Tour Manager’s Guide: Nashville

Nashville TM Guide
Photos by @nashvilleexplorersclub

Hi. My name is Danny. I’ve been touring with bands for some time and want to tell you about some of the places we’ve been. I know, I’m missing some important things from these cities but this is just what I’ve had time to see. If you have suggestions regarding where to go in your beloved hometown the next time I’m hurtling through in a van filled with drunk people, please let me know.


I fell in love with Nashville over the course of three visits. First, in 2013 I had the pleasure of stage-managing Brendan Benson at The Ryman. I got to see Ricky Skaggs, Jessie Baylin, Bucky Baxter, and a bunch of other country folks rehearse and play up close at one of the most iconic venues in America and it was impressive. Seeing real country artists do their thing in that venue single handedly made me like a genre I previously did not and I can’t think of another time that’s happened. During that trip I stayed at what is now one of my favorite boutique hotels in the country, The Hutton. It is a bit expensive though. If you need something cheaper I suggest something else on the west side near Vanderbilt. Avoid hotels with heavy music themes as they’re generally shitty and you’re liable to find a dead body floating in a guitar shaped pool in the back.

Despite its title as a hipsters refuge from oppressive rent in NYC and LA, Nashville is still a southern city. I think embracing this mindset will enhance your trip. Nashville has done an excellent job of commercializing its southern charm. Avoid that. If you dig a little deeper you can find not just relics of what southern culture has produced, but active iterations of it. I think a great example of this is going to see a show at The Ryman. If you can afford a show at the Ryman and a room at The Hutton, those two things alone are worth the trip to Nashville; but there’s more. On my next trip to Nashville I was hunting for a place to eat and found this spot called The Garden Brunch Cafe. It looks like a house and it feels like a home. The family that owns it used to work in a corporate setting. When they lost their jobs they decided to take their savings and open a soul food restaurant with an international flair. I’m usually hesitant to eat at establishments that serve bourgeois versions of soul food, but Nashville does this genre well and TGBC is no exception. I recommend getting tea with blackened river trout and grits. On my first visit I ordered this dish grilled and the mom came out and told me I ordered the wrong thing and gave it to me blackened instead. We were so impressed with her confidence that we invited her to the show and she came with her husband. Such good vibes; but I think it’s only open until 2 pm so get up early. The third trip that sold me on Nashville was our last time in town. It featured a really fun night out on the hipstery east side (the east side is always the hipster side? Why?). After our performance with Walk the Moon our friend Francesca let us stay at her Victorian mansion, bought us a delicious pizza, and took us out to consume herculean amounts of alcohol. I don’t remember much of that evening but from what I’ve been told it was awesome. Consequently I emailed Francesca, our Nashville Sherpa, to have her help me remember what we did and suggest other good places to go.

“OK these are the ones I like:

  1. Duke’s for non-smokey regular bar with good dancing
  1. Mickeys for the plainest best bar of all time with darts and pool and non-smoking and they have an EXCELLENT jukebox
  1. Three crow because they have 2 for 1s with tokens and if you play your cards right you only have to pay for drinks 1 night a week and they also have great sweet potato tater tots
  1. 308 for fancy cocktails and fancy people watching with good dj’s on Friday night spinning vinyl
  1. Red door if you want to black out for cheap and find a stranger to make out with / have someone ask you if your Australian accent is a British accent dino’s for Tennessee’s best cheeseburgers and a miller lite and five points pizza for the best pizza in the world until 3 AM and excellent garlic knots.
  1. Oh and Foobar for sparkle city djs on Friday nights is super fun too.”

Francesca has worked all over the music biz and is super cool so I trust that everything on this list is super cool as well. There’s a place for dinner I like near the Predator Stadium called Pub 5 that has a cute ambiance, great alcohol selection, and excellent food. I like sitting on the roof if the weather permits or getting a large group together in a private room. Unless you’re enamored by white dad cool dad blues-rock and fat people fighting, avoid music row. Exit/Inn near your hotel is an excellent small venue and you can walk across the street and smoke cigs and drink beer at the divey Gold Rush. Cannery Ballroom is a good venue that has multiple shows a night. If you walk out the venue and take a right on 6 (the big road) you will almost run into The Peg Leg Porker. Their pulled pork sandwich and smoked green beans are unreal. I want some now!!! If you know anything about Nashville’s culinary scene you know that the city is famous for its “hot chicken”. I’ve not had the hot chicken so I can’t vouch for it.

Those are my recommendations for Nashville. I’ve never been to the country music hall of fame but that’s not really my style. In my opinion if you want history just take a tour of the Ryman then see a show there. Again these are only places I’ve been. I’m aware this city has so many other venues, especially country venues, apologies if they weren’t mentioned.

If you have any recommendations on places to go in Nashville, food to eat, or just want to send me hate mail, you can find me below.

Danny writes about music and other things. You can find him Here. Right here.

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