Where to Catch a Show in the South (Our Favorite Venues)

Photo: WIN-Initiative/Neleman

Photo: WIN-Initiative/Neleman

From basements to bars, house parties to stadiums, rock ‘n’ roll is as embedded in the South as hot summers and the kick of bourbon. Later today, as part of our #SouthernRock takeover, we’ll look at ten of our favorite rockers hailing from these Southern United States.

But the bands are only half to he equation. Where you catch a show is (almost) equally as important. Below are a few of our favorite Southern venues. Some of these are iconic. Some are just loud. But all of them cherish rock ‘n’ roll.

The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee
It only follows that the most important venue in the country would be smack dab in the middle of Music City. The Ryman, built in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, is twice as old as rock ‘n’ itself. In fact, it’s known as the mother church of country music, but rock heard its Siren’s song and hasn’t left since. Its 2,362 seats are the best in the nation for catching the old classics and the young guns. From Wilco to Dylan, Conor Oberst to Johnny Cash, the venue’s famed acoustics have housed all the six-strings of Southern rock. Called “God’s Own Listening Room” by A Prairie Home Companion, tickets can (unsurprisingly) be tough to come by. Make sure to buy them in advance!

The 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
For rock shows in the Mid-Atlantic, it doesn’t get much better than the 9:30 Club (technically named Nightclub 9:30). It opened 34 years ago at 930 F Street NW, where it became famous for the hosting the District’s local punk bands such as Minor Threat and Fugazi. Since then, it’s moved to U Street and become one of the best venues in the country to find up-and-coming indie acts. For bigger ones, head a stone’s throw away to the Merriweather Post Pavilion.

WorkPlay in Birmingham, Alabama
Ask any rock fan in Birmingham where to catch a show, and you’ll be directed to WorkPlay. Like many great rock venues, it boasts intimate shows and great bands. Unlike most rock venues, it comes equipped with two stages and a rock school. If you’re thinking Jack Black in School of Rock, you aren’t too far off. Great for catching tunes, and great for creating them.

Stubb’s in Austin, Texas
BBQ is the rock ‘n’ roll of the food world, so it only made sense the two would dovetail at some point. Stubb’s is that point. You may have seen the venue/restaurant’s iconic BBQ sauce in stores, or you may have seen Bob Dylan perform there (while you munched on beef ribs). While there are other amazing venues in Austin, none are quite as delicious.

The Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia
The more than 100-year-old iron and shell foundry no longer produces plows. It replaced them with the hard truths and 4/4 blasts of rock ‘n’ roll–you know, the music that can save your soul. Not a bad export. This 7,000 square foot joint is known for its rock shows, stiff cocktails, and outdoor roof deck that overlooks West Atlanta’s old train tracks.

The 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia
Before Michael Stipe produced movies, he was in a little band called R.E.M. And before that band celebrated the end of the world as we know it, it played shows at the 40 Watt Club. Though the club’s changed hands and locations over the years, bands like Pylon, Nirvana, X, Sonic Youth, and Pavement never stopped gracing its stage. Rock ‘n’ roll at its purest.

The Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky
You’ve heard the phrase “church of rock,” but this venue brings you rock in a church. The building’s only hosted rock shows since 2012. Before that, it was a house of God (since 1866, immediately after the Civil War). Though most bands don’t use it, the venue’s home to a functioning organ built in the 1800s.

The Pour House in Charleston, South Carolina
Rock ‘n’ roll has never been about frills, and The Pour House keeps that in mind. The best spots serve up cold beer and loud rock music, and Charleston’s favorite staging ground for catching forty licks is no different.

Tipitina’s in New Orleans, Louisiana
Named for Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina,” the venue was once a brothel (and once a juice bar!). Many years later, the painted visage of the Professor watches over the club as rock bands take the stage to play in the city’s only brothel-turned-juice-bar-turned-rock-club.

What’s your favorite venue for catching rock shows in the South? Tell us in the comments below. And, no, your best friend’s garage doesn’t count!


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