecca filled night after night. Many of the shushers are Music Row professionals, coming to check out untapped talents who have earned a spot to perform at the Sunday Writers' Night. (Garth Brooks and Kathy Mattea were both discovered here.) Most nights there are two sets, typically starting between 6 and 9 pm. Cover charges are usually $10 or under, with a $7 food and drink minimum for table seats. Reservations are accepted up to one week in advance.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 5:30 pm to 1 am, Sundays 6 pm to 12 am.

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2208 Elliston Place
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 321 3340

Exit/In is the jewel in the crown of Elliston Place, a.k.a. the "Rock Block," a dingy stretch of road near Vanderbilt packed with bars, a few decent restaurants, and some small retailers. Dark, smelly, and a dive in every sense of the word, it's Nashville's version of CBGB. It's even hosted some of the same bands as the now-defunct New York club, including the Talking Heads and Sonic Youth, as well as R.E.M. and the Red Hot Chili Peppers before they broke big—not to mention country rebels George Jones and David Allen Coe. On nights when smaller bands play, cover is taken at the door. For larger shows (usually featuring national touring bands), advance tickets are sold online and via Ticketmaster. Capacity is 400, and hot shows tend to sell out quickly.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 pm to 3 am.

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The Grand Ole Opry
2802 Opryland Drive
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 800 733 6779
Tel: 615 871 6779

For country artists, being invited to perform on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry is akin to being knighted. The rest of us can revel in their glory at two-hour performances three nights a week. Most weeks the two-hour show is held at the "new" (as of 1974) Opry building in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel complex, about ten miles from downtown. From November through January shows are held in the Ryman Auditorium, the Opry's more famous home (it's an annual move, born of sheer nostalgia for the Opry's grand old days). Photography is allowed—even encouraged!—during shows; feel free to leave your seat to get the best angle of Little Jimmy Dickens, "Whispering" Bill Anderson, Loretta Lynn, or any of the other living legends that still drop by from time to time. The backstage tour after the show is well worth the it if only to see the late Porter Wagoner's luxurious dressing room. Tickets for the tour and for shows are available online or at the box office.

Shows: Tuesdays, 7 pm; Fridays, 8 pm; and Saturdays, 7 and 9:30 pm.

Hi Tone Café
1913 Poplar Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 278 8663

At this funky, 1950s-themed bar in Midtown, beer-swilling twentysomething hipsters and older music obsessives take in Memphis's current crop of music pioneers. Both regional favorites, such as emotive singer-songwriter Garrison Starr and bluesy rockers the North Mississippi Allstars, and national acts take the stage. Elvis—Costello, that is—filmed a 2004 concert video here with Emmylou Harris. The small stage area gets jam-packed at concert time; arrive early, or you might not get in.

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Robert's Western World
416 Broadway
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 244 9552

There are a half-dozen honky-tonks on Lower Broadway, and a dip into any of them will offer up a better-than-average band (this is Music City, after all) and a lesson in Classic Country 101. But there's something about Robert's that makes it "the one" to hit—hell, even locals brave the bad parking and sweaty tourists limping around in their clean new boots to listen to house band Brazilbilly. Smaller acts play during the day to loyal lunch crowds (they serve a mean burger). At night, the tables in the front get pushed back to make room for dancing, which is a lot more fun after a $2 can or two of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Be sure to drop a buck in when they pass around the big glass pickle jar—bands play for tips.

Open daily 11 am to 3 am.

Memphis , Tennessee

For a city of fewer than 700,000 residents, Memphis's theatrical scene is surprisingly varied. The gold leaf- and red velvet-ornamented Orpheum was once a vaudevillian venue but now stages Broadway road shows (203 S. Main St.; 901-525-3000; Theatre Memphis, the city's oldest community theater group, was organized in 1921 and puts on regional premieres and locally produced revivals such as The Pavilion and A Little Night Music (630 Perkins Ext.; 901-682-8323; Excellent sister theaters Circuit Playhouse and Playhouse on the Square produce more artistically adventurous fare, like the civil-rights musical Caroline, or Change and Martin McDonagh's dark The Pillowman (1705 Poplar Ave. and 51 S. Cooper St.; 901-726-4656;

Wild Bill's
1580 Vollintine
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 726 5473

Locals adore 87-year-old Wild Bill's eponymous social club, not least because rhythm and blues group Memphis Soul Survivors performs here Friday through Sunday. This no-nonsense hole-in-the wall with low ceilings and plastic tablecloths is located in a north Memphis strip mall, unceremoniously flanked by a barbershop and a convenience store. The Southern-style bar menu includes black-eyed peas and fried chicken wings, and beer is served by the quart—especially key in summer, seeing how there's no AC. Things generally get started at 10:30 p.m.

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Wildhorse Saloon
120 2nd Avenue N.
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 902 8200

When it's not hosting a hair-band revival (Poison recently played here) or a country-music showcase, the Wildhorse Saloon is considered one of Nashville's best spots for learning the two-step and taking part in group line dancing. Every night, professional hoofers lead several 30-minute dance lessons that are free with the cover charge. Come with a partner or seek one out on the 3,300-square-foot wooden dance floor. Random fact: The largest TV screen in Nashville falls from the ceiling to broadcast major sporting events—good thing the area behind the dance floor is filled with couches and easy chairs.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 12:30 am, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 2:45 am.

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Yazoo Brewing Company
1200 Clinton Street, No. 112
Nashville , Tennessee
Tel: 615 320 0290

Yazoo's brewpub is open for only a few hours, three days a week. So it's a good thing you can also buy the local microbrew's award-winning beers on tap at many bars across the city. Located in the Marathon Motor Works, a former auto factory in northwest Nashville near I-24, the brewery offers four regular brews on tap plus seasonal additions. Tours are offered on the hour on Saturdays; admission includes a complimentary Yazoo pint glass and samples. Before you leave, encourage recycling and invest in a 64-ounce glass growler that can be refilled on your next visit to the brewery.

Open Thursdays and Fridays 4 to 8 pm, Saturdays 2 to 8 pm.

Young Avenue Deli
2119 Young Avenue
Memphis , Tennessee
Tel: 901 278 0034

With a constantly changing selection of 36 draught, 121 bottled, and 3 non-alcoholic brews, this is the best place to quench your thirst—and many do. You'll find it in a large, open warehouse in the hippest part of Midtown, where local alt-rock talents play to young, packed crowds. There's a full menu of pita sandwiches, salads, and pizza, but their award-winning fries are the standout item. Cut one third inch thick and spiced up with a unique salty blend of seasonings, they beg to be crunched.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.